Whew, the lack of socialization is really troubling isn’t it?

Last Friday we hosted a homeschool gathering where the kids did presentations…some of them show and tell style, others more report style.  One of the few things that I think we lack by homeschooling is a chance to frequently present or share information in front of or with peers.  As many students go back to school and present a book report, a service project report or some other such presentation to being the school year I thought it would be neat if we gave our homeschool students an audience to share something they were interested in.  There were no limits to what they could present and all the children were given a choice of presenting to the larger audience or to a smaller group.  They all chose the larger audience, a fact which impressed me greatly.

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They all did a great job, from age 3 to age 11.  We had volcano experiments, a door/wall climbing demonstration (bet you can’t guess who that was!), creative creations, a lego cable car, art exhibition, reports on animals (complete with live snails), sharing of a favorite blanket, yoga, magnets, compasses, precious snow globes, little ponies and more.  It was wonderful to see them giving their attention to whoever was in front of the audience presenting.  We were also very lucky to have some beautiful weather so we could hold the event outdoors where everyone could be comfortable and chat and move as they needed to.  Hmmm…so outdoors, we had kids ages 3-11 all listening and paying attention to each other and learning new things.  Crazy homeschoolers huh?

Harrison Bay State Park Camping, why haven’t we done this before?!?

Last week some friends were posting about the Perseid Meteor shower and I started to think we should try to go camping somewhere we would have a better view.  We already had plans for Friday so I figured we could go Wednesday and Thursday.  It just so happened that Thursday was the first day of public school in our county, so we felt pretty fortunate to be homeschooling!

I was prepared to go with the boys on my own but Rick was ready and able to come along so that was great.  We decided on Harrison Bay State Park because it was close and had cheap tent sites along the water.  We had only been up there once or twice before to swim in the pool and explore a bit.  Boy were we missing out.

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It is 20 minutes from our house and we saw tons of wildlife, and felt like we were far away in the woods.  We saw racoons, deer, osprey, herons, squirrels, a water snake, a toad, a spider spinning a web, and more.

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We had some good friends tag along for Thursday night and just so happened to be camping next to some other homeschool friends too!  The weather was great.  We got to see a few meteors, it wasn’t as dark as we hoped since all the campers apparently feel the need for really bright lights!  Simon enjoyed fishing (a lot!) and the guys took the canoe out a few times to paddle and fish.  They also got to take their friends on the canoe which was great too.photo 3 (9)Below is a photo of Simon explaining the good news and bad news of fishing.  The line was caught, but it could be untangled if they went out in the canoe! photo 2 (13)

Place Value learning can be yummy!

I found this neat activity to work on understanding place value.  I knew the boys would be eager to at least try it because of the marshmallows!  They were eager to try it, but not so eager to do the number activity associated with it.  They just wanted to build snowmen like we did one time before.  I convinced Simon to at least show me a couple of the numbers with the cereal on the toothpicks and then I gave them pretzel sticks and chocolate chips and they went to town building!  Luckily he showed me he has a pretty darn good grasp of place value anyway.  Good fine motor work for Owen.  I had given him a few small numbers to create with the cereal, just trying to give him an idea of what Simon was learning.  He at least gave it some thought.

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Organization, we’ll see how long it lasts!

Rick and I spent a bit of time rearranging our front room to make the classroom space more usable and separate from the toys.  Last year we often had to spend a fair amount of time getting the toys out of the way before we could sit at the desks or on the floor to do some schoolwork.  I wanted that obstacle out of our way this year.

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I also set up a binder system in efforts to keep track of what we were doing each day/week and have a place to hold all the printouts or game pieces we would be using for each activity.  That was also a problem last year…keeping things in too many different places and not being able to find them when I needed them.  I have been using the binder system for a few weeks now and I have reused my weekly schedule and it’s activities a couple of times because we have been having a lot of other activities come up.  But that’s the way we plan to do things, we’re not staying home on a beautiful day just because the schedule says we are supposed to be studying lakes and rivers of China or place value!

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Each boy has a journal, Simon and I write back in forth in his and Owen has one to write or draw in whenever he feels the urge.  Sometimes I will write in my own journal while Simon writes in his.  Last year he told me he liked writing in school more than at home because other people were writing at the same time, so I told him I was happy to write in my journal when he wrote in his.  His journal has a bookmark with our names on opposite sides so we can put it in the page we are working on and let the other know it’s their turn to write.

