Moving along like molasses

So we are still trying to ‘find our groove’ but I don’t despair; I have realised that homeschooling – of all but the strictest style – involves constantly searching for the groove.  Still, we battle on!

Mr. D. surprised his father just last week.  They have a new deal where Mr. D. enjoys time alone (without little sister) with Dad being read to.  Dad said “sure, son, but you read to me, first”.  After initial resistance, Mr. D. is getting some extra reading time in.  The surprise?  The lad who was struggling on Level DD of RAZ online reading sat down and read his father The Gruffalo.  Word perfect.  With nuance and inflection.  With emotion and pace.  Like a reader.  Woot!  Since then, I have moved Mr. D. through his RAZ to level F; I think he could actually go to E but I want to build his confidence first.  Not bad for a dyslexic boy who can’t sit still, eh?

At home we are working on The Story of the World: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer.  We are reading in small chunks and doing the activities out of the Activity Guide and using a lapbook format to document our learning.  Some of the relevant work is here on previous posts as well.  We are using Jim Wiese’s Ancient Science at the same time – although not completely in synch, it does comes pretty close.  To round things out, we watched the mini-series Walking with Cavemen, produced by the BBC.  A simplified story combined with an inserted-narrator conceit means it isn’t a good series for those already possessing prehistoric knowledge; but for those people, like our kids, willing to suspend disbelief, it was brilliant.  They may not remember the names of Homo habilis or Paranthropus boisei but they do remember the traits and adaptations.  Good enough for me.

Both Mr. D and Ms. E., his little sister, have recommenced external science classes.  These were at our local museum in the past but the educator has left to set up on her own and there is a genuine love between Mr. D. and this teacher.  She has promised to try and be more in-depth for Mr. D. as he has done all the classes so many times and because she is running age-grouped classes.  Mr. D. takes age-grouping as a personal insult!  At present, they are investigating matter but I am going to have to wait until I receive the class outline before I know exactly what each child has covered.

Our nighttime routine always consists of one of us parents reading several children’s books, followed by a chunk of a chapter book, to both children.  Pleased to say we finally finished The Hobbit; this was only slow going because it was winter, the house was warm, and a certain lad kept falling asleep.  But we finished the last 30 pages after seeing the movie – not realising where the movie would stop – so we had at least already covered the contents of the movie.  Which the children loved.  Mr. D. plays at being a great Gollum!  Ms. E. is often found as a hobbit (she doesn’t even care about the hairy feet).  Our new chapter book adventure is Treasure Island – what a winner!  Seriously pirate-loving in this house, have been for a long time.  The kids also watched The Pirates! Band of Misfits (a great Aardman claymation film) to be inspired in all things piratey!

During NIDES time, Mr. D. is working on a personal lapbook – his choice of topic?  The game Plants vs. Zombies!  I’ve given him some Wiki information (including a lesson on how to find it) and some pictures.  The rest is up to him.  Electronic games are a minefield for us – the computer skills used in most games are beneficial but our boy does not have an “off” switch.  No matter how many times we tell him “one hour only” of computing time, no matter how many times we say “10 mins to go, 5 mins to go, 2 mins to go” it always seems to surprise, dismay, and frustrate him that time is up.  My personal preference shows when I allow a little overtime to Minecraft or Physics with Crayons on the iPad over yet more Zombie killing.  That said, we have quite a few math and physics sites on the iPad and both kids are very happy to navigate their way around those.

DSC00740Two pictures of Ms. E.’s paper Shaduf.


DSC00742Two pictures of Mr. D’s lego Shaduf, with pivoting joint.



This last picture is of Mr. D.’s solution to a problem.  To enrich the study of structures the School has provided, we purchased Javier Builds a Bridge from the Engineering is Elementary series produced by the Museum of Boston.  Brilliant stuff and the book is only $8 and no postage was charged!  A series of problems are posed throughout the story line and kids come up with innovative solutions.  This was the first solution for Mr. D. who had to replace a rope and wood bridge over a shallow but fast moving creek.  He wanted to allow a height clearance in case the water rose, a safe building material (he chose concrete) and he would have added a handrail for safety but didn’t have the lego parts he needed.  A good first try, methinks.

Okay.  Onward and upward!  Hey, I’d settle for just onward.


