"home schooling"

Bring on the Comic Books!

Some people "poo-poo" comic books for their children. I don't--chosen appropriately by the parents, I think they are a wonderful motivational and--dare I say it?--educational tool.

This epiphany came the first time I purchased a comic book for my boys to read. It was Sonic the Hedgehog. My two oldest, who usually did nothing but bicker with each other, sat quietly in a chair and read the whole thing. Together. And again. And did I say "quietly?"

As they got older, they discovered Jason's and my "Calvin and Hobbes" books. We only had a few at the time, but they devoured them--to the point that I need to have one of them rebound. Despite the fact that most of the humour is over the head of an actual six-year-old, I loved that they loved them. I mean, C'mon! Calvin sometimes uses words that I have to look up! Eventually, we got the entire collection (which we doled out on special occasions and birthdays for at least a year).

The obsession with Garfield is one that Jason and I have been less fond of--we haven't purchased any, but they borrow them from the library. Jason and I both find Garfield to be kind of a negative jerk. Oh, well. None of the characters wear spandex, or have unrealistically-proportioned body parts, or is shown mostly naked, or--oh, wait. Yes they do. But in a funny way, not the give-you-nightmares-or-make-you-horny way. Could be worse.

Sonic comics have continued to be motivational to my children. After reading 10 books aloud to me (or 5 chapter books with book reports as they get older), they get a Sonic comic. It's a reward that is easy on the pocket book, and we thus reward reading with... Surprise! More reading!! What surprises me is that they haven't just figured out that they can buy the comics themselves with their "spend" money... but I'm glad!

The latest comic obsession has had a result that I didn't expect. My kids are devouring the "Bone" books by Jeff Smith as quickly as we can buy them or borrow them from the library. So far, we own the first four.

Apparently, one of the characters likes quiche. So there's vocabulary and culinary expansion right there--after I corrected their pronunciation, and explained what it is, they said, "That sounds good!" I said, "It is! I've made it, but it's been a while. I'll make it again soon." "Okay!" Yay! for getting them to want to try new things! :-)

Apparently also, one of the characters is obsessed with the book "Moby Dick." So, after a search through our Penguin Classics came up null, and then finding it among the books on our Aurora eReader, guess what Jude started reading last night?

He's already on chapter six, or something.

"The way they write the English takes a little getting used to," was his comment to me this afternoon.

After all my years trying to get my children interested in reading the classics--and trust me, I own and have available nearly every age-appropriate classic I can find, and have tried repeatedly to get them interested in them via reading aloud to them--who knew that a comic book would be the trigger that got them started on it?

So, yep, I like comic books. No one can tell me they aren't educational!!

The Wonder of Wire

Last week for History we were studying ancient Greek art and architecture. As a project to go along with it, I had the boys make a wire-frame sculpture. They did a pretty awesome job, I have to say.

Jabin's ("He looks like Junior Asparagus," I commented.):

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Jude's (He ended up having to add a support and a wire for the sword. It kept "wilting."):


Noah's (like an egghead ninja!):



Continental Birth Order

Yesterday, first day "back to school."

I kicked off our year-long history subject of ancient Greece and Rome with a "getting-our-bearings" activity of the seven continents and where we live. The little booklet of continents I printed off from Enchanted Learning happened to show North America last.

Noah: "I think God made North America last."

Me: "Really? Why?"

Noah: "Because it's last in the book."


Something New Every Day

Last Saturday afternoon was our local Home School Education Fair. It is a chance for the home educated children in the area to get together and show some of the work they have been doing this year. Last year, Jude's project (the bat house... which I am now discovering I never managed to blog about? Was I busy, or something? Photo here.) was not finished in time. This year, the teacher planned a little better (ahem), so both Jude and Noah had a presentation all ready to go.

The assignment for Jude was an ocean animal report, and he had to do it in a tri-fold board format. He did awesome, doing research on the internet and in books, typing up the information, painting the board, colouring and cutting out letters that we printed from the computer for a title, matting all the sections, and being self-motivated to do it all.

