British Moths

After a quick tour of the lighthouse in St. Augustine, Jeremy references the canopy of trees over the parking lot.

“Look, Mom,” he says, pointing upward. “British moths!”

“You mean Spanish Moss,” I say.

“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

We also visited the Alligator Farm and the Pirate & Treasure Museum. This makes homeschooling well worth the while.

I could’ve done without the snakes, though.

Hello Freedom

Aside from playing a first-hand role in the boys’ education, I’d say our freedom is the best part about homeschooling. If we want to go to lunch at Tomato Head at 11 a.m., then by golly we’re going.

I highly recommend the Southwestern Chicken Salad.

Our school schedule can be easily described as “stop and go.” We’ll go for an hour, then stop for other activities. We’ll work another hour later, then stop for something else. Then there’s another couple of hours in the afternoon or maybe after dinner, but however the day breaks down, I’ve found that little boys are much better students when they can get up and expend some energy. I know when it’s been an hour because the complaining and pencil tapping starts. I know when it’s been two hours because they slump in their seats, wiggle their legs and make the most ANNOYING SOUNDS with their mouths.

Yes, boys are absolutely noise with dirt on them. Lots and lots of busy noise.

Anyway, it’s going well.

I really need to run a race very soon. The year is almost over and if I don’t run a race before December 31, then this will be the first year I haven’t run a race since 2006. This is not okay. I spent all summer working on my speed and managed to shave an entire minute off my mile. However, I haven’t worked a lick on endurance, so the longest distance I’ve run is a piddly six miles. It’s time to step it up and sign up for something that will earn me another medal.

Darn Near Perfect Weekend

Had the Vols won, it would’ve been a picture perfect weekend on the cusp of autumn in east Tennessee. But let’s not focus on the negative.

We slept in, we snacked all day, we chilled out, we sat on the deck, we played Words with Friends, we wore our comfy clothes. It was exactly what a weekend should be. The cool breeze outside and the sound of leaves rustling tell me that fall is coming. Hip, hip hurray!

Today was our second round of co-op classes, which the boys went to with great enthusiasm. While my attitude is better this week, I still stowed away in the gym, drank coffee and read for nearly two uninterrupted hours. It was wonderful.

The boys are doing very well with their studies. In fact, Jackson just completed his second Explode the Code book and Jeremy is already on his fifth math unit (there’s 30 total, so at this rate he’ll be finished in March), which all makes me wonder if we’re going too fast. Am I hurrying them? Are they just naturally brilliant? Hmm.

Meanwhile, here’s your Seek and Find assignment for the day. It’s really not that hard.

A Day for Watercolor

It’s a cool, dreary day, which I love, so after accomplishing some book work this morning, I decided it was perfect weather for watercolor painting. We’re on the cusp of autumn in east Tennessee so that was the theme for our art.

Jackson isn’t typically enthusiastic about any sort of art (he dreads coloring), but I usually make him do something within the parameters of his abilities and interest. This is why his expression here is entirely fake. Look excited to be painting, Jack. 

Like this, Mom?

Note: I realize Jackson’s hair is ridiculous. The poor child has a head full of cowlicks that cause his hair to grow in a series of swirls – which is why we usually buzz it. However, since we don’t have to worry about school pictures this year, we decided to experiment with growing out his hair. We’re so curious to see what it’ll look like when it’s longer than a centimeter!

Finally, special thanks to Great Grandma and Grandpa Thomas for the package we received this morning. The boys really love the pop-up book. (They’ve added Lego Star Wars guys to the cast of characters. Of course.)

Co-op Classes, Day 1

When I previously said that attitude is everything, I was referring to myself as much as the boys. I woke up on the wrong side of the log bed today and it just so happened to fall on the first day of homeschool co-op classes. It also fell on a day when we had some catch-up work to do after taking it easy for Jeremy’s birthday. Great timing!

Each boy is taking two classes with the co-op, which provides socialization and classroom instruction for them and two hours of some version of downtime for me. I’m required to do one hour of service while I’m there, which boils down to hall monitoring the kids who aren’t in class. Because my attitude was so poor, I kept one eye on the kids in the gym and the other eye on the iPad. I’m getting really good at Angry Birds.

Now we’ve reached midday and I’m wrapping up schoolwork for now. It’s been a battle. My patience is thin and one particular boy needs to chill out before I hang him out to dry. This is the luxury of homeschooling, I tell myself. Stop now and start again later.

A five-mile run should sort me out swiftly.

 

Math Time

Both boys do very well with math, so as long as attitudes are in check, math time is smooth sailing.

We’ve had three days of rain and cool temperatures, which has been so delightful. The windows have been open all day to let in the sweet aroma of autumn. This is the very best time of year – chili on the stove, football on TV and leaves rustling outside in the wind.

I’m well aware that summer could creep back at any moment, but I’m choosing to ignore that.

After two weeks of homeschooling…

… I’ve learned that:

1. Attitude is everything.
2. Poor attitudes make school last longer.
3. Jackson is a good, eager reader.
4. Jeremy needs to understand every little detail to get the big picture.
5. I need a midday run to keep going the rest of the afternoon.

