2014-2015 A Homeschool Year in Review

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about our homeschool “style”.  I love the term Lucinda over at Navigating by Joy uses – “Us-schooling”.  We learn in a way that matches with our interests and opportunities.   We follow a pretty traditional approach to math and grammar while everything else is interest led (aka – unschooled).  Sometimes we join with a team or a class and have a particular topic to research.  Sometimes we follow rabbit trails – so a book about squids leads to several books about the entire cephalopod family followed by ocean mammals and then sharks.  So what does a year look like in our homeschool?

2014FieldtripsField Trips!

I love the freedom to take lots of field trips.  Experiential learning is an incredibly important aspect of our homeschool.

Our list for this year was long: Mammoth Cave, Corvette Factory Tour, Canal Fulton, COSI, Nat. History Museum – Mammoths & Mastadons, Cleveland Orchestra performances, TIMBER and Intergalactic Nemisis at Playhouse Square,  Cleveland Botanical Gardens with special LEGO exhibit, Airshow,  University of Pittsburg – Human Engineering Department, TechShop Tour, Pittsburg Science Center, Apple Farms, Beehive tour, Bourbon Distillery,  Maple Sugar processing, Great Lakes Science Center – Mythbusters Exhibit, and NASA Hubble Day

It’s impossible to pick a favorite field trip from this year.  I really wish I could have captured a picture of the boys’ faces during the Corvette Factory Tour.  They were so amazed by the enormity of the entire factory.  While a bourbon tour might seem a bit odd, it is a great chance to see a distillation column up close. (I think I may have spent 2 years sizing distillation columns before seeing an industrial sized one up close.)

2014SportsSports

The boys did the usual soccer teams.  This year they’ve really developed more ability to handle their bikes and we’ve been able to enjoy riding single track together.  The boys and I learned to ski / snowboard which greatly increased our enjoyment of the winter months.  The boys also took parkour classes during the winter.  Come spring we switched over to swim lessons and plan to continue swim during the summer.   This summer we will be checking out a boys gymnastics opportunity.  My goal is to keep them fit and active in the now, as well as discovering sports and activities that will keep them active throughout their lives.

2014ActivitiesTeams / Activities

In addition to their soccer teams the boys were on FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams and a Science Olympiad team.   One of our favorite group classes is zoo class, which is typically twice each month.  We also joined the Geography Club which gives the kids an opportunity to make presentations to a peer group.  The kids from Science Olympiad enjoyed getting together so much, we formed a Science Club which typically includes an hour of an activity followed by an hour for socializing.

2014UnitStudiesUnit Studies

Some of our unit studies were on our own, while others were with FIRST LEGO League teams, and others were with Science Olympiad partners.   Our best integrated learning path started with the Percy Jackson book series, led us through Ancient Greek and Roman history, and finished with building catapults.

We did unit studies / projects on Atmospheric Science, the Power House, Bees (FLL), Catapults, Learning (FLL), Animal Tracking (SO), Aerodynamics (SO), Mousetrap Car (SO), Simple Machines (SO), Greek and Roman Mythology, Cells and the Maldives

Reading (including audiobooks)

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, Chronicles of Prydain, The Once and Future King, Nature’s Children series,  Redwall, and a variety of non-fiction books related to our projects and unit studies.

Workbooks:

Singapore Math 4A and 4B and Growing with Grammar 4

Singapore Math 6A and 6B, Challenge Math, Growing with Grammar 5

2014Nature

Lastly, my favorite reason to homeschool – quality time in nature.  During our Mammoth Cave trip we also took some time to drive over to Cumberland Falls, KY, where we enjoyed a few days immersed in beautiful fall colors playing next to the river.  The large picture above is from a smaller waterfall just down the river from Cumberland Falls.  We visited Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park many times this year including when it was just a cascade of ice with barely a visible trickle of water.  On two separate occasions we found fossils while we were just out exploring parks.  We’ve spent time playing in creeks and watching butterflies.  Not every trip is exciting or different but over time we increase our knowledge and love of nature.

What was your year like?

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Weekly Wrap-Up WUH

Weekly Wrap-up – Finishing the Year

WildflowersLast Friday we went on a wildflower hike with our science club. It was a nice hike, looking at flowers and chatting with friends.  We all had lunch together at the park amidst more chatting and playing.  It was one of the first really beautiful days to be outside which made it even more special.  I really appreciate this group of kids and parents.

