For the past 7 years, our family has gone to the LEAF festival in Black Mountain, NC. Personally, I LOVE this festival. There are no phones, no agendas, and no obligations. There is art, music, crafting, food (oh, the food), classes, people watching, fun activities, and family time. Sawyer and Parks also work on craft items to sell at the kids area each year, which is a lot of fun to watch. Even though not much changes year to year at the festival, each year is a completely new experience with so many new memories.
Last week we wrapped up our second block. I think that we are finally starting to get into a groove-yep, it took us two months. It happens. I still do not love the rhythm that we have, but the kids enjoy it and it works for them. Last month I posted that I was not going to do blocks this year-well, things changed. We are going to continue with blocks. They just seem to work and they break things up. Blocks also make the amount of information that I am responsible for more manageable. I was not able to keep up with the three grades and all of the classes. I feel that the block system allows us to dive deep and actually have some good discussions.
Grade 5-Ancient Egypt
Parks’ second block revolved around Ancient Egypt. He read the book,” A Place in the Sun,” by Jill Rubalcaba and “Who was King Tut.” He also read several of the Egyptian myths throughout the month. He made a pyramid from clay and watched the pyramid movie by David MacCaulay. Overall, he really enjoyed Ancient Egypt. I think that he enjoyed learning about the pyramids the most.
Sawyer’s second block was one of my favorites with Sims, but since she had seen it all before-Sawyer was not all that impressed. She began the block by reading the book, “Alchemy and Chemistry,” by Stefoff. She learned about how the main elements were thought to be air, water, fire and earth. We then looked at chemical processes that use the four elements such as photosynthesis and cellular respiration. We ended the block playing with fire and learning why some things burn and some do not. Of course she knew that a rock would not burn, but she did not know that it was due to its lack of carbon atoms. She also read the book, “The Alchemist,” in preparation for our next block and to go along with this block.
Grade 9-Biology and Cells
So how are we going to do blocks for high school? Well, Sims and I decided that he would continue with weekly/daily math, writing, forestry, geography and PE. Then we will do history and biology in blocks. This month, we continued with biology and the cell. He learned about the cell membrane, the mitochondria, the nucleus, how ATP is made and used. He did a lot of hands on work in the beginning of the month at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. In addition to biology, he finished up studying North America and has started into South America in Geography. In Forestry, he helped with a Project Learning Tree event for local sixth graders and went on a couple more forest assessments where he has a list of things to document for each plot of land including invasive species, tree types, number of trees over a certain size, undergrowth identification and more.
We have not gone out hiking yet this school year or on too many local field trips. However, we did make two quick out of town trips. First we headed west to Asheville, NC to check out Kolo Bike park. I heard that it was a pretty fun place if you enjoy biking. Upon pulling into the parking lot of the park, I was far from impressed and was thinking about trying to go find some free mountain biking somewhere close by. Thankfully, the kids thought it looked great, and they jumped out of the car. Overall, the trip kept the boys thoroughly entertained. Sawyer and I, well, we hung out and pretended that we knew how to ride bikes!
Our next trip took us east to Raleigh. We visited my brother and his family on Thursday night. Then Friday morning, Parks headed to camp at Daniel Dheirs Action Sports Complex while Sawyer, Sims and I went to the NC Museum of Natural Science.
Overall, two fun field trips days! Hopefully, we will get on some trails soon too!
We are not officially doing blocks this year, but I am going to try to group each month’s work into blocks for documenting here on the blog (hopefully, it will work!). We made a few changes this year in hopes to make this year a but more manageable. Homeschooling three grades is tough and adding high school made it tougher.
Block 1: Grade 5
Throughout this block, Parks learned about the Stone Ages and Ancient Mesopotamia. He is using Oak Meadow’s sixth grade book as his core curriculum. He also read the book, Gilgamesh the Hero this month. Daily, Parks worked on math from the Life of Fred book-Farming, spelling from Soaring with Spelling, copy work/dictation from Gilgamesh, and grammar from Growing with Grammar. He loved working on the projects from the Oak Meadow book. From the stone age section, he made an ax with a rock, a stick and some sinew. From learning about Ancient Mesopotamia, he made two posters and a ziggurat.
Block 1: Grade 7
Sawyer did not find the same excitement in the Oak Meadow curriculum as Parks did during this block. Sawyer did a quick review of the Ancient Romans and how Rome was affected by the new religions of Christianity and Islam. She also did daily work from Life of Fred-Fractions, copywork/dictation from her reading of A Door in the Wall, spelling from Soaring with Spelling and grammar from Growing with Grammar. Sawyer worked on creative writing with a teacher this month and will continue with her through the year. So far, she has made a picture story and a story from a painting.