Really, it’s going very well. I love, love, love the freedom we have everyday to do whatever. There are challenges, but those have more to do with attitudes than abilities. And as we all know, attitudes can be adjusted.

Scientific Art

I totally snagged this idea from Pinterest, but it is a perfect fit into our Solid, Liquid and Gas unit study while being an art project at the same time. Double duty!

We began by putting a container of old crayons in rainbow order. (The boys each picked out a new box of crayons for school so these have been going unused.)

Continue reading “Scientific Art”

Five Things I’ve Learned…

…from the first week of homeschooling:

1. It’s worth starting early so we can be done early.
2. It takes a lot of reminding to treat Mom like Teacher. (“You wouldn’t whine like this to your teacher at school, so don’t do it with me.”)
3. Snack time and recess are huge incentives.
4. The Tennessee State Flag was ratified in 1905.
5. Running errands during the day when all the other kids are at school is super fantastic!

I asked the boys this morning if they like being homeschooled. They both emphatically cheered, “Yes!” Of course, I will ask them again in May.

We’re off to the pool for an afternoon treat. Thanks for all the support, readers.

Happy Weekend – xoxo

Two Things

1. To say that Jeremy is excited about starting Cub Scouts would be too casual. He’s really, really, REALLY excited. So much that he wore this outfit every single day last week (hat and all):

2. Art projects are going to be a huge challenge for me because I really, really, REALLY don’t like making messes in my house. We painted today. I’ve just sent the boys outside so I can calm down.

First Day of Homeschooling

This is the fifth photo I took of the boys at breakfast in an attempt to catch Jack’s eyes open. Oh well. I blame the flash.

I woke the boys up a hair before 8 a.m., and after telling them to get dressed, this is how they appeared in the kitchen – as Obi Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett. Since we don’t have a dress code, I went with it. They ate “J” pancakes for breakfast and we got right to work.

I know all the other homeschool moms and dads have lesson plans and schedules, but I don’t yet, and that’s because I really don’t know how this is going to look. We have curriculum and some sort of idea about how it’ll go this year, but nothing is concrete. And that’s on purpose.

We started with journaling an “About Me” page. I measured their height and weight and we talking about the things they enjoy at this age. Jeremy wrote an entire page while I more or less interviewed Jackson, copied his answers and he drew pictures to go along with it. Then came math.

Jackson will complete a PreK book prior to starting his Kindergarten work since we are still dealing with some cognitive delays. We’re starting at the very beginning.

Jeremy is using Math U See curriculum, and he completed the entire first lesson with very little help from me. This is good!

After math, I sent Jackson to computer time on Starfall so I could focus singly on Jeremy for reading – with which we’re also starting from the very beginning. He’s only been exposed to sight words in school, so we’re starting from the beginning with phonics. On reference from my friend Tara, we’re using Explode the Code. Again, Jeremy sailed through the first lesson, but I expected that. I don’t mind it being easy at first since we’re starting with building block number one. I suspect we’ll move quickly through the first book and hopefully the second.

Suddenly it was 11:15, my coffee was cold and the boys were hungry. We ate lunch and began a science experiment. Liquid, solid or gas?

That jar is currently sitting on the deck in the sun so we can evaluate what happened to the ice cubes after a day of direct heat.

Then it was time to play! Jeremy called it recess, so I called it recess. We went to the park. They didn’t change clothes.

After coming home we checked on our jar of water (surprise! it’s a liquid!), ate a snack and did our Bible lesson. The day became much more relaxed after that. We hung around, they played, I ran. They picked hot dogs and french fries for a special First Day of School Dinner and now Jeremy and I are about to bake cookies. Overall, the day has been swell.

In a few weeks we’ll begin co-op classes with other homeschoolers and Jeremy will start Cub Scouts. (Jackson can begin next year, if he so chooses.) Our schedule will become a bit busier, but I’m refraining from doing too much. I’m not sure how this year will go and I’m determined to keep it flexible, so I’m hesitant to make too many commitments.

As far as curriculum goes, I like the university approach. We’ll do math and language arts everyday, but as far as science, social studies (which will be Tennessee state history), art and other electives go, we’ll tackle them in a twice-a-week rotation.

I have 180 days to make an academic impact. Day one was a good start.

The Last Week of Summer

After registering the boys with an umbrella school, I whipped out my calendar and began marking down the days we’ll do school and the days we won’t. It’s a loose schedule, no doubt, but it’s a start and I’m going to do my darnedest to stick to some sort of a routine. The flexibility of homeschooling is partially what attracted me, but you and I both know that floundering and spontaneity aren’t my strong suits.

I’ll do my best.

We’ll begin school next Monday, so that means we have one more week of summer to lounge, swim, stay up late and eat irresponsibly. I’m not exactly sure what else we’ll do – or if we’ll do much of anything else. The boys are certainly exhausted of one another (thank goodness co-op classes and Cub Scouts start soon!), so whatever it is we do, the boys will be separated. Today I am thankful for a two-story house.

Over the weekend I finally received my own copies of Green Bay: A City and Its Team. It took more than a year to design and edit it. To finally hold the finished work in my hands was quite emotional.

