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Sunday, June 17, 2007

First day

We got started with a preview day on Friday, since Little Bear was so excited, he did not want to wait till Monday. The curriculum that Bear and I decided on is K12 so the materials were ready and waiting. We seemed to fall into a pattern of schoolwork, play, snack, potty then more schoolwork. So while the lessons stretched out for the whole day, in reality we were not working more that 30 minutes at a shot.

Indy was not too thrilled initially, because this meant that Little Bear was the focus of my attention and not her, so I checked in with my backup plans, and she seemed to be O.K. At first she was very content to just color and scribble on some "worksheets" like her big brother, but after a while she became bored, and so I offered her the Wedgits. Holy cow, she was enthralled for at least a whole lesson, and then once Little Bear took a break and wanted to play with them too, she was excited enough to have them back to herself she made it through at least one more on just that!

I did not use the preschool activity bags, since we did not need them yet, but I did pick up some foam letters, and some plastic spoons so I could make another couple of them.

It became apparent that Little Bear was familiar with many of the concepts covered in Friday's lessons, so since this program is Mastery based, I just started giving him the assessments to let him "test out" of the individual lessons. When he took their placement tests he did test at the second semester for the year, but I decided to start from the beginning, for fear that there were some basic concepts that he might be missing. It looks like I was not mistaken. While he did test out of 9/10 of the lessons in unit 1 of math, there was a lesson on patterns that he did need. So Bear and I discussed it and we will continue to do that moving forward. So long as he gets 100% on the assessments we will just move on to the next one.

Indy and Little Bear also really enjoyed all the books I was reading to then. Over the last 3 days we've read:
Cinderella in The Random House Book of Fairy Tales
The Irish Cinderlad
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Floating Home which was Little Bear's favorite this week
Where Do I Live?
Don't Be So Nosy, Posy! which was Indy's favorite

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rabbit season! Desk season!

I had been planning to teach Little Bear at the kitchen table, which is where we do most of crafts and such now. However while he was coloring a while ago I noticed that he was sitting down kind of low, leaving his hands at the wrong angle to develop proper handwriting skills. I have one Kinderzeat which had been his, but that has long since been handed down to Indy. I picked up a booster seat, but I don't think he will be comfortable sitting in it for extended lessons, for while he seems to like it, he is always fidgeting by the end of a meal.

Thus began the great search for a desk. I started with Freecycle with no luck. Next I researched school supply websites. It is unbelievable how much money they want for even the most basic of school desks! That was promptly vetoed on budget concerns. I had mostly given up the idea, but then decided to give it another shot when I heard that a nearby town was having a town wide yard sale. Sure enough on a tiny side street that Bear managed to wander us over to, I spied a small wooden school desk. It is beaten up, could use to be refinished, but has obviously been well loved, what with being drawn on and all. The woman was happy enough to have it go to a good home that she gave me an extra chair for it, so now Indy has a place to sit as well if she wants.

After a quick wipe down Bear and I briefly discussed refinishing it. It occurred to us that if we did put all that energy into it we would be upset if our kids ended up coloring all over it again so it will stay as is, though I might take a Magic Eraser too it just to clean it up a tiny bit more. So I have a (well loved, beaten up, in need of refinishing but not going to get it) wooden school desk in my living room that the kids have already been making a part of their daily lives.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Meeting of the minds

While researching curricula I came across information of Mensa and gifted children. You see Mensa encourages homeschooling for gifted children who's educational needs are not being met in public schools, acknowledging that a suitable private school education is out of the financial reach of most parent. So after all these years of avoiding it, I went through the process of taking the test, and joining, in the hopes that I would have access to resources to arm me to better education my children.

Tonight I braced myself, left the kids with Bear, and headed off for my first meeting. Boy was I in for some surprises. First of all I was the youngest person by far. Secondly upon hearing that I was to be homeschooling my children I received a reaction I have never experienced before. Respect and adoration! I was greeted with chimes of "how wonderful", "it is nice to see parents today taking responsibility for the education of their children". Normally I am met with scorn, confusion, or even disbelief when people hear about homeschooling. This was a lovely, and much needed change.