Block 1: Grade 9
Sims worked hard this month. He has a good bit more work this year. He worked daily on World History, Geography, Algebra and Biology. He also read The Epic of Gilgamesh and completed a story board complete with the six elements of an epic and how Gilgamesh fits into the elements. He also has worked on a few fun experiments such as how chemical weathering effects rocks on the earth and how to extract DNA from a strawberry. We are still trying to figure out the best fit for some of his subjects, but I think that we are close to getting all of the kinks out so that he can soar through the rest of the year.
Here we are at the beginning of a new school year and a new dimension in home schooling……HIGH SCHOOL! Overall, we will have fifth, seventh and ninth graders.
Parks begins fifth grade. Throughout the year, he plans to learn about the ancient cultures, botany, anatomy and astronomy. He also wants to work on his spelling and writing. He made tremendous gains in his handwriting last year which means that he can focus a little more on content. In years past, he narrated, I scribed, and he copied. He will also continue with playing the drums in his band (The Beat Keepers), riding bmx bikes and riding horses.
Sawyer jumps into seventh grade studying the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, botany, anatomy and astronomy with Parks, and creative writing. Sawyer also plans to continue sewing, singing in her band (5 Lives), riding horses and climbing.
Sims transitions this year into high school. I am still not exactly sure why, but this makes me slightly anxious. He has quite a load of academic studies, but he is excited about getting started. He will study Algebra, Biology, World History (the early years including ancient cultures and the Middle Ages), World Geography, English 1 (he will be tying in English with history), and Forestry. He will continue rock climbing throughout the year and is going to try out a local sailing team as well.
We are moving to a more traditional approach to schooling in response to the kids’ requests. I love the Waldorf approach using stories and art to bring concepts to life. Thus, I am trying to do a bit of traditional, Waldorf and Montessori. For the younger kids, we are trying out Shiller math (a Montessori-based). So far, they are both LOVING it. The lessons are short and to the point. They are hands on too. The younger kids are also using Growing with Grammar, Soaring with Spelling, and Oak Meadow for the rest of their work. The first two books are pretty straight forward and to the point. I am splitting up the grade 6 Oak Meadow curriculum. Parks will work through the first half of the book starting with the Stone Age and working through the Ancient Greeks. Sawyer will start off with the Romans (a quick review) and work through the Age of Exploration. Sims is using Thinkwell for Algebra, Oak Meadow for geography and world history, various sources for biology, English writing with mom, and forestry using 4-H materials.
Well I guess before I start planning for next year, I should look back on last year. My planning pages for each grade are here: Grade 3, Grade 5 and Grade 7. (Heads up-this is a long and boring post that is mainly written for my own documentation purposes.)
Grade 3: Cooperation and Confidence themes
- Find a method for getting thoughts onto paper– Parks did learn to journal his feeling into a small journal. He continues to prefer to draw instead of write, but he is progressing on this goal.
- Work independently for 30 minutes- Parks did accomplish this goal, although it varied day to day. He occasionally had days that he had a difficult time working on his own.
- Understand the concept of multiplication and division and apply to practical life. – Parks rocked this goal. He does not enjoy doing math worksheets but he does an excellent job at practical and daily math such as cooking, time, and money.
- Find and utilize effective strategies to reduce anxiety and increase self confidence.-Parks really worked hard in this area this year. He will have to work on this forever, I suspect. He feels very confident in certain areas of his life such as horse back riding, bike riding, drawing, pottery, and outdoor activities.
- Work in groups effectively.-I saw this goal accomplished nicely in his last class. He participated in a robotics class which required a lot of team work, communication, and out-of-the-box thinking.
- Investigate how the environment effects the choices made on shelter, food and clothing. I think this was one of Parks’ favorite goals so of course he accomplished it.
Overall, Parks year was a mixed bag of sorts. At times, I was pulling my hair out and at other times, I was so excited for what he was inventing and wanting to do on his own. At the last minute, I changed math curriculum to Math-U-See. Parks worked through Gamma or Multiplication. We worked through it slowly and he did well. He worked through blocks on Mr.Popper’s Penguins, Shelters, Farmer Boy and Diary of an Early American Boy, The Giving Tree, Creation Stories from around the world, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Fort, and Cooking. He also took a biology class throughout the year at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. Other activities included African drumming, clay class, robotics, horse back riding, and gymnastics.
Grade 5– Self-awareness, compassion and empathy themes
- Utilize effective communication to inform others of her emotions. Sawyer tends to keep her emotions to herself. She worked a lot on letting us know if she needed some space or a friend over and how she is feeling.
- Find and utilize an effective time management strategy.-Unless she is reading, Sawyer is rocking this goal! When she is in a book, she has no idea what time it is. However, she is doing well with the schedule and judging her timing. Occasionally, leaving the house is still difficult but overall she is doing well.