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Sunday. With cavemen.

I have decided to change our PEP (personal education plan) because Mr. D. is complaining that he is bored.  Of all things.  It doesn’t surprise me that what we have been trying has not engaged him but the battle, now, is finding what will.

We’ll be dabbling in the Story of the World (Wise) Ancient Times and have the activity book to give us lots of hands-on time; at the same time, we have Ancient Science (Jim Wiese) and have made a small start on that.  We are going to continue with Life of Fred‘s elementary series and the school is providing a unit on Structures which we will expand by adding Engineering is Elementary (Museum of Boston) and their book on Bridges.  That should keep him happy for a while (please).

Today we tackled one of the earliest ‘science’ experiments, giving hands-on experience of what daily life was like in the Stone Age.  Mr. D. and his father took a 1.25cm diameter piece of dowel, about 90 cm long, and tried pushing it into a fairly soft and grassy area of our yard. They managed to get this primitive tool into the ground by 5cm.  Dad then sharpened the point of the stick, somewhat, and they tried again.  This way they were able to penetrate up to 10cm deep; perfectly fine depth for digging up some root vegetables but not for anything requiring a deep anchoring.  Using a flat stone found at the beach as a mallet, they were able to penetrate 60cm deep!

Whilst human life is thought to date to approximately 4 million years ago, the use of stone tools is generally dated to about 2.4 million years ago.  Very crude stone tools were used for scrapping and hammering; these simple tools (and machines if you count the wedge) were what separated humans from other animals.  We had invented technology!  Not quite a smart phone but a big leap forward.  The act of sharpening the point of a stick took humankind a few thousand years to perfect.

When the dowel is pushed in by hand, the force (or power) is spread over the thickness of the dowel.  When the dowel is sharpened, the same amount of force gets concentrated in the point, making it easier to penetrate the ground.  A pointed stick would definitely make it easier and faster to dig up dinner!

It took another 1.1 million years to progress to the hand axe (sharpened stones).  Invention and creation were slower because so much energy was expended just staying alive.  By the end of the Neolithic period, we were able to make secondary tools (sewing needles, fishhooks) out of wood and antlers, using the first primitive tools.

Mr. D. drew a picture of a ‘caveman’ hammering in a stick, using a big, flat, rock.  The caveman had many bulging muscles drawn on because Mr. D. figured you would have been physically fit to survive!

Unfortunately, all this wonderful work we’ve done today:  going to the beach to search for appropriate rocks, marking up the measurements on the dowel, doing the experiment, taking photos, drawing pictures, discussing all the results and their implications has taken a grand total of approximately 30 minutes.  Less time than it has taken me to type up this post (with interruptions, I’m not that slow).  Wonder how I can slow my son down to caveman speeds?  I think he would have been a very successful stone age dude!


The action shots:


Small gainFirst tryMarking and measuringSharpened

On his way to 60 cm penetration!

On his way to 60 cm penetration!

Using tools

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Surviving Saturdays and Sundays

We did.  Survive, that is.  OK, Sunday is not over yet and I may be unduly optimistic, but we are all here, all four, sound of limb, if not mind.

Ms. E. had her 6th birthday party at the skate rink; Mr. D. lost control with all the excitement.

We’ve just come back from Wreck It Ralph 3D and Mr. D is losing control with all the excitement. 

Not just excitement, to be honest, we have this problem whenever anything special happens for Ms. E.; Mr. D. just can’t stand to not be the centre of attention and he can’t stand her having gifts that he doesn’t have or that he can’t do when she isn’t looking.

For instance, Ms. E. received her first playmobil yesterday.  Much more basic than anything Mr. D. has but he just cannot stand that she might be able to work it out herself.  Much screaming and shouting happening as I write and such a bad mood spreading and it just isn’t fair to the Littlest Muffin in the house!  She is such a joy-filled creature, who’s natural resting state is laughing, and she finds herself side-tracked constantly by her own brother.  If the toys aren’t stolen from her, then Mummy and Daddy’s attention is stolen.  We try to compensate but I would love to hear from anyone with this problem:  what works; what doesn’t work; what to never try again.  Any suggestions welcome.

