Friday, August 19, 2016

homeschool this year

I have to laugh because that title "homeschool this year" is most misleading. Homeschooling over the past 8 years I have defiantly seen that our school routine changes with the weather.


Homeschool this year? It should be what we are doing until it snows & we move our work from the kitchen table to the cozy upstairs sofa. 
The Fall Docket I suppose. 

But let's back up. What kind of homeschoolers are we? Over the years it has evolved. We began this journey in the secular classical education camp. I loved it but it didn't work for Beach so we drifted towards a lighter, messier way driven by her various passions. 

Technically, we are unschoolers; because despite all the books we don't recreate school at home. We have a schedule-ish and we set goals for learning but that is where the school-like road ends for us. The details and fine print of which are boring so unless someone wants to really know I'll leave it there... 

I know that in some ways we are more structured (and in others less) than most of the local unschoolers around us (Hi, Friends!). We don't belong to any homeschool groups or clubs, we go it mostly alone. Although our friends and family provide a ton of enrichment to our learning lives (Hello, Other Friends!).


What does a school day look like?
On average Beach spends about 2 hrs a day actually sitting and "working" or book learning as we call it, 1 hr messing around with media sources like NPR, Frontline, National Geographic, and PBS, 2 hrs self-directed learning which is usually writing &/or art, 1 hr hands-on farm life & doing what we call "chicken-chores", depending on the day another hour or so in real life doing things like shopping, sewing, collecting, DYI/crafting, baking, cleaning, etc. (home economics?), 4.5 hrs doing her gymnastics thing (super heavy on the P.E. I would say!), with 1-2 hrs of reading and game playing mixed in throughout the day. 

Notice I didn't give an hourly schedule. That is because we don't have one. We communicate a lot and plan out our days together a few days in advance using a simple notebook to keep track of our "to do's" and our "to want's".

 Today's "To Do's" would be: 
Read 1 chapter in The Witch Of Blackbird Pond
Cover 5 pages of History.
ART & Journal 
Bake cookies
Animal chores
Finish putting away all the camping gear & laundry
GYM at 3PM  
  
One of my major daily "to wants" is a nice slow sit down hot lunch together. My other favorite? A nap before we have to leave for gym and work. But if I had to give grades, Beach would totally fail Napping!

    Honestly, when we stay focused we can tackle a year's worth of core materials in a matter of months. But where is the fun in that?! One of the many benefits of home education is getting to leave the path to explore. 


So what is the untypical day, the going exploring days look like? Well, first of all they aren't that untypical. They happen a lot. Once or twice a month we like to skip the bookwork and hit a thrift store. Once a week we take time out to hike or walk, hold a UNO and memory marathon, see a new exhibit at the museum, go the movies, write stories, etc.

Sometimes we call a "snow" or a "rain" day and just play. More commonly because our house is so very little and the 2 of us like to organize we call a "sorting and cleaning day". Most weeks, if my parents aren't off traveling, Beach takes a whole day off to go with my mom and dad. Those days are full of hands-on learning. My mom is the best!!! 

The end result of all these distractions is a kid who can solve story problems, sew, interact with adults in all types of situations, raise livestock, read a map, bake, change a tire, and unit price. 

It should not be surprising that real life is where the real learning happens. It is where she practices, expands, &/or masters the information or skills she got from the book learning part of her education. 

To us, both sides of her education are equally important.


Here is the answer to a question I get a lot. 
(Q) How do you get her to do her work? 
(A) I don't. 

She is a hyper-focused, self-driven animal that I take no credit for. She gets up every day on her own (very early) without an alarm clock. She cleans as a way to relax. Enjoys learning- as long as it isn't straight up old boring history. She even strictly enforces her own self-determined early bedtime. 

Aside from her school work she has her own projects that she works on for hours and hours and hours. Right now she is working on her photo entries for the Utah State Fair, making custom jewelry, and collecting "perfect" recipes for her own cookbook. 

Of course, all of that sounds a lot like learning...


