Wednesday, March 4, 2015


February Happenings.  Blogging and Instagramming can be redundant.  Pictures often pop up in both places.  The main reason that I double post is so that our memories make it into my yearly blog book.  Out of all my photo albums, my blog books are the ones that the girls reach for first.  So when I find myself in a blogging rut, I pull myself out and just keep writing.

February was a very busy month for us.  We kicked it off with the Super Bowl.  Every year we watch the game at my brother-in-law’s house.  Every year Lilah and I sit there disinterested.  She with her laptop, me with my knitting or my book and we pass the time while the others are jumping, yelling, cheering or moaning.  This year was Greg’s year.  He loves the Patriots.  He will sit out in the sub zero temperatures with glove warmers packed into his boots to watch a game and Grace got swept up in his enthusiasm.  She may not love football, but she sure loves her Dad.

February brought us snow storm after snow storm after snow storm.  Five weeks in a row.  We did not get the amounts of snow that our neighbors to the north did, but we got enough to keep the girls happy.  The morning of a snow day, the phone starts ringing and plans are made to meet up on the hill.  

This year the girls got real snowboards but they found them to be a bit dangerous and hard to control, even after years of “snowboarding” on the plastic ones from Target.  I do hope they forgive me if we don’t get to a real “mountain” this year.  I still want to try to make that happen for them.  

I had a very rare outing with my two sister in law’s to see Jersey Boys.  I loved it and wish that Grace had joined me.  She would have h-a-t-e-d the foul language but she would have loved the story of the band and the music.

Speaking of music, we are now two months into our new piano lessons.  Grace is learning so many new things that it is hard to keep up with her.  She did a month long study of The Beatles which involved learning Hey Jude, Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby.  She not only learned the notes, but examined the chords and learned to improvise and change the music by changing the chords.   We used to understand the back stories of the songs and we watched half a documentary on the songwriting collaboration between Paul McCartney and John Lennon.  She then used this new understanding of music to create her own arrangements of Amazing Grace (with no sheet music) and Canon in D.  I am looking for an app that will take sound recording and translate it into sheet music.  

Lilah is diligently working her way through her Sonatina.  It is hard work and sometimes she feels a bit overwhelmed.  It is a fine balance to keep her interested and excited, yet challenged.  I know that when she is finished, she will feel a huge sense of accomplishment because this is her hardest piece yet.  

Horseback riding is something they have been able to enjoy all winter thanks to an indoor ring.  This barn is not heated so it is still super cold, but they dress for the weather and most days they have been comfortable.  I am looking forward to the spring so I do not shiver while I watch them, but I can’t not watch them.  It is one of my favorite things to do!

Hours and hours of research went into planning our upcoming trip to Sanibel Island.  The girls took books out of the library.  Lilah focused her efforts on retail and restaurants while Grace spent most of her time on beaches and attractions.  They both began travel journals and I estimate that each page of Grace’s journal took an hour to complete.  When it is done, I will total the pages and give her credit in language arts for research.  We watched video after video on YouTube about the island.  Their favorite videos are I Love Shelling.  I had no idea how much they learned until we visited a friend’s house who has a large shell collection and they  were able to identify just about every shell without the use of a field guide.  I am going to figure out how many videos I Love Shelling has posted and give the girls credit under natural science for this (along with the time they spend “in the field” and at the shell museum in Florida).  

My involvement with church has gone from filling in as a last minute replacement for a 6th grade catechist, to being offered the position of Volunteer Faith Formation Coordinator, which is really a part time Director of Religious Education.  I am able to do 90% of the work from home and it does not feel like work.  We never know where the choices in life will take us.  I never expected a meeting with our priest back in September to turn into this and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of a very exciting time in my life.   

Monday, February 23, 2015

Binder Update: Language Arts

I have kept track of hours for Language Arts.  
120 hours = 1 credit

I am writing this as if our year is over, when in actuality I count our academic year July 1 through June 30, so we still have 4 full months left.  

We have read:

Corresponding Activities
The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe
Watched the movie and discussed similarities and differences.  Completed a lapbook and biographical notebook page for C.S. Lewis.  Cover to lapbook is hand made artwork of lampost drawn over book print stained with tea to look aged.
Around the World in 80 Days
5 paragraph essay in which a favorite character’s personality trait was supported by evidence from the book.  Research completed at the library on the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and elements of the Hindu religion. Watched NatGeo documentary about the history of the Suez Canal.  Watched documentary: Understanding World Religions, What is Hinduism
Alice in Wonderland
Watched the Tim Burton adaptation as well as the Disney and realized this was one of the few times Disney’s version was accurately based on the story.  Completed a journal entry of many famous quotes from this story.
A Christmas Carol
Attended a dramatic reading performed by a local Shakespeare company.  Viewed the movie starring George C. Scott.
Harriet the Spy
Explored banned books.  Made an itinerary for a walking tour of the neighborhood that provided the setting for the book.  Spent day in NYC touring the park, looking for her brownstone, sampling an egg cream, etc. Created a brochure to bring awareness to banned books.
Fairy Tales: The Golden Goose, The Seven Ravens, The Snow Queen, several versions of multicultural Cinderella tales.
Completed two pieces of fictional writing inspired by fairy tales: one about a quest and the other an adaptation of Cinderella.  Each story is 10+ pages long.
Watched The Princess Bride.  Created a Venn Diagram comparing/contrasting The Snow Queen to Frozen.
Read Rump, the true story of Rumplestiltskin by Leisl Shurtliff.
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
Participated in a book club discussion about this book.  Lilah wrote all the questions that were discussed.  Completed a vision board of the book and the places mentioned in the book.

