Weekend Review- Kenzie Is Mobile!!

Kenzie is crawling!

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     It has been an exciting week here at the Sangrey house! Kenzie is crawling!

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This is a bittersweet moment for me. Sweet because she’s much happier and less clingy now that she has some freedom, but bitter in that she’ll be my last baby, and I’ll never get to witness this process in my own children again. Anyway, on to our week.
     On Monday, Devin, Dillon, and Arianna walked to the library and borrowed the Disney ”Little House on the Prairie” miniseries, so we watched the whole thing in one day. This is the second time we’ve borrowed it, but the first time we watched it, we were still reading Little House in the Big Woods. Now that we’re actually reading Little House on the Prairie, it’s neat to see the stories come to life. It’s also a great way to see how much the kids have been paying attention by noting any discrepancies. Dillon and Arianna went to a pond near our house and were busy experimenting with sound waves by throwing different size rocks on the ice. They have also kept themselves busy with their new blogs http://dragonboii12345.wordpress.com and http://unskoolgurl.wordpress.com. Caollin and London have been sewing, which, unfortunately, I can’t help them with because, well, I don’t know how to sew.

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     Tuesday it snowed, so Devin’s flash animation class was canceled, but we had a fun day indoors. (The wind chill was -15, so we were not going to go outside.) We did a neat activity from Brave Writer in which the kids were supposed to write captions on sticky notes for the pictures on our walls. Since it’s always either all or nothing with this crew they went all out and captioned a lot more than pictures!

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     On Wednesday we repeated an experiment that we tried the other week, which worked but would have worked better with a smaller egg. So I bought some, and we tried it again. The object is to demonstrate how a flame in a bottle can create a vacuum strong enough to suck an egg into a bottle.
It worked much better this time. The rest of the day was spent running errands- picking up Caollin’s new glasses, an appointment, and grocery shopping. Afterwards, our day looked like this

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     Thursday was actually a really productive day. I’ve been slacking off a bit in the laundry department, so I did a lot of catch up work there.

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Then, I corrected math work, which I’ve also been neglecting the past couple of days.

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We also made a really cool fake lung, thanks to Dot-to-Dot Connections. This is definitely worth checking out.

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Dillon is quite the character, isn’t he?

Devin helped make dinner today.

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Boxed fried chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and canned vegetables. Stop laughing. This is the same girl who asked me a few months ago how to turn the oven on. This is progress.

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This picture has nothing to do with what I’ve been writing about, but Luke is as elusive as Bigfoot, so if I can get a picture of him, I’m posting it!

     Our plans for Friday include a plate tectonics activity using Graham crackers and whipped cream. (I guess you’ve realized why my kids want to do this.) Beyond that, we’ll just go with the flow. Happy weekend!

What are some highlights of your week?

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Caption This!

…my kids were writing and having fun with it!

     I’m always on the lookout for creative ways to get my kids interested in writing, so every time I get my daily writing tip from Brave Writer, I get excited. A few days ago, the tip was to use sticky notes to put captions on the photos around the house. I suggested the activity to my kids, and they jumped on it!

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This says, ”Brendan pees like a girl.” because he’s squatting. Sometimes my kids’ senses of humor are…um…questionable.

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I believe this one said, ”I like trucks…and steak.” Again, what I said before…

     These captions may have been a little goofy, but I’ll take it because my kids were writing and having fun with it!
     And, trust me, they went beyond writing captions for just pictures.

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This is a caption on our TV that says, ”TV rots your brain.”

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Yes, that’s a sticky note on Luke’s head. It says, ”Luke has Q-Tip hair.”

     Finding writing ideas that get my children excited are few and far between, but this one was definitely a hit!

Do you have any good writing ideas? What’s gotten your kids excited?

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Lessons from an 8-Month-Old- An Illustration of Natural Learning

This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

My youngest child, Kenzie, is learning to crawl.

I sat for a while watching her, joyful, but also a little sad, when I started to think about her journey up until this point. Sitting. Rolling over. Laughing. Crawling. My point? She did all this on her own. I didn’t teach her how to do these things. I didn’t hold classes, ringing a little school bell saying, “Kenzie! Time for crawling lessons! Put your blocks away! It’s time for school!”

Absurd, right? But isn’t that what happens to kids everyday? They’re pulled away from enjoyable, often educational, activities to learn something they would have eventually learned on their own.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking. Some babies don’t do this on their own. Some have to have therapists come in and help them. I know. Three of my children had physical therapy because they were delayed because of low muscle tone. Did you catch that word? Delayed. Meaning, they’re not following a neat little chart stating what children should do when. I realize that some children truly do need this help, and I’m grateful it’s available to them. But the vast majority, including my children, would have eventually accomplished this themselves in their own time.

