Homeschooling – trial day one

Yesterday was our first day of homeschooling. Our trail attempt to see how it goes.

I hadn’t told the school yet, thinking we could just try it first, and Lex said he didn’t want people at school to know, so the plan was to just keep him home. All went well until his teacher responded to my “Lex won’t be in school today” email with “I’m curious as to why. Yesterday he told [his para] that he was going to be out and that you were going to home school him for Tuesdays. Is there something that happens on Tuesdays he is avoiding?” BUSTED! So I sent her a whole reply about what we are thinking of doing. I said I wanted to chat with her in person, but we were going to try one day and see how it went. I got no reply. Now I don’t know who she has told (other teachers? principal?) or what anyone is thinking. So much for keeping it on the DL!

We started the day as usual, then when Eve left for school, Lex and I headed down to the basement. I thought it would be good to have some separation and I was concerned if we did schooling upstairs we would feel like we spent the entire day at the dining room table. Downstairs we began school with a discussion of how the day would go and a plan for what he wanted to learn.

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Our plan for the day. (I really should crop and edit these pictures before posting. I’m getting blog-lazy!)

His first question was “How does a prism split apart light?” Using a prism, the info that came with it, plus two different science books, we did some experiments!

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Setting up the classic “light through water” experiment.

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Looking for rainbows

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We found some! It was hard to take good pictures though.

Lex learned that each color moves at a different wavelength and when it hits a medium such as water or glass the waves refract (bend) at different angles, thereby causing the light colors to separate. Refraction was a new word for him.

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Quick break!

We did some other exploring with the prism and the water as well.

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This sheet came with the prism. It’s pretty cool to see what patterns emerge when the light is refracted through the prism.

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This experiment brought up the concept of focal point. As you look through the water and move the paper backwards, the arrow appears to flip, pointing left instead of right. We talked about why that happens and how it would be affected with different size containers.

We had a snack break in the morning too, with some reading, of course! After lunch we had some outside time (shoveling the driveway!) and then went back downstairs to look at his second question. “Why are the 7 colors of light what they are? (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet)” This question took us to the Internet for some research. We learned that Isaac Newton first discovered that you can use a prism to split white light into a spectrum. He grouped the visible spectrum into seven colors because he thought there was a significance to the number seven and linked it to seven octaves, seven days of the week, and seven bodies in the sky. He thought they must all have some significance and relation. He also named them the names we use today.

That led us to wonder if all colors we can see (pink, teal, tan, beige, etc) appear somewhere in that spectrum or not. Turns out that they do not. The colors in the visible spectrum are colors made with just one wavelength. Shades and variations of colors require multiple wavelengths. We had a long discussion about that. On Wikipedia we found a drawing that Newton did mapping the colors to musical notes. Lex said, “Hey, I can play the rainbow.” So he did.

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Playing the rainbow.

I don’t know why the audio has the static noise.

Lex wrote up his notes from the morning and afternoon sessions.

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It’s good to have a key for your notes.

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Morning session – light refraction

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Afternoon session – visible spectrum

While we were doing experiments in the small office he noticed that his voice reverberated off the bass drum every time he spoke. That got him curious about sound vibrations and he suggested we add that to the list for future study. While he was reading about Newton he paused and asked, “I wonder why they call it octaves, when there are just seven notes? Oct usually means eight.” We added that to the list too. In bed last night he remembered that he had been learning Python (a programming language) with Alan, so we thought it would be fun to have Alan take a day off and they could learn about Python all day. Alan doesn’t know about that yet, so we’ll see. :)

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The list is growing. Eve would very much like to be homeschooled too, so she started her own list.

Overall I think it was a successful day. He struggled a bit in the evening because one teacher sent work home for him with Eve, plus he was trying to get his Weekly Write done early, plus he remembered (at 7pm!) that he was supposed to read three chapters, answer some questions, write a summary, AND lead the discussion in his reading group today. He went to bed feeling very overwhelmed. We talked about the fact that he will also have to keep up with his regular school work, but we can allow some time during a homeschool day to work on that as well. At bedtime I asked if he thought homeschooling was still a good idea. He said, “YES!”

