HELLO

Hi there.
This is me...a happy wife, mom to three awesome boys, teacher to two of the aforementioned boys (we homeschool), chauffeur to karate, archery and all sorts of other activities, former scrapbooker and founder of the 
Good Grief Blog.
Life is good.

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Sunday
Oct152017

Habitat

Yesterday, Noah and I volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity build site. I've been wanting to volunteer with Habitat for years and finally managed to make it happen. Noah technically has already fulfilled his community service hours requirement for his endorsed diploma program at his high school, but more hours is good. :) (We'd started looking into this months ago and were on a waitlist. In the meantime, he finished off the community service hours with other things.)

So. We met at the site before 8, bundled in layers, as it was colder than it has been lately and pretty windy. Our site supervisor gave us (and the handful of other volunteers) a brief orientation then assigned us all to different tasks. (A bit more than half of us were newbies with a few regulars to show us the ropes.) Noah and I ended up helping another volunteer (he's a regular and is retired now) finish up the shingles/siding on one side of the house...

Noah and I both were instructed on and got to use the nail gun. It was pretty fun. :) 

After we finished that portion, we broke for lunch (and had a lovely chat with some of the other volunteers and with the homeowner--who was there working with us and who, it turned out, knows a bunch of the same people as we do) then started on siding around the back of the house.

We got instruction on how to use the sliding compound miter saw (which Noah already knew, having used one to build our stairs this summer) and got a couple rows going before the supervisor called the day a couple hours early on account of the high winds. (We'd actually been protected a bit from the wind in the spot we were working on in the morning, but the winds just continued to get worse (and colder!), making flying materials a danger.) 

So, we helped collect materials and tools and whatnot and headed for home...happy to have been able to help, wishing we could have done more, and relieved to be warm again, lol.

Noah and I have already signed up for another couple build days and are looking forward to seeing (and helping with!) even more progress on the same house. I can definitely see making this a more regular thing and am looking forward to when Asher and Micah are old enough to experience it also. (You have to be 16 to volunteer at the build sites.) 

So thankful...that Habitat exists and can help so many...and that we can be a small part of that. :)

ETA: I meant also to mention that I thought it was very cool that this particular house is one that's in partnership with one of the local high schools. They have a "Geometry in Construction" class and students actually build half a house on school grounds about each semester. The house halves are then trucked to the build site and joined. The homeowner was particularly excited by this since some of her former students had gone on to this high school and were in the class.

Friday
Oct132017

Leaf pictures

I try to take pictures of my boys in leaves every fall. It's tradition. :) Here's what I came away with this past Wednesday, as we walked a bit in our neighborhood after schoolwork was finished for the day...

(My instructions to throw the leaves skyward went unheeded, lol.)

And then there were some jumping photos...

(Asher, fyi, often steals our phones and takes selfies of himself which we later find. It shouldn't have been a surprise, then, that this is what we got when we handed him the phone and asked him to take our picture, lol.)

There was also a lot of attacking each other with leaves...

But Asher was not to be outdone with his backflips through the leaves...

Yup, fun times. :) 

And then we brushed ourselves off and headed home again, stopping along the way to catch a group photo:

Happy fall, y'all!

Sunday
Oct082017

They're growing up...

Sniff.

I dropped Asher off at drivers ed this morning. He's doing the same program we used for Noah, as we were quite happy with their instruction and thoroughness. Technically, Asher could have started months ago. But, when I asked him about it, he declared that he wasn't ready yet...which was dandy. (And I thought it was pretty mature that he recognized that he wasn't ready.) Then, about a month ago, he came to me and told me that he wanted to start. So, here we are. :) 

(Before he could start, one of the requirements was having a photo ID. Since he doesn't have a school ID card or anything, I just took him to the DMV to get a state issued ID.)

He'll do the classroom portion of things over the Sundays in October. At the end of the month, he'll also do the two day drive camp on their premises (teaching defensive driving and skid correction and stuff like that). Then we'll get his permit and schedule his on-street driving sessions and wait the full year from getting the permit (whilst logging the required 50 hours of drive time with us). Whew.