This is what happens in so many schools. Children are learning at a different time-table than what is expected, so they’re labeled as ”special needs, ” a label which often stigmatizes them, when there really is no problem. I can’t read the mind of God, but I’m pretty sure He created us as individuals- not as mindless robots programmed to all progress at the same speed in every area of life.

Children are individuals. They need to be given the opportunity to learn what they want/need to know when they need to learn it.

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Another example of this theory is language. In her travels around the floor, Kenzie found the TV remote. I told her sister to take it from her before she put it in her mouth. Kenzie heard me say this. She looked at me, dropped the remote, and started to cry. She understood me!

She understood me without flash cards, and workbooks, and Mango Languages for Babies. She learned herself by being exposed to language all the time. This is how children learn best! This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

Am I saying you should never expose children to new things they would otherwise have never known about? Absolutely not. We should provide a stimulating environment in which they should be able to learn, explore, and be the little scientists they are!

So the next time you’re ready to make your kids put their playdough away to ”do school,” reconsider. They’re already learning everyday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Definition of an Ideal Unschooler

What is the ideal unschooler?

     Since I made the switch to unschooling, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what an unschooler should really be like. I’ve always been one to overanalyze things, so it comes as no surprise to me that this has been weighing on my mind. After reading several books and hundreds of blogs, I still wasn’t able to come up with any definitive answer…until I took a look right around me.
     So, though opinions are sure to differ, I’ve come up with attributes I feel a ”star unschooler” would be sure to possess.

– A love of reading
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– Innovation with objects on hand
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– A willingness to help with household duties
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– A love of exploration
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– A love for science
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– The ability to stay busy
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– Lots of creativity
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– And most importantly, a love for life
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What do you think? Have I missed anything?

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An Intimate Glimpse into Life with Ten Kids

Come join us for the day!

     Have you ever wondered what other people’s lives are actually like? Not the public, edited image, but everything- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
     Today I’m giving you the opportunity to witness my hectic life. Last Thursday, January 16, 2014, I chronicled my entire day, hour by hour for the world to see. I began at midnight and continued through the entire day until bedtime. So here we go, if you’re brave enough!

I’m starting with a list of family members for easy reference since there are so many of us.

Shawn- the Dad
Me (Shelly)- the Mom
Devin(14)
Dillon(13)
Arianna(12)
Caollin(9)
London(8)
Bailey(6)
Luke(5)
Ireland(4)
Summer(2)
Kenzie(8 months)

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.

12am– I’m still awake. I just got done writing a post, so I’m a little wired. Kenzie, who’s teething, has just woken up and is very cranky. She falls back to sleep after a few minutes. I lie down on the sofa- we’re sleeping downstairs tonight, so Shawn can get some sleep before work.

12:45am- I start dozing off.

1am- Kenzie is awake again. After a few minutes of crankiness, she falls back asleep. I lie down again.

2am- Kenzie is not the culprit this time. I’ve woken up from a strange dream. (Something about me finding a gray hair and panicking. Don’t ask.)

3am- Kenzie’s awake again…

4:20- and again…

5:45- and again. I notice that Shawn has left for work. I’m already getting discouraged about what the day will bring after my lack of sleep. After Kenzie falls back asleep, I do, too.

7am- Ireland is awake at the crack of dawn, as usual, followed by a slew of early risers.

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Yes, that’s Ireland in boy pajamas- a hand-me-down from Luke.

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That’s Bailey with our kitten, Violet.

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Summer makes herself comfortable anywhere.

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That’s Arianna darting back upstairs after seeing Mom armed with a camera.

7:30- I give up on the notion of sleep and start checking emails, start a load of laundry, and proofread Dillon’s latest blog post. (He’s recently started a blog and posts 2-3 times a day.)

8am- By this point, everyone, except Devin, is awake. I make get breakfast out of the kitchen and bring it to the dining room.

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Nutritious, right???

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Yum!

9am- Time for chores!

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London vacuuming the living room

This may make it look like chores go off without a hitch, but today some of the kids, who shall remain nameless, do their share of complaining until loss of tablet privileges is mentioned.
     By this point Kenzie is still crabby and won’t nap, Ireland is crying because she wants a box like Bailey’s (he’s making it into a boat), and I am in desperate need of some coffee!

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Bailey making his boat

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Luke playing cars

     After filling up, I sweep the floor and vacuum again, which is dirty again already.