Dog? Maybe no dog.

I’m super annoyed with this whole dog process. Allow me to vent for a bit. Our criteria isn’t much, just mid-sized, and good with cats and kids. And maybe not a puppy. In the past six weeks, that have felt like forever, I have been watching four different humane societies and countless (for my tired brain) rescue organizations. I’ve filled out four different applications, all of them extensive, and participated in home visits and phone interviews, and allowed vet and personal references checks as well. All this for a limited number of dogs that will fit with our family. On our way to up to meet Kane the other day I was telling Alan, I know that rescue is the way to go, but boy I can understand now why people just go to the pet store and buy a puppy. The whole thing could be done, easy peasy, in an hour! Of course, then you have a puppy. ;)

The rescue organizations are all volunteer and I know they try their best, but there really needs to be more corporate management in there! I end up talking to six different people, one for each step of the way. As of Sunday when we visited Kane there were three others we were hoping to see, and in the past two days they have been adopted or mysteriously unavailable. Then two more became available, then not available. The communication is poor in this organizations so one person says the dog is available and the next person says, oh, no, it’s not. This afternoon two remaining dogs fell through and we decided that was a good thing because Kane was a great dog and now we could got forward confidently with that decision.

Eve was in tears. She wanted a different dog, any different dog, for mysterious Eve reasons, and I spent half an hour with her this afternoon talking about Kane, waylaying her concerns (he would be too boring, being one of them) and getting her psyched up. She loved him when we met him, so these were more “I’m not getting my way” tears then true tears of concern. I called a rescue organization that was going to come by this evening for a home visit and canceled. They were being terrible communicators and their dogs, who we were excited to meet, seemed to be in vanishing. So we said Kane is our guy and let’s move on!

I had literally just hung up the phone with them and my phone beeped with a new email alert. “There was an incident with Kane and a student on Monday that made me think twice as to whether he would be a good candidate for a household with children. The student was down on the floor with him playing and getting him riled up and out of excitement he nipped her in the face. She didn’t get hurt, but after discussing it with the head technician, we decided that he would not be a good choice in a house with kids for this reason.” ARGH!! I mean, I’m glad they told me and of course I don’t want a dog who will nip people, but ARGH!!

Back to square one. Every dog we were interested in is either adopted, “not right for us”, or apparently dangerous.

Maybe it just isn’t meant to be at this point. Not like we don’t have other things going on in life. I closed all of my doggie websites that were open, closed the Amazon page with crates on it, closed the “how to introduce your cat to a dog” page, and will walk away for this evening. Deep breath. Fresh eyes tomorrow. It will be what it will be.

Maybe I should find out what my references are saying about me… ;)

What’s going on…

What’s going on? Gosh, what isn’t! I am not working these days, yet oh so busy! I felt a blog post was in order, though it may take me awhile to write it! Let’s see….

Dog
We are actively looking for a dog. Why? Why not! The kids both want one, I want them to have one, Alan doesn’t object, and I’m home these days so it seemed like as good a time as ever. When I was growing up I remember it being no work at all to get a dog (of course, I was the kid!). We got dogs from neighbors, from boxes at yard sales, and dogs that just wandered over the hill and never left. Now, apparently, it’s a 4+ step process that involves applications and reference checks! We are currently working with two different rescue organizations and monitoring the local humane societies as well. We have narrowed it down to three dogs (I think) and hope to meet all three then make a decision next weekend. If all goes well we might get a dog next week! The kids have no school, so we will have time to settle in and get used to each other.

Yesterday we met Kane, a handsome 1yr old pitbull mix. He was very nice and well behaved and wanted to come right home with us!

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Well, hello Kane!

We are hoping to meet these two this weekend.

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Rizzo, a 1yr old mix (lab, hound,terrier – they aren’t sure)

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Lacey, a 2.5yr old hound mix

What do you think?