While not exactly related to homeschool, E had his first Boy Scout camping trip over the weekend.  The weather was perfect for camping and he had a great time. While E was off at camp, C requested a trip with mom and dad to the art museum.  Sunday E returned from the camping trip and worked at the scout pasta dinner.

Water Balloon Catapult

This week was a finishing week.  We finished our standardized testing for the year.  E also finished his grammar book.  While we were finishing things, we also finished our first catapult and we’ve had a great time firing off water balloons.

IMG_1870We’ve essentially switched over to our summer schedule which typically means an hour or two of reading, math, and/or writing followed by time outside.  We were extra fortunate this week to have the chance to meet up with friends to take a short hike, wade in a creek, and play in a clay deposit.

Have you switched over to a summer schedule yet?  Is there much difference between your summer schedule and other times of year?

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

The Once and Future King (audio)

Nature’s Children: Snow Leopards

ON THE MENU

Salmon Filets with Corn on the Cob- I prefer to avoid the crowds on Mother’s Day and grill at home

Pulled Pork Sliders

Garden Veggie Soup

Stir Fry

Tikka Masala with Tofu and Chickpea

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Summer Reading for Tween Boys

As I write this my boys are in the 4th to 6th grade range.  Mostly these are fiction books they’ve read during the past year through a combination of reading, immersion reading on the kindle, and audio books.  If you have a child with dyslexia I highly recommend the immersion reading feature on the kindle. The combination of audio with highlighted text is excellent.  It really does open up a world of books that are of interest but might otherwise not be read.

Redwall  We will probably spend most of our summer immersed in this series.  My kids are action, adventure, fantasy genre fans.  While it might seem that books about mice are meant for younger children, these books are meant for those moving into the middle school years.  The villains are indeed quite evil and merciless.  The good mice do suffer and mourn.  Yet over all the story is hopeful and triumphant.  The reading level of the series trends around 6th to 7th grade.

The Chronicles of Prydain Even though the books were published back in the late 60’s, I never read them as a child.  What an excellent find!  The second in the series was a Newbery Honor winner and the fifth won the Newbery Medal.  The stories have a lot of adventure and humor.   My favorite part was how the characters grew and developed over the course of the series. The writing is very action focused and the stories move quickly.

The reading levels of the books vary from 5.5 – 6.6 and they vary between 4 to 6.5 hours in length according to the audio book.  The narration of the audio books is one of my absolute favorites.

Comparisons are frequently made between Chronicles of Prydain and Lord of the Rings.  Given that these are rated easier on reading level and much shorter in length they could be great books to read prior to Lord of the Rings.  Personally I liked this series much better than Lord of the Rings, and the boys say it is too close to decide.

The Hobbit The boys loved the Hobbit.  They found the story fun and interesting.  I’m not a Tolkien fan.  I’ve tried multiple times, but I get very bogged down.  I purchased the kindle and audible versions of both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.  I’m glad I did, because I’m quite sure these will be revisited by the boys.

The Fellowship of the Ring – Again they really enjoyed the entire trilogy.  The reading levels on the books are 8.1-9 and the books are lengthy, so we made use of the immersion reading feature on the kindle.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series  –  The boys loved this series.  The books are full of action and very accessible.  Rick Riordan does a great job of writing high interest low reading level books perfect for kids with dyslexia (Reading level for this series is 3.3 – 4.7).  My son was appreciative of Percy Jackson being a struggling student with ADHD and dyslexia.  This series really sparked an interest in all things Greek.

The Heroes of Olympus  The Greek demigods of the Percy Jackson series discover their Roman counterparts in The Heroes of Olympus series.   The series has lots of action which was greatly enjoyed by the boys at my house. 3.7-5

While the Percy Jackson books are certainly popular and not what some would consider literature, I appreciate them.  They sparked a learning path at my house that took us from Percy Jackson to reading Greek Mythology to learning more about Greek and Roman history.  Along the way we learned about Archimedes, the Collisium, the history of Christianity,  and methods of warfare in Ancient and Medieval times.  Right now we are working on a catapult project that includes building a trebaucht and recording data about its use.

The Chronicles of Narnia It’s been a while since we’ve read Chronicles of Narnia yet these still come up in discussions  as we compare and contrast themes and discuss magical / mythical beings. 

I Survived seriesThe reading level for this series is around the 4th grade range.  Each story is about a young boy surviving a tragic historical event such as the Battle of Gettysburg, the sinking of the Titanic, or the San Francisco earthquake.

