Thursday, September 18, 2014

We Are Unschoolers, Finally!! Part 2

Unschooling, child led learning, is on the chalkboard today, folks. As I stated in yesterday's post, we are embracing a more unschooled approach to learning in our home this year. Yesterday I covered what unschooling can be defined as, and I shared what my daughter is learning this year based on her choices. In 'Core' subjects. So today I'll get to the real fun stuff, non-core subjects, and how I keep track of what she does just for my own peace of mind and to figure out how to do a transcript if needed. :)
Here's our non-core unschooling:
Art: I'm an artist, therefore I have a big studio full of art supplies. The world is basically her oyster unless she wants to get into glassblowing or metal works and then sorry sister, you're out of luck. #wink We sat down and with Pinterest as our ideas guide she made a list of her interests: Yarning (bombing, crochet), weaving loom, nature weaving, Sketching: cities, buildings, perspective, point line drawings, Pottery (make pottery wheel), Screen printing, Encaustic wax painting, Jewelry, soldering, Paper mache', Embroidery: constellations, feathers, people, eyes, Dolls, Scarfs. Out of anything, Felting, Fabric rugs, Wood art, Street art. So far we've worked on a few and done some new things. She's practiced perspective drawing, pointillism drawing/painting, watercolor, splatter painting (think Pollac and the corner of my kitchen is covered ceiling to baseboard in trash bags because this is her splatter zone.) She veered off plan and worked on a Loki costume for Halloween out of duct tape, made a corset out of cardboard, duct tape and metal for the 'bones'. She has begun covering shipping boxes in white paper to start decorating them as a city. What we don't know how to do, we google, youtube or Pinterest it. The internet has everything, seriously.
Music: She wanted to continue with the classes we did last year since she likes the instruments and has friends there, so she's in advanced guitar, advanced band and marching band. She also has made a list of songs she wants to learn on her guitar (Queen songs, hymns, Hobbit chant, Frozen songs, etc). She uses the PS3 2014 Rocksmith game which teaches you step by step how to play guitar. She has made a list of songs to learn on the piano and I've schedule her to meet with a friend to brush up on notes and chords. (Hello Dolly, Star Wars theme, Frozen songs, Led Zeppelin, Hymns).
Foreign Language: she's continuing with the class she took last year and doing Spanish 2. She wanted to be with her friends there too. It's now held twice a week in our small living room, 10 students and teacher.
PE: This is where we get a bit interesting. She asked if she could learn to 'swashbuckling pirate sword fight'. I figured this was like fencing, so she is now in a class twice a week for about 1 1/2 hrs each day. Hard work, great instruction. She is also taking archery instruction for 2 hrs each week. Sometimes we ride bikes or walk and she learns new exercises on Wii Fit Plus. Occasionally she'll take a yoga class with grandma.
Bible: We attend church weekly for 2 1/2 hrs, she also attends a small group and another class for 2 1/2 hrs a week. We are learning weekly bible verses, she's reading a bible chapter a day (according to what Sonlight History has her reading) and we're working our way through the Catechism although I'm counting that under History for now. She also has a devotional she gets to couple times a week.
Life Skills: A very important lesson to learn. How to care for a house, a car, a bank account. Things we will get to eventually. For now, she requested to learn about international cooking and baking so she sat and schedule what cuisine we'll learn about each month. This month is Indian food but we've been so busy we haven't done much with it. I'll work on that.
*** Her interests are varied and heady but I think we can fit them all in.
I used to keep detailed daily and monthly records but this year we're in a calendar. It works for me. This is what it looks like and how. I tally hours:
It does seem like a lot if you look at our whole list of things to accomplish but she is enjoying herself, and she picked 98% of it. I'm not running myself ragged hollering at her to get her work done, or study for that test, etc. We're enjoying each other much more. She has the option to put something aside if it's not what she wants to do at this time and I just try to keep up and make sure the car is filled with gas. Ahhh, unschooling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We Are Unschoolers, Finally!

Well, this year we took a further giant step, towards unschooling. This textbook oriented mama is nervous and there are some decidedly anti-unschooling things we're doing (mostly for my benefit) but it was most all child-led decisions. I'm excited and terrified these decisions will result in my child living with me forever! Lol

Dd, my last child at home, has entered a 10th grade of learning. We've had a few long discussions about what she wants to be/do and how she is going to get there. Granted, those decisions change often; the culinary school in England idea had been put on the back burner. And I was so looking forward to moving to England with her! Ha She is wanting to go to art school. But because of some classes she's involved in at church, her heart is also leading her towards working with children; being either an art teacher or a children's pastor. Neither occupation I'd wish on anyone. So trying, so committed, so fraught with hardships and politics sometimes. But God knows right where he wants to use her for his glory and we just need to pray and facilitate.

