Sunday, October 26, 2014

Recent Happenings

I am finding in my vast experience of approximately 3 months of homeschooling that some of the best activities are the ones I didn't plan. Like the topographical map of Egypt we made out of Legos. Or the puppet show about the Assyrian emperor where he decapitated the ( Lego) heads of those he conquered.
( Are you sensing a theme here? This homeschool venture made possible by Legos.) Whereas the activities provided in the text...? Not so much. The paper mache mummy? It's resting in pathetic pieces on the ash heap of history. The clay "stamps" in the chapter on Hammurabi? Utter failures. But nothing is really a waste of time when you get to play with clay. That's my philosophy anyway.

But on to other things. I have got to do better at recording memorable events. Because as memorable as they seem now, I'm sure they will fade into blurry haze before long.

So- we've been working really hard on this potty training thing with W. And I thiiiiink we've just about got it. She's been staying dry about 95% of the time, and just in the last two days, she has produced solid waste into the potty. I want to throw a giant party for the entire WORLD. This has been a long time coming. ( This was partly my own fault b/c I started trying to potty train her while I was pregnant. Dumb. Colossally dumb.) So she'd be sitting on the potty, and I would be there, trying to encourage her to "do stinkies." And I'd say, "When Mr. Stinky is at the door, you have to let him out." But she took that and ran with it. "Mr Stinky already left for work, but Mrs. Stinky is still at home with the two children." WHAT?! A FAMILY of EXCREMENT? This child can make ANYthing into a story! This evening, she wanted to help me water the ferns on the front steps. I gave her the watering can and as she tipped out its contents onto the fern, other liquid appeared, spilling out from under her dress. Apparently, the sound and sight of the water had inspired her to let loose with her own waterfall. Poor thing. I think she was quite startled. She is not quite used to wearing underwear I guess... But if she had to have an accident, that is the perfect place to have one- OUTSIDE. I just took all her clothes off and hustled her indoors to rinse off in the bathtub. She had such an anguished look of bewilderment on her face.

And then the other day, she was playing near a fire-ant hill. I told her to move away so the ants wouldn't get on her, and she did, but apparently not fast enough because pretty soon, she started taking her shoes and socks off. I asked her what she was doing ( expecting her to admit that she'd gotten an ant in her shoe). But no. " I'm being Eve." WHAT?! I guess Eve had bare feet too. Well, she had a lot more bare parts than just her feet, and that was duly mentioned too ( " she had nakedness"), but fortunately I was able to restrain her from fully getting into character. She then proceeded to "look for fruit" and encourage A. to "be Adam." This child may have a little too much education at this point.

All for now. The youngest child needs pre-slumber sustenance.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Highlights from Week #3

So we finally got to some GOOD STUFF in Social Studies this week, leaving behind those nebulous nomads and "early farmers" and Fertile Crescent stuff. Bleh- who needs those guys?

This week we arrived at EGYPT! Exciting stuff! We went to the library on Tuesday and got out an armload of books. Oh, I was in heaven! Pyramids! Mummies! Sphinxes! Pharoahs! Turns out the - friendly- librarian has taught using "Story of the World" curriculum that we are using. We had fun talking about projects. I had been trying to make friends with the librarians and now I feel like I have something in common with ONE of them at least. Anyway- A and I lay on the bed after lunch and read about Egypt. He enjoyed it as much as I did. It was absolutely delightful. One of the books I got was a book about crafts and projects. He wanted to build a cardboard pyramid. Sure! Let's do it! It was amazing how that was an incentive to get his other work done the next day: we're going to make a pyramid after lunch! It was a pretty small thing - five inches tall, made out of cardstock, but it was like we were creating a masterpiece. He was looking at the book, and noticing how there were paintings and carvings on the inside of the pyramids and he asked if we could decorate the inside of ours! So - on the reverse side of the card stock - the part that ended up being the inside when we glued it all together- we drew some Egyptian type figures. I should say- I drew them, and he colored them. He even talked about gluing it to a base and hiding some little toys ( ones that no one cared about anymore, he was careful to specify) inside, as he remembered talking about how the ancient Egyptians included things inside of the pyramids to take to the afterlife. I was so impressed with this original idea and even though we didn't actually do it, the fact that he thought of it makes me so proud of him. This kind of thing makes all the whining and grunt work in phonics and math seem worthwhile.

And then there's the reading. After lunch, when I'm feeding J, and W is taking her nap, I read aloud to him. We finished the Borrowers, and now we're reading Mr. Popper's Penguins. Sometimes it's the best time of the day. He doesn't want me to stop reading, and neither do I, most of the time.

In other news, W cut her hair this week. I found her in the pantry, looking guilty, with scissors and curls on the floor around her. Oh my word. Thankfully, her finished hair cut the next day, left her looking adorable. Much tidier, and curly, kind of like a couple years ago when she was a toddler. I miss her ponytails but this is cute too.

