Monday, September 22, 2014

Simple Recipes

One cheap Walmart ringbinder = $3
Stickers from Michaels = $4
Cardstock = $1
Printed nameplates = 25¢

Cooking experiences happen twice a week, and those recipes deemed INCREDIBLE will be printed up and glued into the cookbooks.

So far we've made cookies (Dorie Greenspan's Espresso Chocolate Cookies), brownies, focaccia, an apple pie, and chocolate chip cookies (seeing a theme here yet).

Funny how the simplest things go so far.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

School Schedules

We spent the last 5 days getting back into the rhythm of the school day, never a small task at the end of a long, hot, beach-drenched summer, particularly when most of the participants spent much of their summer sleeping in and lolling about. This is where Charlotte Mason habit training comes in handy: everyone knows the drill, everyone knows it's inevitable, and there's way less Sturm und Drang when assembling the day.

FDPG, Dominic, and I set a wake-up time (7am), a time to begin Read Alouds (7:30am, current book is The Canterbury Tales), and a time to start school (9am). Theoretically this gives everyone time to play Lego in their room until I yell at them get ready, feed cats and bunnies, let out chickens, brush teeth, get dressed, apply vast quantities of toothpaste to the sink and taps, and fling yet another empty toilet paper roll behind the door in the hope that no one notices (even though there are already 10 there).

We also printed up our Week At A Glance, which is nothing more exotic than a coloured Excel chart slipped into a page protector and stuck on the wall. I used to scoff at schedules, but they stop the day from devolving, not to mention quelling many an argument, so I've grown to appreciate them. FDPG likes a crazily busy schedule, and always begins the year with way too much on her very enthusiastic plate. Dominic prefers a more spartan approach, and would probably jettison everything that doesn't involve Lego or sports. I have two non-negotiables: everyone in this house must have more than a passing acquaintance with math and everyone must know how to write (and speak) well.

Once we got those things on the schedule we wrangled over what else to include: foreign languages, art, poetry, science, history. Now that I've seen what goes on in public school, I've added in another thing this year: timed assignments. It wasn't the English Lit math physics chemistry biology OR socials that Eldest struggled with when he joined the Brick N' Mortar public school crowd, it was the timed assignments and tests. I don't give timed assignments here at Greenridge Homeschool. Shocking, I know, but there it is.

Eldest's schedule was more complicated. Last year he was in grade 11 at a real live high school, so his day looked quite different than ours. Instead of listening to stories or nattering pleasantly with the twins over who had to do the dishes, he was leaving early with Richard and a giant bag of textbooks. Rain or shine. This year he's in grade 12 , which is new and exciting, or would be if the teachers would go back to work. They are on strike. There always seems to be someone on strike in this province. I sometimes think B.C. really stands for Bolshie Communities.

And seeing as how the strike doesn't look as though it's going to end any time soon, I told Eldest he had to make himself a schedule (and make some attempts to follow it) so that he didn't lose momentum, given his choice of courses (physics, chemistry, pre-calculus, calculus, English Lit., biology). He was not particularly thrilled. I think he'd envisioned a less, err, strenuous start to the day. What with the strike and all.

If Eldest had to write about his first week of school, I think it would go like this:

Dear Diary,

This week I had intended to sleep in every morning and generally do nothing, but my Mum heard that I could get this semester's textbooks NOW. She said I should be reading them every day, instead of sleeping in and generally doing nothing. They are all very heavy. I don't like the look of the pre-calculus textbook. I'm sick of people telling me about the Khan Academy. 

Then she told me to email my former English teacher (who likes me because I was the only student in the class who didn't eat and talk and text the whole time) and ask for a schedule for my literature class so I could get to work on the required reading. I didn't think he'd answer my email but he did. He even sent me a reading list. 

Now I have a bunch of textbooks and a literature schedule. Oh joy. 

Now that the week is over, I'm going to add a coda:

Now it's Saturday and the first week is over and done with. Phew. Sigh. Hurray!

