Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What I Want Out of Homeschooling

This may be a bit touchy for some people. If it offends you, I'm sorry, but it has to be said. People frequently ask why I homeschool. The easy answer is that Gabriel needs advancement that the school will not give him. That's the easy answer.

And, it is the reason that I finally went for it. But, there are so many other reasons. The main reason is that I want my children to love learning. They were all born with an instinctual love of learning. I believe that all children are. I want them to continue that love. Gabriel loves history. However, he hates using textbooks. I can understand this. I always thought history was boring until I had a professor that did not use textbooks during class. His lectures were fascinating. I would take all the classes he taught if we still lived in Florida.

The fact is, most methods of educating require textbooks. Unfortunately, textbooks are usually dry, and frequently have errors. There is just no getting around it. Textbooks are not great. Gabriel had begun to lose his love of history. Now, he is back in love with history, and has decided he wants to be a history professor when he 'grows up'.

Xavier loves math. He is zooming through math as fast as I'll let him. He is only slowed down by his poor writing skills. If I were to do all his writing for him, he would probably be done with Algebra by the end of the year. Unfortunately for him, I make him do his own writing 90% of the time.

Dominic just loves to learn. It doesn't matter what he's learning about, he takes it in, processes it, and moves on. I love that about him.

You see, I love to learn. I could go to college forever if they didn't pester you to get a degree. Unfortunately, to get a degree, you have to take classes that don't necessarily interest you. Since I have no intention of using a degree for anything, other than as a pretty decoration, I see no point in subjecting myself to hours of classes that I have no interest in. On the other hand, there is an amazing amount of learning that can be done without going to college. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'll be going back to college as soon as our 'schedule' is settled enough for me to manage a semester with minimal babysitting needed. But, I refuse to follow some 'plan' that was put in place to give me a well rounded knowledge. The fact is, I am a well read individual. I know how to do research. If something interests me, I research it.

I want my children to know how to learn, and to love it enough to want to learn. That is what I want out of homeschooling. If we accomplish that, I will consider the years a success.

Monday, December 29, 2008

First Day Back...

Well, we blew the schedule on the first day back. Granted, we had to take the cats to the vet at 10, and that was right in the middle of the first time frame, but still. We have a completely different problem. Xavier, Dominic, and I are all on a night time schedule. We have to get back in the swing of getting up early (which means before 9 A.M.). We can't start school at 9, if we don't get up before 9. However, Thursday is New Year's and we're staying up late Wednesday night. So, I'm not really worried about it this week. Next week, we'll work on adjusting our sleeping schedule.

In the meantime, several things happened today that I wanted to share with you. First a few kid quotes:

Xavier, while doing math, "Mom, is 5 x 7 35?" I replied, "Yes, it is." He mumbled, "That figures." At which point, Gabriel almost fell out of his chair laughing. Too bad Xavier didn't know what Gabriel was laughing about.

Dominic, while putting the whoopee cushion under his arm, "I'm going to make a manly noise."

Xavier, after being told he has to stop reading Beowulf and go to bed, "But, it's just too good!" (Lest you think Xavier is some super reader, he is reading this version, Beowulf: a New Telling, by Robert Nye, which is still an excellent condensed version, and I highly recommend it.)

Finally, we have solved one of our problems. Gabriel is a morning person and has agreed to cook breakfast in exchange for me taking over part of his laundry duties. Currently, he washes, dries and folds all the laundry. Now, he will wash and I will dry and fold. This is a great compromise. It allows me to sleep longer, and allows him to give up a job he hates. I don't mind laundry and he doesn't mind cooking. He's a morning person, and I'm a night person. Hopefully, this will work out all the way around. It's definitely worth a try.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back to School

We have been out of school, since the week of Thanksgiving. I scheduled our school year to have a long winter break, and I’m really glad I did. We’ve had just about all we could handle this last month. The first two weeks of December, we had something scheduled every single weekday, during the day. Plus, we started TaeKwonDo, and we went to that nearly every single weeknight. As a result, we were rushing to and fro, never stopping to take a breath. The past two weeks, we’ve had nothing scheduled during the day. It has been a blessing to slow down. In the past, I have always been the mom who put the “stay-at-home” in stay-at-home-mom.

The boys have all committed to participating in TaeKwonDo for 2 years. I’m not sure how I feel about this. That’s a long commitment. But, they all want to get their black belts, and that will take much longer than 2 years, and we are all loving TaeKwonDo. I know that it is good for them (and me). For Xavier, it introduces a level of discipline missing in other aspects of his life. For Gabriel, it introduces the concept that humor is not acceptable in all situations, as well as providing physical activity that is sorely missing from his brainy life. For Dominic, it’s all about fun, right now. He is having a blast, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. So, we’ll commit to the two years.