So getting back to the book part of it... 
here is the first round of our course work:

Human Anatomy. 
This is a full course which should take us about 4 months with enrichment projects to complete. 
Refresher on Biology. This is what we call a car book.  Yep, it is simply a book we buy and then leave in the car for those times when having a book to browse comes in handy. When this one gets old we will switch it out for the other books in the series.


Our current Family Read Aloud Book. After dinner, we settle down as a family & listen to BC read. He has always done this. He can read for hours!! I have to say it is one of my most favorite parts of our family life <3  

ART! I found this little gem for Beach. Look, art NOT taught by a science major who only draws skeletons & lab rats! >finally< Her very own self-directed art curriculum. Working our way towards a bit more independences in her studies. It includes art history and hands-on art exploration. 

History. 
Yes, history.  Beach says she hates history so I always have to be creative in finding ways to sneak it in. Historical fiction novels have been a blessing. She tends to love them despite her "history sensitivities".
She has also agreed to do something amazing...read the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History all the way through. It's not as dull as it sounds. It has great illustrations and fun internet links. I personally could spend hours playing around in this book!



But Beach? She might have been bribed with frozen yogurt & episodes of horrible history AND/OR threatened with an online course in US history but either way it is now a goal so although it is sort of like cliff notes of history it is something. 

 You might notice 2 big subjects missing, that is because after looking into online schooling options we have decided to use an online school/resources for Math and English this year. 


Originally I wanted Beach to do all her 7th-grade "schooling" in an online school. I felt like she was ready and was missing out on some key life skills not having structure and deadlines like her schooled teammates. But after investigating the programs I realized about all she would gain were meaningless rules & regulations, busy work & checked boxes. Plus, forget all that learning outside the box. They were all 100% school at home.


It was pretty disappointing. The programs didn't offer as much individual learning as they advertised. Nor did they seem to be able to adapt to her visual disabilities. But the final nail in the coffin on the whole online school idea was when one of the schools we looked at which had a strict school year, day, and time requirements, one of their advisors told us not to worry about attendance just to fake it. Wait, your plan is to have me agree to all the rules and conditions but then to cheat to make the system work for us? Right, so not the lesson in personal responsibility I wanted for my child. 

In the end, the compromise was to take 1 or 2 classes and see how it feels. Hopefully working with a teacher that isn't named Mom in a structured course will give her some of what we were looking for without losing everything else we value. 



And there it is, homeschool this year.
Welcome to Our 7th Grade! 


school day reading: The Witch of Blackbird Pond


family reading: Hollow City


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

back to school road trip, Idaho

On Monday the gym scheduled switched back to afternoons workouts for the school year. That meant Monday was officially back to school for us. So of course on the day before, we hit the road for a 4-day road trip through central Idaho. Blackfoot to Challis, Challis to Stanley, Stanely to Smiley Creek (a little back-tracking between the 2), Smiley Creek to Hailey, and Hailey to home.
 First, stop EBR (between Atomic City & Arco, Idaho), 
the world's first nuclear power plant. 
[so creepy]
Beach pushed every button in the control room, possibly in the whole building.

Second stop, camping at Challis Hot Springs right on the Salmon River. Hands down the cleanest, nicest hot springs we have been to.
The next day a visit to a Flourite Mine, Challis, Idaho
Then on to Smiley Creek, Idaho to meet up with Fisher at the lodge he has been living & working at all summer. He hooked us up with a yurt for the next 2 nights.
It was awesome, beautiful, and it was cold! (Loved it!!!) 
It was also VERY smokey from all the summer wildfires.
Fisher was able to join us for a late lunch & a hike up to Fourth of July Lake in the Sawtooth National Forest.
Beach's dream come true a lake brimming with frogs & toads!
 The next day Fisher had to go back to work so we took off for the day. First, we stopped in at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery Stanley, Idaho
But the big destination of the day was the Yankee Fort Gold Dredge just outside of Stanley, Idaho. 
Followed by a ghost town tour, some rockhounding in the river at Yankee Fork, and some soaking at Sun Beam Hot Springs (Salmon River).
Beach was proud that she dunked in every river we stopped to see.
Amazing trip. Thanks for hooking us up, Fisher! 
Not bad for the first half a week of school.