Sunday, November 29, 2009

letters headed northward

I feel the need to point out that it's been tradition in our family to ask Santa for ONE gift. Apparently the boys have their own ideas on that tradition! After seeing what J wrote (and fully intending on Santa bringing all of that stuff) I told Zoo Boy to go ahead and ask for one more item.

The Boy, he's been asking a LOT of really pertinent questions about Santa and mythological creatures and the validity of mail service at the North Pole and why some families celebrate some holidays while others celebrate others.... The factual questions I answer truthfully. The magical ones I just shrug and say, also honestly, "I don't know. Must be magic."

those crazy "oat"s

Once upon a time I had time to keep up with my blog.... but now that I've found a minute, I'd better catch up!

The end of last week, while the rest of the state had school "off", we started our "oat family" unit. That's what I love about homeschooling -- working on a schedule that meets your own family! My kids were in a school kind of mood, so we "did" school.

This first drawing is, of course, J's, of the whole "oat" family in their "oat" family boat, floating on the moat, wearing their coats.

Our Town Board, all set up for the "oat" family. The really fun part of this is that I've been setting up the "empty" slots with consonants that make legitimate oat/ote words, so after we're done with the main lesson, the kids make the words, and then ask what they mean if it's a word they're not familiar with. It's been quite a vocabulary expander! The other fun thing is that they then ask each other "What would happen if the 'it' family visited?" and then make all those words as well, and then try out other word families they can think of. Very, very cool....

Zoo Boy's drawing, again of the town board, with each of the "oat" family members displaying their special gifts.

J's writing.

Zoo Boy's writing. Before doing his "oat" words, he asked if he could write more than just the words, so I prepared some extra paper and told him to go ahead and write whatever he wanted to. He eventually decided NOT to write any more than just the "oat" words at that sitting, but later told me that he was going to write "There was a goat by the moat who made the boat float, then he put on a coat." This is his own version of an "oat" family story (there are no goats in the original story, for one thing), although the words are the same. This of course is the next step -- the kids writing their own stories from the family words -- and it's SO amazing to see them coming up with the idea of doing that before I even introduce it!

One more word family for us to all work with, and then I'll turn the town board over to the kids for practice time work so they can make their own word family cards and create their own stories from them.

Friday, November 27, 2009

many thanks

I suppose I'm a day late with this post, but it's never too late to be thankful for the gifts that life has given you!

I'm thankful that, despite our financial struggles over the past several years, we've managed to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a lifestyle that suits our preferences and our consciousness. And I'm thankful that it looks likely we'll be able to continue in that fashion!

I'm thankful for the wonderfully supportive real-life homeschooling community that I feel like we've truly connected with and clicked into this year. The kids and I all finally feel like we belong and have an integral part in that community, and it's a diverse and enriching place to be.

I'm thankful for the vast array of classes, programs, and opportunities that are available to homeschoolers, for the individuals that organize them, for the businesses and organizations who provide them, for the instructors that implement them, and for the families who participate in them. Enrichment will never be an issue to anyone homeschooling in Connecticut!

I'm thankful for the parents who entrust me with instructing their children in classes, programs and activities. And for the parents who actually include me on their list of things they are thankful for, I feel truly, deeply blessed.

I am thankful to have amazingly wonderful friends who share my parenting vision and spiritual base. They are my touchstone and my backbone, my inspiration and my mirror. Even though we can't be physically together every moment of every day, they are with me on every step of our journey, and I absolutely cherish those moments when we are able to visit face-to-face.

I am thankful for an active on-line support community of other like-minded parents. It's like one great big groovy virtual Kibbutz.

This is going to sound funny, but I'm not thankful that J's Autism diagnosis was removed this year. I AM thankful that Autism is no longer a roadblock for him, but is instead a way of describing how his brain works and why certain things are more challenging, and certain things are much easier, for him. And I am thankful that he is no longer defined by a diagnosis, even though WE of course never thought of him that way. It's just sort of cool to have the rest of the world on the same page as us.

And I'm thankful (ever so enormously thankful!) for RDI (Relationship Development Intervention), SIT (Sensory Integration Therapy), and Enki Education, the people who innovated those methods and strategies, and the professionals who brought them to our family directly, which were the keys in bringing us to this point.

