Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Winter Wonderland Fun

This winter wonderland is what Bishop has been dreaming of!
And this is the moment he has been waiting for!

What wonderful winterland fun!

Scenes from my Morning Constitutional

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lifestyle of Learning: Volume 4

One of the things that is so appealing about homeschooling is that it is so flexible and adaptable.  I know each of my children very well.  I know their strengths and weaknesses, the things that they are interested in and those that they dislike, and their personalities and temperaments.  One of my goals is to create a learning environment that best suits each individual child.  This is often times difficult to do, particularly when you have children that are nearly polar opposites of each other.  It requires a lot of time, energy, consideration and prayer.  There are other confounding factors as well.  These children are always growing, shifting, changing and their learning environment must grow and shift and change as well.  Also, their learning environment is impacted by my strengths and weaknesses, my interests and dislikes, my personality, my mood, my personal struggles and insecurities.  Other family members and situations we find our family facing all have an impact on the learning environment.  I am always struggling for the 'right fit'.  Sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed or insecure and adjust what we are doing and how we are doing it only to find that I have failed to exploit one of the things that I find most appealing and valuable about homeschooling - its flexibility and the ability to adjust the learning environment to best suit the needs of each individual.  Recently I made one of those changes.  I began to feel as if we weren't covering enough material in some subject matters, that the children's studies weren't rigorous enough so I began to present the material in a fashion that allowed us to get through far more material.  I began to "teach" in a more conventional fashion.  I created 'riveting' lectures complete with pictures and music to put events in to context.  I created fun ways to record all this new-found knowledge but, alas, this did not go over as well as I had imagined.  My students were not hanging on every word I spoke.  Bishop enjoyed the time that he got to spend with me but Maceo yearned for independence.  So, in an effort to be flexible and adaptable as homeschooling allows for, I have adjusted things again.  The plan for the week is that Maceo will have control over his schedule.  I will make note of things that I want him to accomplish and he is responsible for getting it done.  Bishop and I are going to work one on one.  And it has worked fabulously this week.  Tension has been reduced and enthusiasm has been revived.
Here is a little of what we have been up to this past week.  (Please keep in mind that Maceo is working independently so there aren't any pictures of him and his work.  I will have to rectify that.)
I now present February 17-23:

An invitation to explore the human body.
Baskets of resources to play with and peruse.
Yet another invitation.

And the first thing he grabbed was the Somebody game.
We played, he won.

Identifying parts of cells and their respective functions after having listened to a rap about cells.

This human body model is truly inviting. (Even Maceo can't keep his hands off of it).
Preparing a slide so as to examine cells.
Bishop LOVES the microscope.
He looked at cheek cells, onion skin, mold, prepared slides of plant and water life, and just about everything on the nature table.
Another invitation - let's look at the central nervous system.

Lunch and an introduction to the systems of the body.
The making of a mini-book.
-Ectomy: a fabulous game about the parts of the brain and their functions.
We played, he won.  (I am beginning to see a trend here).
Welcoming the newest scouts to the troop.

Bishop and I began to study the human body.  I prepared materials as if it was a unit study but I simply use it all as a guide, a jumping off point and I allow Bishop to pursue in depth that which grabs his attention.  Maceo studied history, math, logic and form drawing independently.  He also spent a great deal of time researching the movies nominated for an Academy Award.  I love when he gets immersed in a subject matter such as this one.  This is when I see the greatest educational gains for him.  He will expose himself to a great deal of new information and many a new idea will develop as he independently researches those things that catch his fancy.  (I will definitely write more on that later).
Maceo and Bishop both attended their first funeral and learned a great deal about empathy and kindness and compassion as they extended themselves to their friend who just lost his mother.
Life has so many lessons in store for us. 

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of our now one-year-old Ella.
Her mommy and daddy had a most wonderful party for her.
I am currently wading through the plethora of pictures that I took and will create a more extensive post later but for now let me just say,
"Thanks for the great party and happy birthday sweet girl."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Magic of an Icy World

Thursday arrived accompanied by an ice storm.  Off and on through a good portion of the day sheets of ice rained from the sky dressing the world in layer after layer of glistening ice.  Blessedly, it was not enough ice to take down our power lines or fell any of our fragile trees but it was enough to compel us to hibernate on Thursday and to move slowly, cautiously, yesterday.  But yesterday Bishop and I did venture forth and explore the icy world just a bit.