Surgery
Also next week – carpal tunnel surgery! Whee! I’ve had carpal tunnel now for eight years. It began shortly after Eve was born. In 2011 I went to the orthopedic doctor who diagnosed it as “most likely carpal tunnel” and recommended surgery. I did my own diagnosing (doctors love it when you do that!) and felt it was only like an 80% match and opted not to do the surgery. Instead I wore braces on my wrists for a long time (like a year or so), then switched to braces at night only for a longer time (a few years?) and finally it seemed to be mostly gone. However, this fall the pain came back with a vengeance! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gained a ton (though last time they said it wasn’t really related to weight), or because I’ve started doing karate, or because the moons and planets aligned, or what, but boy it hurts! I haven’t slept through the night in many weeks. The pains wakes me several times a night, ranging from uncomfortable numbness, to burning “fire” hands, to a severe pain like someone applied a clamp to my thumb. It sucks! So I went back to the ortho doctor today and scheduled surgery. The pain is a little different and I feel it more closely matches the carpal tunnel diagnosis.

Their first available appointment is next Monday, Feb 15th, the first day of winter vacation for the kids and the week we were hoping to get a dog. I debated for a minute in my head, but the idea of dealing with two more weeks of pain and lack of sleep was enough of a motivator. I took that first appointment. I’ll be getting the right wrist done first, then the left. Each taking 2+ weeks for recovery.

I was telling the kids about it tonight. I am looking forward to being able to do karate without pain, push-ups (in theory!), and knitting! Knitting! Eve and I were talking about knitting while I was laying with her tonight and she wants to learn how to knit too. She has big plans for making baby stuff for a new baby down the street. I was reminiscing about all the stuff I’ve made in the past and the lovely books I have (had?). I think I got rid of everything, thinking I would never knit again! Pain forever! I guess Eve and I will have fun rebuilding the stash together.

Homeschooling
On another note, we have decided to start homeschooling Lex one day a week. Homeschool is something we’ve always thought about, and thought real hard about when he was young, but we always decided that we would send him to school for the socializing, then supplement at home. Supplement for both of them! When they were younger that was easier. They were excited to do the projects that I introduced and eager to start using the computer for things like Starfall and Khan Academy. Now, however, as they are getting older, we find that school wears them out and when they are home they are more inclined to check-out in front of Minecraft and YouTube, instead of actively learning more academics. I’ve been struggling with that for awhile. Recently Lex has been frustrated with school and has made comments along the lines of “I sit by myself at lunch because it’s the only time I’m allowed to think about what I want to think about and not what the teachers tell me to think about.” And he takes forever getting his homework done because he is thinking about much more complex stuff. The other day, while plotting points on an XY axis, he was taking forever. I asked if he needed help and he told me he was imagining a Z axis in his head and adding points to that to make it a 3D shape. Or when working on fractions homework a few weeks ago he started telling me about the wonders of infinity and how can infinity times nine be bigger than infinity times 3, but they are both still infinity. He’s a deep thinker!

I love their school, but at every parent/teacher conference I get frustrated because the teachers say things like “we know he can do fractions in his sleep,” or “she’s my go-to girl, always has the answer,” but they never follow it up with “So, here’s what I’m doing to challenge him/her.” It’s always like “she/he is smart and that’s good enough” That’s not what they say, but that seems to be the implied meaning.

So we are going to try for the remainder of the year to take one day a week as a homeschool day. Starting with Lex, but maybe doing Eve (maybe!), if all goes well. She wants to do it, but she also wants to study fairies and practice her painting… not sure that’s quite what I have in mind. We’ll see. Tomorrow we start with Lex. We have a plan and he’s started a list of topics he wants to learn more about. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Jump-a-thon
February is National Heart Awareness Month (or something like that) and the kids are doing a jump-a-thon at school. Eve came home with the fundraiser packet and immediately set her goal to raise $1000 so she can earn the grand prize – an Android tablet. She is motivated! If anyone wants to donate, you can do so at her online page.