If you’d like to purchase a copy (or ten), click on the link above or visit Amazon.

Homeschool Co-op

Preparations for homeschooling the boys are underway. I’ve gathered a smattering of curriculum and registered with all the necessary organizations local and statewide, including the HSLDA. This afternoon we registered the boys for two classes each with our local homeschool co-op so they can have interaction with other kids and still get the “classroom” experience. (The classes are once a week.) So far, so good. Now I have to draw up their education plans and submit everything to the umbrella school in time to officially start school in September.

The rest of you can have your August start dates. I refuse to start before Labor Day.

The farther I get into this process, the better I feel about tackling it. Everything seems very doable as long we can all maintain some level of organization and respectful decorum. However, I can tell already a huge challenge will be getting through to Jeremy. I single him out because he has a natural tendency to question me on NEARLY EVERYTHING. Countless times I’ve told him something only to have him run to Chuck to verify if what I said was true – as if I couldn’t possibly know that there really are snapping turtles in the Little River, or that the South really did lose the Civil War. How could MOM possibly know things like this? Chuck has even talked to Jeremy about believing me and trusting that I could teach him something valuable.

Not just how to sort clothes, clean a toilet or organize toy baskets, mind you. No sir. Really important stuff like how to add a pair of three-digit numbers.

Additionally, we’ll need lots of time separated – meaning that I’ll need one-on-one time with Jackson and one-on-one time with Jeremy, because the two of them together is like a ticking time bomb. The level of chaos that erupts when they are together is maddening, so much that they are no longer sleeping in the same room. They pick at each other until one (or both) explode. Thank the sweet Lord our house has two floors.

Does anyone else struggle with this? My expectations for brotherly love may be too high. I’m all for throwing them in a room to duke it out, but the constant PICK-PICK-PICKING is making me nuts.

Observance

In keeping with our “Everything is Education” motto, I wanted to have a brief lesson about the significance of Memorial Day before spending a few hours at the pool. Our county courthouse had a beautiful display of flags and flowers around its war monuments so we stopped by on our way to the campground. Jeremy had more questions than I could answer. Where is Grandpa when you need him?

Homeschooling Starts Now

Since formally deciding to homeschool next year, my point of view on nearly everything has taken on a “this is education” attitude. When the boys have a question about something, I take mental notes to explore the topic more, or encourage them in their own curiosity. Our talks of late have hit a myriad of topics – what is in outer space, who made the Liberty Bell, are bikes considered machines or not, and what can kill a dragonfly.

In the latter case, our best assumption is Salem.

Jackson doesn’t fully (or even closely) understand the nature of our conversations (nor does he really care), but he’s happy to come along for the ride. Fortunately both boys love being outside and have a real interest in the world around them.

While the weight of homeschooling will rest mostly on me, it isn’t on me entirely. The boys will have plenty of two-on-one time with Chuck for boy-specific instruction. They recently started thumbing through the Dangerous Book for Boys. (Being a girl, I wasn’t allowed on the porch. Naturally, I eavesdropped instead.)

Jackson’s New Morning Routine

Since we didn’t re-enroll Jackson in early intervention classes after moving in March, I knew it would be entirely up to me to maintain his speech and language progress and prepare him for some modified version of Kindergarten in the fall. This was my biggest motivation for getting the old desktop computer hooked up again. (It was temporarily retired upon upgrading to the Mac last spring.) I bought a simple desk at Ikea last month and set up the computer immediately. Since then, Jackson has enjoyed computer time each morning. His favorite activity so far is the ABCs lesson on Starfall.

Obviously, this will come in extremely handy in the fall when we start homeschooling.

A Big Leap: Homeschooling

We’re going to homeschool the boys next year.

Here is a short list of probable reactions some of you just had:

— “How exciting! I can’t wait to hear all about it!”

— “That’s nice, but what about your career?”

— “Are you ON CRACK? Why in the WORLD WOULD YOU DO THAT?”

— “Considering your patient and calm disposition, I give it one month.”

In reply, I agree with everything you just said. Trust me, I’m concerned too! But here’s the gist – a) both boys need something extra (in different ways) that traditional school cannot provide, b) I’m done with the school schedule running our life, and c) when your seven year old comes home asking what “boobs” and “balls” are, you too would start looking at other options.

We’ve committed to one year. I don’t know how this year is going to look, and I don’t know how I’ll feel in the beginning, middle or end of it, but I know I’ve got to try. It wouldn’t have been laid so heavy on my heart if I wasn’t at least supposed to try.

As for my career, it will remain in the freelance capacity until the boys are much older or until it can no longer be sustained. Like opportunities prior, I have to believe something will come my way either on my own accord or as a gift. Everything that happened in Amarillo career-wise was a gift, so why shouldn’t I believe it can happen in Knoxville? There are avenues I need to pursue, so I will, and we’ll see what happens.

I am now accepting advice from other homeschooling families regarding curriculum, umbrella schools, and other out-of-the-box ideas. Ready? Go.

(P.S. I found this article very helpful in solidifying the decision.)