Monday, February 28, 2011

Super Riley!

Riley did a complete and total 180 this weekend at soccer. The first 10 minutes of his game he started fiddling but with enough positive reinforcement and Momma screaming like a lunatic he seemed to just click. I think a lot of his issues with the games is the chaos and the noise. He cant really hear any one thing clearly and its just a cluster of energy. He's played goalie before but he never really focused. This week his goal was right near where I was sitting so I was able to sort of coach him through the entire game. LOOK HERE THEY COME! STOP DANCING! (seriously he was doing the sixties go-go cage girl.) All of the sudden something just clicked. That ball came barrelling at him and he dove on it. He saved 12/15 goals and manned up. 

I'm so proud, I'm not thrilled he got kicked in the face (obviously) but the fact that he took it without blinking really showed that he was into the game, finally. Afterwards I could not tell him enough how proud I was. We praised him and as a result he said "you know momma? I'm proud of myself too! You we're right!" We took him to lunch and he got himself a dragon ball z game. Although I guess this could be seen as bribing I was just so amazed at how great he did. Last week his team got spanked in an awful way. It was seriously tragic. No one knows that score because it was just THAT bad. This week he had a sub coach that addressed Riley at his level and I think that also made a big difference. He doesn't focus very well in stressful situations, having someone look him in the eye makes all the difference. The team lost by only 1 point. Next week might be good, maybe they'll actually win? Not that it matters but maybe it will make them feel good. I never really understood the soccer mom thing. I kind of get it. Its nice to see a piece of you do good. Its easy to get caught up in the moment, most of all its so nice to see your kid doing something, being good at it and having fun. Now hopefully we can find something else for him to do for physical activity. Unfortunately I don't think public school sports allow homeschoolers to participate. When I was a kid it was township, which is a much better set up. Then again there was just an abundance of kids that participated. Now days it seems to not be so popular.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fraboom Online Childrens Museum

Although my husband mentioned Frabooms launch a bit ago just last night we finally got around to checking it out. Fraboom is an online Childrens Museum designed to really encourage a childs learning through play. The website hosts live classes where children can interact with teachers live, and there's plenty of games interactive books and videos. Previously we've been using Linux based programs for Math and Typing, there's really only two and Riley's not a huge fan. Fraboom is by far the best online source of creative learning I've found. So far our biggest complaint is that things are "under construction". You can use the site for free or pay a $5.99 per month membership. Although we paid the membership I'm not noticing much difference as of yet. Riley spent over two hours playing last night and even with classes cancelled today I look forward to seeing how this innovative source evolves.

The Big Q?- Socializing

One thing that homeschooling has changed drastically is Riley's outgoing behavior. Although I know socializing is the question every homeschooler faces, one of the primary reasons we sent Riley to regular school was because we felt he needed to be around other kids to develop in a normal manner. His hearing impairment has caused speech abnormalities and his hearing loss affects a lot of his behaviors directly. (Even though we pay some of the nations highest school taxes we are not allowed to make use of speech therapy unless he attends the school.) Being in crowds, loud places or in stressful situations he simply dissolves from the inside out. He acts out in a negative manner or simply just starts "tweaking" and babbling almost incoherently. When other kids treat him poorly instead of ignoring it he reacts instantly. Self-control is not his strength and although most kids his age are developing their ability to scheme and lie Riley is still pretty naiive and oblivious. They stole from him, bullied him and tormented him.

We enrolled him in YMCA indoor soccer because at one point he begged, begged, begged to do it. He is a very active child who thrives best when physical restrictions are not demanded. So self-discipline and activity seemed like a naturally great decision. After the very first soccer practice we realized uh-oh...he hates this. Week after week he's complaining and frustrated that "team sports would be better if there weren't other people." Sometimes when we go to the library he does good with other kids but mostly he just seems to be genuinely disinterested in other people now. Its almost as if going to school everyone treated him like he was a pimple that needed popping, now that he feels happy and safe theres a withdraw occurring. Why talk to other people if they're just going to be mean? I can't say that I disagree with him at all, which unfortunately is probably part of the problem. I can relate 100%, I genuinely dislike social interaction. As I get older people seem to only get ruder and louder. When interacting with other kids theres a concern Riley will offend them (or more likely their parents), or on the other hand they will give him an "education" I'm not wanting to explain away. Probably one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is getting rid of the unpleasant side effects of being around the diversity of character. Realizing that I'd dissolved all of the negative energy from coming into my home was possibly the biggest relief (aside from his release of stress and happiness). No more WHAT DID YOU SAY? ...WHERE DID YOU HEAR THAT? THEY DID WHAT? Nope, thats all folks. Done.