So that I don’t go on thinking bad things about my beloved son, I am posting a quick sketch he knocked off this morning.  Pirate ship that, I’m told, is like Blackbeard’s only better (of course); Mr. D. doesn’t intend to be a bad pirate, he just wants lots of cannons and weapons to scare people apparently.  He also wants to buck the laws of convention by adding lots of outboard motors so that he can sail fast.  We’ve tried pointing out the irony but it just hasn’t hit home as yet. 

Roll on, Monday.


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Frumpy Friday

Have not had a chance to go through our thousands of photos as yet; all woke up this morning feeling rather tired and wrought, no doubt, in part, due to Ms. E. having her 6th birthday party tomorrow at the skating rink.  We don’t skate.  Should be interesting.  So what do we do for schooling on our half-day Fridays?

Pirate Day, of course!

Started after breakfast with a quick run-around inside and a tidying of bedrooms – ship-shape!  Terribly windy here today so there is less than usual enthusiasm for being outside the house.

Then the we settled to watch a Real Story episode about The Real Pirates of the Caribbean (with special emphasis on Blackbeard – our favourite).

Then the children were asked to draw a pirate themed picture; the picture could be of anything in any form but must relate to pirates.  The results are below!

Then the dress-up fun began – we have enough pirate regalia in the house for a whole fleet of swashbucklers and Ms. E. eschewed the usual wench-role for that of cabin boy, whilst Mr. D. was a staggeringly good Capt’n, eye-patch and all.

By the time the pirates were fed, it was time for them to leave with our respite carer for two and a half hours of outside romp!  Yay!  They were back in half an hour, claiming frostbite!  Ha!  Got them warm, sent them back out to the local creek, which will afford some protection.  Normally they would venture further afield, but father drove off with the boosters seats still in the car.

OK – if we survive the skating rink, I should be back with more soon.


Ms. E. chose to do a picture of a pirate in the sun – I love her attention to detail here:  the sword, the earring, the radiant sun!



Mr. D. chose to assemble a treasure map (need to do some more work on compass directions), complete with crumpling and, not seen here, ripped edges, added for that authentic feel.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Random Madness

Well.  Hasn’t it been a long time, eh?

We’re moving house.  On Monday.  Have you ever ‘transitioned‘ with a special needs child?  Try not to, it is so very challenging.  Moving house isn’t my favourite thing to do, even though I have incredibly itchy feet and always want to live somewhere different, but I would like to just go to bed in one house, wake up in another.  If necessary, I can take a two week Pacific Island holiday in between to allow this to happen…….

Here I am posting some photographs of Mr. D.’s recent works.  Not in order (order is definitely missing at present) and not in context.

A paper cylinder drawn by Mr. D. has pictures of every increasing/decreasing size (inspired in equal parts by Bugs Bunny and Vi Hart, the mathemagician); Mr. D. was giving his version of infinite series.

We also have some Lego figures:  person on a couch, washer/dryer with man adding washing powder.  We started these in response to Lego Quest ( a wonderful blog for homeschooling families that love Lego.  We had been a part of an online Lego club but as they were nation-wide, the live classroom didn’t work well for us time-wise.  Lego Quest gives you a regular “mission” to build Lego pieces and then will publish the submitted photographs.  Woot!  My lad loves seeing his things publicly displayed (who doesn’t, right?).

Last, and most certainly not least, are two playdough creations that now look a little worse for the travelling.  We have Mr. Shark and Mr. Penguin, both seem to be in response to watching the three episodes of Great Barrier Reef by the BBC on DVD.  Can’t vouch for the parentage of Mr. Shark but I do think Mr. Penguin is just a little bit Elvis, little bit Roy Orbison, no?

There you have it.  So much more work has been done – reading is improving at a rapid rate – but I haven’t had a chance to get my head around it let alone photograph or chronicle it.

See you once we’ve moved!

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Foggy Bottoms

Nothing to do with Foggy Bottoms actually, but that said, it is very foggy outside today!

Been a little while – quite deliberately – because the stomach flu has continued to ravage our house and learning of a quasi-formal kind has been a hit and miss affair.  Still, we plough on and hope for the best!

