Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ancient Greece and a retelling of the Gordian Knot

Not long ago, we wrapped up our study of Ancient Greece. We're using A Little History of the World as our spine, and added in a variety of other great books - mythology, fables, some fun projects, historical fiction, etc.

David was particularly taken with the figure of Alexander the Great. We read about his travels and conquests, how he led his army from the forefront and managed to take over more of the known world than anyone before him. David wanted to recreate the story of the Gordian Knot. The story tells of Alexander's visit to a temple in the city of Gordium. In the temple was a chariot, tied with a knot that couldn't be undone. It was said that whoever untied the knot would rule the world. According to the story, Alexander didn't bother attempting to disentangle the knot - he simply drew his sword and sliced through it.

This is the boys' recreation of that story. David dressed himself up as Alexander, and we used an old bed sheet to turn Grayson into a Gordian priest. David set up each picture himself, moving through each scene in the story. Then he dictated the captions to me and I typed them. We printed and bound it as a little book, but we also made this version so we could share it online.

The image is pretty small, but hopefully it is visible enough (if you click on the image, it should get bigger). It's hard to see, but I love the picture of him slicing the knot - Grayson has his hands up in the air and this hilarious expression of surprise. And I love how David ended it with, "I lifted my mighty sword to the heavens. I knew my destiny!" He's already a great storyteller!
Ella wanted to be in the pictures, and actually ruined several because she either jumped in front of the camera, or wouldn't move out of the way. Given that she was wearing nothing but pink panties, a pirate dress up shirt and pirate hat (and refused to change), we had to coax her out of the pictures. I think I bribed her with a popsicle and a turn on the ipad.
I'm pretty proud of their work here - it was a fun little project, and even cooler because it was all David's idea. I love being able to give them the reigns once in a while and let them roll with something.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How we became a homeschooling family

A few years ago, homeschooling wasn't even on my radar. I knew people who homeschooled; my aunt homeschooled my cousins, and I had a few friends and acquaintances who homeschooled their kids. I saw homeschooling as "nice for some people, but not for me." I wasn't against it, but I very much felt that it would be way too much work for me to even contemplate.

We sent our oldest to preschool when he was 3, and enrolled him in public school kindergarten at 5. He loved school; he loved his teacher and generally enjoyed going. His only complaint was that he got bored and wondered why he had to learn things he already knew. He wished they would do science, and he said math was so easy he finished early. So although we certainly didn't have a negative experience with public school, I have to admit, it left something to be desired. I had this nagging feeling that maybe I should consider other options. Still, homeschooling wasn't the solution, I was sure.

I researched private schools, especially our local Catholic school, but it was expensive and far from where we live. I pondered other ideas, not letting myself "go there" when it came to homeschooling. I was firmly NOT interested. Or so I kept telling myself...

Then one day, I read a blog post by a blogger I followed. She had posted a few times about contemplating homeschooling, and this particular post was her announcement, of sorts, that they had decided to dive in. I read about her thought process, about their reasons for their choice, and how excited they all were, and I found myself surprised to be feeling... jealous. Jealous of what? How silly! I was sure homeschooling would be a great option for them, but not for me! What was there to be jealous of?

Suddenly, homeschooling seemed to pop up everywhere. Blog posts, news articles, my few homeschooling friends talking about their plans for the upcoming school year... I couldn't escape it. Finally, I decided I better at least give this homeschooling thing a look. What could it hurt to just do a little research...

I don't think I'm capable of just "a little" research. I threw myself into it with gusto, firmly not telling a soul what I was thinking. If I said it out loud, I might find myself, you know, actually doing it. I wasn't ready for that. But the more I read, the more I researched, the more I found out, the more excited I became. It started to sound not only possible, not only like an interesting option, but like an amazing opportunity.

Eventually, I admitted to my husband that I was thinking about homeschooling. He was surprised at first, but very open to the idea. I discussed what I'd learned, had all sorts of statistics and studies ready to quote, and had made a long list of pros and cons. He was tentative about starting right away (by this time, we were literally weeks away from the beginning of 1st grade); I think he worried I was being hasty. After all, he hadn't been privy to the weeks upon weeks of research, thinking, praying, thinking and more research I'd been doing.

In the end, we took it to the kids. We talked to our oldest, asking him what he thought about the idea. I remember his face lighting up as he said, "I like that idea!" That sold me. We still took a little time to decide for certain, and when we let him know a few days later that we'd decided to go for it and homeschool, he said, "Yes! I was hoping that's what we'd do."