I don't want him to be grown and feel like I've shielded him. I don't want the kid to feel like bubble boy, however at this very moment I have no solution and no reasonable answer in sight. Him and his brother are closer than ever, they play from dusk til dawn and are increasingly more in tune with one another's personalities. He does have a friend in the neighborhood he plays with once a week but is this enough? We don't live in a completely desolate location however there does not seem to be an abundance of resources for homeschoolers groups that don't involve signing up for a charter school. I guess it will play out on its own. What do other people do? Am I the only one who's freaking terrified of dealing with other parents? We're not really social butterflies naturally, I've not really had friends all of my life. I grew up half of my childhood in a military family. I would make a friend or two, and then move. As I became a teenager I was surrounded by really negative personalities that I escaped when I met my husband. Since then its been just me and my boys. Meeting new people really is not my strong suit. Women especially TERRIFY me, play-dates and micro-managing-mommy's just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I could be wrong entirely, but I guess I'll just keep looking around. Best I can do right

Happy House Project

Each week we've been making an effort to have semi fun-schooling days.  We live in Pennsylvania so theres strict regulation on our homeschooling process. We have paperwork that needs to be pushed and requirements and deadlines to keep in mind. To make the week somewhat less boring we've started throwing in wild card days. We have 4 days a week that we do Language Arts- Reading and 10-14 worksheets, Math- 3 to 4 lessons or around 6 worksheets, Wild Card Lessons- Science, Health, History, art, music. (reading and art projects) In addition to the "work days" we have just naturally grown into the process of starting our day with educational shows and documentaries, theres additional reading for fun and computer time. As we ease into this process I'm finding more and more resources that are useful for us. Homeschooling has become an around the clock lifestyle that just happens to involve 4 days a week of a stricter schedule that includes paperwork. I've mentioned that I feel children should ALWAYS be learning about values and morals, every moment of every day a child's character is being developed, but in a big way I'm noticing that homeschooling has transformed learning into an all the time experience. When Riley was in Public school he wanted nothing to do with the things he was "learning". He was overwhelmed and being forced to try and keep pace with their strict routines. The kids were not even allowed to go to the bathroom. (I've heard so many stories of children pee-ing their pants because they were either too afraid to ask to go, or simply told no.) In the past week my son has actually asked for MORE reading. Being able to read things he finds interesting that are at his level has made every bit of change. Although we spent almost two weeks reading "Lilly can read" once he finally pressed on he was ready and able for the next lesson. He's no longer the weird kid who can't hear or talk right. His learning needs are being addressed and as a result I truly feel he's learning better than ever.

Well Last weeks Wild Card day was Health and Safety. We read seven books relating to emotions, safety and honorable characteristics. (stop, drop and roll. lets talk about keeping safe. peacefulness, respect, self-discipline. tolerance. little squarehead) We also went through the bathroom and kitchen and discussed grooming, bathroom rules and kitchen safety. For our project of the day we made our "happy houses" that included the key words we learned and developed a "happy place". What makes you happy? Who makes you Happy? It was another lesson on cause and effect, how do our actions relate to other peoples feelings. How can being compassionate make you a better or worse person? We discussed tolerance and differences in people. Why do people act negatively towards those who are different from them? Why do people feel they all have to be the same as everyone else? Is it ok to not like someone? 

The final "project for the day" was baking cookies. Cooking is chemistry too! It was a math lesson, safety lesson and a snack. We discussed wet and dry measure, irreversible change and the general rules of cooking and kitchen safety. Although I admit a good portion of the safety-day was explaining to Riley why its SO IMPORTANT to clean up after yourself and wash your hands and brush your teeth he seemed to not be annoyed by it and it worked. 

Happy House Project
Using construction paper we formed a front of the house that had windows with our happy words. On the reverse side we made lists of people and things that make us happy. You can make any sort of model, 3D or even just draw a picture.

Health (brush your teeth, wash your hands, eat well)
compassion (consider how your actions make others feel, THE GOLDEN RULE)
self-discipline (self-control, how does learning improve your character)
respect (self-respect, respecting others and animals)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Land Preservation Project

I've been a bit backed up on documenting our projects as we go. I "mean to" get around to it but don't. Its not crucial I suppose, but I'm really trying to accurately depict our homeschooling journey and how things are going. Its really me writing as I go for my own personal voyage into what I hope one day will seem like the obvious peaceful journey that has produced happy, well adjusted children. Because frankly every day still seems like a shot in the dark. 

There's really no hiding the fact that I am a bit of a tree-hugger, so a lot of our science currently is "natural science". It seems to be age appropriate and it goes across the lines for all first grade curriculum. One thing I've found difficult about homescholing from a secular perspective is the science. Specifically speaking, I don't like modified science curriculum, and I also don't subject to the idea that children only need to learn natural sciences. It's strictly a personal opinion (Of course everything about homeschooling is personal opinion/preference.) I feel that schooling should be supplemented with religion, not altered by it. Morals, values and maybe even religion are something our children should be learning every moment of every day. Developing a child's character content is the single most important lesson he or she will ever learn. I do want my kids to learn about a variety of things that are age appropriate and finding lessons is a pain. I'm really just making stuff up as I go.

