Tag Archives: homeschooling

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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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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Ninja’s and diorama drama

Before Christmas, Mr. D. attended a free Ninja class to see if he would be interested.  Take a guess?  Yup – loved it.  Combination of martial arts lite and gymnastics – absolutely non-stop action.  Wonderful for my ADHD boy!  This afternoon is his first formal lesson – follows the same format so it won’t be shockingly different.  To say he is excited is somewhat of an understatement.

Today so far we have tackled some more Life of FredApples” mathematics – Mr. D. is still loving this and I appreciate the bits and bobs of information he is learning along the way that have (apparently) nothing to do with math.  Yesterday it was a toss-up but I think Life of Fred lost out once Mr. D. discovered the wonderful YouTube videos of Vi Hart, the mathemagician/mathemusician.  He loves her (seriously crushing) and loves that she is as whacky as him.  He is also really happy to see that adults can do more than one thing and be good at them all and turn them into a living.  Yay!

This morning has had a lot of heavy muscle work first thing; one of the best things to do for kids with FASD, the heavy muscle work early allows their minds and bodies to still enough to learn after.  He has carried planks, moved tree branches, toted recycling, swept floors – hard work but with very little complaint.  I think he was proud I thought him old enough to carry out these tasks with no (apparent) supervision.  No bubble wrapping our kids.

As Mr. D. is still a beginner reader and not very confident with his writing – even though it has improved tremendously – we are using a “Grand Slam” book, which asks a question each double page.  We are doing one per day with Mr. D. making his own answer (with his own idiosyncratic spelling where vowels don’t exist for the most part) and then doing a drawing or art piece on the facing page as illustration to his answer.  Today he answered “what animal would you morph into” with …… no surprises …. A PENGUIN!  The penguin love continues.  Did a really neat drawing, too.  His illustrations are improving quite dramatically and he seems to enjoy this side of art as long as there are few restrictions placed on how he wants his art to look.  Reasonable, really.

Whilst I was doing whatever I was doing (I seriously don’t remember), Mr. D. amused himself by setting up the dinosaurs in his  Christmas dinosaur book and creating a new diorama.  There are some photos below, complete with caveat from Mr. D. that I had to show both sides of the dinosaurs so you could see that one side is skin/hide and the other is a skeletal view.  Hard being a mother to such a tough task master!

Okay – after all that – it is time for lunch!  Have to call him in from the yard – he is enjoying our first sunshine in what feels like months even though the yard is a bog and the mud is still squelchy.  I think he is still busy being Merlin!

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So let us start with dissection!

Oh my goodness – have I got a lot to post; not even going to do it in chronological order because I can’t be sure I would get it right.

So – we’ll start with a recent dissection lesson.  Daddy and Mr. D. tackled a chicken leg & back, peeling the skin, removing and pining down the skin, identifying the parts, separating bones and then cutting meat off bones.  A lot of fun was had even though the chicken was still a little cold to the touch.  Fun?  Yup.  That’s one of the things that passes for good times around here.

Unlike the last few days for Mr. D.  You see, his little sister turned 5 yesterday.  The big party was Saturday and then family dinner and gifts last night.  You know how most kids are not angelic and dislike other kids getting gifts when they don’t?  You don’t?  Your kids aren’t like that?  Take that bad attitude and pump it up on ‘ROIDS because we are talking serious meltdowns because we only gave him two gifts for his sister’s birthday.  It isn’t as bad as it sounds – he isn’t a bad kid and frankly was not completely in control of his own reactions – we know it is a stressor for him, we’re just not sure what to do about it.  Anyway, we have survived and now only have Christmas to get through until the birthday blitz starts again in March.  Phew.

The photos:

Our Glossary of words learnt, or re-learnt, during this process included:  muscle, skin, membrane, fat, blood, veins, nerve, bone, tendon, joint, kidney, spine, and hip.

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How did that happen?

Where is all my time going?  Seriously, that’s not rhetorical – where is my time going?

Well, some of it has been spent on these activities:

Remembering how to count by 2’s and by 5’s.  Repeating how to count out loud by 10’s.  It is this rote work that is the killer for my lad.  Using manipulatives has made it more concrete to him and more like a play activity.