10:10- Kenzie is finally asleep, and I’m still in my pajamas.

10:30- I finally get dressed, start having the kids take turns showering/bathing, and do some more laundry.

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We’ve actually run out of laundry detergent, and since I can’t afford to skip a day of washing clothes, I use baking soda.

10:45- Kenzie is already awake. Sigh.

11:00- Snacktime! Just a few crackers to hold them over until lunch, while I put laundry away, proofread another of Dillon’s posts, and give everyone their own clothes to put away.

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Ireland with her clothes

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Caollin, my free spirit, carrying her clothes upstairs with pants on her head

     By this time, I’m noticing that my ankle is really hurting, even though I don’t remember hurting it. Sigh. The curse of approaching 40. Yuck.

11:30- Everything has calmed down enough for me to do my personal devotions. Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible, if anyone is interested.

12pm- We have lunchmeat sandwiches for lunch. Afterwards, Arianna, London, and I do some Mad Libs. Dillon and Caollin are on their tablets, Bailey and Summer are on Leap Pads, and the other little ones are doing a puzzle.

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Dillon on his tablet

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Ireland playing a matching game

12:30- I check more emails and comment on other blog posts.

1pm- Devin has risen and graced us with her presence.

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Time for family read-aloud. We’ve been reading Little House on the Prairie. The kids and I really enjoy it.

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1:30- Devin starts her Swedish lessons using Mango Languages, while Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and I pull out the atlas to plot countries from which people have read our blog posts. (Arianna blogs, too.)

1:45- Today is Ireland’s 4th birthday, so Arianna bakes her a cake. In the meantime, Dillon and I work on his Smithsonian volcano Kit, until we give up because the string is all tangled.

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     Devin starts her schoolwork now, while the other kids play the game, Operation.

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Devin hates algebra.

3pm- Shawn arrives home, Arianna decorates the cake, and we sing Happy Birthday to Ireland.

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4pm- Chore time, again, and I start dinner- spaghetti.
     Afterwards we all pose for a family photo for Dillon’s blog. Then, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin do their math.

5pm- We eat dinner and start to wind down. From this point until their bedtimes, nothing major happens. Just lots of puzzles, games, TV, and, of course, electronics.

8pm- Bailey, Luke, Ireland, and Summer go up to bed and listen to the Bible and their bedtime stories.

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What we’re reading.

After they’re in bed- at least, before they come down five more times- I read the Message New Testament Bible to Devin, Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and London. Then, I help Devin with some algebra she didn’t understand.

9pm- Caollin and London go to bed. Okay, they’re in their bedroom, but I doubt they’re sleeping. I correct any schoolwork that was done and write in the daily logs I have to keep for Devin, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin. I truly despise this.

10pm- Kenzie is asleep for the night (I hope), and within the hour, I’m down for the count.

What’s your day like?

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My Daughter’s Choice- Our Approach to Unschooling High School

Devin has chosen to continue learning in a more schoolish way.

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     Up until now, I really haven’t mentioned my daughter, Devin, much in my unschooling posts. This is because her approach to unschooling is very different from the free-form learning of her siblings.
     While my other children are free to pursue their interests in whatever manner they choose, Devin has chosen to continue learning in a more schoolish way. Despite, this fact, I still feel confident calling her an unschooler because this is completely her choice. In all honesty, though, how much are labels actually worth anyway?

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     There are two reasons she’s opted to learn this way.

– She was in public school longer than any of her other siblings, with exception to Brendan(20). Because of this, she’s just grown accustomed to the routine and is more comfortable this way.

– She plans to go to college, so she has chosen to go through an accredited diploma program, which is extremely vigorous. We’ve researched the other options for high school diplomas. She’s not interested in a GED and the stories about parent-issued diplomas often needing lawyer backing have scared us off that route.

     So what does she do? I’ll break it down into subjects, as the state will.

English- lots of reading- she’s quite the bookworm
             – Grammar and writing through BJU Press- she only does this twice a week since the diploma program only requires that 1/4 of the book is completed
            – Composition and Speech- another requirement is to write four compositions, one being 2500 words long, and she has to write and present a speech

Algebra- she’s using Lifepac this year, completing two pages per day; she doesn’t like this curriculum, but I don’t think she’d like any algebra curriculum

History- Streams of Civilization– I don’t follow the lesson plan. She reads this pretty much as a story and completes a project for each chapter. She usually chooses projects with an accent on art, one of her loves.

