Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Pets: Tadpoles

Not a very clear photo, but there is a tadpole here! A dozen shots later and this is the best photo I got. In a few weeks these little swimmers are expected to sprout legs and think themselves into frogs. We are all excited, but Nature Girl, 6, is beside herself. She even painted minuscule pictures to paste on the side of the bottle so the little creatures could enjoy some art :) I removed them for the picture, of course. It was hard enough to get a decent shot. We have four tadpoles, picked up from a park an hour away. Dreamer and Nature Girl scooped them up with pond water and algae for them to eat. At home we read the section on tadpoles in our book "Pets In A Jar" to make sure we had all our bases covered. I cross my fingers they will all survive!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A New Writing Program To Try

This year we started out with Wordsmith Apprentice, part of a plan that includes Wordsmith Apprentice in 5th and 6th grades, and beginning Wordsmith in 7th. The plan is to finish off with Wordsmith Craftsman in 9th grade. I have noticed however, that Wordsmith Apprentice is relatively quickly to get through, and we already started on Part II. We only work on writing as a formal subject on Fridays, a double period where Dreamer (age 10) works on his assignments almost independently. To round off his English/LA program, we read aloud and discuss, he reads good books independently, reviews grammar - first through Grammarland and now through Voyages in English 3 - and we work through Intermediate Language Lessons (second part).

To slow things down a bit, I decided to pause Wordsmith Apprentice and try the shiny new program everyone on The Well Trained Mind Forum has been talking about: Classical Academy Press' Writing  & Rhetoric. Looking at the samples, I see that Narrative I may be easy for him, and Narrative II more suitable, but easy may be a good thing. Dreamer doesn't enjoy writing unless he gets to write whatever he wants and following a bare minimum of rules and conventions. This may teach him while giving him the structure he needs, albeit in a simpler form. I would love to see him grow in his writing more and enjoy it instead of dreading it. I'm going to try the samples from Narrative I for the remainder of the year. If Dreamer likes it and learns from it, we can also try the samples from Narrative II (Book 3) and see how he does with that. Since we homeschool until August, we should have plenty of time to finish the samples and see if we would like this style. If he doesn't click with it, we will just return and continue with Wordsmith Apprentice.

Writing & Rhetoric looks like an appealing program that teaches the writing steps in a gentle, but yet effective way. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Susan Wise Bauer's Audio Lectures: The Next Best Thing to Attending Her Lecture in Person

Even though I've been homeschooling for six years, I have yet to make it to a homeschool conference. Yes, when my oldest was two I went to a tiny local pseudo homeschool conference that ended being more about being a submissive wife, canning, and home finances than actually homeschooling. I don't really count that.

Why don't I go? Well, whenever I look at the speakers at my gigantic local state conference (5 hours away) I go.. Oh. Not worth the money, time, and expense for me. Now if Susan Wise Bauer were the speaker at my local state conference, I can tell that I will go. I'm waiting, Ms. Bauer (hint: I'm in Florida).

Now that we've established that I don't attend homeschool conferences, let me tell you what the next best thing is. Susan Wise Bauer's audio lectures. I'm not a classical homeschooler, and I don't intend to be. I do homeschool in the Charlotte Mason (CM) tradition, which is in and of itself with a pretty classical bent, but I'm not classical. However, there is much to glean even if you are not CM or classical from SWB's lectures. She has an approachable style, and she has experience both as a lecturer, college professor, and homeschool mother. I also own and use her Story of the World history books which have been the cornerstone of our history curriculum.

What I appreciate the most about Ms. Bauer's Peace Hill Press publishing company is her Well Trained Mind forum. It has been and continues to be an invaluable source in my homeschooling journey. Thank you, Ms. Bauer! I know I am one of many, many homeschooling moms exceedingly grateful for this top-notch forum.

It is on this forum that I got note of Ms. Bauer's lectures. If I'm not attending homeschooling conference, I can listen to valuable homeschooling advice at home. She gives this and more. Her lectures are lucid, illuminating, and leave me with a concrete plan or worthy insight into not only educating, but understanding my son (wait, I mean my children). Here she is, college professor and author of books, and she has also been frustrated with her kids sometimes.

I downloaded Homeschooling The Real Child and A Plan for Teaching Writing: Focus on the Middle Grades and couldn't have been happier. I could be listening to this in my underwear, drinking a mug of milk and eating a plate of cookies. I can do it again and again. Homeschool conference? Nah. Unless it were a Charlotte Mason conference. I do want to go some day to the one in Boiling Springs, NC.  Or a Well Trained Mind conference, which doesn't exist - yet.  Until then, I may as well stay home and tackle teaching writing while I snack on some cookies.

Of course, this is the way I really want to be listening to an audio lecture: