Saturday, June 16, 2012

This Week's H/School Journal.

In our homeschool this week...
...we slowly worked our way back into the routine of life post-Alberta and managed to fit school into our schedule on three days.

...we pretty much finished up our study of the four Big Cats, though Matthew would like to continue this learning by studying a bit about other wild cats:  cheetahs; bobcats; cougars; etc.  I feel somewhat done with the cat theme, but maybe a week or two from now we'll take a trip to our central library and see what we can find.

...we went on a couple more field trips:  first, glow bowling, which all three kids loved; and second, to our annual Farm Day event. The farm day is a great field trip.  The kids got to ride ponies (a first for the two younger!), pet kittens, briefly milk a goat, go on a hay ride, and hold baby chicks (which was their favourite thing).  It really was a highlight as far as field trips go.

...the boys had their second last h/school gym class for the year on Wednesday and they were so sad already that it is coming to an end next week.  They love their teacher (a phys ed/education student at the university) and love hanging out with the same kids every week.

...Yesterday (Friday), shortly after Geoff's plane landed and he returned home, the five of us took off for a local camp about 90 minutes away for an annual h/school retreat (we were here two years ago, too).  That's where we are now.  I love it because there are usually about five families who come and it's a great time for getting to know people better and even just to find support as a h/schooling family.  There's so much for the kids to do...and one of Matthew's best friends is here, too.  We're heading back home tomorrow.

Places we went and people we saw...
...the week started last Sunday with a great celebration of our first anniversary as a complete and forever family.  We had a really good day together (until Geoff had to leave for the airport around dinner time). I had ordered an ice cream cake with the words "forever family!" printed on it in colourful letters and the kids were thrilled when that was our breakfast...something memorable!  (note: I served two big bowls of fruit alongside so that I wouldn't feel quite so guilty about our breakfast!).  Then we did something that all three kids have been wanting to do for months and for which I had ordered tickets months before: we went on a train ride on a seasonal, old-fashioned train.  It was a lovely time.  We took along a picnic lunch, which we mostly ate on the train (you'd think I never fed these children by the way they wolf down food at times!).  At the mid-point we got off and enjoyed a petting zoo and a juggling show, and I think it was a real hit with all three kids.  It felt great to be celebrating our one year anniversary home.

My favourite thing this week was...
...without a doubt, celebrating the kids' one year home anniversary!

What's working for us...
...the kids and I seem to have had a lot of good conversations of late.  Just this week, we've talked more about Seth's and Lizzie's life in Ethiopia; about the importance of telling the truth and why this matters; about why so many magazine covers in the grocery and convenience stores have pictures that aren't healthy for our eyes to see; about why tv commercials talk about toys in a way that makes us excited until we get that toy and it might turn out to be a piece of junk; about death and what happens afterwards; about why people get sick and why we bother to pray; about marriage and what kind of person it might be good to marry (or not!); etc etc.  
On two different days this week, when we were driving home, the boys asked if we could just drive around a little more before heading down our street towards home - they wanted to talk more about the current topic.  So we did.

...for some reason, the kids all love it when I occasionally (usually as we're nearing home from somewhere) allow one of them to tell me where to go and where to turn; they love getting 'lost!'  It's been a great way for them to learn left and right; they've learned a bit about planning a route because I can't make a turn if they tell me to only at the last moment; and they have an opportunity to take the lead in a game in which I do what they tell me to do! prepping for our continuing study of Big Cats, I've taken a different approach than usual and the change-up seems to work for the kids.  For example, one evening this week I spent about 30 minutes after the kids had gone to bed just looking through books we had borrowed about lions, which was the subject for the next day.  I jotted down a bunch of point form notes on my computer as I leafed through the books - as reminders of the things I wanted to address with them.  The next day, during our school time, we all sat around on the floor of our little home library and had a conversation about lions (loosely based on the notes I'd made).  I asked them for their opinions on various subjects as a starting point to our learning:  why did they think that male lions had such a large mane, and how/why are the female lions different in their bodies;  how do lions hunt their prey in comparison with other big cats; how did they think that lions could see so well in the dark when they hunted and why do they hunt at night;  why do lions (unlike the other big cats) live in families/prides; did they have any guesses as to the uses of the three types of teeth lions have; why are the lions endangered; etc etc.  These kinds of questions went on and on and on, and the kids were enthusiastic about trying to figure things out for themselves - surprisingly often they could figure out part or even all of the answers.  Where they were unable to figure things out, I supplied the answer just by talking in an animated voice.  We tried slinking through the grass of the African savannah (really the long hairs of our buffalo rug on the floor of our library) to emulate how lions stalked their prey on padded feet, we measured out with a tape measure how far lions can jump in a single bound, and we looked at lots of pictures (both in books and online via some sites I'd previously selected).  It was a really fun hour talking about lions, and all three kids were fully engaged.

...I see a small difference in Seth's language of late.  I suspect it has to do with him being ever more relaxed, and it may also have something to do with my increased level of patience and calmness with the issues that I now consistently identify as language acquisition issues pursuant to the research I've been doing.  He's actually remembering/connecting more words of late, and the things that signify 'holes' in his memory were just a little better this week than they have been in recent past.  The differences aren't huge but they are notable to me.  For example, mid week he was able to remember three of the four characteristics of mammals (they have fur; they drink milk from their mothers; they are warm-blooded); he was also able to remember the names of all four big cats, which is pretty huge for him.  He's sharp as a whip in looking at pictures of the animals and pointing our exactly correctly the differences and characteristics and in making reasonable guesses in answer to the questions I would ask him; but for him to remember the names/words attached to these things was a definite difference.  I was proud of his efforts.

What's not working for us...'s been too busy since we got home from Alberta.  In the past nine or ten days:  We've gone on four field trips (three of which took up most of the day, by the time we were ready to go, drove there, did the field trip and drove home and unpacked everything); we've done two playdates; I've packed four picnic lunches for various events we've gone to; we spent the better part of a day on the train trip; went to a family birthday party; did school on a few different days; ate three meals out of containers that I packed so that the kids could eat a meal in the van on route to some activity or another; etc etc.  Most of the week felt like I was just running around making sure I was organized enough and had enough clean laundry for everything because I had to jump into the shower really quickly yet and then we needed to buckle up in the van in fifteen minutes without forgetting the gazillion things that needed to be loaded into the van...oh and don't forget the water bottles!  It was a little on the crazy side most of the week and it took me until mid-week just to finish the last of our unpacking from our trip and cleaning out the van.

Things I'm working on...
...I've started learning about Pinterest online, and am excited about some of the ways in which I think it will help me with h/schooling - particularly when it comes to unit studies.  It's really a lovely (and free!) resource and I'm getting into it.

...I'm working again on research related to Seth's learning and language challenges whenever I have a half hour before falling asleep.

I'm cooking...
...well, given that I didn't menu plan for June while we were in Alberta, this month kinda sucks in terms of having to do last minute meal scrounging and disorganized grocery shopping.  Although I really, really hate the process of monthly menu planning, I hate even more not having the finished product.  I will definitely be back into the groove for the first of July...I guess that gives me a couple more weeks than usual in which to prep the plan!

I'm grateful for...
...Geoff being home.  Four days after the kids and I got home from Alberta, Geoff left for a week to take a work-related course in another city in another province.  We all really missed him, and I'm willing to bet that I missed him most of all, given that I've been 'on' with the kids for three weeks of the past four. 

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