Life Science- again, Lifepac, which isn’t very exciting. She wants to continue on with this until next year, when we’ll use something different

Greek Mythology- D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths– she really enjoys the stories and artwork in this. She also completes the accompanying workbook. She’s always been interested in this subject.

Flash Animation- she takes a class for this at the local art school

Photography- she’s using a homeschool photography course in which she will email photos from shooting assignments to a photography teacher who will grade them.

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     Subjects such as consumer science, health, art, music, and physical education are all subjects that just happen naturally.

– Household duties are completed daily.
– Health issues often come up in normal conversation, along with the health issues addressed in doctor visits and everyday personal hygiene.
– She loves to draw, is teaching herself how to play the guitar, researches her favorite bands daily, and she loves to go for walks. She also plays games in the gym during youth group, although this isn’t her favorite thing.

     So this is what her typical day looks like. Structured, but flexible, which is what she wants and needs.

How do you homeschool high school?

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Weekend Review- Still Learning to Let Go

We’re finishing up our second week of unschooling…

     We’re finishing up our second week of unschooling today, and this week has definitely had its UPS and downs. Unfortunately, a lot of those downs came when I started stressing too much about what my kids were doing.
     Since my kids spend so much time on their tablets, I’ve initiated a ”media blackout” everyday between 1-4 when all electronics must be put away, unless they want to research something or are watching a tutorial.
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Summer(2) on a Leap Pad Learning Tablet.
    
     It’s during these media-free periods that I find it hardest to let go of determining what they will do and what they will learn. It’s hard for me to let go of what other kids their age, even homeschooled kids, are learning.
     They are learning, though. Everyday.

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Dillon finishing up the first chapter of his science-fiction story

     This week has been pretty uneventful as far as outside activities. The only time we even left the house this week was to get groceries, so I’m just going to review the week as a whole, rather than day by day.

     So what did we do this week? Other than lots of Minecraft, Ruzzle, Scribblenauts, and Sims, the kids did everything from art to science experiments.
     We’re still reading Little House on the Prairie together and enjoying it immensely. The kids  have been doing their own reading
everyday,too, like Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and Little House in the Big Woods.

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     Dillon(13) has really been on a roll with writing this week. Besides writing a science-fiction story, he’s also started a blog and has been posting 2-3 times a day. He loves it.

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     Dillon and Arianna(12) did several experiments this week with eggs and other things we just had lying around the house.

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This experiment shows how soap breaks the surface tension of water.

     Devin(14) started her homeschool photography class last week. She’s a little bored so far because there haven’t been any shooting assignments yet, but that’s kind of a good thing because her auto focus hasn’t been working all the time, so we have to get it repaired.
     Yesterday was Ireland’s 4th birthday, so Arianna, our resident baker, made her a cake.

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     The younger kids played a lot this week. Apples to Apples, Operation, puzzles, and imaginative play occupied most of their time.
    
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     So while my kids haven’t built a nuclear reactor out of paper clips and string :), they’ve had a lot of fun this week just being themselves and exploring their own interests, while I am slowly, but surely, becoming okay with this.

What’s your week been like?

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An Unschooling Novice’s Approach to, Well, Unschooling

Our typical unschooled day

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     Are you one of those people, like me, who loves to read about how other people homeschool? Maybe you’re someone who loves to talk about your approach to homeschooling, also like me. Today I’m writing about our approach to our latest journey, unschooling.
     As I’m sure you know, every day is different, and, especially since we’ve just transitioned from eclectic homeschooling to self-directed learning, we’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Our Typical Unschooled Day

8:00- Breakfast- usually something simple; I’ll be the first to admit that our meals are more about convenience. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to cook something from scratch everyday for twelve people.

9:00- Chores- Since we do these a few times a day, it only takes about 20 minutes to get things done.

9:20- From this point on until lunchtime, the children are free to do what they want. Like my husband, my children are all technology fanatics, so our morning looks something like this-

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At first this really bothered me, but after I stopped stressing about it and actually paid attention to what they were doing, I realized that they’re learning far more than I ever imagined.

Minecraft- geometry, logic, learning step-by-step how such things as glass and steel are made

Ruzzle- spelling, vocabulary

Scribblenaut- spelling, vocabulary, science, history

-Leap Pad Learning Tablets- well, that’s kind of obvious

They will sometimes do other activities during this time, such as their math. I know many unschoolers don’t formally teach math, but living within PA homeschool laws makes me too nervous to skip it. My younger kids- 8 yrs. old on down have a choice about whether or not they’ll do it. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t. At this age, it’s very easy to incorporate math into everyday learning.