For those who are thinking about unschooling, let me put a few myths to rest. Unschooling doesn't mean letting your child run nilly willy through the forest, naked and dirty. Unless that is what you're okay with! It doesn't mean they spend every waking hour in front of a computer or tv, vegged out on Judge Judy and My Little Pony reruns. For each family it will look different but for the most part, unschooling means the opposite of real school. At least to me, hence the 'un' attached.

Wikipedia defines it as, 'An educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses make occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling and maximizing the education of each unique child.'

I was afraid of the unschool 'label' until I read this definition and a whole pile of unschooling books (I'll make a list of my favorites to share.) This is so us! She is doing things she wants, she's also taking classes she wants and we're doing some things together as well. This year has been much more relaxed. Okay, for this hermit mama who likes to stay home, it's been a bit of an adjustment since a lot of her interests take us out of the house. But I'm dealing. ;)

This is what unschooling looks like for us. And I'll tell you some about each thing and I'll group them according to traditional subjects:

Language: Dd is writing a book. Hoping to edit in spring and see about publishing. She is also working her way through a few Analogies logic books which I requested because it will help her on the PSAT/ACT/SAT, whichever she decides to take. She gathers new words from 'Word of the Day' app, Webster dictionary and what she's reading at the time. She tries to use the new words in her writing. She researches new things like analogies, metaphors, gerunds and uses in her writing. We play scrabble.

Reading: She is rereading the Lightning Thief series (there's 2 sets), is currently elbow deep in Les Miserables' and on the pile of 'to read' are Robinson Crusoe, The Outlaws of Sherwood, Jane Eyre, The Pickwick Papers and Count of Monte Cristo to name a few. I'm sure The Hobbit will reappear in December to get her ready for the final installment movie. 'No Fear' Shakespeare books are also favs.

Math: Here is her only requirement from me. I asked her to study to take the PSAT/ACT/SAT sometime this year. Just in case she does want to go to college sometime, she needs a testing score to shut the colleges up. She agreed and studies a few times weekly on Kahn Academy and in an SAT book. If she ever wants more formal study, I've already purchased and have waiting the Saxon Advance Math set.

Science: Her only want for science was to 'blow things up'. I told her that's Chemistry and before we use our kit to blow things up we might want to go through the book to make sure we don't blow US up. So 3x a week we read through the Apologia Chemistry book, discussing what we read and doing any problems out loud. If she can answer all my questions, we call it good. I don't test. We're enjoying that. So far she's too lazy to get the chemistry kit out and figure it out so this might be all we do. I may arrange a tour of some Chemistry lab in the area or visit a Chem lecture/lab class at a local college one day. She talks sometimes about going to school to do pyrotechnics which I told her is engineering and she will need to brush up on Science and Math. It's in the back of her mind, back burner dream for right now. We also got chicks this year, yes we finally did. So chicken learning and care is high on our science priority list. Pretty soon getting them and the coop ready for winter will be our next task.

Social Studies/History: This subject is a mixed bag and we're still formulating. I count most any volunteer work for the community under social studies. She volunteers at the Ronald McDonald house twice a month for 4 hours each time with her grandma, cooking, baking, organizing, helping in the office, gardening. She also volunteers in the children's department at church twice a month 1 1/2 hrs each time, teaching the lessons. She does volunteer at the Harvesters garden (they provide food for those who have little) downtown twice a a month with grandma and they learn what's what from a Master Gardener, so that drops under Science in my opinion. We also started Sonlight's 'History of the Christian Church' curriculum which covers all of history really. She loves history so she agreed to this. The biblical portion had 4-5 books she was having to read out of each day and it got overwhelming so we're only doing a couple at a time right now. We're reading through Westminster Shorter Catechism 3x a week, really defining what we believe. She's also reading More Than A Carpenter right now. She requested to study up on Ancient Greece and Rome so we got a few books from the library but Great Courses also has a college lecture series called 'Classical Archeology of Ancient Greece and Rome' which she is watching. She loves it. In fact she draws or drags out her playmobil while she listens.

*** As you can see, this is specifically tailored to my un-high schooler. It will look different for everyone. My post is getting mucho long so I'll share our 'non-core' subjects in the next post. Unschoolers unite!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Grounded Chores List

I haven't been posting much on this homeschool blog. We've been going about the business of homeschooling and not coming up for air often. But today we spent the whole day at the library, doing science and Spanish, math and finding new books. Sometimes it's nice to break from the norm. We're entering the home stretch for this 9th grader. Almost done. As the weeks go by, different subjects are finished. One more week of science and then 4 more of math only. I kind of like it when they stagger to a finish.

I've been a pinning fool on Pinterest lately. You can find me there under 'contessa kris'. The other day. I saw someone had posted a short list of chores for when a child is grounded. I thought, how wonderful! No more arguing about exactly when the child is ungrounded. She has to earn her things (music, tv, etc...) back! I took the info I found and expounded on it, adding the definition of grounding, several more ways to earn points and a penalty for complaining. It's not often we have grounding around here until the attitude gets in the way. This will come in handy then!