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It is my hope that we will hold on to at least some of this organization for a few months.  None of us are very good at keeping up with systems it seems.  I used to be really good at it.  If I’m doing it for someone else or a job, I still am, but somehow in my own home I am not very good at keeping up with my bright idea systems!

Back to “school” 2nd Grade here we come!

We have had a classic summer so far.  Tons of pool time, some get togethers with friends, a vacation to Florida, lots of popsicles, board games, etc.  Our summer is not over by any means…it will still be shorts and sandals weather here for another couple of months but we (the parents mostly) are ready for some routines again so we are starting “school” this week.  It also helps if we start now so we can be done with all of our hours a little early in the spring when Rick is done with teaching too. We are starting out with more structure than we had at the end of last year to see how that works.  We will have plenty of wiggle room for spontaneous events, travel and good ol’ fun though.

Simon started 2nd grade on Monday; we are saying that Owen is in Pre Pre K. We will be studying Math, Reading, Writing, Geography, Science and German for the first quarter.  We may join a co-op to spend more time with Simon’s peers. We will be getting together with the Chattanooga Green Moms Homeschool group too, hosting and organizing special holiday events, field trips and get togethers.

Owen will be a Moonbeam (3 year old class) at Highland Plaza United Methodist Preschool starting September 1st.  He certainly likes to be involved with Simon’s “school work” so I try to plan something for him to do along with Simon.  If Simon is working on handwriting, then Owen can be doing some pre-writing activities.  They both have a journal for quiet time.  We made two flags of Madagascar today and Owen is learning German along with the rest of the family.  It is pretty cute hearing him try to say the letters and numbers.

I am looking forward to a great year of learning and exploring together!

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Little House on the Prairie Series…unschooling in action

We have been listening to the Little House on the Prairie series on cd in the car for several months now.  We are all enjoying it as a family.  It has inspired many interesting discussions and activities.

We now have sourdough starter in the house and have been baking and making all sorts of goodies with it.

We have been able to have excellent discussions on our family philosophy (we try!) of “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”  Gratitude is something we are all working on.  Talking about how grateful the characters are for the little they do have has become a theme whenever the boys start talking about “needing” something.  We discuss whether it is truly a need or maybe just a want.

We have talked about money, food, feeding animals, different geographical ares of the US, storms, siblings and more.

We made a button lamp and Simon has become interested in sewing.  He was extremely proud of his first project…a pocket.

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We still have 2 and a half books to go.  After that there are companion books and biographical histories of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life.  It has been the perfect way to unschool.  We are enjoying learning about something together that Simon chose and through that we are learning all sorts of other things.  He asks questions, we help him find answers.  If there is something I think is interesting in the book that they have missed then I can introduce it.  They can take it or leave it.

If anyone has any suggestions on what to read/listen to after this, please let me know!

All around the mulberry bush…

the Simon tasted the honeysuckle!

We were riding bikes on the Riverwalk on Mother’s Day when we discovered mulberry trees with berries that weren’t quite ready.  Simon and I went back this week to see if they were ripe.  There were only a few ripe ones but tons of honeysuckle vines.  If you haven’t done it before…you pick a honeysuckle flower, pop off the green end (calyx) pull out the string (style) and voila a drop of honeysuckle!  

Simon and Owen always love a good blind taste test (started a while back with multi colored carrots) so we tried the white flowers and then the yellow flowers.  Next we each give each other a blind taste test.  When we were tasting them it seemed that the yellow tasted better but in the blind taste test neither of us could discern the difference.

For you locals this entrance to the Riverwalk is called the Amnicola Marsh entrance and is a great place for watching birds and turtles. 


Vowel sounds relay

Looking at Simon’s writing these days it is apparent he could use a little more help in phonemics and vowel sound variability.  I set up a little relay for him and we found a way to incorporate Owen.  There are no pictures of the activity itself as Simon was in his usual school “uniform” of underwear!

I wrote down vowel combinations on cards and then wrote down a list of words on cards that used those combinations.  I set the vowel sounds on one shelf in the kitchen and the words on the table.  Simon started on the opposite side of the kitchen.  I told Simon the vowel sound, whispered the word to Owen, who shouted it to Simon.  Simon then went to the shelf with the vowel sound cards and had to choose the correct card, next he took it over to the table and picked out the word Owen had called out.  He brought them over to me to check.  Several times he realized he had the wrong vowel combination when he went to look for the words.