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My 9, 12, &, 13 year-olds are all required to do their math everyday at their own pace. Incidentally, besides my 14 year-old, these are the children who must be evaluated every year, so the documentation is so important.

12:00- Lunch- again, usually something simple

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1:00- Family reading

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Starting at 1:00, we have what I call ”Media Blackout”. Until 4:00, no electronics are permitted, unless they’re researching something or watching tutorials. While they do learn through media, I think it’s so important to do hands-on activities. During this time is when you’ll see what I consider the good stuff.

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3:00- Chores

4:00- Supper

6:30- Bathtimes

8:00- Bedtime and Bible story for the kids 6 & under
       – Bible reading with the older children followed by silent reading

9:00- 8 & 9 year olds go to bed; my three oldest go to bed whenever they want, as long as they’re quiet.

You may have noticed I didn’t address my 14 yr. old much. This is because her approach is different, again, because of compliance with homeschool laws, and, honestly, by her own choice. I’ll address this in a later post.

What’s your day like?

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Unschooling- Week 1 Photo Review

Here’s a recap of our week in photos.

     Our first week of unschooling after five years of either traditional or eclectic homeschool has ended. So what did we do? Here’s a recap of our week in photos.

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Lots of modeling clay and playdough creations

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Puzzles galore!

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Some new hair colors

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Painting

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Making baking clay

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Lots of science experiments- the first picture shows a static electricity experiment in which you rub a plastic spoon on your hair and use it to attract pepper on a plate; the second and third were egg experiments my son got off YouTube (although we had done the second one before). In the second egg experiment, you light a piece of paper on fire, drop it into a bottle, then quickly put a peeled, hard-boiled egg on top. The flame creates a vacuum which sucks the egg in.

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That’s Devin hiding behind Lifepac Science!

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And lots of this!

What have you done this week?

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Weekend Review: Our First Week of Unschooling

Baby steps. Trust. They will learn.

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     We’ve officially completed our first full week of unschooling, and I’ll tell you what… John Holt wasn’t kidding when he said you’ve got to trust that your kids will learn because,honestly, it’s not so apparent.
     If I could give anyone considering unschooling advice, even though we’re new at it, I would tell them not to compare themselves to those phenomenal examples of unschoolers right from the get-go. It’s going to take time for your kids to get used to the fact that they’re in charge of their education. Chances are, your children will not build a rocket with parts from the junkyard, fueled with cow manure. They will not write and professionally publish a novel while painting a portrait that would put Da Vinci to shame. At least, not right away. 🙂
     Progress will happen in baby steps, and sometimes you may wonder if they’re learning at all, but, believe me. They are. I’m going to be honest and say that I’m writing this as much to myself as to you. Trust me, I’ve had my doubts this week. I’ve seen a lot of Minecraft activity and Ruzzle this week- more than I expected. Just when I started to stress over this fact, I overheard my son, Dillon, talking about how glass is formed. I asked him where he learned that, and he replied, ”Minecraft.” as if it should have been obvious to me. Minecraft,, duh!  That alleviated my fears a little bit and reminded me. Trust.
     Admittedly, I did end up giving them a little nudge, explaining to them what they already knew- that they will be evaluated at the end of the year, and while I know they’re learning, the school district may not look upon pure Minecraft learning too kindly.
     So what did we accomplish this week, besides lots of Minecraft?? Actually, more than it seemed. Lots of clay and play dough creations graced our home this week.

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Dillon made baking clay and made a volcano, which he plans to paint and erupt. He may also research volcanoes- how they’re formed or where they’re most abundant. We did several science experiments involving the big bang theory, static electricity,

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light waves, carbon dioxide, and even eggs!

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Arianna made a lapbook on makeup- she’s been studying theatrical makeup. She also interviewed me and graced us with her cooking the other day. Caollin and London have spent time making play money and using their toy cash register/calculator to play store, and all the little ones from Caollin on down enjoy playing ”Little House on the Prairie”, our current family readaloud. We all also read independently everyday.
     My oldest daughter, Devin, has opted to continue on with her textbooks because she’s not too keen on change. That’s fine. I told her that unschooling is about child-directed learning- not a ban on textbooks. She does do other activities, as well. She loves star gazing and planet watching, she’s taking a flash animation class at the art school, and she’s just an extraordinarily creative girl.

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Devin’s latest hair color-just dyed yesterday

     All in all, I would consider this week a success. We didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped, but I keep reminding myself. Baby steps. Trust. They will learn.

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How was your week?

Carnival of Homeschooling