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Things I learned from Jude's report:
  • Orca society is matriarchal.
  • Orcas and wolves have a lot in common; for example, they hunt in groups and will eat anything.
  • Orcas can live almost as long as humans.
Noah's assignment was an ocean animal report, but I gave him a sheet to fill out with just some basic facts while he did his research. Obviously, I had to work a lot more "hands-on" with him. He painted a "modern-art" picture of sea lions (a sea of blue with a tiny blob of brown in the upper-right corner), picked his favourite sea lion photos to print, and even did a story about sea lions for his writing sample for our teacher-facilitator, which I photocopied and he included in the presentation.

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Things I learned from Noah's report:
  • Sea lions get eaten by orcas
  • Noah can be pretty creative when he wants to be
(I thought I had a photo of the actual Sea Lion report, but I don't know what happened to it... Sorry. Maybe I'll add one later.)

I am very proud of how both the boys did. Jude also did a great job of public speaking, and he had all the pressure of being first to present! Great job, guys!

    Straight Talk

    A while ago, I came across this wonderful blog post by another homeschooling mom, Kris. The article was so funny, and so true, I wanted to share it with all of you. Here is a snip, and please do go read the whole article on Kris' blog, Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers:

    The Public School Parents' Guide to Homeschool Parents

    We all know that there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschoolers, and, while most of those tend to be centered around the kids, there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschool moms (and dads), as well.  I'm often surprised to hear some of the things that people who don't homeschool think about homeschoolers.  I guess I shouldn't be.  I used to be a public school mom (for two years) and I imagine that I thought some of these things, too, though it's been so long, I really can't recall for sure...

    A typical reaction that I get when I tell people that I homeschool my three boys (or two and a half, since Jabin goes to kindergarten 2 days a week right now) is a look of awe, as though I just became somehow superhuman. Or maybe it's not awe, but fear--the kind of fear you feel when you realize you are sitting next to a psychopath! Like, "Where's the white jacket?! This woman must be off the deep end!"

    However, I take it for a kind of awe, because it is usually followed up by the comment, "I could never homeschool. I don't have the patience." Those that reflect on it a little more deeply sometimes get this overwhelmed look on their faces as they contemplate what homeschooling their particular offspring would entail in greater detail--a look that often reflects the way I feel. (Well, maybe not so much now, but I felt it often when I started out.) Maybe that's why I love Kris' first point so much:

    1.  We do not have superhuman patience.  I can't tell you the number of people who say to me, "I couldn't homeschool; I don't have enough patience" or some variation thereof.  Let me tell you, my name and patience rarely occur in the same sentence unless someone is saying, "Kris has no patience."

    I have told people, "I know that homeschooling isn't for everyone and I'm not suggesting that you should homeschool, but if you're going to give me an excuse, you'll have to come up with a better one than that because if I have enough patience to homeschool, anybody does!"

    When we first began homeschooling, I told the neighbors, "If you come home from work one afternoon and there is yellow police tape around the house, you'll know that one of us [the kids or I] ran out of patience."  So far, we've all survived, but seriously?  I've done homework with my oldest when she was in public school.  So far, my worst day of homeschooling hasn't been any worse than my worst night of homework.

    It's not meant to convince anyone to homeschool, just to give a little more insight into those of us who do.

    Enjoy the article!

    On Preparing the Soil...

    Just a few of the things I have been thinking about this week:
    • Where will I get lumber to build my raised garden beds?
    • How can I get as many garden-making supplies as possible for free?
    • Where on our property should I make the beds?
    • How am I going to get them watered once my garden is established?
    • Which home school board should I register with this year?
    • What changes do I need to make to my home schooling approach this year?
    • Can I get my registration in to the Home School Conference in time? (Thankfully, the answer to that was yes, I found out tonight!)
    I am hoping to get my gardening stuff done by the end of this weekend, for two reasons:

    1. Soon, the deadline for planting in our all-too-short growing season will have passed, and I will not be able to harvest anything before fall frost.
    2. The mosquitoes the size of dragons have started to awake from their winter slumber, and dragon-fighting whilst building garden beds does not seem to be such a good mix to me. Besides, my shield and spear are still packed in the Sea Can.

    I am slowly remembering how to blog without using photos. It's hard, but I think I can do it!

    One last thought: today, I read an article that told me that white tea helps you burn fat, similar to green tea (only better!) Yay! I love reasons to drink tea. I can't stand the taste of green tea, but white tea I can handle. Will it make me skinnier? I dunno. But I can say it will, right? :-)

    Would you like to come over for a cuppa?

    Here's The Deal, Sparky...