At one of our book club meeting, a mom mentioned that she had begun to keep a running list of every book they were using, across subject areas.  Why had I never thought of that?  I know that when it comes time to write course descriptions, I will need to list the books we used either as reference or assigned reading.  Having a list would be much easier than going back through a year's worth of weekly wrap ups.

I created a very simple spreadsheet so that I am able to sort by year, or by subject area, of by author, etc.

In addition to the books listed above, many other books were read for language arts, we just did not do accompanying activities.  

Six books were read for book club
  • Marley, A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan
  • Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
  • Rump, the true story of Rumplestiltskin by Leisl Shurtliff

(we still have March, April and May)

The Language Arts section of the Binder contains all this and more:

Cover Page:

Hours Checklist:

Book List Spreadsheet
Book List Covers:






My notes/record keeping:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

High School Binder: Weekly Wrap Ups

It is that time of year, not quite spring but close enough to start thinking about homeschooling housekeeping issues.  For me that means tidying up the 9th grade binder.  Over the next few weeks, I will share where we are with Grace’s 9th grade binder.

Her binder helps me stay on track of several items but today I will profile only one...

Weekly Wrap Ups:

I still do them even though I don’t print them on the blog anymore.  I print out the table depicting the work we accomplish during the week.  These are kept in the front section of the binder and become a compilation of our efforts over the year.  It is worth the effort every day to jot down what we do.  This would be impossible to recreate and it is comforting to know that I can be held accountable for documenting their educational journey.  

It’s an interesting transition, homeschooling elementary to homeschooling middle/high school.  I am not the only one who asks, “Is this hard enough?” “Is this thorough?” “Will they have what they need to do what they want?”  and yes even, “Will this be enough to get them into college?”

I dislike the assumption that if you unschool you have no aspirations of college.  This is simply untrue.  I don’t make my girls memorize tons of factual information.  I don’t make them spit it back out to me for a grade.  We don’t do random workbooks, or texts, and we don’t spend hours cramming for tests.  That does not mean they don’t want to go to college, nor does it mean that they will not be prepared for college as is mentioned in this Smithsonian Magazine article.  

Our goal is not homeschool to Ivy, nor is it even homeschool to a $60,000 private university.  To me this is not sound financial decision making.  Our plan is and has always been the 2+2 model.  Two years of community college first  followed by two years at a college or university.  We choose to ignore any snide remarks or condescending attitudes from academic elitists.

Their binder is their collection of work accumulated over the course of a year.  It is full of essays, notebook pages, book projects, certificates,  awards, performance records, teacher evaluations, internship hours and more.  They may not memorize the capitals of every European nation, but they memorize pages and pages of sheet music.  They have read works by C.S. Lewis, Jules Verne, Lois Lowry, and Charles Dickens, yet they still love Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Trixie Belden.  Their education is perfectly eclectic and definitely not traditional.  Their binder and ultimately, their portfolio and transcript will reflect this. 

Week of February 15 - 21, 2015
Grace: LOF lessons 1 through 4
Key To Algebra Workbook 1 - half the workbook completed this week.
Lilah who wanted to pick back up LOF for fun, resumed with Intermediate Series: Kidneys lessons 1through 9
language arts
Printed off list of literary terms.  Used teachable moment in LOF of idioms to introduce this list. 
Both girls completed their Cinderella stories. 

Writing Group - both girls shared their stories and received feedback from their peers.  We found examples of the literary terms in each other’s stories. 

Finished Like the Willow Tree (Dear America) by Lois Lowry
First great cities:
A History of the World in 100 Objects #11 King Den’s Sandal Label 
Found a site that breaks down the inscriptions on the label and explains each picture of hieroglyph.  Girls put this into their notebooks.
Geology Lesson 3 - Galapagos
Watched a bit about Galapagos Aquatic Lizards on a NatGeo documentary.  Girls took excellent notes independently in their notebooks without pausing the video.  This was the first time they have done this kind of note taking.  
Copied map of Galapagos Islands and added a map of where the islands are on the globe to their notebooks.  
Lilah watched a Magic School Bus video about undersea volcanos and subduction.
The barn was c-o-l-d!  Lilah worked on cantering and Grace on jumping. Grace is getting used to a new saddle that she will have to use to compete in the rated shows this spring.
Grace was given the task of taking Pachabel’s Cannon and using her new understanding of chords and improvisational playing to come up with a version to her liking.  She is also creating Amazing Grace with no sheet music.  

