September 11, 2014

Glimpse of the Art Gallery

Delaney has been amassing quite the collection of creative works.

She created a series of paper dolls, which she made with construction paper, glue and markers.



A moon and a space car.

Character from Grimm's Fairy Tales

Howdy the Cowboy

 She created these scenes with markers and other paper dolls...

Flounder and Ariel

Silvermist, the horse fairy
African Savannah
She painted an eye...

We follow Javier Perez on Instagram (@cintascotch). He uses everyday objects to make art, and his art is so fun.  Delaney was inspired and made this bug with a wine cork.

She draws every day...I am amazed at her ability to draw eyes that appear to be looking right at you.

Sister Princesses, Good and Bad

Self portrait

I love the facial expression on this one.

This girl is walking and has turned sideways to look at something.

 She made this little fairy house awhile ago.

"Fairys Welcome"

She also fashioned some tiny fairy dresses, but she hid them in the backyard for the fairies to find before I could take a picture.

I love her creative spirit. I am excited to see what I will discover in the art room every day! 

August 30, 2014

Why Do We Homeschool?

A friend asked me the other day why I decided to homeschool. I rattled off an answer on the spot...Delaney loved to learn, she learned quickly, and by the time she was the right age for kindergarten, I wasn't sure what the teachers would do with her.

I thought about it later, and found that it wasn't entirely accurate. The reasons are so much more than a glib "she was a fast learner".

So, why DO I homeschool?

I had to sit down and make a list of the reasons. After that, I reflected on my reasons to determine which ones meant the most to me. I found that "TIME" was the motivation behind most of my desire to keep the girls at home.

  • Time to work on a project for as long as it takes, or as long as we are interested.
  • Time for extracurricular activities/travel.
  • Time for family.
  • Time for play. 
 Time to work on a project for as long as it takes, or as long as we are interested.

I believe strongly in child-led learning, and I watch it work on a daily basis. The girls show interest in something and go for it. I help by finding books at the library, strewing activities around, Youtube videos, or simply getting out of the way and allowing our schedule to be open so fascinations can be pursued.  They are curious, adventurous, and love to learn. When the interest level comes to an end, there is time to move on to something new. We are not tied to units that must be finished, or test preps that must be completed.
Making homemade pickles

When I taught school, I disliked the "start and stop" of it all. 9:00 - 9:30 - reading. No matter if you are really enjoying your book, or your journal. 9:30 is time to go to PE, and we must be there on time. 11:00 - 11:30 - Math. No matter if the students are having a difficult time, and need more explanation, or are enjoying a concept and thinking of fantastic's time for lunch. We'll come back to that tomorrow. I was continuously disrupting my students' flow.

I love the freedom of reading as long as we want, doing art as long as we want, playing the game as long as we want. Learning until we are ready to move on. Some days turn into art-day-all-day, some are science and discovering...some days are stay in your pajamas and read on the couch all day. It's wonderful. 
Art in pajamas from morning till the afternoon

Children learn at different speeds. I am thankful that I can let my girls learn at their own pace. Some concepts will be easier to understand. Some concepts will take longer. That's fine. As long as their creativity and love of learning is not diminished, they will be successful.

Dressed our best to do math and more art.

Time for extracurricular activities/travel.

Currently, the girls participate in gymnastics twice weekly, and will soon begin swimming lessons twice weekly. Delaney is in Girls Scouts, and attends soccer and basketball class. Sophie participates in a multi-sports class for littles and will assuredly join in more sports as soon as she is old enough.  We meet friends at the park and play or ride bikes, and hike in the forest behind our house. Delaney is interested in art, sewing, dance and theater. We can fit many of these things into our schedule without feeling overrun with activities, and still have time for all of the other things we like to do.

Serious work at basketball. :)

We visit the library at least once during the week. The librarians know the girls by name. Delaney writes and illustrates little books, and gives them to her favorite librarian, who displays them for others to see, or uses them in her story times, which is pretty thrilling for both Delaney and me.

There is a plethora of natural resources around us, within short driving distance. Volcanoes, caves, Native American ruins, canyons, mountains, cliff dwellings. If we drive a little further, we have museums and exhibits, plays,'s really endless. If we don't feel like leaving town, we have museums and the observatory, and the university often has cool things going on. We've been able to accompany Cullen when he travels for work, and look forward to more travels in the future. We have time to do any and all of these, and still have time to relax afterwards.

Time for family.