I think it was a pretty fun way to work on a concept that Simon would otherwise avoid.  Owen is happy to get involved however he can.  We tried to do a letter recognition relay with Owen afterwards but he wasn’t as excited and wanted to identify numbers instead.

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Writing with a quill pen!

Simon has been interested in making ink and writing with a quill pen for quite some time now.  I can’t recall exactly where the idea started.  Perhaps from the Little House on the Prairie books we have been listening to in the car.  We finally found a good source of feathers at our friend’s house and so the project began.  We watched a few youtube videos on how to make a quill pen.  One was very complicated and seemed impossible for us to do, but we continued to search and found a really easy tutorial.  We made up some simple  berry ink and voila…writing with a quill pen.  We used some old frozen raspberries and blueberries for our ink.  The color starts out as a marvelous magenta and as it dries it turns a lovely midnight blue color.  I myself am just fascinated and plan to write some inspirational signs for around the house with the ink.  We have also started to research other forms of writing and the development of pen technology!

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It’s hard to find a title for these posts…

I’ve been trying to get up the gumption to write more about mental illness but I get stuck on the title.  I guess that’s probably a sure sign that I’m worried about what people will think.  That in turn is a sure sign that it’s hard to talk about mental illness and even though I’m committed to getting it out there I’m still really nervous when it comes to writing it down in actual public words.

Today I’d like to talk to you about depression and hormones surrounding weaning.  Most of us should are aware of post-partum depression and the challenges it presents to new mothers and families.  But did you know that mothers can experience a very similar type of depression following weaning their child from breastfeeding?

I always assumed there would naturally be sadness following weaning a child, but all out depression or wacky hormonal craziness I had not thought of.  After weaning Simon I felt pretty rough for a while but figured it was just “normal” and he had stopped napping around the same time so I figured I was just extra stressed.  Then last year a friend went through a really difficult ordeal after weaning her daughter.  She would tell me she felt downright crazy, crying one moment, ready to yell the next.  She had trouble sleeping and even functioning.  Everything felt like a struggle.  Luckily she had a good support system and was aware of what was happening and sought help.  Her experience had me worried about what would happen when I weaned Owen.

Last week I got to find out what would happen.  Owen hadn’t nursed for about 3 weeks and I was doing pretty well.  Then I suddenly felt like I had the worst case of PMS ever.  I was yelling (inside my car) at people in the parking lot over nothing more than them standing near my car when I was backing up.  I was yelling at the kids for the most minor of infractions.  Then I would have moments where I was just stuck, stuck sitting on the side of the bed in the morning, stuck sitting in my chair after lunch.  I just couldn’t make myself move.  Of course I eventually did, but I wasn’t happy about it!  Every small task seemed like it was too much work and not worth doing anyway.  The real kicker was when I went out shopping at Target one evening.  I got out of the car and was looking around feeling like I was not even part of myself.  It felt almost like people could see through me, could see the pain inside, could see how hard it was for me to just put one foot in front of the other.  I kept looking around as I walked through the store, wondering what people must be thinking.  Needless to say I didn’t stay long.  I came home and that night made sure to tell my husband I was not doing so well with the hormonal shift.  There were a couple more tough days, feeling more sad and listless than angry and then I felt better.

I don’t know if it’s gone or if it will be back.  But what I do know is that I want you to know about it.  Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends.  Please educate yourselves on the emotions and hormones that surround pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and weaning.  Our society does not value the “mother” enough.  We expect women to “get through” pregnancy and birth, not relish in it and savor the experience, learning from it.  Then we expect them to “get their body back” and “get back to work” whatever that work may be soon after birth.  We do not provide enough support for breastfeeding mothers.  Then we are rushed to wean our babies because “if they can ask for it, they don’t need it.” We don’t take into consideration the tremendous changes a woman’s body and mind undergo during all these events.  It is a true shame that there is not more collective knowledge of these matters that can be passed from woman to woman.  I am fortunate to be a part of a wonderful tribe of women both here in Chattanooga and back in Chapel Hill.  These women are here to love one another, support one another and share whatever parts of their experiences they can in order to make someone else’s life as a mother easier.  Please join us and spread the word and the love.