I had not planned to start school until the 7th. However, we are all starting to get bored. So, we’ll be starting back tomorrow, the 29th. Usually, we don’t do school on Mondays, but Thursday will be a very late night, so we’re not doing school Friday. That is one of my favorite things about the homeschooling lifestyle, the flexibility.

On the other hand, I am imposing a ‘strict’ schedule again this year. It is not as strict as last year’s. This year’s schedule will consist of blocks of time set aside for specific things.



As you can see, we’ll just be doing school during specific times, versus having a set schedule for when we’ll do things throughout the day. I am always available to Gabriel to assist him in any way. But, for the most part, he is self-sufficient. I do teach him Grammar, and have book discussions with him. But, some of the teaching I do him will be done at TaeKwonDo from now on. Dominic usually does not take an hour and a half of my time, so Gabriel gets some of that. But, it is best for me to schedule that much for him. That way, I don’t get frustrated if we run over.

Of course, this is just a trial schedule. We haven’t put it into practice, yet. I’ll report back at the end of the week to tell you how it went, if I remember.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Babies Are Growing Up

Tomorrow, there is going to be a "nurse in" on Facebook. In the spirit of the occassion, I went looking for nursing photos. During the search, I fell prey to nastalgia. So, I scanned a bunch of photos, put them in a video, and now, I'm sharing them with you. Here you go, 8 years of kiddos (they stop on Dominic's 2nd birthday).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas With US 2008

Merry Christmas!

This is a long video for Gary. Feel free to watch it, some of it is priceless.

Don't miss the videos in the post below. They're worth the time and much shorter than this one.

Merry Christmas, from Dominic

At our Taekwondo Christmas party, Dominic did a little karaoke, and we wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!


And, because I love you and want you to enjoy my son's Christmas with me, here is a video of Dominic enjoying his favorite Christmas gift.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making Christmas Cookies

Every year, I bake a ton of cookies for Christmas. Sunday night, we made sugar cookies. The boys love doing this. It is a lot of fun. Only Dominic is actually eating them, but we all love making them. I'll also make chocolate crinkles, chocolate chip, peanut butter... Anything I think of. It's my time for baking. Well, I bake all year. I just go into overdrive at Christmas time. And, really, it's for no reason. I don't need to bake, but I do.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stoneware

Last Wednesday, we went on a field trip to a company that makes stoneware pottery. We got to see the clay they make it with. We learned about where they get the clay from. We saw them making a bowl from a mold. We saw where they fire the products. Then, we saw them painting and stamping products. When all was said and done, we painted our own products. Dominic painted a Nutcracker, Xavier a plate, Gabriel a mug, and I a plate. I'll post pictures when they're ready.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nashville- Dessert

After the Parthenon, we went to something called "Ice". It was boring, short, and a colossal waste of money. Plus, we had really talked it up to the kids, so they were majorly disappointed, as were we. So, we headed over to the mall, and went to Aquarium Restaurant. There, we ate dessert. It is a nice restaurant, with a huge aquarium inside it.





After dessert, we played "black light" miniature golf, in the same mall. That was fun for all of us. Then it was a long drive home. The boys and I got home at about 1 in the morning Wednesday morning.

Nashville- The Parthenon

The Parthenon was Gabriel's favorite stop in Nashville. The Parthenon in Nashville is an "exact" replica of what the original Parthenon would have looked like before it started crumbling.


Athena

The Elgin Marbles




The reason the Elgin marbles were considered risque.


Two statues outside the museum:

They stood like this for about 30 minutes, in the rain. A woman came inside and said something about them, and I told her they were being statues. She replied, "That's why they didn't respond when I said hello. They didn't even look at me." They had a blast.
Good times with friends.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nashville- Science Center

Last Monday, we went to Nashville for a "field trip." A friend had a swim meet over the weekend, so we went to meet them for some fun. Monday, we went to the Adventure Science Center. It was a good one. It was as good as the Boston Children's Museum. In fact, it might be a bit better. There was a lot to see and do.

Xavier lifting a car.



Dominic taking a trip through some bones.



Learning about brain waves.


They have a laser tag game. You stand in one place and shoot at targets. We had a lot of fun. However, we think it is rigged for the good guys to win.
During the second game, Dominic took pictures. You can see what his view is of:







They have a nice space area. There's stuff about the galaxy, and an area to do moonwalks and EVAs.





















After the science center, we went back to the hotel. We went swimming and had pizza. Xavier and Dominic thought the pool was the second best thing we did in Nashville. The best was the science center, in their opinion.
Waiting to leave for breakfast.