Our family spends a lot of time together. The kids and I are together most of the day, and the whole family hangs out together in the evenings. We plan fun things on the weekends.  We don't have to stress over homework that must be done by the following day, or takes up the entire weekend. Hailey began high school this year, and so far, thankfully has not been saddled with too much work on the weekends. Throughout middle school, that was not the case. I realize that students may need extra skills practice that can't be fit into the day, but when a child is expected to go to school from 8am - 4pm, and brings home 2 hours worth of homework each night, not to mention the 4-5 hours worth on the weekends, something is wrong. It leaves no time for family, or for play. I am protective over my family time, and do not want to share it with a pile of busywork homework. I am also protective over play time, at every age. We need time to play!

Hiking at Sandy's Canyon

Which brings me to my next reason.

Time for play.

All humans, not just the tiny ones, learn through play. Through play, we are creative, we learn to problem solve, we learn about impulse control, social etiquette, how to observe and learn from the feelings and experiences of others, and the consequences of our actions. Difficult concepts can be incorporated into and puzzled through during play. Play is open-ended - there are no wrong answers. While playing, children feel confident in taking risks and making mistakes, then trying again.

What have my kids learned through play this week?

Well, the huge Amazon Subscribe and Save boxes arrived, so, this week, they have revisited construction. They've experimented with how to cut the windows just right so they will open and shut, how to measure the door so it is big enough for both girls to crawl through, how to engineer two boxes to be connected to each other to form a two-bedroom hideout, and how to balance their creation properly to turn it into a two-story building.

Or a box-o-lantern...
 Delaney turned the larger box over, got inside and peeked out. Cullen told her that the box looked like his old tv set from when he was a boy. She spent the remainder of her evening writing a tv show, with pictures and a script, and performed it for Sophie and me from the "tv" the next day.

The Delaney the Doll Show!
And a documentary on cheetahs, of course.
The girls have been watching the BBC's "Jungle Book" series on Netflix, and desperately want to swing from vine to vine like Mowgli. They have been using different types of rope on the tree in the backyard to attempt it...yarn, rope, a plastic jump rope...they are learning about weight and balance, and gravity, team work and experimentation.

Delaney made up another recipe earlier this week...this one included crushed Cheerios, lemon and lime juice, honey and salt. She learned about measurement and risk taking.

Making me a special breakfast. She's a good kid.

Sophie and I play a money game that she made up. She gives me handfuls of change and I count it back to her. She tells me what each coin is worth, and as she watches me, she is learning how to count it as well.

I introduced Delaney to the Mad Libs app on the ipad a few weeks ago, and she is able to play it by herself now. Mad Libs are the most fun way to teach parts of speech! When she completes them, I read the final story in my best "radio announcer" voice, and we laugh and laugh.

I could go on and on and on...this is just a snapshot of their independent play. I play more structured games with them also, board games, math games, logic games, ipad games. They ask one million and five questions, and we look up the answers. We play and learn all day. It is really fun.

 *    *    *    *    *

I anticipate that we will continue to homeschool as long as life allows, or until the girls request a change. I'd be perfectly happy if that doesn't happen until the college level. I'm excited to see what they will be interested in as they grow older, and to be able to give them opportunities to pursue those interests in an authentic context, rather than through a textbook and classroom.

And the next time someone queries about my decision to homeschool, perhaps I should just say, "Because it's fun!"

August 01, 2014

What's On Your Homeschool Shopping List?

This will be our fourth year of homeschooling.

I have been making a list of items that I'd like to buy, and making myself wait until the back-to-school sales are in full force, but oh man, it's been difficult.

My list looks much different from previous years. When I first began homeschooling, it included a full literacy/science/math curriculum and subscriptions to many, many online resources. I was just leaving my job as a public school teacher, and had never heard of the term "deschooling". As it turned out, I needed to deschool myself, which has happened gradually over the past few years. I have ordered less curriculum over time, listened to the interests of my girls, visited the library more often and discovered free, authentic ways to learn. I found repeatedly that the more expensive items were the least likely to be enjoyed, that the lessons on their own were fought against or quickly forgotten. If we need to label our schooling, we have become "relaxed homeschoolers" or even (gasp) "unschoolers". I plan a little, follow a lot, and the girls learn more every day than I could possibly teach intentionally.

 I have been watching closely and keeping track of what is actually used, and what we often wish we had, and this is what we will be purchasing for now:

  • lots of construction paper and cardstock
  • tissue paper
  • paints
  • plain white paper
  • notebooks
  • tape - scotch and packing
  • markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • binoculars
  • microscope
  • beginner pre-made slide set and blank slides
If I can talk myself into it, we will splurge on MagnaTiles or Zoob. I really want some Snap Circuits too, but perhaps I'll wait until next year for those.

After previewing BrainPop this summer, I've decided to go ahead and buy a subscription for the year, and see how much we use it. Homeschool Buyers Co-op has a promotion for up to 25% off now through 9/1, which makes it much more affordable. We have tried Discovery Streaming (not free) and PBS Learning Media (free) in the past, but had a difficult time incorporating them into our day. BrainPop seems to be much kid-friendlier and easier to navigate. I have heard great reviews from others who use it, so hopefully it will be a good purchase!