Meanwhile, homeschooling Micah and Asher is keeping me busy. I ran through what's what in my previous post. Beyond that, though, I've gotta mention that homeschooling this year is bringing new challenges. There are still the same struggles as before...primarily convincing them that mistakes are opportunities to learn and reminding them that they shouldn't compare themselves to each other (that they're in different grades). But, there's a new focus/urgency on making sure Micah's prepared to start high school in a couple years. And, homeschooling Asher for high school is a new experience altogether...bringing issues like tracking credits/transcripts, figuring out test prep and more intentional lesson planning (it's not a breeze to plan six different subjects, btw...I've been doing it all along, true, but it feels more important now that I have to record it for a transcript). Plus, we're starting to think about getting Asher ready for life after high school...especially since this is our last year with Noah and we're worrying about whether we've done enough to get him ready beyond the academics.

Speaking of which, Noah's busy with college applications and such. We've attended his first official "senior graduation" meeting...have ordered a cap & gown...and have filed our FAFSA. He did campus tours last spring but we visited the University of Wyoming again a week or so ago, for their Campus Pass event. He and I didn't learn anything new but it gave Nathan, Asher and Micah the opportunity to see the campus and learn a bit more.

(After the admissions presentation and campus and dorm tours and lunch and everything, we walked around Laramie a bit and found this fun mural.)

Noah's hoping to finish up and submit his college applications this week (just waiting on verification of a few things)...then it'll be on to scholarship applications and possible internships and registering for classes for his final semester of high school.

So. That's what I've been busy with here...just freaking out about my boys growing up. ;)

Friday
Oct062017

Homeschooling Update

I'm behind in keeping up here on my blog; I know. Sorry about that! I'll try to do better. :) As a start, I'm going to just chime in with how things are going in our homeschooling journey. We've finished the first six weeks of our year so far and are finishing up our first "off" week right now. 

I'm just going to copy the run-down I posted at the start of the year and then add in my current comments in italics...

* * * * * * * * * *

As has become custom, here's a description of our plan for the year (which can also be found under the Curriculum tabs over on the left for each boy)...

First off, though, in general...continuing to homeschool both Asher and Micah. At present, Asher wants to just continue homeschooling with me, so our plan is to do that for high school. Micah wants to do high school at CEC like Noah but needs to wait till he turns 14. In our homeschooling, we continue with our mostly six weeks on, one week off approach...so six sessions throughout the year with a bit of a summer break. On a daily level, we tend to do independent work in the mornings (things like math and language arts primarily) and group work in the afternoons.

This year, I'm really trying to simplify and focus on quality over quantity...going for depth.

Now. For the specific plan...

MATH
Geometry, Harold Jacobs

So. I've tried various combinations over the years...having each boy have a separate math program, having them do the same thing, having them to some together and some separate. This year, I've decided to have them do it together again. I'm also switching gears a bit. We've been doing pre-algebra and algebra for a few years now and probably need to reinforce that. But. Since math isn't a favorite for either of these two, I'm going with geometry this year and will return to algebra next year, in the hopes that we can establish a better attitude toward math in the meantime. ;) I've not used this particular textbook before but have read good reviews so am hopeful.

Geometry is going pretty well. I'm very happy with the textbook choice. I particularly appreciate the thoroughness and the algebra reviews at the end of each chapter. Some of it is a little too basic (boys annoyed at what seem like obvious questions/answers), but I feel like that's better at this point than assuming knowledge. (I also know that the boys get frustrated at times trying to decipher what the question is asking, but I think it's good practice in reading comprehension and such.)

We've been doing a lesson a day roughly (and I'm proud of myself that I've been making the boys actually do all of the homework...in the past, that's been an issue, as I've often caved and allowed them to do less and then found out that they weren't absorbing the material). The lessons get corrected together and used as learning opportunities. The chapter summaries, algebra reviews and chapter tests are graded and recorded.

LANGUAGE ARTS
Wordly Wise, books 7 & 9
Analytical Grammar, seasons 1-2 plus reinforcements & Jr Analytical Grammar & Mechanics
Writing & Rhetoric, books 6-8
- selected reading

We've not embraced language arts in the past so are probably still doing a bit of catching up (though we made some good progress last year which makes me happy). :) So, this year we're working on the basics. For vocabulary, we'll continue using Wordly Wise. We did this last year and it was good.