Friday, December 12, 2008

When it Works

Today, I picked up a friend of Gabriel to take with us to an "open gym". This friend read the Iliad recently as a school assignment. Although his friend is going to school, he is getting a classical education. The school is an amazing private school to which I would send my kids , if I wanted to send them to school.

At any rate, I asked him if he had finished his homework and we started discussing what he had to do for next week's semester finals. He was talking about the fact that he had just finished reading The Iliad. Gabriel said that he had read it last year, and off they went. They talked about the Iliad for 30 minutes. They were both very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It was amazingly enjoyable to listen to them. It's wonderful to see them enjoying the education they're getting, especially since it is such an amazing education. I am thankful every day that I have the ability and opportunity to provide my children with this education.

I am also glad that Gabriel has found a friend that has such similar interests. Now, if only his dad wasn't in the Coast Guard and going to move in 2 or 3 years. Well, at least we'll have him for another two years.

Forgetful Mom

We went to Nashville, Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we went on a field trip to a place that makes stoneware (pottery), and yesterday, I tested for my yellow belt. I should have lots of pictures to share with you guys. And, I do. Unfortunately, I left the camera at the stoneware place. I called them yesterday, and they are holding it for me, "on the boss's desk". The only problem is that I cannot get into town to get it until tomorrow. Tomorrow, we have a birthday party. Whew! Sunday we don't have anything! I'm so excited! But, I'll share all those pictures with you Sunday. I guarantee it won't be tomorrow night! And, really, why tell you about the activities we've done without the pictures to go along?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another Busy Week Planned

Wednesday, we are going to tour a Stoneware place. Then, we'll paint our own pieces. The boys will enjoy that.
Thursday is a Scholastic Warehouse Sale! Woohoo!!!!
Friday, we have a playdate and a mom's night out. Gabriel is going with me this time. We're going to have dessert on the way to the book store, then Gabriel is going to spend some quality time with the books.
So far, we don't have anything scheduled for Saturday. I'm hoping to keep it that way.
Of course, we have Taekwondo every night. I'll post pictures as I get them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Food

When I realized Gary would be leaving in two weeks, I panicked and rushed out and bought a freezer. I knew that I would need to have meals prepared ahead of time, I just didn't realize how much and how often I would need them.

This week, we ate out almost every day. However, yesterday, we went grocery shopping. Today, I prepared 15 pounds of hamburger. I made 11 pounds into ground beef, 1 pound into hamburgers (we don't eat a lot of hamburgers), and 3 pounds into meatloaves.

Here's how it works. I cooked the ground beef. When it comes time to make chili, spaghetti, macaroni, tacos, etc, I'll take a bag out of the freezer and pop it into the microwave. This will cut down on the amount of cooking and dishes I have to do. When I make each of those recipes (except the tacos) I'll triple them so that I can freeze 2 meals worth. This way, I have 3 meals with 1 nights worth of work. I love doing this, but when we moved here, we lost our second refrigerator, which meant we had virtually no extra freezer space. For the meatloaves, I put foil in the pans I plan to cook them in, mixed the ingredients together, and froze them. Then, I popped them out of the pans and stuck them in freezer bags. When I'm ready to cook them, I'll just take the foil off and put them in the pan and cook them.

This saves so much time it is scary. This will really reduce our eating out. Now, I just need to do the same thing with chicken, which is on sale this week.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Martial Arts Heroes?

Several times in the last two weeks, the boys have been asked who their favorite martial artist is. The boys just stare at the person asking blankly. Then, the person will make some comment like, "Bruce Lee? Jackie Chan? Chuck Norris? Ninja Turtles?" My children just continue to stare at the person blankly. It is rather funny to me. I, who grew up with no T.V., knew who all of these people were. My children, who have always had a T.V., have no clue who they are. I'm not sure they have ever seen anyone doing martial arts on T.V. And, it's not because I have anything against martial arts on T.V. We've just never gotten around to any of these movies or shows. So, now, I have to go look for some movies that my kids can watch that have martial arts in them. Any suggestions? They're a little young for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dominic's Little Problem

Dominic has a little problem. He has inherited something from me that most people won't even recognize me as having a problem with. He is shy. It is more a situational shyness than a people shyness. Once he has adjusted to a situation, he is usually okay. On the other hand, he prefers to spend his time with the same people all the time.