My family has a love for nature and over the years we've discussed many things relating to "Neo-Homesteading". We talk about why its healthier to live more sustainably, how its better for our bodies and how its lower impact for the environment to try to live locally. We frequent pick your own farms and preserve and store our own produce/meat as much as possible. The relation of earth to table I feel is a CRUCIAL lesson, now days especially. In the age of processed, chemically altered, hormonally engineered sterilized food products, the idea of real food seems to be entirely foreign. Although this is a controversial opinion I do feel that theres a fine line between eco-friendly and eco-nazi. "Green" is the new key phrase for a modern day cult following. The PETA generation is pretty much an overwhelming force that I feel thrives on trying to guilt people into being liberal zombies.

Teaching Riley about "environmentalists" has become something thats handled gently per say. For this project I wanted needed to introduce the importance of our impact on our surroundings. It was a lesson on cause and effect. Although Riley specifically has been well educated on chemicals and engineered-preservative packed food, I really don't want him beaten into submission. I don't want to be "that mommy." I don't want to be the nut bag that explains with vigor why my kid thinks toilet paper is evil. I struggle some days more than others but I don't want these lessons to be scare-tactics. I want him to naturally think about his cause and its effect on others and/or his surroundings. I'm a firm believer that I am a free-thinking individual and my children deserve the right to form thoughts and opinions of their own. I do find it to be a beautiful thing when my son says "that has germs" or "this taste better without chemicals" but I'm willing to accept that its normal for kids to like nuclear orange boxed macaroni. Its not a mark upon my success as a mother.

Reading books, looking at pictures and remembering the parks we've visited, and the foods we've eaten is really a great experience to share with the family. It may seem silly but describe an apple tree as a natural resource that may no longer exist if not respected and a kid will relate it to, Wait no more apple juice? That would suck. If a child shakes hands with the farmer that allowed us to pick his fruit it becomes real to them that food does not just magically appear somewhere and that we should not take anything for granted.
Land Preservation Project- 
Reading, we borrowed multiple books from the library. Land preservation, trees and our environment were the general topics of discussion. I was able to find a few worksheets around the net. Some from and some other sources I cant quite remember. Our reading list is constantly growing I keep meaning to update it in my Curriculum tab. (and I will soon) 

Vocabulary words-
Preserve: To protect or keep something in its natural state
environmentalist: A person who believes that land and resources should be preserved.
Pollution: contamination (to make dirty) of water, soil or air by harmful chemicals. Pollution is caused by factories, cars and other sources. 
Atmosphere: chemical gases that surround a planet
Recycling: processing used things into new products to reduce the use of fresh material 
Natural Resources: land or raw materials provided by nature
National Parks: A reserve of protected natural, or semi-natural land owned by the government set aside for animal protection or human recreation.

Tree Facts-
Tree's help make rain
Trees provide oxygen for us to breathe
Tree's can provide food
Trees can be used to make various materials from paper, houses or even medicine. 
Trees provide shelter for animals. 
Tree's provide shade and reduce energy use. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Walking


For a few weeks now I've been meaning to get out and about. There were a few days where it was 40-60 degrees and I was just kicking myself thinking "if only" I felt like getting out and about. The melting snow resulted in ankle deep mud and snowy days just seemed too freakin cold. Either way I was relatively sure that although I spent $25 for Connors new boots, he would not be thrilled to wear them. 

Today was a day that I was simply determined to get out. I had my wisdom teeth taken out Thursday and since then I've been burrowing like a hermit. (much worse than usual.) Not only do I have my typical anti-social desire to be left alone, but I truly feel like a dying animal that just needs to just retreat to die. With life still going on around us, schooling has been full force. No matter how I'm feeling, the show must go on. Some days are tragedies others comedies... some days I simply ask myself how the hell did I get myself into this? (and why, oh WHY AREN'T YOU WEARING PANTS!?)  Generally speaking we aren't very active in the winter. I figured if it wasn't today, then when? Connor was probably going to end up screaming and peeved, he may or may not try to take off his shoes during the middle of our walk but hopefully... we would all get some fresh air and make it home alive.

Natural Science Lesson: Animal Prints (Turkey's)
Within the past few weeks we've been frequented by plenty of these local visitors, turkey's. We've been able to take note of them each time and discuss them here and there. Out on our walk we were able to take notes on our local critters. We were able to note how animals act in winter. Natural Science is probably the easiest hands on Science for us to learn since we are surrounded by so much wildlife. There are plenty of deer, black bears and for whatever reason this year there's an abundance of turkeys. We've also got a lot of  black squirrels in certain spots, which are probably my favorite. (besides bats.)