I'm thankful that we are on the path we're on. There was a time (a LONG time) that The Map Man and I were adamant that we were not going to have children. It stuns the mind to even imagine what we would have missed out on. To say the kids have changed our live only trivializes it. I've changed in ways that I could never have dreamed of, and I know that I've grown more as a human being in the past 9 years than in the previous 35.

I'm thankful that, even in a culture that is inundated with technology and the next best thing, it's still possible to raise children in a simple, holistic manner, and it's still possible to find other parents doing the same thing. I'm thankful every single day that when you ask my kids what they want to do, watching TV and playing video games doesn't even occur to them.

I'm thankful for Homeopathy. While the rest of the country seems to be struggling with viral health issues, my family is riding a wave of good health, thanks to a simple Homeopathic remedy given at the first sign of trouble. I'm tempted to think it's just luck, but time and again we've staved off what's been going around with a well-timed dose of Belladonna, and at this point I'm willing to concede that it's more than just coincidence. (Of course, I could be jinxing myself even saying that out loud....)

And of course I am beyond thankful for whatever forces of nature or beyond caused me to casually mention to a friend one night almost exactly 26 years ago, "The party starts at 8. Oh, by the way, why don't you bring your roommate? Sounds like he needs to get out a bit." The rest is history.

Monday, November 23, 2009

plain and tall

Just wanted to give a quick plug for Sarah, Plain and Tall and the other books in that series by Patricia MacLachlan. WONDERFUL read-aloud books for the young'uns, also nice short-ish independent readers for kids just ready for chapter books. My guys (and I!) are very much enjoying them.

working with the families

At this point in the Word Family work, the Enki curriculum calls for working with the three word families we've already introduced, in the form of coloring book readers. Of course, that's designed for kids for whom this material is new. For my accomplished readers, it would be pretty redundant to approach it that way. Instead, I took two stories about the three families and printed one off for each of the boys (without the pictures) to read to themselves and each other. I gave Zoo Boy the "Three Families Mystery", which is a direct story about the "eep" "ail" and "ight" families, and I gave J the "Three Family Hike" which is an independent story incorporating the same long vowel sounds from the three families. I left them on their own to enjoy the stories, and much laughing and amusement could be heard.

I then had them each draw a picture from their story. Here's Zoo Boy's "Three Families Mystery", of the mysterious being going "peep peep peep" while we can see it's tail "sweep". "I wonder what that thing was...?" Zoo Boy pondered afterwards. I love his sense of adventure at drawing something unknown!

J drew from his story "Three Family Hike". Here's the sheep going up the steep mountain to fetch a pail of feed. He got creative with his title, too.

I'm skipping handwriting with this particular set of stories, as we'll be on to another word family tomorrow (well, we'll read it this afternoon, they'll be working with it tomorrow), and I thought a little break from writing might be nice for them (they wrote every day this weekend as well as most of last week). I was a bit concerned that more word family work might be too much for my guys, but Zoo Boy specifically requested a new word family story after working again with the ones we've already seen. So I guess they're not sick of this yet. And it's been SUCH a boon to our handwriting work, I'll continue on for the next couple of weeks as originally planned.

So instead of actual handwriting today, the boys worked on those important muscles and control needed for handwriting by digging and scraping on a block of plaster with crystals embedded inside. This was one of J's birthday gifts, and it's going to take a lot of elbow grease to free up those minerals -- J is motivated because they just discussed minerals in his Geology class last Thursday. He's hoping to have at least one or two of his minerals free to show his teacher when the class meets again next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the 'ight" family

We spent the second half of the week with the "ight" family. Here's our town board after the kids filled in the "ight"s and "ite"s.

J's free drawing from the story -- he's got the whole family there, outside one of the houses in town -- there's the sisters fighting and biting, the brothers taking flight like a kite, Mom lying down and looking white, and Papa with the baby, getting ready to set everything right.

Zoo Boy's drawing, again the town board (do you see a trend?) with all of the family members and their various atrributes symbolized.

J's writing.

Zoo Boy's writing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

science center, yet again

We had another fun afternoon at the CT Science Center yesterday, enjoy some photos from our visit:

musical mix masters

creating craters

testing safety helmets, overlooking the CT River

DJ Zoo Boy

racing cars

sailing boats

launching helicopters

creating light via dance

the Hartford skyline on our way out

Friday, November 20, 2009

nature center

We visited a new nature center yesterday, because my friend T convinced me to sign J up for a Geology class with her daughter D. So we showed up a couple of hours early the first day so the boys could get their fill of exploring the center before J had to settled down into the class. (Zoo Boy brought along a workbook to keep himself occupied while J was in class.)