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Mold and Remodeling
On the home front we are also considering a large remodeling project. Lex’s room has just one window and it’s a skylight, a very moldy skylight. We have been ignoring the problem for a very long time, hoping it will magically fix itself. Not really. Really it is a just a big project and an expensive project and we just haven’t had the cash or cycles for it. Last week we had two different mold companies in to evaluate the situation. We also sent away for an air sample analysis. We are also pricing skylights (not cheap!) and considering replacing those versus a larger project to add dormers and get rid of the skylights. In the process of talking to the mold guys I also noticed a new water stain on the ceiling in Eve’s room. We have old ones there and Alan had fixed the leak years ago, but now there are new ones, which means something is leaking again. Ah, the joys of home ownership, right?!

Town Politics
Alan has decided to run for a three year seat on the Selectboard. He started his campaigning uncontested, but at the last minute several other people entered the race so now he’s doing a lot more work and campaigning than he was hoping to do. He currently chairs the town Energy Commission, which he founded and has run for the past eight years. He says he’ll quit that if he gets on the Selectboard… or maybe just not Chair it anymore… we’ll see. : )

So…. that’s what’s going on in our neck of the woods. We’re just a little bit busy.

Sledding

We were all a little antsy yesterday morning so I took the kids out for a last-minute sledding expedition. We picked up one of Lex’s friends along the way, and as we were driving I was noticing the complete lack of snow everywhere! Fortunately when we got to the sledding hill there was enough for the kids to have some fun.

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We found a good hill. Short, but steep, with a fun bump at the end. The loved it.

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I love her face in this one. :)

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A little backwards sledding.

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Who needs a sled?! Penguin time!

The made it for about half an hour, then ended up laying around talking about Minecraft.

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Ahh… rest time.

After awhile we headed over to check out the river. Surprisingly it was completely frozen! There were even a handful of people ice fishing out in the middle.

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“Look kids, you could walk right to New Hampshire! If you were with a braver adult!” Walking on a frozen body of water terrifies me.

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Check out these cool ice crystals near the edge. It reminded me of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude!

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Eve

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I made them hang out near the edge of the river and not walk too far away. The “skated” for awhile, then settled into eating chunks of ice dipped in slush. Yummy!

Then we dropped of Lex’s friend and headed home. I had to take a quick shower then head out to a baby shower, which was adorable. I haven’t been to one of those in awhile! Then grocery shopping and back home to have dinner with Uncle Greg! It was great! The kids even joined us in conversation at the table without fussing about reading.

Now, back to the regular routine. Happy February! Our weather forecast is calling for sunshine and 50°s today!

Movie Night

The kids had movie night at school tonight. Always a good time! They usually play two movies, one on the big screen in the gym and one on a smaller screen in the music room. Generally one aimed at the older kids and one at the younger kids, but the kids can go to either movie. Tonight it was Minions on the big screen and Home in the music room. Both fun movies!

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Minions on the big screen!

They pause the movie in the middle for intermission and all the kids head to the cafeteria for snacks. For tonight I made a big batch of M&M cookies with extra M&Ms! (I had a lot left over from Christmas!) I was standing behind the snack table handing out treats as the kids came through. One of Lex’s classmates came up, looked at the table full of baked goods, and asked which ones I made. He said he always loves the things I bake and said he always loves it when Lex brings treats to school because I bake such yummy things. Another classmate was by his side and threw in a comment about how much he loved the Lego cake I made for Lex’s birthday party. Kid one told kid two, “pick those cookies (pointing at the M&M ones I brought), they will be great, I promise!” That made me feel pretty awesome! :)

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M&Ms, with a little bit of cookie dough holding them together. :)

Switching jobs

For many (many, many, many) months now the kids have been in charge of the laundry.  Lex runs the washer and dryer, and Eve folds the clothes and puts away the shared stuff (towels, napkins, etc.)  They were both getting really good at their jobs, so we decided to mix it up a bit!  Part of the reason they do contributions is to help them learn life skills, like doing their own laundry.  Lex made a comment a few weeks ago about not knowing how to fold laundry and it occurred to me that we have gotten complacent and it was time for a change.  At family meeting last week Alan had the brilliant idea to have them teach each other as part of the job switching process.

