Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Field Trip to the Airport

We went to Ellington Field this morning, for our first official field trip of the school year.

Standing by the nose gear
My husband has been working out there, making some changes to the interiors of some of NASA's planes (like the Super Guppy), and so he was able to bring us out there to see the 747 that was used to ferry the Space Shuttles from coast to coast. If you're not too familiar with it, the shuttle sometimes had to land in California due to weather concerns in Florida. When that happened, NASA had to somehow get it back to Florida and the shuttle processing facilities there. So they modified a 747 to carry the shuttle, "piggy-back" style, and fly it across the country. Now that the shuttles are retired, this 747 will be retired too (to become a display at Space Center Houston), so this was about our last chance to go out and see it at Ellington.

Little boy - huge engine
Three in a row

Future pilot

Future co-pilot

Future clown

Figuring out the controls...

Halfway down
The interior of the 747 was completely gutted - no seats, no carpet, very little insulation - in order to lighten the plane. With a space shuttle mounted on the roof, they needed to save all the weight they could!

Down at the tail end

A long walk back to the front

A very long walk... Plenty of leg room compared to most commercial jets though!

Don't jump out!

Sitting in first class

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of School

No, not our first day. But most of the public school kids around here went back to school today. I lost count of how many "first day" pictures I saw on Facebook today. And how many comments I read about quiet houses - some said sadly, some said happily.

I wouldn't mind a quiet house, and a whole day for myself. Being an extreme introvert, I really crave quiet time by myself.... But I wouldn't trade homeschooling even for a whole school year of quiet days. We've been at it for 2 1/2 years now, and I've seen the immeasurable benefits of it. For all of us. Restructuring of priorities, amazingly increased self-esteem and a boundless curiosity about the world for my oldest, intellectual leaps and bounds for both girls, a growing desire to help out around the house for my little boy, the opportunity to notice how creative and skillful a builder and "maker" my son is turning out to be, an obviously sincere interest in others shown by all my children to people they meet of all ages and stations in life, a closeness between all the siblings that will never break, a growing depth to our love and thankfulness for and amazement of God, and a vision of how intertwined God is with the whole universe - not just something added on at the end of the day or on Wednesday nights or Sundays.

Nope, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Of course, there are negatives as well, and days that I threaten them with sending them to "big" school. Childish arguments, temper tantrums, stubbornness, not listening to directions, not listening to anything I say, slamming doors, whining (oh, the whining!), a lack of personal free time for me, the challenge of scheduling appointments when I have to find a babysitter first. But still, I wouldn't trade it.

I thought I'd give a run down of our day today, for comparison, perhaps? Probably a fairly typical day, though we're (I'm) still getting used to how to schedule things with 2 full-time students instead of 1 - trying to prod my oldest into doing a bit more of her independent work independently, instead of sitting there watching me teach her sister.

So, I don't know what time we started this morning. Breakfast is email reading time, so sometimes it takes me a while to get going. Maybe around 8:30 or 9:00?

  • Read 1st grader a Bible story while she colors
  • Study 3rd grade Bible lesson with oldest daughter
  • Start up a 1st grade history lesson video
  • Teach 3rd grade English, spelling, math, and world history (learning about England in 900 AD today)
  • Tell 3rd grader to finish reading chapter book, and do reading comprehension worksheet, handwriting practice, vocabulary practice on computer, logic puzzles on computer, math fact review on computer, and complete a review on bird facts learned in her science book (all of which should take about an hour total)
  • Teach 1st grade math, logic, and half of the reading lesson
  • Read 1st grade read-alouds (with 3rd grader listening in, who has done exactly 1 of the tasks I gave her earlier) (interspersed with worry about why my 4-year-old is being so quiet, until he comes to listen in, holding a complex Lego model of some sort of vehicle)
  • Take a break for the kids to watch the newest episode of "Paw Patrol"
  • Lunch
  • Ask my 3rd grader questions about the chapter book she finished and then tell her to finish the other "independent" work she should have already been doing
  • Finish the 1st grade reading lesson
  • Teach my 3rd grader a piano lesson
  • Tell my 3rd grader, again, to finish her "independent" work
  • Let the 1st grader and 4-year-old watch "Paw Patrol" again while I exercise in the TV room (it's raining today, and if it weren't, it would be too hot to play outside during the afternoon anyway)
  • Let all 3 kids play with the (very loud) rhythm instruments while I take a quick shower
  • Take away the (very loud) rhythm instruments when I come out
  • Let the 1st grader and 4-year-old play on the piano while I sew some
  • Read-aloud for my 3rd grader (and 4-year-old who wants to listen in)
  • And done for the day! Play time! Legos! Dinner! More play time! (unfortunately, still raining outside...) Is it bedtime yet?