Boys aren't huge fans of this but continue to do it and do well. I feel like it has value so we'll keep with it.

For grammar, we're using Analytical Grammar. I was happy with this awhile back when I used it with Noah...I like the repetition and straight-forward-ness. It's not hugely fun but I felt it really did the job and covered what I wanted covered. Asher will be doing seasons 1 & 2 of the main curriculum, plus using the high school reinforcements book. Micah will use the junior set of curriculum.

Surprisingly, the boys are doing really well with this. (Surprising in that they're not complaining more...not surprising that they're doing well.) Micah had some definite grumblings to start but is coming around, and they both seem to actually appreciate that they're learning stuff.

For writing, I'm proud to say that we actually did some last year (a major accomplishment for us!). We finished out last year with the Writing & Rhetoric curriculum (starting from the beginning and using books 1-4 for some accelerated review). This year, we'll continue with that...using books 6-8. (Honestly, I feel like we probably still need more in this area but haven't settled on what just yet.)

Yeah, we mostly finished book 6 but are now changing gears. *I* still liked the Writing & Rhetoric but the boys aren't fans. I just ordered another curriculum, but it's not here yet and so I can't really say how it's going. Will update later...

And, for reading, we'll continue with required but self-selected reading. Boys each need to read at least 600 pages per six week session on their own time. Usually they end up reading much more than that, particularly since I offer an incentive of $10 per 1000 pages. :) I'll probably also assign some books to be read (that tie in to other subjects) throughout the year.

So glad my boys enjoy reading! It continues to go well. They're each required to read the 600 pages per session, and I've added in one assigned book each session as well. To start, I assigned Asher "Lord of the Flies" and Micah wanted to read "Elon Musk" (by Ashlee Vance). I'm excited about the future assigned readings, too. (And, I'm thinking I'll add in some form of required book report for the assigned readings also.)

SCIENCE
Science for High School, Biology
The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way, Joy Hakim
The Story of Science: Newton at the Center, Joy Hakim
The Story of Science: Einstein Adds a New Dimension, Joy Hakim
First Lego League team

Asher will be studying biology this year. The curriculum I found has an approach I particularly like and hope works well. He's assigned questions at the beginning of each lesson. He spends the week researching and finding the answers on his own (he can use the internet, textbooks, books I have around the house, etc) and typing them out. At the end of the week, he'll present his findings to me, I'll give him a quiz and we'll do the lab for that lesson. Cool. (And, for the record, I have a dead frog in my office currently awaiting dissection. Awesome.)

Dang happy with this one so far. Asher's been doing a fabulous job researching the weekly questions. We then go over those and I give him the quiz before we do the lab. Everything's pretty well laid out and easy to follow. Yay!!

Asher will also be doing an elective--History of Science. I'm assigning him to read about four chapters a week (using the three Story of Science books that we didn't get to last year since Science Olympiad took up more time than originally anticipated). He then needs to write up a summary for each chapter along with answering a couple questions for me (like what he found most interesting and what he'd be interested in knowing more about). I figure both of these will also help with writing. ;) I'll also have him do some sort of project (as yet undecided) at the completion of each book. 

Again, Asher's doing a great job with this and gets it done early each week (since he honestly doesn't mind the reading at all). We're almost at the end of the first book but I haven't quite decided what we'll be doing for the project yet.

Micah, meanwhile, won't be doing science with Asher this year...and our Science Olympiad team disbanded after their great successes (some started public school and they don't allow mixed teams). Micah, though, was invited to join a First Lego League team with friends. (We've looked into this before but couldn't ever convince any of the boys to actually participate. Noah was interested in the robotics aspect but not the team aspect. Asher and Micah weren't interested in the robotics aspect. Micah's desire to spend more time with his friends has over-ridden any lack of interest in robotics, lol. He'll figure out the robotics in no time, though.) He's been meeting with them on Tuesday mornings...which means that Asher and I have all day Monday and the first part of Tuesday for one-on-one work. Everything else, then, fits into Wednesday-Friday.

This is going really well, too! Micah's gone on a field trip with his team to the water reclamation facility here in town and they're busily working on their project and continuing with the robotics. (In addition to the robotics course and obstacles and such, each team needs to come up with a project offering a solution to a problem in the area of hydro-dynamics. They need to design a solution and do a presentation about it. Micah's currently working on their script.) I so appreciate that their coach is organized and sends out weekly emails with assignments and things to be thinking about.