We’ve been delving into the literature suggestions from Oak Meadow Grade 3 curriculum; first stop, Pippi Longstocking, our only hesitation being that she may be seen as someone to emulate but that has not been the case, Mr. D. thinks she is extremely silly (even if he would love to play with her).  Currently, Mr. D. is playing with friends a few doors away.  He doesn’t always get along with them (two sisters) even though he is proud to boast they are his friends, but this last 60 minutes has been quiet so I am assuming that all is going well.  It is a Pro-D day (teacher meeting day) here in the district so no school (what did they do when I was a kid, I wonder?).  Miss E. is at her After-School carers for the day – something she loves – and it gives the children separate time, which is so necessary.

Lucky for us, Planet Kids has a huge sale underway and we visited on Saturday morning in pursuit of a birthday present for another child.  Whilst there, we scanned the teacher’s resource consignment section and came away with amazing bargains, including a small study on Pippi Longstocking.  So far this morning, so good.  Mr. D. made a “book cover” drawing of Pippi, complete with fry pan and tossed pancake; we’ve delved into what questions we would ask her if we were new in her neighbourhood; the question of realistic vs. fantasy books and the difference between a lie and an exaggeration.  This afternoon we are making a DAS air-dry clay model, which will then be painted, of Pippi.  Mr. D. has asked if we can make Pippi clothes and we’ve decided we will have a small exercise in sewing.  Yet to decide on hair but probably some bright wool that can be braided and then gummed to stick out!  I’ll also download Jamie Oliver’s show “Jamie does…. Stockholm” so that we can see a little Sweden and learn about Scandinavian foods – different to the ones we eat in this partially Danish household.

To have a break from all things Pippi (do you say Pip-E or PeePee, like my husband?), Dad took Mr. D. to the beach at the end of the road.  During previous visits, Mr. D. has been excited about what he calls his Pirate Fort – today I charged them with the mission of building more of it and taking some photos; they only stopped because they ran out of driftwood today.

Now if only the fog would clear – it is actually a sunny day behind all that fog.

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Surprising Thursday

With the schedule (ha) in place for this year, Thursday can drag.  Nothing “planned” until late afternoon, when Mr. D. goes to Ninja class.  Yes, Ninja.  Martial arts (Ninjitsu) crossed with lots of acrobatics and gymnastics.  Small classes so far – which suits us even if it doesn’t help the family teaching the classes – and lots and lots of energy required.  Marvellous stuff.  Mr. D. loves it, too, which helps.

Today that changed.  Thanks to another wonderful homeschooling Mother in the Comox Valley, a newish shop in Courtenay is holding beading classes for home schooled kids; such was the demand, there are now four different groups going.  Class will only be once per month but that is just fine.  It is cheap.  They make something.  They make something pretty (Mr. D. likes his pretty).  The shop is called “Shipwrecked” and there is a pretty strong pirate/skull theme happening inside.  Woot!  Mr. D. was right at home.  Made a beautiful string of beads today, with charms, on brass wire and with brass clasps.  Teacher explained about brass and its connection to sailing vessels and this made our lad super-happy.  Mr. D. has always had outstanding fine motor coordination (even when he struggles with writing) and he loves the fiddliness of projects like this.  At the end of class, Mr. D. of course wanted to buy everything in the shop; he is our proto-consumerist (where did we go wrong?).  He ‘made do’ with a new winter hat – made in Nepal and in Nepalese style but with a skull pattern on the front!

This morning was different, too.  Hubby took some time out from work and he and Mr. D. sat together at the dining table to take apart my old computer tower.  They only got so far today – no small components undone as yet – but it was a good start.  Our natural born tinkerer was in heaven.

To fill in a small amount of time, we turned to a book provided by NIDES called Cornerstone.  We read a poem, and a story, then Mr. D. had to crack a code to read a letter.  I got him to crack the code, transcribe the words, then read.  He loved it – codes and our boy go together like peaches and cream.

Just to make our day complete, we found that the photography competition has had its deadline extended; this means that Mummy won’t have to stay up late tonight uploading and selecting photographs, when I would rather have Mr. D. handle the technicalities and make the decisions.  Yay!

Tomorrow holds Museum Science and then tutoring at NIDES, which coincides with Literacy Day.  NIDES will have guest speakers talking about careers in literacy, such as songwriting and storytelling.  Mr. D. will enjoy that sooooooo much and is really excited to be going.  That should be a good start to our weekend.

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