I spoke with her teacher regarding her transcript.  He does not level, but said she is solidly an intermediate player.  I think we will list Intermediate Piano 9 on her transcript.

Lilah is working on her Clementi piece and it is coming along nicely.
photography #3 - faces and places: Using the best lens to take portraits and how to make those portraits unusual.
Grace edited and uploaded her newest GoPro movie to YouTube using GoPro studio which she likes much more than iMovie.
Girls had their weekly lesson Chapter #6.
Grace is still volunteering 3 hours at the kennel (she has 120 hours since July) and in exchange for her work, Crosby has been attending doggy day care.  She loves that she gets to bring her dog to work.

Grace also volunteers 2 hours a week at Church helping me with my Faith Formation Class (6th grade).  Total time will be 20 weeks at 2 hours = 40 hours.  Not sure if this will factor into credits, but she will receive a letter to add to her portfolio for her service.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Valentine’s Day will always mark the anniversary of our entry into this amazing world of homeschooling.  Lilah’s first Valentine’s Day party was thrown 6 years ago, when she was in 2nd grade.  Six years ago.  That is crazy!  Where has this time gone?  How did my little 6 year old girl grow into a 12 year young lady who would be in 7th grade if she were in school?  

Over the years some things have changes.  Some friends have moved on, while new friends have come into our lives.    Thankfully some friendships have endured and I have had the joy of watching them grow up alongside my girls.  

One thing that has never changed is that Lilah is the ultimate party planner.  She takes responsibility for games, food, and movies.  She makes shopping lists in her planning notebook and spends hours researching the perfect homemade valentine.  She bakes, decorates, and cleans.  For Lilah, the party is not just a gathering of friends, it is an experience she wants each friend to remember for a long time.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

High School Book List

My 1977 collection of Trixie Belden.  These books helped define my childhood.

This week I reached out through social media asking for books that my friend, family, and online followers remember reading in high school and would recommend to someone in high school now.  I am always disappointed by the book lists I see on the websites of schools and at the library. In my opinion they are too heavily weighted with dystopian books, or contain books that are frankly, too mature for high school students and really would be better suited for a college class (like 1984).  

The highlight of this year has been reading books with my sister-in-law Kris.  We try to pace ourselves so we finish the book around the same time.  She talks with the girls about characters and the plot and their opinions and then we gather on a weekend to have dinner and watch the movie.  Those books are not just part of us, they are part of our family experience.  Passpartout and Alice and The White Witch have all been featured in conversation and many, many connections have been made to these reads.  This week we read The Snow Queen and realized that C.S. Lewis must have drawn inspiration for the White Witch from The Snow Queen.  They are very similar in description and action.  

It does not matter what you label language arts as on a transcript.  English 101, 201, 301.  What matters is that you read books that allow you to participate in a conversation where you are able to discuss authors and plots and make inferences and substantiate opinions.  I want my girls to know the literary classics, as well as have familiarity with contemporary classics such as The Help and The Secret Life of Bees.  

So much of our learning occurs through our reading.  Recently, the girls opted for a fun audiobook and we have been reading Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry.  The girls were not familiar with the Shakers until we read this book.  In this living books, we have learned so much about the religion and beliefs, ways of life, inventions and communal living.  We have researched Shaker communities in Connecticut and sadly the only one that was here is not a museum, but has been sold off and is in the hands of private owners.  We will take a ride to Enfield and walk around and perhaps take some pictures of the buildings, homes and grounds.  Even though Grace mentioned that this book is a bit "young",  it will go on her cumulative 9th grade book list.  Lois Lowry is a revered author and the content contained in this book warrants it.  

Here is the compiled list.  Many people participated in the creation of this list.  Some of these may not be appropriate for our family, but these are the books that people remember and feel should be passed on to the next generation of readers.

Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Ann Frank
Book Thief
The Hunger Games
The kite Runner
Pride and Prejudice 
Heaven is for Real. 
Rush revere and the American Revolution
To Kill a Mockingbird
Freak the Mighty 
1984 ( when older) 
Of Mice and Men
The Pearl
Fahrenheit 451
Tale of Two Cities
The Outsiders
Animal Farm
To Kill A Mockingbird
While Still We Live
The Lost World
Great Expectations
The Old Man and the Sea
Les Miserables
The Scarlett Letter
Wuthering Heights
Sign of the Beaver
Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Candymakers
The Master Puppeteer
I Rode of Horse Of Milk White Jade
The Hiding Place
Number the Starts
The Hobbit
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Taming of the Shrew
Breaking Stalin's Nose
Mission to Cathay
Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
Johnny Tremain
Little Women
Romeo & Juliet
Othello, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream
Great Expectations, Dombey & Son, David Copperfield
Sense and Sensibility
Lord of the Rings
Jane Eyre
A Clockwork Orange
Call of the Wild
Silas Marner
The Grapes of Wrath
The Adventues of Huckleberry Finn
Ender's Game
Where the Red Fern Grows
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Kite Runner
Charlotte's Web
The Alchemist
The Life of Pi
Cutting for Stone
The Secret Garden
The Help
The Secret Life of Bees

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