I met someone who has studied the gifted programs in NJ public schools, or really the lack there of. She had tremendous suggestions of books to read, (especially The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World which I am reading now) and best of all a contact person within the local Mensa chapter who specializes in gifted children. It sounds like some testing for the kiddos might be in order so that I can best utilize their natural strengths to teach them effectively.

This subject requires thought and processing, research and review. We shall see where this leads if anywhere, but for now I will be grateful for the much needed support I received.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Namaste evolution

I am not a physically fit person. This is definitely one of those traits I do not want to pass on to my children, so I am trying to incorporate a healthy level of physical activity into their day to day lives. Now that Little Bear will not have the organized mayhem that has been gym class in his preschool any longer I set out to create a physical education component to our homeschooling. If I should reap the benefits of this as well, all the better, but that is not my focus.

I started this as I do most things, on the internet. Then I talked to some other HS moms and got their input and experiences. I formulated a plan that involved swim classes, soccer with the township, and a variety of other activities. Then I sat down and talked to Little Bear about it, and he informed me that he did not really like what I had planned thank you very much though. Could he PLEASE learn to swim from me, not a stranger because I understand he does not like to get his face wet? If he was going to play soccer could his sister come too, and while we were at it could we do more fun stuff like this together?

So I tossed my nicely planned activities and pre-approved by Bear (DH) budget out the window. We will go to the pool as a family and *I* will teach them to swim. We will join a homeschooling soccer group that I found so that they can play together. Then as if by magic when I opened my mailbox last week there was a postcard from a new Yoga studio opening up within walking distance of my house, and they offer family yoga!

Today was the first class, and it was more wonderful than I could have expected. While I have done yoga in the past, and have even tried to do some with the kids here at home, I was unprepared for how well they would respond to a class geared to them. She made a point of explaining that we were trying to have our minds and bodies work together, which is something Little Bear and I have been talking about a lot together. She let the kids lead the evolution of the class, so that when they wanted to be animals we were, and when they wanted to use props she showed us how. We told stories with our bodies. When they did not want to participate in something there was NO pressure. Simply loving acceptance of their choice and a warm welcome when they rejoined. Indy made it through the entire class and begged to do more, while Little Bear sat out the second half as he has not been feeling very well. He did still express a desire to come back since it was ok for him to rest when he needed to.

Best of all, I got to do yoga again, which I find helps me remain patient with the kids, and I don't have to find a babysitter to do it!

Monday, June 4, 2007

What about Indy?

In my grand scheme to homeschool Little Bear, there is one issue that I have not been convinced on. What it the world I am supposed to do with Indy while I am teaching Little Bear? In my quest to solve this problem I have searched support group archives, made repeated use of Google, and as of yet have only been able to come up with a few ideas.

The first of which is that which seems to be the most basic. Try to include her in as much of the learning process as she is interested in. Let her scribble while he practices his letters. She can listen in on the lessons and stories. Do craft projects with us. But lets be frank, not many 2 year olds can hold their attention as long as a 5 year old can (not that they are bastions of attention spans themselves, but you know what I mean).

The second is to reserve specific toys for her to play with while we are schooling, in the hopes that the novelty of these otherwise forbidden toys will be enough to keep her attention. My concern in this? What is to keep Little Bear from finding them just as intriguing?

The third, and the one I am trying not to pin too much hope on, despite enjoying every second of prep work thus far is Preschool Activity Bags. My tests of these with Indy have resulted in a lot of high hopes and much giggling on her part. I can only hope they will be such a hit when I need them to be. I have only assembled two of them to date, and am working on a third. Perhaps as time goes on I will review them individually.

The Larval Stage

In the realm of homeschooling I am not even a newbie. More a larva. I have a curriculum ready and waiting. Little Bear (who is 5) is anxious to start Kindergarten in two weeks. I am nervous, excited, and hoping that I can do this. I have plans within plans. Backups, support systems, social groups. Yet what it all comes down to is me. If I can manage to be mother, wife and teacher. If I can amuse Indy (who is 2) while I teach Little Bear. This is my journey, for better or worse, success or failure.
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