We will continue working our way through Life of Fred for math with Delaney. We still have about 6 months of our Dreambox subscription left, which did not turn out to be a good fit for her, so I think I will have Sophie try the beginning lessons and see how she likes it. The Sassafras twins have been waiting patiently all summer to finish their Zoology adventures with us, and we are all looking forward to finding out what happens to them next. Our recent trip to Florida piqued Delaney's interest in marine life, so we will be studying that until she is finished. The Sea Life Aquarium in Phoenix happens to have a homeschoolers week the week of August 11, so perhaps we will make a little trip there as well.
We have memberships to local museums and nearby National parks, lots of hiking and camping and exploring nearby, and a big backyard. I am excited to see what this year holds, and how we change during the next 12 months. 

It doesn't seem like much of a shopping list, compared to previous years, but if I have retained anything from our experience so far, it is that life happens, kids grow, and interests change. What may sound like a great idea in July may be completely boring by October. If we save money, spend it on true learning experiences rather than fancy curriculum, and get out of the house to explore the world around us, the whole thing falls into place and is enjoyable for all!

Where do you do your homeschool shopping? Any deals that you can share with me? What's on your list this year?

July 25, 2014

Learning How to Sew with the Sew Cool® Machine

Delaney has been interested in learning how to sew for some time. That is one area in which my skill level is in about the 3rd percentile, so I am of no help. I read about the Sew Cool Sewing Studio originally on Girl's Gone Child, and it sounded perfect - a sewing machine that a young child can use independently for under $60. I was patient and able to find one with a damaged box on Amazon Warehouse for $35, just in time for Delaney's birthday. (Have you seen at Amazon Warehouse? Some fantastic deals!)

She was excited to try it out. I thought about having her sit down and read the directions about cutting out the patterns, etc., but she picked up her pre-cut pieces and was on her way. About 10 minutes later, she was the proud owner of a handmade pillow just the right size for her favorite stuffed animal.

After making a few pillows, she got around to looking at patterns. She looked them over a few times, and set about to making her first purse.

 She was absolutely successfully, my only assistance being to help her keep Sophie out of her way.

After using just about every piece of Sew Cool Fabric on the first day, making all sorts of fun things, she didn't want to wait for me to track down more fabric*. She found some purple scrap fabric in the garage that a friend had given me, and set to work.

She cut the fabric to be a side high-low dress with no sleeves. She "sewed" it together by cutting small slits in the sides and the tops of the straps, and threading it together with yarn.

It's a bit difficult to see in the picture, but it is a super cute dress.

The following day, she dug through my felt and fashioned an outfit for her favorite stuffed animal. Again, she cut small slits and sewed it together with yarn. It fit her toy perfectly.


I believe it is time to start researching a real sewing machine and find someone to answer this girl's questions...she'll be making my wardrobe in no time.

*I have only been able to find the fabric for the machine in the Toys-R-Us stores and on Amazon, whose price is double that of  Toys-R-Us. If anyone has tips for me alternate material that will work with the machine, I'd be ever so grateful to hear it! :)

July 18, 2014

If You Give This Girl Some Paper, She's Going to Ask for Some Glue...

Delaney is constantly making things at home...drawing pictures, putting fabric and paper together, any number of random art projects. I didn't realize how perpetual her creating is until we were away from home for a week for my sister's wedding, and she began to get a little desperate for materials.

She began small, drawing self portraits and other random pictures.

She snagged some ribbon from our wedding materials, found a paper clip somewhere, and fashioned it into a fishing line. She found a discarded box and turned it into a fishing hole.

Then she found her uncle, who was able to discuss fishing and catching worms with her for awhile.

She wrote a recipe for "Banana Swirl", and convinced me to let her make it, then eat it with Sophie.

This recipe later included an ice cream sandwich blended in, and an assortment of other random kitchen goodies.

She made a castle out of drawings of hands and feet, that she cut out and assembled, then drew and cut some dolls to play inside of it.


And this was all by the fourth day of our trip.

The last three days were filled with wedding fun and lots of driving, and zero time for her to work on projects. When we arrived home, Delaney was so thrilled to have all of her supplies again. Within an hour, she had folded, cut, glued and colored a new masterpiece for her daddy.

This week, she is attending gymnastics skills camp each morning from 8am - 12pm. It has a Harry Potter theme, which is perfect for her, as she is currently reading the fourth book, and loving every moment of the story. I assumed that she would return home tired and hungry and ready to rest.

Silly me. She was tired and hungry and ready to create.

And soon, she was the proud maker of a new wand...
 I'm glad the back to school sales are coming up, because we don't dare run out of supplies! :)

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