Friday, September 9, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal #3

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Homeschool Mother's Journal is hosted by The Homeschool Chick.

In my life this week… I turned 45 amid chauffeuring the kids to their soccer teams, Lego League, and various other activities, while battling dirty dishes and laundry and trying to get our school year off the ground.

A few things that made me happy this week ... My hubby and I had agreed on no birthday presents, since we're on a very tight budget. But I was surprised with several nice gifts, including a generous check from my dad. The other present was from my 7-year-old daughter. She begged her dad to take her shopping and spent every penny of the money she'd saved on a beautiful journal for me.

In our homeschool this week… We did a little informal testing so I could start the kids' portfolios. We've always used standardized tests as proof of progress (required yearly in Virginia). However, the kids get unduly stressed about it, so I am determined to do a portfolio review this year instead. If anyone knows of any great sites with creative, inspiring ideas for homeschool portfolios, please pass them along!

We started our history curriculum, amid colorful complaints from my 12-year-old, who apparently dislikes history. He went off on a tangent, joking that history never happened -- "it's all lies." I guess his mind bendingly weird view of the universe is inspired by watching Dr. Who. (We all love that show) Anyway, I told him embracing solipsism is not going to get him out of the little bit of required schoolwork we do. :-P

Since my kids aren't history buffs (*sigh* -- I LOVE history), we're keeping it simple: combining Short Lessons in World History with Larry Gonick's cartoon histories.

My son Seamus is into Lego League, where he got into a little trouble this week, drawing, and building stuff. He's dabbling with programming video games in Java. He asked a programmer he met at Lego League whether Java was a good starter program; he said "yes" and the programming experiences JE's getting in LL will help him get the hang of it.

Seamus is playing soccer again. He's also learning fractions. I'm particularly proud of his artwork -- I told him I think he could create professional quality graphic novels if he put his mind to it. He seems to have a natural gift for art, and he tends not to put much time and energy into it, which drives me nuts. I don't expect my kids to follow my agenda for their lives (REALLY ... I don't ... though it would be very clever of them if they did, don't you think? :-P), but I hate to see anyone squandering his God-given gifts.

My younger daughter Eliza learns through stories, games, and conversations -- no curricula. She plays soccer. She also attends a democratically-run school part-time -- she basically plays instead of attending classes, which is fine with me. Her social and emotional development is my biggest concern right now. I'm teaching biology at Eliza's school to keep her tuition manageable.

My older daughter River is deeply immersed in writing a novel right now, and she's strongly encouraging me with my own fiction writing. (Remember what I said about squandering one's talents? Well, I am more guilty of that than anyone). She's also reviewing old math concepts and volunteering at the SPCA.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… I have been using a downloadable program called Homeschool Daybook to track my kids' learning and keep track of hours spent on certain activities (important since SS will be needing a high school transcript in less than 2 years) It suits me much better than Homeschool Tracker, which I've also tried and liked. Homeschool Daybook is quite simple, flexible, and unschooler/eclectic homeschooler friendly. It's set up for folks who want to quickly record non-curricular work ("Video Gaming," "Chatting About Black Holes") and assign it to a subject ("Computer Skills," "Physics") for easy transcript building. However, if I keep it (I'm using a trial version now), it's $40 -- versus Homeschool Tracker which has a FREE version. Free is my favorite price. I'm really feeling torn, but I think these are both well designed programs and great options for record-keeping.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Soccer (3 different locations), the SPCA, Lego League, Eliza's school, and our dear friend Christine who, by the way, is a wonderful writer and a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to SS.

What's Working/Not Working For Us… My son Seamus would video game 24 and 7 if he were left to his own devices. We've all agreed on a daily limit, but enforcing it, in the midst of my busy life, is hard. I want him to develop his other talents, like building wonderful Lego creations, creating computer games, and drawing. Yet when I *assign* these things to him, I get a minimal effort. I guess that make sense: when you get a specific assignment, you do what's asked and nothing more. O.K. for math workbooks but counterproductive in creative work. How do I encourage him to live a well balanced life and develop his gifts without shooting myself in the foot by overmanaging his interests?

