What We've Been Up To

Well, my pretties, I’ve managed to do it again. While I have been posting on my social media accounts somewhat regularly, writing has not really been a priority lately. I’d like to say that will change. I’d like to say I am now super duper motivated and will be doing something totally wild like participating in NaNoWriMo {is NaNoBlogMo still a thing?} next month. But, alas, I’m too lazy. 

However, I’m here now, so the least I can do is blog a little about what’s been going on, homeschooling-wise and other-wise. 

Agent J is a fan of doodling
We are now two weeks into deployment and so far so good. I can’t say exactly when Hubby will be back, but . . . it. will. be. quite. a. while. The Agents are handling it well and the only thing I had to tackle that I normally would have handed over to him in half a heartbeat was replacing the hinges on the pantry door. 

The cat. Ah, this cat. We brought him home about seven weeks ago, and while we love him and have grown very attached, the truth is, he’s kind of a pain in the ass. There, I said it. Seriously. He’s definitely taking longer to adjust than any other pet we’ve had. He went through a spell where he kept acting weirdly aggressive at certain times of the day. He doesn’t have front claws {not sure when or why his previous owner had that done} so he often uses his teeth to express displeasure instead. At the same time, he can be so incredibly sweet and cuddly. So, pretty much your typical cat by most standards, I guess. Maybe we were spoiled by our past pets who seemed much more docile from the get-go.

Sure, he looks all cute when he's choosing books
Most of our school days have been business as usual. Math. Language Arts. Science-y Things. Agent E does one book from the Big Fat Notebook series for middle schoolers each day: Math—Monday, Language Arts—Tuesday, Science— Wednesday, American History—Thursday, World History—Friday. Because she is my kid, she has color-coordinated notebooks for every subject.

Yep, that's Vader behind the books
We started a new world religions book series recently: Traditional Religious Tales by Anita Ganeri. So far we’ve read Hindu Stories and Buddhist Stories and we’ll be starting Jewish Stories next week. The series also includes Christian StoriesIslamic Stories, and Sihk Stories. We’re also re-reading The Belief Book by David McAfee.

Our Coffee Break Spanish lessons are on a brief hiatus while we focus on practicing our written Spanish and spelling. We’re using the Skill Builders Spanish I and II workbooks from Carson Dellosa {find them on Amazon here}. Agent E is doing the ones for grades 6-8 and Agents J and A are both doing the K-5 version. I kind of wish there were two options for younger students; K-5 is such a huge span, and truthfully, they are really more geared toward the younger end of that range, but it is what it is. 

We honestly spend a lot of our school day simply reading together on the couch. Some favorites this week {in addition to the books listed above} include Basher EngineeringMathematicians Are People, TooThe Lady of Ten Thousand Names, and Women in Science

It’s chilly here today {67 degrees Fahrenheit qualifies as “chilly” in southern California} but it's going to be ridiculously hot again by early next week, so there’s that. Looking forward to a low-key weekend that might involve Chinese food. It will definitely involve leftover cupcakes, as someone {ahem, me} had a birthday earlier this week.

The One With the Long Overdue Update

It’s been just shy of four months since I wrote an update on our homeschooling (or anything for that matter). In that time we left our home in upstate New York, stayed with family in Pennsylvania for five weeks, moved across the country to our new home in southern California, settled in (more or less), started a new school year (eight weeks in as of today), endured the reality of sea duty again, and added a new feline family member.

For the most part, our homeschooling (6th, 4th, and 2nd grades) is going pretty much according to plan. (I previously blogged about said plan in three parts herehere, and here.) Regulations are much more relaxed in CA than NY, so I feel like we can expend more energy just being and learning and exploring and wondering without the persistent feeling of how am I going to translate this into a quarterly report?

That said, of course we are following a fairly well-laid-out agenda and doing All The Things in an orderly fashion, because, well, it’s us. We still have a general routine of morning school and afternoon school, although now we actually leave the house several days a week so sometimes it’s not as exact as it used to be. (Trying really hard not to be hermits here, and get into the habit of going out more, even if it’s just the library or the park. The weather definitely makes this a more feasible year-round goal here than it did in NY.)

As far as specifics, we still do math and language arts every day (at the kitchen table, as a group, with each Agent working on a different topic or workbook or whatever). We started Coffee Break Spanish over again, and have decided to go more slowly this time, working on just one or two lessons a week tops. Agent E (6th) is doing more written Spanish this year as well; I will probably add that aspect in for Agent J (4th) and Agent A (2nd) later in the year. Morning reading is a combination of math books, language arts or poetry, Egyptian mythology, and any other random fun books we find that all three Agents enjoy. (Currently it’s a book of Hindu mythology stories.) We have also decided to include our study of the United States as part of our morning school time, looking at one state per week or every two weeks (depending on how many books we find). This week we are wrapping up Virginia. 