During one PBS special we learned that birds are living dinosaurs, or the closest living thing to a dinosaur. So during our walks we can point out "the dinosaurs" and talk about how they act. Why don't some of them migrate? (Answer: Some birds have adapted to their local habitat and don't need to migrate.) Then of course the obvious question... Why do we eat them, and why cant we eat those turkeys? (Note: There's no easy way to explain that they are probably super tasty but it is not the right season to get those turkeys. Momma doesn't feel like getting a fine.) Pointing out things like "wow that squirrel is really fat" may seem trivial but its a great opportunity to discuss how animals fatten up to keep warm. (much like momma and daddy, only for them its practical)

Every day we're loving and learning, even though some days I'm kicking myself thinking I did not do something perfect. I'm really amazed at how much Riley absorbs from day to day. It may not be a well planned routine of a-z scheduled learning but on good days he's actually genuinely interested ... well ,sometimes. I tell myself that not everything can be a winner. Not every single lesson will encourage a "hooray"! The lesson of our winter walk for me was that sometimes getting out of the "schedule" can be the best thing we do. It can't rain all the time right? I'm still learning to just deal with the day as it comes, and he learned about turkeys and fat black squirrels.

We've been watching documentaries and cartoons, as a result they don't associate "learning" with being bored and miserable. Frankly its also kind of leverage, If you do "x" and we can get to our fun activity. We still have days that doing his AM reading takes an hour, (for 6-7 pages) days like today however are treats. He's actually asking to read more.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kindly Welcoming February

All together this week was relatively peaceful. We had a few drama-blessed days , for the most part I'm keeping in mind that life will not stop being chaotic simply because I chose to homeschool. Life happens in between, during and after "school". Riley's had a few days where he's just told me to get bent, but for the most part I feel that this week was really great overall. Monday for science we read a few books about the solar system and to "act it out" we created a paper model solar system. (Take that pottery barn, I've got a solar system in my dining room. How not trendy we are!) He really seemed to take an honest interest in it and we had fun with it. 

For groundhog day we made little dirt cakes, kind of looks like monkeys, or just dirty little somethings? Not overly educational, I was hoping for a bit more of an ohhhh, I get it! Instead Riley barely showed interest. "You mean a beaver predicts the weather? I thought that's what satellites do?" No, Riley its a groundhog and its just superstition. Super what? I guess honestly it was just a clever way to find an excuse to make sweets, all in all I thought it was cute. I got to make cupcakes which always makes me happy. 

A few of the other days were less than informative but we did cover our mandatory Language Arts and Math. We've been reading about the pilgrims for a while now, its something I truly find important.  I was able to visit Plymouth Plantation multiple times as a kid and its memories that have stuck with me. The basis that these people left their homeland, risked their lives and sacrificed creature comforts so they could be themselves is a great foundation for what he will be learning as we go. We started reading about George Washington and how he led our country to be free. The declaration of independence, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and President's day are things we're doing. The freedom to be an individual is very important to me. I don't want to traumatize him, but in time I want him to learn that the worlds always been at war with itself.  The American Revolutionary war I approached in a way that it was about freedom, not necessarily power. At some point the details will come into play but for right now I just want him to understand that freedom is important. 

Sometimes war is a result of the desire to be free, sometimes war is simply political and un-necessary. However it plays out I want him to appreciate that we have freedoms today because of people from the past that left the bread crumbs along the way. Also he's remembering men and women sacrifice their own lives today. I grew up in a military family and policy aside, I've always stood by our  forces. Human beings as a whole seem to have this inner desire to make everything the same. Religious wars, wars of race and now days  even teenagers seem to be at war with one another based on hair cuts and sneakers. This desire to force others to be the same is just not my thing. I've been ostracized for one reason or another for as long as I can remember. My boys need to learn that they are different just like everyone else. Differences should be respected and many of life's troubles simply may not exist if people learned to shut up and live and let live.

Next week we will probably start our Geography lessons and Pennsylvania History. We stared out the window and admired the winter weather a lot of this week. I planned on going for a winter walk, two days went by and it just never happened. Wishful thinking I guess. There's always next week.

Your rights end where my nose begins... The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

Solar System Project-  
Read books and discuss the solar system. Use construction paper to cut and design planets or paint spheres to make a mobile solar system. Hands on projects brings the subject to life and although its slightly "un-cool" to have a solar system in your living space there's a great deal of progress when a child can visualize and re-live a subject.  

Groundhog's Day Cupcakes- 
Discuss groundhog's day and then make dirt cakes. You can use any brownie or chocolate cake recipe with a buttercream frosting. Mix cookie crumbs into the frosting and decorate little "groundhog critter" faces with cookies for ears and candies for facial features.  

The Recipe I used is Here.