A lot of time has been spent ferrying lad between guitar lessons, gymnastics, extra tutoring provided by NIDES, science classes at Courtenay Museum and Paleontology Centre (lots of Octopus so far), and all sorts of fun things like visits to the Pumpkin Patch!

Guitar lessons are progressing slowly.  When we measure progression we aren’t talking about his ability to play, rather, we combine a few things like paying attention, retention of material heard even if he is moving around furiously while listening, respect to his teacher, and other ephemera not normally the focus of music classes.  After three lessons, he is progressing.  Yay, team!

We’ve spent some time on Dolche words and words in connection with our major interest at present (Pirates, don’t ya know!) and unit studies from ABC Teach and EdHelper and other online resources.  Thankfully, NIDES has a huge choice of subscriptions for us ‘facilitators’ to take advantage of.

In math, we’ve started our Life of Fred “Apples” unit and Mr. D. continues his new-found love affair with math.  We’ve also done some flash card math and made a tiny start on Mathletics for the year.

Our main science focus, aside from the classes at the museum, is a curriculum provided by what used to be Los Banos and it is an elementary, multi-level course on the human body.  We are very, very, close to finishing the section on cells; Mr. D. is in a rush to get to germs and organ dissection, so I’ve deliberately slowed this down so other things can get done.   Another source of great ideas is “Sandwich Bag Science” by Scholastic.  We’ve done desalinisation and attempted replicating a human stomach, but this latter had to be abandoned after the muscular action on the sandwich bag turned into direct squishing of the contents!  We will replicate this experiment in a week or two!

Here are our photos of the ‘action’.


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Onward and Upward, troops!

Well.  A new school year is finally here.

One of the best summer’s the boy has had; many camps, many friends, doesn’t remember any of their names!  Nothing unusual there.  We have seen a huge blossoming of his social skills and his confidence.  Finding he was good at joining in at camps, good at games, good at gymnastics, good in the homeschooler’s production of “Wizard of Oz” even if he was a flying monkey named Rascal!  Our lad has forged through summer and now, on the penultimate night before his 7th birthday, we can proudly say he is hitting his stride more and more often.  Yay!

Schooling has started and Mr. D. has fallen in love with Math.  We are using Life of Fred – there is a new elementary series – and whilst the work is easy so far, the concepts behind are not.  Second lesson in and, in a round about way, we’re looking at how easy algebra can be.  Except it isn’t called algebra.  It isn’t called anything special at all.  That helps make it easy, methinks.

Science has been a slower start; lots of reading at the beginning and he really, really, really just wants to dissect the sheep’s brain we have for him.  And the heart.  And the eye.  And various other mammal organs.  Unfortunately, I think Daddy has claimed brain dissection as the one (read that right, one) class he is willing to take over.  Bummer.  I was looking forward to that.

On the sensory planet, Mr. D. is trying more textures of food.  Still doesn’t like the ones he didn’t like before but he is willing to concede his tastes may have changed and that he should try – even a morsel – to see if foods like potato, egg, rice, etc. are okay to eat.  Rice is the only winner and then it is only with soy sauce.  With his preference for bitter, Mr. D. has never liked bland food.  Doesn’t like spicy, either, but he does love bitter and salty.  Bring on the reduced sodium, please?

Labels in clothes are still an issue.  I try and cut them out or buy without but Mr. D. will often still be found with his underwear inside out.  To make it worse, this strange summer has played havoc with his skin and his eczema has been more pronounced.  Woe.

Anyway, in between keeping track of our learning via Homeschool Tracker (free software for the basic model), Mr. D. has been raring to go with the extra-curriculars.  Tomorrow is gymnastics.  He will also do swimming, museum science, and for the first time:  guitar lessons.  Lovely lady who is trained not only as a musician but as a music therapist; she gets that Mr. D. isn’t going to be a straight-forward lesson type of guy!

On our first day of schooling, two days ago, I needed 10 or 15 minutes uninterrupted for preparation.  I sent Mr. D. out into the sunny yard to amuse himself.  He made a bow and arrow – it has been an ambition for a while now.  He deliberately didn’t sharpen the point of the arrow because he only wants to knock apples out of our trees, not actually hurt someone, apparently.  We cheered on his resourcefulness.

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