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon school continues to be geography, world history, and science. So far this year we have been concentrating on human and population geography, world events from around 1500, life on earth, and mammals. Tuesdays and Thursdays we cover art, music, health, and world religions. We are working our way through Lives of the Artists and Lives of the Musicians, both very fun books that come highly recommended by the Agents. For health we are currently reading How the Incredible Human Body Works . . . By the Brainwaves, which has been a hit. We are also rereading What Do You Believe?, a book I liked a lot better when we first used it two years ago than I do now. (Why is probably a topic for another day.)

Our school days have a brand new distraction as well: After two years of being a pet-free household, we now have a cute kitty living with us. He is seven years old and just the sweetest. (The receptionist at the shelter audibly gasped when we walked in and specifically requested to see him; sadly, older cats tend to languish at animal care facilities.) The Agents named him Darwin (yes, after that Darwin) but they also liked the name his previous person had given him (Oscar) so sometimes we call him that, too. He is a bit overweight, is missing quite a few teeth (soft food diet), and he had been declawed, so indoor only (which we would have done anyway). We adore him.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. If you are near Irma (my old stomping grounds) please be safe. 

Planning for the 2017-2018 School Year {Part Three}

Today I’m sharing a final planning post for the upcoming school year. Last week I shared Part One {math, language arts, Spanish, and mythology} and Part Two {geography, science, world and American history, world religions, and health}. Part Three will focus on the remaining topics we cover on a regular basis—art, music, philosophy, and critical thinking—as well as introduce a few ideas for “extras” we might pursue this year or in the near future.

We spent the last two years going through The Children’s Book of Art as well as reading several selections from the 13 Things Children Should Know series {artists, painters, sculptures, photos, art mysteries, etc.}. We also try to do as much creative art play time {drawing, painting, chalk pastels, collage, etc.} as we can, just because it’s fun and the Agents love it. Going forward we intend to use two different spine books for art: A Child’s Introduction to Art and 13 Women Artists Children Should Know. {The second book necessitated by the fact that the first book—while I love the style and presented biographies and suggested projects—mentions only one female out of 35 total artists.} I expect this to be another two-year cycle. We will also read Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes {and What the Neighbors Thought}. We've read several titles from this series and they're always a hit. 

For music we just wrapped up a similar book—The Children’s Book of Music—also after two years. {Apparently taking two school years to get through one book is A Thing with us, as this has happened numerous times with our other subjects, too.} Next year we plan to read The Story of the Orchestra. I like the set-up of the book; it comes with a CD, which is nice, and it will work well as a spine. However, it’s not particularly detailed, so I envision us utilizing lots of supplemental books. As with art, we will read {or in this case, re-read} Lives of the Musicians as well. Unfortunately both of these texts are lacking in female names, and I haven’t found any ways to address that as of yet. {So if you know of a book that includes a decent number of women composers and musicians, please pass it on.}

I actually wasn’t planning on covering philosophy as a separate topic this coming year. Then I came across The Children’s Book of Philosophy and pretty much had to own it. Sigh. The Agents will love it, though, as just flipping through the table of contents I can tell it is right up their alley. In addition, we will likely re-read some of the critical thinking books we discovered last year {Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong and Maybe Yes, Maybe No come to mind immediately} as well as investigate a few new ones.

As far as “extras” we’ve considered, I think Agent E {6th} would benefit from a structured typing program. She has also expressed an interest in studying Latin, although I’m not sure that is something we will find the time for this year. Agent E already practices three instruments on a regular basis {recorder, keyboard, and guitar} and has mentioned wanting to try another {flute or trumpet are the current top contenders}. So far the younger two Agents {who will be starting 4th and 2nd} have not shown a desire to start music lessons of any kind. {And by “lessons” I mean the self-taught method that Agent E uses.} I would definitely like to incorporate more independent writing—whether short stories or poetry or even simply regular journal writing—into both girls’ days as well. {Agent A is not quite there yet.}

I’m sure that by the time I hit publish on this I will think of something critical I forgot, or come up with the next latest greatest idea. And this was supposed to be the year we were getting back to a simpler routine, ha! Oh, well . . . at least I won’t have so much pesky paperwork to keep up.