I am working on ... Becoming more calm and patient, especially with my 7-year-old, very "spirited" child. (When you read "spirited," think "epic meltdowns." Sometimes my days are kinda like a cross between The Miracle Worker and The Exorcist.) Being kinder to myself. I tend to wear a hair shirt (metaphorically, of course -- I'm not a 16th century Catholic) -- blaming myself for mistakes we've made with the kids, their developmental struggles, and things I see lacking in their lives.

I’m grateful for… The way my husband and I have been working as a team lately. When he's home from work, we alternate responsibilities: he drops Seamus off at Lego League, I pick him up, he takes Seamus to soccer practice, I take Eliza to soccer practice, I clean the kitchen, he cooks. Today he "did school" with Eliza for a long time -- she was thrilled. Believe me, things haven't always rolled this way, and I'm feeling a lot of gratitude toward the wonderful man I married.

I’m praying for… My daughter River who is back-sliding in her ongoing "recovery" from a very severe anxiety disorder. Maybe "management" is a better word than "recovery" -- sort of like a diabetic who stays relatively well and happy when her body is in balance and the meds are working. It's hard to see her struggling like this. 'Course it is her time of the month. (Sorry if that's TMI). She has a little money, and her dad took her DVD shopping as a diversion. I'm telling you, this man ROCKS. Please remind me I said that next time I start complaining that he's being a pain in the butt. :-P

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… One of my son's photographs:


Anonymous said...

Hey, Steph. Tell JE great photo! It's very serene. I'm using my blog as the basis for either a portfolio or evaluation. I figure it can work either way, help me keep track, and maybe entertain or help a few people along the way. Make sure to post your linkback on the Homeschool Chick's page if you're looking for more traffic from doing HMJ. Take care.--JER

Our Side of the Mountain said...

Nooo! Not Dr Who! LOL My kids and my husband all enjoy the show, but I don't. LOL

I'll have to check out Homeschool Daybook. I've used Homeschool Tracker and find it tedious, but thorough and easy to use. I guess I just don't like writing down stuff! LOL

We do portfolios around here, but they're just 2" 3 ring binders with divider tabs for each major section (i.e. legal paperwork, Language Arts, Math, Science/Health, History/Geography, Fine Arts, and Field Trips/Activities). I just place copies of chapters completed (especially for Math since it lists concepts), samples of work, pictures, and pamplets throughout the year.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

The Faithful Homeschool said...

Happy birthday to YOU!

Andrea said...

Happy Birthday - soo sweet to read about your daughter's gift to you.

So this may not be a really creative or inspiring idea :) but it's one that I've found keeps things simple and keeps me from getting all stressed about creative a portfolio: for my portfolio each year I create a bullet list of the highlights of what we did for the school year (categorized by subject) and list most of the book we read (and the ones my children read on their own). When I meet with the certified teacher who reviews our year, I bring the bulleted lists along with any work books or work samples which highlight our year. It might be helpful to talk with the person who will review your portfolio now to see what they would expect to see - that way you know early on the amount of work required to go into the portfolio. Hope this helps.

Chaos Cottage said...

Happy birthday and thank you so much for visiting my blog. I don't get very many comments and I am always happy to see a new reader of my blog. Pam

~ A Mother's Heart for Home~ said...

Oh Happy Birthday Stephanie! It's so nice to be in touch with you again. It sounds like y'all are having a great start to the new school year. That journal program , what a good fit. We love Dr. Who! too. In my book pile beside my computer is The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery. Cozy Mystery writing is on my to do list, once I get our school year running in order. Good luck to you on writing too! I didn't know you were a science teacher, just thought you did English, like me. The Bio. class sounds fun. Keeping S on my prayer list for her recovery. : ) Thanks for coming by my little blog place and getting back in touch. : )

JoVE said...

Happy Birthday!!!! Glad you enjoyed it. And hurray for still loving that many you married and your relationship still developing. Sharing all the driving is a big deal.

All the kids stuff sounds like it's going really well. You're doing a great job.

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