Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Friday, August 8, 2014

School Days, School Days…

I know what you’re thinking.

Mean Mama.  Mean, mean mama.

Surely she didn’t make those poor monkeys start back to school in July.

Well, I did.

Now before you report me to the meanness police, just remember that homeschooling is hard on the mama too.  There’s a ton of work involved in planning a school year for two kiddos in different grades.  There’s curriculum to select, supplies to purchase, materials to organize, and lessons to plan.  And I have to figure out a way to simultaneously be a serious, school marm and a fun, loving mom. Quite a challenge!

I figure the best way to achieve a good mix of education and fun is to get my kids excited about learning.  I need to pique their curiosity, engage their little minds, sprinkle in surprises, and trick them into learning.

That’s a tall order!

So this year I’m shakings things up a bit.  Translation:  I’m ditching my go-to curriculum (for the most part) and trying new things.

Since 2010 I’ve been using Abeka curriculum for all subjects.  It’s very good material, but lately, both Ty and I have found it to be, well, boring.  Time for a change.

After talking with some homeschooling friends, I decided to branch out and try new textbooks for science, history, and language arts.

This year for science we are using Apologia: Human Anatomy and Physiology.  The great thing about Apologia is that you can use the same material for multiple ages.  Exactly what I need – a way to kill two birds with one stone.  I teach one science lesson, and Ty and Lucy each work in their own, age-appropriate notebooks.  Yes, the content is rather advanced.  For example, we are learning about things like myofibrils and anaerobic respiration in our study of the muscular system.  But it sure beats boring, shallow discussions like, “Muscles help us move.”  I figure that my kids will pick up the basics, and if they retain some of the more challenging material, well hey, that’s just icing on the cake.

Apologia also includes great activities and experiments that help my monkeys really understand what we are reading.  Since beginning the book we’ve made an edible cell, rubberized a chicken bone, mummified a turtle, and built a model of the tendons in a human hand.  Currently we are conducting an experiment trying to build muscles in Ty’s hand.

For a new approach to history this year, I am trying out The Mystery of HistoryWe are in our second week of the course, and both the kids and I love it!  What I really love about the Mystery of History (MOH) is it’s focus on Jesus.  He’s the “Mystery” that ties all of human history together.  Volume I of MOH begins with the true story of creation (the Biblical account, of course) and proceeds from there to the resurrection of Christ.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ll probably be learning just as much my kids throughout this study.  The book covers many eras and cultures that I never studied in all my years of schooling.  We’ll be learning about everything from the ancient Chinese dynasties, to the Israelites and the Exodus, to the mound-building tribes of North America.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time planning activities to go along with our history lessons.  A few things I have lined up are:  writing cuneiform on clay tablets, constructing a miniature replica of Stonehenge, building a ziggurat out of sugar cubes, and reading the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh.  It’s going to be fun!

The MOH involves a year-long timeline project to help us keep everything in perspective as we travel through history.  Here’s the beginning of our timeline.

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We will add a figure or two to represent each lesson in the book.  The timeline should be a wonderful sight to behold once we make it through all 108 lessons!

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For Lesson 1, Creation,  I challenged the kids to make their own unique creatures using play-dough.  Ty’s creature cracked me up.  He called it a Nosy Eye Worm.

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The kids also decorated these Creation Cubes.  Once we colored and assembled the cubes, we took turns rolling them to help us review the six days of creation.

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The last major curriculum change I made this year was in the area of language and writing.  I am now using Brave Writer, which was recommended by my sister-in-law.  Brave Writer focuses less on the technical aspects of grammar and more on the creative process of writing.  In other words, we won’t be sitting down diagramming sentences and memorizing punctuation rules.  Instead we’ll be doing daily exercises and working on monthly projects that will help the kids learn how to put their thoughts down on paper.  A few of the weekly activities we’ll be doing include oral reading, copy work, dictation, free writing, observation exercises, and…

Poetry Teatime.

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When I first read about Poetry Teatime, I thought (in my best sarcastic, inner voice), “Really?  Sit around a fancy table once a week, sipping tea, and reading poems?  Yeah, Ty ought to love this.”

But I decided I would try teatime at least once.  I knew it would be a hit with Lucy.  So I threw a lacy tablecloth onto our school table, plopped some silk flowers into a crystal vase, lit a candle (because all kids love fire), and served up some refreshments.

Before I go on, I should be clear about something.  This was a redneck tea party, not to be confused with an English tea party.  We drank sweet, iced tea, not Earl Grey.  Instead of scones and crumpets, we nibbled on animal crackers, fruit, and muffins leftover from breakfast.

We all three took turns reading from poetry anthologies.  Well, two of us “read.”   Lucy narrated a book to us by looking at the pictures.  I think it’s wonderful that she is so excited about getting to “read” aloud.  I hope it’s a sign of good things to come.

Much to my surprise, Ty actually liked teatime – once he got over the initial embarrassment.  At first he couldn’t even make eye contact with me.  The lace and crystal almost put him over the edge.  But after a while he relaxed a bit.  I think I won him over with the fruit and fire.  Here he is getting all fancy wiping the corners of his mouth.

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Just as I predicted, teatime was a hit with Lucy.  Lace and crystal are right up Miss Fancy-Pants’ alley.  She’s asked to have teatime every day since then.

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There’s one last thing I haven’t mentioned about school this year, and that’s Miss Tacy Mae.  She really hasn’t been as much trouble as I had anticipated.  In the mornings she will sit in her highchair munching on Cheerios while we have a lesson.  She also likes to crawl around under our table and chairs, perfectly content to play by herself.  Her favorite pastime, though, is getting into this cabinet and pulling out all the books on the bottom shelf.  While this drives Lucy nuts, I’m ok with it.  It keeps Tacy occupied, and she’s not in any danger.

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Most afternoons Tacy takes a 3 hour nap, so whatever school work we don’t finish before lunch, we wrap up during her nap time.

Whew!  That was quite a lengthy post, but we are all so excited about the new school year that I just had to share.  I hope to keep y’all updated (somewhat regularly) on our studies, so check back again soon to see what’s going on.


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