- Find and utilize an effective organizational strategy for school work and room.- This is another area that Sawyer did very well in this year. Her school work stayed together and fairly organized. Her room drives me a little crazy, but she knows where everything is and has her own organization strategy.
- Utilizing previously taught grammar skills, write a variety of papers to learn the skills of prewriting, editing, drafting and final copy.- Sawyer did well with her writing skills this year.
- Increase confidence in utilizing math concepts in everyday life.- Sawyer’s confidence in math really increased this year. With the increase in her confidence with her school math, I really noticed an increase in her confidence with doubling and halfing recipes, making change with her money and time management.
- Increase awareness of how other’s are feeling around her and other people’s plans.- Similar to her time management goal, Sawyer did well with this goal unless she is reading.
Sawyer really grew up this year. I really enjoy watching her grow into her own person. For math, Sawyer dropped back to the Math-U-See Gamma or multiplication to increase her confidence in her math knowledge. She worked through that book and through the next Math-U -See book called Delta or Division. She also worked through Latin Word Roots book A. She worked through blocks on the Ancient Incas, Secret of the Andes, US Geography, The Mossflower, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ida, and Botany. She participated in the Environthon class. Extracurricular classes included African drumming, clay, gymnastics, and horse back riding.
Grade 7 communication, vision and exploration themes
- Find and utilize effective strategies for time management and organization for school.-Sims had a lot of activities that required a lot of management. Overall, he did very well. Occasionally, he needed a little prodding to keep motivated.
- Be able to recognize and respond appropriately/effectively to other’s emotions- One of the nice parts about goals is that you have time to achieve them! I was nervous about this one up until April. I am not sure what happened but he started working on this goal in April. I would not say that he has 100% met this goal, but I definitely think that he has made terrific progress towards it.
- Find and utilize an effective and efficient note-taking method – Not met. We learned about note taking. We made T’s, note cards, highlighting, traditional note taking and he really did not take to one. I guess this one will keep going through next year.
- Articulate ideas clearly and effectively- Sims did an excellent job with this goal. He has always had terrific ideas but didn’t always know how to explain them or to make them come to fruition. This year, he worked through his plans on his own before presenting them to the group or to me.
- Find and utilize a method to organize though in the form of written communication using prewriting, drafting, editing and final copy.– So Sims did not figure out note taking but he did a terrific job with writing! In fact, he did it without my help. He utilized the hand method (draw a hand on a sheet of paper. The palm is the main idea. The thumb is the introduction. Three fingers are the supporting ideas and the pinky is the final idea). In the past, Sims never wanted to write a rough draft but this year he was very comfortable with writing multiple drafts.
For math, Sims used the Pre-Algebra book from Math-U-See. He finished Latin Word Roots book A. He then worked through blocks on the Middle Ages (The Door in the Wall, Good Masters Sweet Ladies, Castle and Cathedral), Alchemy, The Alchemist, Chemistry, Wish/Wonder/Surprise, Astronomy, the Renaissance, Anatomy/Physiology, and Carry On Mr.Bowditch. He participated in the area Environthon and the NC state Environthon. He also participated in African drumming, competitive gymnastics, horse back riding, small engine repair and photography.
As a group, we worked on land and water forms using Pin It Maps. We read Hawksmaid and The One and Only Ivan together (although, everyone listens to all of the books read). We went to several shows including Breakin Convention, Momix, Flamenco, Black Violin, and Diavolo. We hiked. We went on a lot of trips including Washington D.C., Durham, Florida Keys, NC Mountains and Sebastian-Florida.
Don’t you love watching those little moments of self-confidence growing in your kids?
I had one of those moments today. For the past six weeks, the kids participated in a sailing class. Sims loves sailing, and he makes it look easy and fun. So much so that Sawyer and Parks asked if they could take the class this spring with him.
Being new to sailing and younger than Sims, they learned to sail on smaller boats than Sims. The smaller boats required them to sail independently. Neither of the kids enjoyed sailing on these boats. In fact, I wasn’t sure that they were going to complete the class. Luckily on Tuesday, they took a make-up class that changed their opinions of sailing completely around.
The best part came tonight. The class was small so the instructor decided to take out the bigger boats which required two people to each boat. Sawyer started out the class very nervous and unsure of herself. She was excited to have another person on the boat with her. What she didn’t know was that her partner was just as new to sailing as she was or more so! Tonight I watched as she skippered the boat, performed problem-solving, and instructed her crew. She found out how much she really did know about sailing.
To many people, Sawyer appears to be very self-confident. We know her at home to doubt herself at times. As she gets older and is on her own more, I want her to know how to trust her instincts and to be confident in who she is and what she does. I see her confidence growing at the barn each week, but that is an area that she feels comfortable. I enjoyed watching her rise to moment tonight in a situation that she did not feel comfortable in and with people who she does not know well.