Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 was an amazing year!

Here are a few (OK, more than a few) of my favorite photos from 2014.  After such a busy, eventful year, it was difficult to choose, so please forgive the photographic overload! 

What an amazing year!  We traveled to beautiful places, learned fascinating things, and had a lot of fun along the way!

Thanks for sharing 2014 with us.  We wish you and yours a wonderful 2015!

More cell study...

I think I have mentioned this video before, but we watched it again today and it just amazes me every time!  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thinkwell Biology Review and Cell Activites

We are really enjoying our Thinkwell AP Biology course, but we are moving at a much slower pace than I had anticipated.  This is partially because we keep going down rabbit holes and discussing side topics and doing supplemental reading...and partially because there is just so much information to cover.  

It's December and we have just finally finished Unit One, so we will definitely be extending our subscription!

The lectures are great because the instructor takes big topics and breaks them down into manageable pieces (about 10 or 15 minutes instead of a typical hour-long college lecture.)  We never watch more than one video a day because we like to discuss the video, go over the course notes, and delve into supplemental information.  

My only criticism is that the video quizzes are useless; they are too short, not at all thorough, and awkwardly worded.  We never do them anymore--I make the tests using the excellent notes that come with the course (above.)

I made a vocabulary matching game to help the kids review for the unit test.  I also had them put some terms in order from least to most complex.

After testing, I thought it would be nice to take a short break from our usual routine.  The kids are always enthusiastic about microscope work! We don't have the greatest microscope in the world so I often print photos of what we're looking at as well.  Today we looked at Spirogyra, Dinoflagellates, and Chlamydomonas, and read a little about each. 

Then we prepared onion slides because, well, it's easy.  And fun!

Onions work well in microscope slides because it's easy to peel off a very thin layer.  We dyed them with regular food coloring.

Note to self: remove the extra onion pieces immediately so you don't cry while trying to use the microscope! 

"Oh WOW!  I can see a nucleus!"

We've never been able to make this work well, but just for the heck of it we looked at cork cells.  They always look clumpy, not at all like Robert Hooke's drawings, and I would imagine that our microscope is more powerful than what he used in 1665! 

That's OK, we still had fun messing around with the microscope.  And the kids did a fantastic job on their biology unit tests!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Solstice Celebration

The kids always enjoy lighting the candle-powered Christmas pyramid.

Each family member shared a Solstice story aloud.

We ended our meal with a "mushroom-covered" chocolate Bûche de Noël!

One little beeswax candle can create so much light!

The longest night of the year...

...and the first sunrise of the lengthening days!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Video Explaining DNA

Here's a good basic explanation of DNA.  We have found these Stated Clearly videos helpful as a supplement to our Thinkwell Biology course. Super did not approve of the dinosaur's choice of snack, however. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lazy Blog Post

We went places and did stuff!

Mesa Verde is one of our favorite places on the planet.

I love all things Southwest.

If you've never seen Newspaper Rock, it's worth the trip.

This was our first time to actually go into Monument Valley and do the park drive.

It's amazing how life can find ways to thrive in the desert.

It was a very quick trip--just a long weekend--but I'm thankful that there is so much beauty near us.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Middle/High School Room

When we decided to take our kids out of public school, we knew we would need a dedicated space for them to work.  Otherwise, as my husband said, "School stuff will take over the whole house!"


Six years later, we have a dedicated school room AND school stuff has taken over our whole house!  

Kids arrange the daily schedule

Still, it's nice to have a semi-organized work area.  It helps the kids stay focused and it does cut down on SOME of the clutter in the rest of our home.

Our basement is the official headquarters of the Super-Awesome School of Super-Awesomeness.  Meditation, discussions, read-alouds, and independent reading happen here:

Note the BOSU bouncer, an excellent helper for kids who need to MOVE while they think.  It's also helpful for my early-finisher: he can be active-but-quiet while his methodical (and much neater) sister completes her work!

Most of the book work and writing happens here:

Again, here is a solution to keep squirmy legs and feet busy so the mind can focus:

The stuff we use frequently is stored here.  Mom's shelf is on top, students' shelf is below.

Oh, darn!  Looks like I forgot to take a picture of my desk!

That's too bad because it's in absolutely (cough cough) PRISTINE condition going into the 2014-15 school year.   Wish you could see how neat and perfectly organized it is...oh, well, you'll just have to take my word for it! 

Linked to iHomeschool Network's NBTS Blog Hop:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sticking to a daily schedule

Schedule, routine, time map...whatever you want to call them, I'm just no good at sticking to them!

Sometimes life gets in the way.  We have every intention to do what we call "book work," but then an opportunity to go somewhere or do something interesting comes up.  

Field trip to butterfly nursery!

Of course, that's one of the great advantages of homeschooling--schedule flexibility.

Sometimes a kid gets fascinated with something and we end up going down a bunch of rabbit trails that weren't part of the plan.  (Our never-ending unit study of WWII led us down lots of unexpected paths and that's why we've never been able to call it finished once and for all!)  

Nature study

Again, this is a great advantage of homeschooling.

But sometimes we get off schedule because we just can't seem to stick to one for more than a week or maybe two at the most.  

I'm an obsessive planner.  I love plans.  

Plans make me feel secure, but carved-in-stone plans make me feel claustrophobic. 

I love learning along with my kids and I love checking things off the plans I've worked so hard to prepare...but I'm simply not capable of doing the same subjects in the same order every day!

Peach cobbler and family read-aloud

For that reason, I just keep a subject list and we pick and choose from it, cafeteria style.  Here is our typical planned-but-not-carved-in-stone routine.

The ONLY things that never change:

Our "cafeteria-style" subject choices

 Stuff we do about four days a week, in whatever order 
the kids prefer: 


Daily(ish) proofreading sentence

Rotating subjects that we typically do daily for a week or so at a time:

Current Events

Super's latest masterpiece!

Other stuff we work around:
Music lessons and practice
Occasional tutoring
Our homeschool group's activities
Letting dogs in, letting dogs out, letting dogs in...

I'm NEVER a distraction during school! 

I don't write dates on my plans anymore.  I used to make files with math worksheets, graphic organizers, etc. for each school day, collated, stapled, and complete with a dated sticky note.  

Then, when we inevitably got off track, I would feel stressed that we were running behind.

Now I just use a couple of crate hanging files for whatever printed material we are using.  They are ready to go when we need them but there is no such thing as "behind" because we are getting it done at our own pace.

My ultra-complex filing system

I do make monthly goals.  By the end of August I'd like the kids to finish up their Hands-On Equations kit.  By the end of September it would be nice to have a couple of books crossed off the reading list.  And by December I'd love to see major improvement in a certain kid's handwriting...

And I have made a four-year-plan for Super now that she's at the high school level.  I want to make sure she meets our state's graduation requirements, is prepared for college, and has a good transcript for her college applications, so I think it's important to at least have a list of goals. 

Summer wildflowers

But if we spend a couple of weeks doing a big block of science and then do history for a week and then focus on grammar for a bit and then get really into a book and just read for three or four days...that's just fine.  We can go in the general direction of the plan even while straying from the details (and I can absolutely guarantee that we will stray from the details!) 

Under-desk solution for squirmy feet!

Scheduling, yes, but on our own terms.  Another great advantage of homeschooling.