Harry Potter series  As I’ve been asking parents what their kids are reading,  Harry Potter keeps cropping up.  Many parents say they read them with their kids a few years ago, and now their sons are picking them up to read on their own.  So perhaps these are ripe for strewing about the house, even if you’ve already done them as read alouds.

Books in Waiting:

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch– I read this last year but for some reason didn’t share it with the boys.  It’s an excellent tale of a boy who faces many hardships on his journey to manhood.  His spirit of perseverance was just amazing.

Johnny Tremain A Newbery winner from 1944, this book is the story of a 14 year old boy caught up in the American Revolution.

Catapults

Today was a day of celebration!IMG_1753

Way back in March I shared this photo.  I was full of optimism that we would construct catapults for Engineer’s Week. DSC_5245

Our planning stage was very short therefore I failed to grasp what the final size of the catapults.  I didn’t realize catapults this size require outdoor construction.  Since we live in northern Ohio the weather was at first too cold and then too rainy.Catapult finished

We’ve worked on them here and there and the weather has FINALLY warmed up.  We’ve learned lots along the way, such as the difference between drill bits for concrete and wood, how to use a sawsall, and that it is ridiculously HARD to keep the drill straight when drilling through a round piece of pipe.IMG_1858

Today we had nice weather AND the day at home, so we sat down and studied how our model trebaucht works. The boys fashioned a sling from parachute cord and an old t-shirt.  IMG_1863Then we started slinging water balloons across the yard.  We all felt so accomplished to finally have an operational catapult.

Now we are learning how to make adjustments to get better repeatability. We  still have a second catapult to finish but it will go much easier as we have a new jig to help with drilling the holes.

If you are interested in doing a similar project we found the instructions in The Art of the Catapult.  I found the instructions a little unclear about where the bolts went, so contact me if you would like my marked up diagram.

Weekly Wrap-up – FABulous field trips and other creative pursuits

FIELD TRIP!!  Field trips are one of my absolute favorite things about homeschooling.  Field trips, individualized learning, treating kids with respect, building projects, time in nature – they are all my favorite things.

Last Friday we went to University of Pittsburgh to check out their Human Engineering Research Laboratories.  They work with the Veterans’ Administration to develop better assistive devises like wheelchairs, prosthetics, and orthotics.   It was great career exposure for the kids.  The combination of engineering with making a real difference in other people’s lives is a very appealing concept.

It just so happened there was also a place across the street called TechShop.  They were offering tours so we stopped in along with some friends who were also on the aforementioned HERL tour.  What a cool place!  It’s a FAB Lab on steroids.  They have the typical laser cutter/engravers, 3D printers, vinyl cutters and wood shop, but they also have a water jet cutter, a powder coat paint booth, welding, and CNC machines.  They also have a great textile station with embroidery and screen printing and a computer workshop area.   Check out the website and take a tour if you happen to live near one.

IMG_1835After lunch we headed over to the Carnegie Science Center.  It was such a short visit we only had time for the sports area, the traveling H2O exhibit and the shuttle lift.

IMG_1847This week we had the opportunity to attend a Cleveland Orchestra Education Concert.  The orchestra does a great job selecting the music for these concerts.  This one started with the Imperial March from Star Wars then moved on to classical composers like Vivaldi and Bach.  They also did a couple of American Jazz pieces before concluding with a part of the E.T. score.  The boys are really so so about going to the orchestra, but I just adore the chance to hear the orchestra perform.  I also love the architecture of Severance Hall.

After the performance we had lunch with friends and went through the “swords and knights” exhibit at the art museum.  We also went through the modern art section which is always fun.  The art museum is free which makes it easy to just pop in for a few minutes.  After the art museum we headed over to the Natural History Museum for about an hour before heading home so we could get ready for swim lessons.

Going on field trips means lots of time in the car so we listened to the first book of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  The story was very action packed and exciting.  If it had been a print edition, I would say it was a real page turner.  We listened to several hours of the story on Saturday and Sunday as well.  We will certainly be listening to more of the Redwall series during car trips this summer.

IMG_1857We had some good weather this week, which allowed us to work on our catapults.  They are almost complete, but on hold again while E is away on a camping trip this weekend.

Having the chance to visit so many creative spaces this week has been really invigorating.  I’m really looking forward to working on some creative projects this summer.

What fun projects are you planning for summer?

Weekly Wrap-Up WUH