So far it has been going remarkably well!  We had lots of laundry this weekend so Eve got plenty of practice and Lex was right by her side, teaching her the ropes of running the machines (there are lots of rules about settings and what doesn’t go in the dryer and such).  Lex was a little overwhelmed with he laundry piles and chose to use a “skip a contribution” coupon from his advent box instead of tackling the giant pile.   I can hardly say I blame him.  It was a daunting task!  (Fortunately I am home these days and got some quality time with the TV while getting the laundry done. ;)  )

Right now they are in the living room together and Eve is teaching Lex how to fold laundry.  Just one, very reasonable, basket to start with.  He is cooperating nicely and happily learning this new skill.  Eve just called to me, “Lex is doing a great folding the laundry.  He’s a fast learner!”f

I love hearing them work and play so nicely together.  It reminds me that we must be doing something right in this parenting thing!

A trip to the State House

Alan and I had the good fortune to accompany Lex and his classmates on a trip to the Vermont State House today. Everyone was so excited for this day, especially Lex! Our local Rep helped organize the event, along with Lex’s teachers, of course. We were welcomed in an active session of the House and got to watch the proceedings for awhile.

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We had great seats to watch the House of Representatives at work!

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Looking down at the floor.

Then we got a tour of the State House, including the Senate Chambers and various interesting room.

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The Senate was empty, so we sat in there and learned about the three branches of government. Review, really, for these kiddos!

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A very cool, and huge, painting of the Civil War.

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Amazing stained glass ceiling windows that were in small pieces when they were discovered during the restoration of the building. It took a preservation company almost four years, but they restored them to beautiful condition.

After our tour the kids went to work! Their job was to interview as many people as possible (politicians, lobbyists, general population, etc.), ask them a few scripted questions, and record their answers on an iPad.

Since Alan and I were both chaperoning, he went with Lex’s group and I went with another group of kids.  It was neat to see their confidence improve as they approached person after person and did their interviews.

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We met Governor Shumlin’s Chief of Staff, Darren Springer.

When the House session took a break we were invited onto the floor to speak directly with the Representatives.

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I love how the desks open up in front of each chair. Each Rep has their own place for stuff. I was totally checking out this dude’s desk. :)

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Since Lex wasn’t in my group I had to take paparazzi shots of him from afar. :)

When the gavel came down we had to clear out asap!!  Back in the lobby we saw the teacher being interviewed by a news crew!  My group was super excited by this and wanted to hang around and interview the reporters!

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No pressure, Mr. Burns! We’re just going to stare at you and take your picture while you’re being interviewed on TV. :)

My group interviewed both reporters, but then the reporter turned the camera around and asked if he could follow our group.  Talk about three very excited girls!

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Interviewing Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott with the TV camera rolling!

What a busy and exciting day!  I bet it was a tired bus ride home.  Lex was pretty excited that we let him take the iPad on the bus.  :)

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Good bye state house! The kids posed for a final group shot before heading for the bus.

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I’m so proud of how well this guy did! He was eager to learn, and eager to participate. He was front and center during the tour, actively listening, and frequently raising his hand to answer questions. Alan said he was even eager to approach strangers and ask them questions! He’s really growing up!

One quick stop at Starbucks and then we head home, with minutes to spare before the kids came home on the bus.  :)  Busy, but excellent, day!

Hey, check it out! They ran a story about this field trip on the local news tonight!  If you watch carefully you can see me at the beginning and Alan at the end.  I kinda feel like we crashed Lex’s field trip. I don’t think he minds though.  He said it was great having Alan with his group and didn’t seem to concerned about not being on TV.

And another one, from a different station!  We’re not in this one though, so it’s not quite as cool.  :)