Thursday, March 4, 2010

Weeks 23 and 24--Tweaking, Here and There...

So much for my grand plans to update the blog each week! Last week, the whole family was hit by a virus, one strong enough to get all five of us. Usually one of us can manage to stay healthy, but not this time. We took it easy, had one complete sick day, and just chugged along where we could. If Harry had still been in school, I probably would have had him go if he didn't have a fever, but at home, we could just take our time and he could nap if he needed to, a flexibility I'm sure he enjoyed.

Instead of writing out subject by subject what we did, which is a little more tedious and probably not very interesting to read, I'll just hit the highlights of the past two weeks:

Grace: Not a topic to study, per se, but something I feel like I've learned the hard way this year is to give more grace both to the kids and to myself in this homeschooling journey. Sometimes I feel compelled to just push push push to get things done, instead of enjoying one of the prime benefits of homeschooling, which is its flexibility. I guess that part of me worries that if we don't push to get our objectives done for the day, we'll fall behind, and that is certainly a possibility if we completely slack off. Other times I feel I've been too hard on the boys and not encouraging enough. In those moments, I tend to wonder, "would a real public school teacher be better for them????"

So, this week I have been thinking about how to inject more joy and grace into our homeschooling life. Today, everyone woke up grumpy due to middle-of-the-night nosebleeds for two of the boys; no one was in a good mood this morning! But the sun was out and it was a balmy (for Chicagoland) 40-ish degree day. I decided that after morning music practice and math, we'd have an extended outdoor recess together and then just do science experiments in the afternoon. Let's just say this decision was a hit with the boys. They had a chance to bask in some sun and slide in the muddy piles around our house from all the melting snow:

Harry later said that "this was the best day I've ever had!" Well, maybe it was an exaggeration, but it's definitely making me think more about how I can increase the fun factor in our homeschooling life. Something to dwell on further in the future!

Math: One thing I learned after our Singapore Math assessment last post is that I really need to build in more review of the concepts for Harry. I've been doing math fact drills several times a week, but what he really needed was more problems to practice concepts such as double-digit addition and subtraction. So last week and this week, that is what we've been doing. I've tried to let go of comparing what he is doing with other kids, either other homeschoolers or his peers in public school, and instead just take the time we need to reach a point in which Harry really demonstrates mastery of the concept. Today, he scored 17/18 on his work in addition and subtraction within 100, which was a great score for him and I was really happy with his progress.

Science: I wouldn't say that science comes completely naturally to me (this from the woman who was pre-med and spend half her college academic life in a laboratory of some sort or another), so sometimes when time is tight I will gloss over those activities. But today, I decided we would have fun with our assigned experiments in Science in the Kitchen and Science in Air. The kids had a blast with discovering how big their lung capacity was by blowing air into a bottle full of water as seen here...

(The amount of air in the bottle represents their lung capacity!)

We also had fun testing different substances to see if they were acidic or not. When you pour boiling water onto red cabbage leaves, the liquid becomes a lovely shade of purple:

Then, if you put something acidic into the liquid, it changes the color to a pinkish-purple. We tested out a number of substances--lemon juice, milk, salt, sugar, vinegar--but the two most interesting ones were Coke Zero...

And, perhaps best of all, kimchi (which is the national side dish of Korea...pickled/fermented, spicy cabbage, which sounds unappealing but which most Koreans cannot live without!) Anyway, it was clearly acidic, as Harry expresses below:

Future questions...Looking ahead, I'm realizing that it's already time to start thinking about the coming fall! Ron wants to do kindergarten at home, so it looks like I may be dealing with two different curricula for him and for Harry, which is a little daunting. I'm not sure what to do about Latin for Harry...I'm not sure if we should continue with Classical Writing or switch to something like Institute for Excellence in Writing...I wonder, I wonder, I wonder! Well, experienced homeschoolers say that it takes a good three years to hit one's stride when it comes to these kinds of decisions and routines. I guess it's all right for me to experiment for another year! =)

Spring break for us next week, DH gets the boys and I get to research and write, so I'll post again in a couple of weeks. Thanks for visiting!

(P.S. On another note, there was a fascinating article in the New York Times yesterday on the topic of building better teachers. One of the main people profiled in the article was Doug Lemov, someone I knew in high school, who I haven't heard anything about in 20+ years! I'm glad to see he is doing something so valuable and interesting with his life. He has a book coming out soon called Teach Like a Champion, and I got in touch with him via Facebook to see whether he thought the book would have content applicable for homeschooling parents. He says that a good portion of the content is more about classroom management in largely urban school settings, but that the academic content is definitely relevant to homeschoolers. Check it out!)


  1. I enjoyed reading about your week! Thanks for sharing.

  2. It sounds like your week was full of grace :) The science experiments turned out well and how exciting to find out you know a teaching guru! Excitement excitement, thanks for sharing!

  3. I think I found peace here. I needed your update. I needed the talk about grace, the joy of science experiments, the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends. Thank you.

  4. It's so hard to step away from comparison and preconceptions about the way things should go. I'm glad you found some peace.

  5. I like the photos. I think taking time away from the predictable schedule and going outside, doing art all day, all week is not just good for the kids, but good for me too. I call these days Rainbow Days. I enjoyed your post on the WTM board about Teach Like a Champion so much that I included a link to it in my blog. Thanks for sharing your week and thoughts.

  6. I'm so sorry you guys all got knocked down by that virus! How not fun!! Learning to show grace and be more flexible is something the Lord's been working on with me, too! Sounds/looks like you guys had a great time with the science project! As far as your book, please let me know when it is available ... I'd love to read it! Also ... I didn't know you lived in Chicago! We are coming your way for Scott's brother's wedding this summer. We're hoping to go to Chicago for a night or two. ;)