    We listed our house in the second week of July, asking kind of a middle-to-high-road price for our house size and location. Then we waited. And waited. Jason started to get a little worried that the house wouldn't sell, and I said, "Don't worry about it. If it's meant to happen, it will."

    By August, we still had not had any showings, so we dropped our price significantly. We were hoping to sell by the end of the month, so that we could be moving no later than mid-September. "The market's been flooded," we were told, and with 108 properties on the market, we wondered if we even had a chance.

    We waited for about another week, and then it suddenly seemed as if Peace River had, collectively, decided it was time to shop for houses. For the next two weeks, we had showings every day or two, sometimes more than one a day, but no offers. I was too tired from all the cleaning to be worried, but Jason was getting increasingly doubtful.

    Finally, we had an Open House, after which we were told that one couple was interested enough to go through the house twice. That was on a Thursday. But by Sunday, there were still no offers.

    That was when I began to doubt. See, we had always put our plan to move to Arkansas in the Lord's hands, and He seemed to be opening the doors. But if this door didn't open, we couldn't go. Not only that, even if we weren't moving to Arkansas, we needed to sell our house anyway, because another winter in this huge beast would bury us, especially considering I had already given up all of my students. So if we didn't sell the house, and ended up staying here, Jason was talking about taking a second job by the end of September.

    The next day, we had a noon showing. The same couple looked at it again around supper time. Then they gave us an offer before bedtime.

    The day after, they accepted our counter-offer, and we had another showing that gave us a back-up offer. The following day, that couple accepted our counter-offer.

    So. We now have two accepted offers on our house. Both are for the same amount of money, for only $5000 less than our current asking price. Both for the same possession date. The financing condition on the first offer has been cleared, and their house inspection is on Monday, which is the only other condition, so I guess we'll know about that one pretty soon.

    With the offers in hand, and a moving date on the horizon, with a 4-day weekend for Jason coming up, we took the time to go for one Final Hurrah to visit family and friends around Sylvan Lake and Red Deer on Labour Day weekend. While we weren't able to catch up with everyone (I mean, c'mon, like our friends are going to avoid making plans just in case any of their friends call them at the very last second to get together? Right.) we did get together with our old friends Chad and Renée M., and Candace V. (I got to see baby Zoe for the first time!), as well as my brother and Dad, my grandparents and Uncle Darrell and Auntie Joy, and Jason's entire family. It was a busy weekend, and it feels like all we did was go from this place to eat, to that place to eat, and then we did... guess what? More eating. By Monday, on the way home, we were stuffed, and felt kind of icky from a rather high percentage of our diet being fast or processed food for the weekend.

    It was worth it, though. But I'm glad the feasting didn't last any longer. Tuesday, I made a wonderful vegetable broth soup to start getting our bodies back on track. Within a few days, we felt pretty good again.

    Despite the fact that I am now packing, and changing addresses, and taking care of a million little last-minute things that need to be done when moving, especially a move of this magnitude, I also started school with the boys on Tuesday. We are only doing half-days right now, as I really don't have the time to do a full day of school with everything else on the to-do list. However, we are still managing to work on the three R's every day, as well as some other "fun" stuff incorporating science, art, social studies, etc. We are doing a unit study on the character trait of Attentiveness, and our current topic is the five senses, starting with hearing. On Thursday, we "made" an ear, using blankets for the ear canal, a jar of water for the vestibule, with socks wound up or attached to the jar for the cochlea and semi-circular canals. The kids got to climb through the ear, telling me where they were in it and what each part did, banging on a metal lid with a maraca for the hammer and anvil, and basically "being" sound all the way from the ear flap to the nerve (skipping rope) that went to the brain. This is only one example of the cool ways this curriculum incorporates learning and makes it "real" to the kids. So fun!

    So, as I sit here typing, we are about two weeks away from our moving date. I have several boxes packed and stacked around the house, but plenty more to go. Chances are, my blogging rate is going to go down now that school has started again (as evidence is already suggesting), and then during the move I will be taking a hiatus. However, for now, I'll try to keep capturing memories with words as much as I have time for.

    Thank you to all of you who have been praying for us during this time of transition, and who continue to do so. Your prayers are felt and appreciated.

    The serious and the silly.

    The boys and I got to ride in my Uncle Darrell's milk truck around the block--a first for them, and something I hadn't done since I was a girl.