Today we had our first field trip! We went to Nash Farms; this weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the battle fought there during the Civil War and there is going to be a re-enactment there either tomorrow or Sunday. But today there were all sorts of little exhibits and people dressed up in Civil War uniforms etc. We went with Kristi & Connor ( and Cody and Christopher) and Jenny & Anna Boyd ( and her other kids). It was fun but it was HOT and A was not in the mood to listen to a bunch of adults droning on about artillery or whatnot. ( I'm starrrving! Can we eat yet? I want to go play...!) I felt like an annoying mother, telling him to LISTEN! LOOK AT THAT! BE STILL! But we had a chance to play and eat lunch together at the end and he seemed to enjoy himself. Oh those poor people wearing heavy woolen uniforms etc. They probably lost ten pounds today, just sweating. I remember dreaming about having a job where I could dress up in period costume and get into character but I didn't factor in the necessity of A/C in my dream. That heat today was enough to kill an ox.  My eyelids were sticky from sweat.

 There was a lot that I learned - everything from how a cannon was fired - eight guys working together - and all the little pieces of equipment that make it work. And then there was the museum which gave us a chance to get cooled off  and had some really interesting stuff, like the little Bible carried by a soldier in his pocket, which stopped a bullet and saved his life. And the black mourning dress, with veil, worn for up to two years after the husband or son was lost. It was a fearsome looking thing. And the shells and cannonballs and bayonets... talk about fearsome. They fired off the cannon a couple times while we were there and it was bone shattering just to HEAR a blank. I cannot imagine the confusion and terror of multiple cannon on the battlefield. The thought of this kind of destruction, even for a good cause, seemed horrifying and surreal, especially in the presence of children. "Let me put hand sanitizer on you, dear. Oh, look over there at the implements of death and dismemberment that were used at this place 150 years ago." As a mother, touring a battlefield made me feel and think things that I have never experienced before. Oh, the preciousness of each life. The unbearable sacrifices.

And seeing things from a Confederate perspective is a new thing for me too. I am a Yankee, and there's no way to change that, but having lived here in the South for nearly ten years, I have come to appreciate the Southern perspective and things are not as black and white as they used to be for me, in terms of the Civil War. Made me really think - what are we to take away from this? Why are we here, seeing these things? What are we celebrating? What is the value of learning about these things? I'm glad we went - it gave me much food for thought.

There was a man there who was a direct descendant of a man who fought at Nash Farm - a confederate who was captured and sent to a prison camp. He had a picture of his great grandfather that he held up. It was fascinating to hear him tell his story.

Well...I could go on...but that's enough for now.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

First Week

So - I survived the first week of homeschool. Or I should say, " WE" survived. There were rough spots, as I anticipated, but there were also some surprisingly good moments. Like when I buried some little flotsam and jetsam of household items in the little sandy patch in the backyard and we simulated being archaologists on a dig. It was one of the lamest things I've EVER DONE...and yet Aiden was very entertained by it. Same thing with pretending to be nomads and constructing a "shelter" with dead branches and a couple of trees. in the backyard. He said with enthusiasm, " This is fun!" Oh my goodness - it was LAME CITY. But he loved it! I think part of this success was due to the fact that, with a new baby in the house this summer, the bar was set VERY LOW in the fun department. It doesn't take much to entertain or impress my kids these days.

This is not to say it was all rainbows and lollipops. By no means. A and I are figuring each other out as teacher and pupil and that is not always a smooth experience. I was impressed when, at one point, he was able to articulate the problem: "You're going too fast for me!" I was grateful he had the emotional intelligence and wit enough to express that. To me, he was just zoning out, becoming disengaged with the process ( which I now realize was a result of me going too fast, but at the time, I was clueless. It's so funny how we take for granted things that seem so basic to us as adults, and think that this is all review for THEM TOO. It's not. Even if some of it was covered in kindergarten, it's still Very New.) So I was getting frustrated. And more intense. Which freaked him out, I think. Blaggh. Anyway. Whatever. Live and learn. I think part of it - and this was in Phonics - was that he CAN do and already DOES these things - blending consonants and vowels - but having them couched in new ways intimidates him and he loses confidence. He actually reads pretty well for a first grader, but we're backtracking a I think that has thrown him a little.

And Math. Oh my heart sinks. He is so like me - NOT a math person. It's going to be a long, harrrrd slog, I'm afraid. Oh well. At least he has a teacher who can sympathize.

But there is a plus side to his being like me! My heart was happy when he said, as I pulled out S. Wise Bauer's "Story of the World" for Social Studies, "This is my favorite part." YES! MINE TOO! A history major in the making, perhaps?!

In other news this week, W started preschool, and just today, completely unprompted, she attempted to write her own name. She got everything except the L's - and in an odd order, but it was pretty exciting stuff for me.

And in other news, J found his thumb this week. He has been sucking it assiduously.