Less than a week later, I pulled him out of school, and we've never looked back. I won't say I've always been 100% sure of our decision and never had moments of doubt; I certainly have. Some days I wonder what on earth I was thinking. But most days, I know we are right where we are supposed to be. People who are religious or spiritual at all will probably understand when I say, I felt called to this lifestyle. I felt God nudging me along, even when I was pulling back and trying to go my own way. I'm very glad I finally listened. This is simply a life that works very well for our family and I can't imagine living any other way.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Enjoying some April sunshine

The weather has been fantastic here this week, and we've taken full advantage. Yesterday we launched into some physics (pun intended), learning about Newton's Third Law of Motion - every action has an equal and opposite reaction, or more simply, "push pushes back." This had us pushing open doors and moving heavy furniture, to feel the backward push, and then outside to blow up balloons and let them go. We finished up by launching some air rockets and talking about how they work and how they compare to rockets and jet engines.

The weather was so great, I couldn't stand the thought of going inside, so it was math on the patio for us!

Today was our "not-school" picture day with our homeschool group. My good friend owns Giggle and Click Photography, and she took pictures of some of our homeschool group families today. It was a great day for it - sun shining, flowers in bloom. She posted a preview of one already and I'm really excited to see them all!

We spent the rest of the afternoon at a park with friends, watching our weird, unsocialized homeschool kids run and play together. Our poor, sheltered children - they really ought to get out more :).

Tomorrow we have Nature Club - a huge favorite of my kids. Another day outside! Hooray! This is what happens when us Pacific Northwesterners get a little sunshine - we get a little nutty. But after months of gray and rain, the sun is so soothing to my soul.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kicking things off

I am not the best at consistent blogging.

That is probably a gross understatement. I tend to get ideas for blogs, start them, write for a while, and then drop off eventually as I lose interest, or decide to write about other things that don't seem to fit. However, I'm giving it another go, and adding myself into the veritable ocean of homeschooling blogs out there. I don't think I'll ever be one of those super useful fancy blogs that provides all sorts of great advice and free printables. But I can take some time to chronicle our journey, and who knows, maybe that will be interesting to someone at some point.

For now, some common questions I get about us as a homeschooling family.

Why are you homeschooling? (aka, Are you nuts?)
I could go on and on about this, and probably will in another post. My short and simple answer is, this works for our family. I'm not anti-school, I don't think they are all bad, I'm not scared of my kids turning into hooligans or being tortured by bullies and won't let them outside without a leash. But I started considering homeschooling, and after doing a TON of research, overthinking the heck out of it, and praying about it a lot, we decided to give it a go. We found it works well for us. There are a lot of things I love about it, my kids love it, and for the time being, it is a wonderful way to live our life.

What about socialization?
Homeschooling moms get this question all the time. It is the same question I would have asked, prior to being a homeschooler. Yes, my kids are "socialized." We see other kids, adults, people of all kinds, all the time. We belong to a homeschool group, they have lots of friends, and attend other groups and activities. I could go on and on about this one too, but suffice it to say, for the majority of homeschooling families, the idea that the kids are weird and unsocialized isn't true at all. My kids have lots of opportunities to hang out with other people and learn how to interact and get along in society.

How long will you homeschool?
I don't know. We do it now because it works. If it ceases to be a good fit for our family, we'll do something else. That said, I am open to homeschooling my kids through high school. It is hard to know, with kids who are still so young, what will be the best course for them when they reach those upper grades. But I'm not worried about teaching them any of it (not even the math), and if I do reach a point where I'm in over my head, there are many options available to us to expand their educational choices. Co-ops, college classes, mentors, tutors, etc. can help cover certain subject areas as they get more advanced. We'll cross those bridges as they come.

How long have you been homeschooling?
We started on this crazy journey in the fall of 2011, as my oldest son began first grade. He went to public school kindergarten and over the summer I began considering homeschool. We decided to take the plunge and I spent our first year focusing mostly on him. Our second son still attended preschool, and our youngest was just two. This school year (2012-2013) I have a second grader, a kindergartner, and a young preschooler who very much wants massive amounts of my attention. It is a juggling act, and although I'm not technically a newbie homeschooler anymore, I still feel like it sometimes.

Hopefully I'll be a consistent blogger and take the time to record what we do. I'm sure we will enjoy looking back on our adventures. In the meantime, I have a mountain of laundry to catch up on, and rest assured I will not be writing a post entitled, "How to homeschool and keep up with housework," because that is one area I have yet to master.