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Entries in homeschooling (56)


Still not in school

I realize that recently my blogging has become more of a “where have we been” display throughout the summer months. Jon said last night that it looked a bit like Vladimir Putin Action Man: “here is us in Stratford”, “here we are with ice cream”, “and here in front of Mt. Hood”, etc., etc.

The truth is, it was a crazy, whirlwind of a summer. We were gone more weekends than we were home, and even our longer respites in town were filled with various community activities. It wasn’t planned that way; things just kept coming up, and what started as a summer with two trips planned quickly got a tad out of hand. The last few weeks have been our longest stay at home in months, and they've allowed me at least a little time to try and catch up in the garden and the house, but we have one more trip up our sleeves.

In the past we've been year round schoolers, but this year was a little different. When we first started homeschooling we were aiming for a very unschooling environment, and our summers were little different from our falls, winters, and springs, excepting, of course, for the weather. But in the past few years, as our methods have undergone a slow but decided evolution, have found ourselves more on the side of classical schooling. Now, in the fall, winter, and spring, our mornings are often spent at the kitchen table or a like place, studying or creating together. In the summers we continue to start our days with a little dabble of math and Spanish, but the rest of the day is often spent outside doing one thing or another. I guess you could call the cooler months our classical time, and the warmest months our unschooling time.

The truth being, though, that we still live the life of home learners who find "education" in everything we do.

So this fall, with one more trip still waiting in the wings, we are waiting until October to begin our classical learning months, and we are using the first couple of weeks of September to review a bit, and to plan the months ahead. Rather neatly, Calvin is right at the end of several books—Spanish, math, science, and grammar—meaning that when we get home and pick up classical lessons in October, it will be like a fresh start.

But until then, finishing up, reviewing, previewing, and planning ahead.


4H Youth Show, 2014



Our homeschooling group is a 4H club. In my life before child, before homeschooling, before homeschooling groups, I thought 4H was about raising livestock. I thought it was a club for future farmers, an association that put on a good fair, and the society that supplied good local eateries with fresh meat every fall. Needless to say, I was surprised to learn that our group was a 4H club. I was, perhaps, even more surprised to find myself 4H leader of said club. Since then I have become increasingly familiar with the 4H system and have found it welcoming, if not entirely organized. Their heart is in the right place, even if nothing else is.

Over this past year, in addition to participating in our club, the Homeschoolers of Ann Arbor, Calvin also participated in their summer day camp, will again enter projects into their Youth Show later this summer, and this week he joined the archery club for their Tuesday night practice.

Here's what is really, really fabulous about this organization. On Tuesdays nights, three men who are very capable and very knowledgeable in firearms and such dedicate several hours of their time to teaching archery to kids ages 7-18. They cart all the equipment to the fairground field, where they set up targets at a few different distances and assemble a couple dozen bows for kids of all different sizes. Then they spend two hours gently instructing and guiding. They have the patience of saints, while still being focused enough to keep the kids from killing each other or anyone else. Their great love for the sport shows.

Calvin loves it.


Driveway science

I let him loose in the driveway today.

Earlier in the day, in the car on our way home from nature camp, I asked him what he wanted to do with the afternoon.

"Math, spelling, and grammar," he said, "and then I want to experiment with water."

I asked him what kind of experiments he wanted to do.

"I want to find out what else fizzes like vinegar and baking soda."

Now, we've done the whole vinegar and baking soda thing a couple of times. We did it once when he was about four and totally obsessed with volcanoes so we did the obligatory conical explosion in the front yard. At the time it bothered me because vinegar and baking soda inside a plastic cone painted to look like a volcano have absolutely nothing to do with volcanoes, and volcanoes have no direct connection to the acid/base lesson that is the vinegar and baking soda reaction. So we followed the volcanic eruption in the front yard with a quick lesson on solutions and acids and bases a la The Young Scientist Club.

I'd like to say that I've relaxed a bit since that time when I was afraid to let him explode a volcano lest he mistake the kaboom of vinegar meeting baking soda for the nuts and bolts of a real, honest-to-goodness volcano. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Who was that mom anyhow? But actually, that kind of "science" still drives me nuts. The argument is moot, though. When I asked him if he knew why vinegar and baking soda reacted that way he remembered neither the volcano enactment nor the subsequent acids/bases exploration unit.

Not an entire loss, however, he did know that the reaction itself releases carbon dioxide gas, the culprit responsible for the fizzing. And, since everyone loves a good fizzy experiment, this afternoon he was off in search of more such explosive pairings.

And here's how I know—without a doubt—that I have relaxed in the past four years. When he asked for five glasses, five spoons, a measuring cup, water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, corn starch, and food coloring...I didn't bat an eye. I piled it all up on a tray, asked him to experiment in the driveway please, and delivered the goods. I watched for a while, and let him school me on his methods, but mostly I did laundry. And, when he used all the vinegar, salt, and corn starch in the house, I simply added those staples to the weekly shopping list.

It's a great big learning world out there.


Peter Pan

Yesterday was the final big event of our way too busy spring—our homeschool group's annual spring party, play, and talent show.

Those people that I mentioned recently, the people who think that homeschooling is a lonely, brain-washing undertaking, have probably never visited a gathering of homeschoolers like ours before. Our group is officially described as secular, and is made up of families that homeschool in vastly different ways. The group meets once a week, though the rest of our days are often filled with play dates, field trips, or other activities with friends from the group. And if one counts the very general belief that some children will learn best at home, then I guess I have to admit to surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. As far as the usual culprits for narrow-mindedness go, though, our group is fairly diverse and definitely eye-opening and educating. Plus there's usually excellent food at our pot-luck parties.

This year's spring play was an adapted version of Peter Pan, and Calvin was an excellent Peter Pan.

I can't find my pesky shadow, have you seen it, Wendy?

Sew it on? Oh no!

How could you do it? She was going to be our mother!

You can't have it, fairies like to steal shiny things!

Hook, there is magic on this island that is completely inaccessible to you. You're too old.

Talent show—Peter Pan at the piano