Tonight, his problem popped up and he refused to participate in his class. There was a new teacher and last night we had a family class. He much preferred the security of the family class. I just didn't know it. So, I allowed him to sit with me while we waited for my class to start. However, the teacher who had been teaching him most of the week saw him. When I told him Dominic didn't want to do his class tonight, he promptly grasped Dominic by the hand and took him downstairs to the class, at which point Dominic agreed that he really did want to participate. His teacher (coincidentally, my teacher, too) and I agreed that working on his shyness is something for him to set as a short term goal. Dominic has agreed. Now, we just have to figure out how to go about it. Any ideas?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter Break

We're taking winter break. What does that mean? It means we're taking the entire month of December off. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be helping with our frantic schedule. I know that we don't have near as much to do in January (in the way of field trips, out of town stuff, etc), but we'll still be doing Taekwondo, which seem so be an almost daily thing. I'm also taking Beginning Hebrew classes on Tuesdays, which means my babysitter has a steady income, and I'm getting brain food. Learning a language that not only does not use Latin letters, but is also read the opposite direction from English, is proving to be much more difficult to learn than, say, Spanish. On the other hand, it's really not too bad, and I'm enjoying it.

Today, all we had was Taekwondo. We had a family class. It is so cute to see Dominic, in his little uniform, trying to kick his leg high. He giggled his way through most of the class. There is a girl in my class who will be 12 in January. She also giggles her way through classes. They'll be a good match once the age difference is of no consequence. He prefers older women, anyway.

Gabriel finally consented to read To Ride Pegasus by Anne McCaffrey. Really, I blackmailed him into it. He's very resistant to reading anything I recommend. It doesn't matter that he has absolutely loved everything Gary and I have ever recommended (I'm not counting things I've assigned him in school-those are not for pleasure reading, although he enjoys a lot of them, he's not going to enjoy all of them). He doesn't want to accept the fact that we may know what he likes to read. Most of all, he doesn't want to accept that we have similar interests in books. So, today, he started reading To Ride Pegasus. He is enthralled. It really is an excellent book for anyone interested in the supernatural. It's one of my favorites by Anne McCaffrey. It's also one of her lesser known works. But, it'll get him started. I know he'll enjoy all of the "Pegasus" series. The Rowan series continues it, but I'm not sure if that isn't just a little too romantic for him. They have a good story line, there's a lot of war and psychic stuff, but there's also a lot of angst. I'm not sure how he'll feel about all the touchy-feely stuff in them. We'll see. I think he would really enjoy the Pern series, and he has read one of them, but he's not enthusiastic about reading more, so we'll wait and see.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Whaz up!

We've been busy. I'm pulling my hair out trying to figure out when to do things. I cancelled a field trip tomorrow. We've already been to the place before and we have to go grocery shopping, or we'll run out of food. Well, we'll run out of everything but banana muffins and waffles. I made 6 dozen banana muffins and 4 dozen waffles Saturday. As a result, we're well stocked on those things. Unfortunately, we're out of flour. We also don't have any meat, milk, bread, cereal, butter... As Dominic would say, "We need to do a major grocery trip."

The boys and I started Taekwondo last week. We had two private lessons last week. Then, we started group classes Monday. The boys are having a blast. I can barely walk. But, I am having a blast, too. Dominic is in a class with a bunch of other 4 and 5-year-olds. They are all pretty goofy before and after class. Dominic is enjoying being part of a group. Xavier and Gabriel's group is more spread out, age wise. They're from 6-11. It's mostly 8 and 9-year-olds. Gabriel is, by far, the tallest in that class. I'm glad, though, that they put him in the childrens' class. He's not especially coordinated and I think the adult class would move too fast for him.

I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping. I've ordered all the presents. I did most of my shopping online. Now, all I have to do is wait for them to come in, wrap them, and mail them back out. Plus, I need to buy stocking stuffers. I'll do that while I'm out, though. We met another mom and her daughters at the mall today and swapped kids for Mom Christmas shopping. That worked out well, I think. We also got our picture taken with Santa. Aren't they handsome?



Those suits look amazing. I bought Gabriel's in September. Of course, the pants are about an inch too short, now. Ugh! He is growing like a weed, and most of his height is coming from his legs. I just wish he would wait until summer to have another growth spurt. It is very funny to see him in some of his shorts, though. They're just huge around the leg because he is so skinny. He looks good, though, doesn't he? He's growing into quite the young man.

Gabriel is hoping to start babysitting soon. However, he'll have to wait until his brain can catch up to his actions before he can start babysitting. What part of "Don't open the door" don't you understand? I was getting dressed the other day when the FedEx guy came. I told Gabriel to tell him just a minute, but not to open the door. So, Gabriel tells him, "Just a minute." Then, forgets the guy is out there and opens the door to let the cat out. Okay. He'll definitely be taking a Red Cross Babysitting course before he starts babysitting, anyway. I had planned on it, and this just confirms it. Exciting. He can't wait. I can't wait.

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