We found that the natural world looked and felt particularly interesting dressed in its icy finery.
And man made items had a special appeal when coated with ice as well.

And, of course, the ice had to be explored in a variety of ways - touching, sliding, and breaking.
I have no pictures of this but of particular interest to Bishop was the removal of ice from the Jeep.  It is a soft-top and removing ice from the canvas simply requires hitting it - hit the canvas and the ice shatters.  Bishop was eager to have the responsibility of clearing the ice from the jeep.  He really loved removing it from the roof - if you hit the roof of the jeep from the interior it breaks up the ice on the outside and sends it flying.  It is really quite a sight to behold.
Today I went for a little walk.  The world was really quite silent until I happened upon this magnolia.  As I was passing this tree I could consistently hear bits of ice tinkling as they made their way through the leaves and branches of the tree.  At first glance the tree didn't appear as if it had much ice on it but if you look closely,
I mean, really look closely,
you will see the tiniest icicles dangling off of nearly every leaf.
As the morning sun was warming this tree the icicles were falling off, tinkling through the branches, and laying like shimmery confetti on the ground beneath.
It was truly magical.
An icy world can be truly magical.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lifestyle of Learning: Volume 3

There are some weeks that are just more difficult than others; weeks in which the expected and the unexpected converge, seeming to conspire to run a person over.  This past week was one of those weeks.  Recognizing the liturgical calendar and civic holidays provide rhythm and joy to our lives.  This was a week full of celebrations - Lunar New Year, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and St. Valentine's Day.  These celebrations kept us busy in a way that we had anticipated.  And then the unexpected took its toll - we spent the week trying to recover from 8 days without running water, we heard bad news from my husband's family, a close family friend died on Valentine's morning and then we received a surprise visit from the Secret Service that same afternoon (that is a story for another time).  The unexpected kept us busy and has taxed us emotionally.  Although the week started out with some academic focus it quickly unraveled under the pressure of life.  It is reassuring, and even comforting, that I believe that education doesn't have to come in the form of prepared lesson plans, that I believe that the boys are learning a considerable amount when they are pursuing personal interests and passions.  The week began with us reviewing the art of the high renaissance and the explorers of the same time period.  We also reviewed Martin Luther and his historical contribution and added all relevant people and events to our timelines.  All other educational opportunities were less formal.
Maceo checked out Khan Academy and Bishop immersed himself in Youngzine.
Bishop kept up with our eagles 

and Maceo began creating a storyboard for his own comic book.
Maceo had his first trip to a comic book store and purchased his first comic book in the name of research for his writing project.  Bishop organized his legos 
 and went to Boy Scouts.
Bishop and I went on a snowy walk to the cafe
where he spent some time designing weapons while sitting by the fire.
 Bishop had to get his routine allergy shots. After these shots we must wait twenty minutes to see if he will have an adverse reaction.  We could choose to read a magazine or watch the Price is Right but we try to redeem our time by playing a game.  This week we played this lego frog game. And, let me tell you, it is more difficult then it looks.
(P.S. Bishop won this time).
Bishop also started experimenting with needle felting.  He and I spent a pleasant evening watching Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky while needle felting.

Bishop explored the concept of Bentos and watched tutorials on making them and other Japanese foods; he is now ready to get in to the kitchen.  Maceo spent a considerable amount of time researching different genres of music and movie history.  When Maceo gets interested in a topic like comic books, music or movies he thoroughly immerses himself in the history and the art, among other things.  He works to develop a set of criteria to analyze them critically and then seeks opportunities to present and defend his opinion regarding them.  For instance, with the Academy Awards around the corner he is trying to figure out what makes a critically acclaimed movie, what comprises 'good' acting, how a story is conveyed through cinematogrophy, and what decisions the producer made that make the movie great or how Maceo would make different decisions.  It is an intense process but fun to witness.
Upon reflection I can say that we had a productive week despite the difficulties thanks to a lifestyle of learning.