That's basically it, not counting a few chores, bathroom breaks, checking-on-the-4-year-old breaks.... We switch out different subjects on some days, like geography, art, exercise, health, history of the horse instead of world history, etc. I admit I haven't been doing too much with the 4-year-old lately - he will be starting preschool next week, 3 days a week. I think he'll get a lot out of being with other boys for a while, and I'm not as good with entertaining teaching preschoolers as I am with slightly older ones. And the girls will be starting ballet lessons in a few weeks. And they all will be starting Team Kid on Wednesday nights in a few weeks (missions, physical activity, teamwork, music, etc.). But we get done with most of the main subjects by around lunchtime, and tidy up the loose ends throughout the afternoon and evening, whenever we feel like it. (I have checklists - I'd never remember everything without them.) And then we take breaks some days for field trips - hopefully one tomorrow morning, to the airport.

Nope, I wouldn't trade homeschooling for anything.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to School

It's back to school time! We started our full schedule a week ago, though we've been doing a few subjects throughout the summer, along with VBS, camps, and more camps. I actually had a couple days all to myself this summer, thanks to Space Camp for my girls, and the grandparents for my boy! (My youngest tried Space Camp twice, but was just not really ready for a whole day away from home. Though he does just fine a whole day away from home when he's at Grandma and Grandpa's house, fortunately.)

But now we're back to doing all subjects, and I decided I should probably get back to writing this blog.

I was afraid I had planned too many things for this year, for my 3rd grader, but surprisingly, we made it through everything I had planned last week, and it wasn't too long a day at all. We even did our first Latin lesson and have already completed 2 DVD art lessons (I've got to take some pictures to post). It's a little tougher this year since I have added my middle child to the school day, instead of just giving her a lesson whenever she wants one. She's protested once or twice about not wanting to do school, but is really doing quite well. If I can just get her to stop wiggling so much and dropping her pencil every 30 seconds. I know - she's obviously a "wiggly willy" but the constant hopping up and down off her seat is driving me crazy. We're going to try a new chair/desk arrangement soon, so she can at least wiggle a bit without risking injury to herself (or others) constantly. And maybe I should tie a string around her pencil and attach it to her wrist?

After my last post in April about math choices for my oldest - well, we're going with Life of Fred right now, supplemented by IXL online practice. Around the last LightUnit of CLE Math 2, she started to get burned out, and despite her earlier assurances that she absolutely loved CLE Math, now she strongly insists she can't stand it. (this was, of course, after I already bought CLE grade 3 math.) We're about halfway through the 2nd book - Life of Fred Butterflies - and she really loves it. Of course, it is really easy review right now, with a few tidbits of interesting facts she hadn't heard before. But we'll see how it goes when we get to higher levels.

At these early levels of the books, I felt uncomfortable not supplementing with something else too - being afraid that she will forget all her addition and subtraction and multiplication facts - so I signed her up for IXL math. She did some trial problems first, to see how she liked it (you can do 20 problems for free a day), and she thought it was ok. But once I signed her up for real, and she got to earn medals and prizes, she absolutely loves it! And I love that she loves it! She's doing the easy review problems right now, but I'm not complaining (yet). As long as she's loving math, and progressing toward the harder problems, I'll let her do below-grade-level problems for a while. I'm also looking at maybe using a bit of Miquon math with her (and the other 2 - especially my son, when it's his turn).

My middle girl is doing CLE Math 1 right now, and she likes it quite well, and is sailing through it. She loves flash cards and speed drills. We did lesson 35 today (out of 160?), and so far, there's only been 1 or 2 speed drills where she hasn't gotten all the problems finished well under the 1 minute time limit. I'll keep doing CLE math with her until she's ready for a change, I suppose. Or at least until she gets through 3rd grade, since I already have that material? But I'll do Life of Fred with her too, after she's learned her addition and subtraction facts.

She's doing CLE's Learning to Read program too, and is sailing through that too. We're in LightUnit 104 (4th out of 10 booklets), and she is getting 90-100 on every quiz and test. She's beginning to read everything she can get her hands on (and, unfortunately, every sign we see as we're driving - did I used to do that too? It's annoying!).

Anyway, I'm so glad I can homeschool her and not send her to kindergarten this year (which she would be starting next Monday). She would be absolutely bored out of her mind! And she is way too mischievous when she's bored. Sometimes she gets bored with the phonics drills I give her, and she starts giving me the wrong answers on purpose, grinning her sneaky little grin at me. That's when I know I need to speed up the pace a bit.

It looks like it will be an interesting year! I'll try to post more regularly, too....