This is a very, VERY cool nature center! There is lots of amazing habitat dioramas and props, plenty of taxidermy animal specimens, and interspersed throughout the exhibits, many tanks of smaller native wildlife. It was a real treat to explore the center and settle ourselves in for an afternoon.

The boys under the roots of a large dead tree. (There were even animals in there!) They had a great time with imaginary play in there.

And in here as well -- a recreated Long House (a local Native American lodge).

J checks out the deer skins that line the benches of the Long House, as well as the various artifacts inside.

Zoo Boy enjoyed the interactive games which worked on identifying wildlife signs and sounds.

Cool place to hang out, we'll be back as J has class for 4 weeks. My guess is we'll sign him up for more classes here in the future as well -- the class size was amazing (only 3 kids, all of them homeschooled), the naturalist knowledgeable and engaging, and the topic right up J's alley.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the "ail" family

The first half of this week we worked with another word family, the "ail/ale" family. After telling the story on Tuesday, we recalled the story (filling in the "ail/ale" words on our town board) the following day, and the boys did a free drawing from the story. Zoo Boy in particular was excited when we got to the part in the story where they "ails" visited the town of Conso Nant!

Here's J's drawing, of Auntie's great blue whale that finally led them home. (I love how the whole family is sitting on the whale's back!)

Zoo Boy's drawing, again of the town, but this time adapted for the "ail" family. You can see Grandma's sail, Mom's rail, Big Sister's nails, water at Papa's feet that he needs to bail, Baby's pail, and at the top, Auntie's whale, and the paper on which Uncle wrote down the whole tale.

During practice time the boys had writing assignments (which you'll see below).

Today we read the limerick together, filling in the other "ail/ale" words on the board.

Above is J's writing from the past two days. I'm finding that he has an easier time staying on task if I'm doing handwork nearby. Otherwise his mind tends to drift and he gets easily distracted. But in general he's really building his writing stamina, it took him far less time today than it did last week to complete the 2 stanzas of verse.

I've taken a bit of a new approach with Zoo Boy, since he's showing that he's willing to work on his writing now, but is still only using capital letters when he does. So I made up these handwriting sheets for him (with simple symbols showing how to form the letters). Yesterday his instruction was to write 5 "ail" words from the limerick, today's instruction was to write 5 "ale" words. He was a little alarmed yesterday when he asked if he could write in capitals and I shook my head. But once he got going and realized he could do it, he was quite pleased with his work.

share day

Monday was the final day of our Monday Homeschool Classes semester, and it was designated as a "Share Day", where the classes could share what they worked on this term. Unfortunately I did a really lousy job of taking pictures (I was having too much fun to even think about it!), but there were class displays and organized events. The Colonial Days class (my class) started the day by sharing some of the games they learned during our class. Then the Spanish class (pictured) ran a pretend Spanish Restaurant, where the waiters (the kids in the class) only spoke Spanish and had to communicate with their customers (very few of who speak Spanish). It was a lot of fun, and J (in the middle of this controlled chaos) had a blast being the "messero", while Zoo Boy and I had fun being customers. (Zoo Boy did a GREAT job of placing his order for "leche" and "hamburguesa" in Spanish, and telling our "messero" that he needed a "tenedor" -- fork.)

The chorus then rehearsed (while the rest of the kids played, as Zoo Boy can be seen doing here with a couple of friends), then performed a concert for us. J did not sing with the homeschool chorus this term, as the timing conflicted with his Spanish class. (He is singing again with the Windham Youth Chorus, their winter concert will be in December.) The kids and I enjoyed attending the concert and cheering for our singing friends.

It was a gorgeous day, and the kids spent a lot of time playing outside. Someone brought a parachute, here's Zoo Boy and some pals playing with it.

I'm going to be running several craft workshops during the intersession before the holidays (rug braiding, felted soaps, and candle dipping), then our regular classes will start up again in January.

Oh, J also took his Spanish test again, and this time he passed and earned his yellow band, which he proudly shows off in this photo! He's very much looking forward to continuing his Spanish lessons next semester (as are Zoo Boy and I!).