WORLD GEOGRAPHY
Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall

Rather than history this year, our humanities/social studies course will be based on this book. We'll go through the ten chapters, discussing how geography affects politics and the world (and also learning our geography better). 

I find this more interesting than the boys do, but at least they're paying attention. ;) We've also been playing games to help learn which countries are where, and I'm trying to work in books or movies for the different areas we're covering.

PE
- Karate (twice a week throughout the year)
Karate demo team (1-2 practices/week plus roughly monthly performances) 
- Gymnastics (once a week, just Asher)  

We've got physical education covered. ;) 

Nothing much to report here. Karate continues to rock. But. The homeschool gymnastics class unfortunately will be ending at the end of October. They're having staffing issues and can't find someone to teach the boys at that time. (They have other offerings, not homeschool classes, but Asher's too old for those and the time doesn't work for us.) We still haven't figured out whether we'll do anything else to fill this spot or not. Our morning walks (about three times a week) have been helping and are lovely.

HEALTH
Our Whole Lives

Though they're not fans at all, the boys and I will be covering sex ed through this program. (We have a number of friends who use this, though we're using it as a homeschool curriculum since the local meeting times for this class don't work for our schedule.) We're using the program designed for 7th to 9th graders. (We've actually done the program for 4th to 6th graders in the past. I appreciate the organized approach to prompt needed discussion.)

The boys really don't enjoy this, lol, but they're listening and we're having the discussions, so that's good. 

OPTIONS (one day a week enrichment program)

This year, only Micah will be attending Options. (Asher's too old now, as the program only goes up to 8th grade.) Classes haven't started there yet, but he's pretty excited to see friends next week. 

Micah continues to love this opportunity to see his friends. About half of his classes are keeping him interested also, which is an added bonus. He's still a bit sad, though, at how many of his friends aren't there this year (having either aged out (like Asher) or switched to public school). 

And that, I think, pretty much covers our homeschool plan for the year. Whew.

So. That's how things are going with homeschooling stuff. Mostly really good... :) I'll be back soon with more updates. (Gonna go out to lunch with Asher first...I've been doing one-on-one lunches with each boy during this "off" week and it's his turn.) 

Monday
Sep182017

How it's going...

Four weeks into our school year and I figured I'd do a bit of a check in...so here are some thoughts in no particular order at all...

1. Micah's back at Options and settling in happily (though still missing having Asher there a bit). After the first day, he switched a couple of classes (from animation (which he's taken before and where the teacher said that students should switch if they'd taken it before since she wouldn't be covering much new) to world geography and from art (which he's also taken before) to brain games (math)). The switches were primarily motivated by being in classes with his friends, but I think it's all good. :) 

2. We've been incorporating some new games:

The boys aren't thrilled with this one, as I'm trying to make them learn things (in this case, where all the countries are), but *I* think it's dandy, lol.

The boys like this one better. It's an extension of the Oregon Trail game and has new ways to die. ;) So far, we haven't managed to live/win.

3. Asher, Micah and I have been trying to take morning walks more regularly (about three mornings a week so far). It's a nice way to break up schoolwork and get boys moving. Yay, us!

4. I've almost gotten to the point in this school year where I'm done looking for other things to add, lol. I try to remember this post.

5. I've bought things this year that I hadn't before...like things to dissect (wish me luck!), a 20 pack of protractors (20 cost only slightly more than a single one, so I figure it's better to have extra in case of loss), and a Peters projection map (which hurts my head but seemed good for perspective's sake). 

6. I'm back to giving grades this year. I tried it out back in 2012-13 and 2013-14 trying to prep Noah for going to school and motivate him to actually turn things in on time. After he went to off to CEC, we kinda dropped it, since the younger two didn't need that motivation. Honestly, they still don't. But. Asher's in high school now so I figure I should keep track of grades. It's going fine. :) We mostly focus on giving credit for effort and tests...emphasizing that the daily exercises and such are an opportunity to correct work and learn from mistakes.

Overall, things are going pretty darn well. We still have things we're working on, of course, but I'm happy with our homeschooling direction. :)