    I asked Uncle Darrell if they drink the milk from the truck or buy it from the store.

    "We buy it from the store to avoid the 'appearance of impropriety,'" he said.

    "Too bad. The stuff in the truck is probably way better for you," I replied.

    "Oh, I know it is," he affirmed.

    My boys and Candace's two oldest girls checking out the chickens. Noah got the biggest kick out of chasing them around the yard. Candace is raising several exotic breeds, as you can see.

    The happy Winters family.

    All of the traveling left Jabin a little sleepy the day after we got home!

    No School Like the Home School

    Sigh. I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that now that I am home schooling, blogging is going to be relegated (is that a real word?) to a weekend activity. However, I've been meaning to post these photos of our new "classroom" for a week, now. The baseboard is still not on, but other than that, it looks great! And I love having everything in one room--learning tools, craft and art supplies, and desks! The kids love it, too. They often go in there as soon as they wake up and start doing puzzles and colouring. So cool.

    View from the door. The desks were about a $10-each purchase at a garage sale this summer. The globe was a gift from my grandmother--it has the USSR on it, but it'll work for now.

    To the left of the the door. The chalkboard was a gift from my friend Vicki.

    The right side of the room. The "computer" is actually a glorified calculator--the mouse doesn't work worth beans, really, but it's got some great learning games on it for kids. The dresser on the left is full of art supplies, colouring books, puzzles, and games (and now sports nifty little labels on the drawers.) The dresser on the right has the majority of Jabin's clothes in it.

    This is still where the boys' clothes are stored. (They now all sleep in what used to be Jabin's room, but this was Jude's and Noah's room before.) I went and got the nifty modular Extendit closet organizer system from Canadian Tire, and just look how much is crammed so neatly into this closet, now! My melancholic soul thrilled at the frenzy of organization. It's still organized, too, amazingly enough!

    I said I would explain why Jude is now home schooling, so here goes. One of the main reasons we decided to put him into school this year, instead of home schooling him from the get-go, was to help him learn to focus in a large group setting, and to help him to gain confidence in new situations, meeting new friends, etc. Unfortunately, when we had his parent/teacher interview a week before we left on holidays, we found out from his teacher that he was still not adjusting well to kindergarten--he would often be teary at school (I imagine in frustration), did not participate well in group activities like singing, etc., and was always trying to figure out what would be "next." He is the type of kid that likes to be feel like he knows what's going on, so being ushered from one activity to the next at school was disconcerting for him. Besides this, he had been telling us almost daily since about two weeks in that he didn't like school, and didn't want to go.

    After the interview, we finally got him to tell us that it was partly because he didn't feel like he had any friends in his class, and no one would play with him at recess. We encouraged him to ask a couple of other little boys that he was acquainted with and liked to play with him, which he finally did. It seemed to help, but there were still the other issues to deal with.

    Jude is young for kindergarten, having just turned 5 in November. The sudden switch to early mornings and a schedule 5 days a week was a little much for him, I think. We decided to home school him for the remainder of this year (something his teacher agreed was a good idea), and re-assess where we are at come summer. I may just continue to home school him into grade one from there, as I was planning to do until about grade 3 with each of our kids, anyway, or we may have him repeat kindergarten this fall. Time, and his maturity level, will tell.

    Jude was drawing a "water park" here. On the side is a picture of a plate of pancakes, a glass of chocolate milk, and a kid and a dad. He gave the completed picture to Josiah and Micah Steinke, who visited us later that day.

    Noah and Jabin work on their shapes (without knowing it.) Noah is actually quite good at shapes, so he was helping Jabin find the right holes for all the blocks.

    For now, I have been loving the home schooling--it is actually easier, in some ways, because instead of going crazy all morning with little boys fighting with each other out of sheer boredom, or driving me to distraction with questions of "What can we do?!", the whole morning is planned out. The afternoon is when I get my own stuff done, and they get a little more free time to play. And now that I am getting the hang of it, the lesson planning is getting shorter every night. It's been fun to bend my creative brain around fun ways to impart the information we need to cover.

    Plus, Jude is still technically enrolled at his school, so we are going to participate in field trips and special class days. Tomorrow morning we are going on a field trip to the hospital.

    Other than the zoo of getting all the kids out the door early again, I'm actually looking forward to it!