Thursday, May 1, 2014

Building a High School American History Course

I mentioned in January I was worried we were not getting enough American history in. Sure, we had been reading the living books that went with the American History curriculum from Sonlight, but that was it. I wanted more for my daughter. So after I wrote the blog post I sat down to figure out what I could do without having to order a new curriculum or back track through Sonlight. Here's what I came up with:

1 - For 12 weeks she watched one episode a week of America, The Story of Us, a history Channel production.

3 - She also had to write a 2 page report on what she learned in the video. Nothing dry, but interesting stuff she'd want to share with a friend. The library had a detailed America, The Story of Us book that corresponded with each episode as well. I ordered that and she used it while writing.

4 - Dear America books correspond nicely with an America study and we had maybe 25 books that have been sitting around. I put them in order chronologically and she read one each week based on what the episodes were about.

5 - I also typed up vocabulary lists based on the videos and episode paperwork, that she practiced on Quizlet. You can find my lists here.

6 - Additonally when she had time, she watched the Dear America videos on Netflix. It doesn't have all of them but it has maybe 10.


7 - And finally, to throw in a bit of US geography, she watched How The States Got Their Shapes each week. This show is great!

She learned so much with this approach. I don't know if it would be a full 1 year of credit for a high schooler on it's own but you could add more books on famous Americans, research on American inventions, explorers and maybe additional reports or field trips. We had read a lot of the Sonlight books in the fall so this rounded out to a full high school, credit and an enjoyable one at that!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Race To The Finish Line

I can't believe I haven't blogged on this since October 2012! What have I been doing? Oh yeah, surviving, learning, teaching, being, growing, backsliding, experimenting. Yeah, surviving. DD Phee is half way through 9th grade. Her interests and talents are emerging. This means once again I question all that we're learning or trying to shove in her brain that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Each day I question the validity of impending college requirements and if we should even 'require' or push her in that direction. Each day I think God is saying 'slow down, one day at a time'. I'm not good with one day at a time.

Last night I was having some pains. I googled them to make sure I wasn't having a heart attack. I wasn't of course but it sure felt like it. Most likely gas, right?! lol But while trying to go to sleep, I was planning in my head what needed to happen if I did have a heart attack. I'd need to make sure someone grabbed my bra and socks. I tried to remember the meds or vitamins I take regularly so I could tell the nurse. It's not that I'm a paranoid. I'm just a 'here's a problem, what needs to be done about it in sometimes great detail' planner. Okay, this sounds funny typing this since I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person as well. Is that possible? This is probably why I overthink Phee's schooling or lack there of and worry about her schooling future. I'm conflicted.

On the one hand I'm thinking, it's already January and we haven't gotten anywhere in American History this year! I need to throw together a curriculum plan to finish it up in 14 weeks! Race to the finish of 9th grade! On the other hippy mama hand I counter with 'what does she even need American history for? She loves art and music and writing. She's learning guitar, piano and drums. She's writing a book about Doctor Who as a kid. She loves words, looks up definitions and plays word games all the time. She's teaching herself how to write music. Last night she was in the art studio inventing and spray painting and drawing. Why muck all that ambition up with learning by rote?'

I read this interesting article by Matt Walsh today that someone posted on Facebook. He talks about not being college material. I so agree with this line of thinking! Not that my 2nd child has struggles with schooling. It's more an application problem with her, attention to drudgery; unlike my older daughter who worked extremely hard but felt like she would never get anywhere. I understand there are kids whose choice of career warrants a college education and beyond: lawyer, doctor, microbiologist, engineer, architect. But what about the musicians, the writers, the artists, the inventors, the chefs? Can't these skills be just as easily learned and earned through books and classes (but not necessarily a degree), experimentation and apprenticeship? What harm are we causing in placing an expectation of 'you have to get a degree or you'll never amount to anything?' This thinking will not work for everyone, in fact it might backfire on us. Quashing creativity has only gotten us more drones in the workforce. Those who go against the grain are the inventors, the dreamers, the impossibles. I'm using a computer, a phone and an Ipad invented by the company started by a man who never finished college, Steve Jobs. This is not to say I don't have high hopes and goals for my child. Slacking will not get you anywhere, unless your goal is McDonald's fry cook. And even then slacking can get you burnt or fired. But creativity is monumentally important. Have you listened to this TED talk by Ken Robinson? It's a must!

I think my goal as a parent is to equip her to be able to go to college if that is her desire; make sure she has a basic to advanced understanding of english, math, reading comprehensively (even if we never learned additional information over these subjects, which we will, she will have a leg up on many a public school child.) However, I will not require it of her. As long as she is always learning, has a plan to move forward and not a plan to live on my couch in front of a TV for the rest of her life, I'm good with that.

Linking to Monday's Homestead Barn Hop, Homeschool Link Up & Hip Homeschool Hop.


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