Friday, September 5, 2014

That Time Already?


The tide of summer has suddenly turned and everyone is talking about back to school topics. I can't seem to avoid it, no matter where I turn my eyes. Makes me think about how different our homeschool world looks these days.

In the years since I first started blogging our life has changed so much: back then we had more play resources and fewer reference books. More Playdough, chalk, and markers. More fingerpaint paper. Heck, I even had different SIZES of fingerpaint paper. Thomas the Tank Engine loomed large in our world. The kids LIVED for backpacks with their favourite characters on them. We all knew who Mr Frumble was. We spent a lot of time, rain or shine, trawling around the neighbourhood just looking at stuff: diggers, trucks, signs, rain, cats, spiders, friendly shopkeepers. We had our favourite librarians. And many an afternoon we'd sit down at 4pm with a tidy little snack (there's another thing that has gone by the wayside: tidy little snacks!) and watch 30 minutes of perfect happiness with our favourite aardvark Arthur. Then it would be time for dinner and, eventually, off to bed, whereupon I'd plan activities for the following day. I frequented websites like The Crafty Crow and Art Projects For Kids, poured over books like Festivals, Family, and Food or All Year Round, and picked out rituals and traditions to start with my own family. In my spare time I read about Waldorf-inspired playrooms, with wooden kitchen setups, Circle Time, and drifting silk fabrics everywhere.

Nowadays we have way more reference books: Latin, French, Japanese, science, history, and grammar dictionaries fill the shelves. We have Shakespeare anthologies, geology textbooks, philosophy books, and precalculus DVDs. We could open a library with the origami stuff we've amassed. The Thomas table has gone and in its place is a long, flat table. Adult sized chairs. Larger scissors. Larger bottles of glue. More serious glue, too. Less tissue paper and more cardstock. Fewer glittery pencils. Less glitter all round, come to think of it, except at Christmas.

Everyone has an iPod now, a fact which has its pros and cons. The pros being some of us have learnt a ton about exploring the internet, finding interesting apps on learning foreign languages, taking better photos, and fun new activities like geocaching or studying the hundreds of ships that pass through our island waters. The cons are less tangible: less interest in playing or laying out in the backyard being simply and wonderfully idle. More chatter about the games they like to play: Minecraft, Brave Frontier, Modern Combat. I'm not so keen on the games. Mindless entertainment is my preferred terminology for all that, with a special emphasis on the mindless.

There's also way less little kid noise. I used to go about my day to the sound of shrieks, screams, and giggles following me around. Pattering footsteps. Constant chattering. The laundry could be done in one or two loads because all the clothes were so tiny. I spent more time scrubbing stains off the fronts of t-shirts. Meals were simple because they didn't involve much. One can of black beans was enough for an enchilada dinner.

All that's been replaced by skirmishes over who gets the bathroom (or who stunk up/hogged/ruined the bathroom), stereo loudness contests, and arguments (although they call them 'discussions') over who has to do the breakfast dishes (and sometimes, why). I'm conversant with names like Tiesto, Skrillex, Deadmau5, and Kaskade. I'm even knowledgable about WHO they are, and how much money they make in a year (trust me, you don't want to know). We still watch PBS a lot, but Arthur has been replaced by Mystery, Doctor Who, and NOVA. More adult fare. No one goes to bed right after dinner, either, unless it's me.

Perhaps the biggest change in our homeschool world has been the departure of one of the homeschoolees. Nowadays there's only two kids at home instead of three. The eldest is off at public school, doing Highly Complicated Math, and dissecting Formerly Live Animals. Places I decided I was no longer willing to go. That's the thing, you see: when you homeschool you either farm out the academics or you learn them yourself so you can help and teach. Ten years of homeschooling has taught me a lot: I'm much more enthusiastic about fractions now than I ever was in grade school, but I'm no longer willing to put in the long evening hours studying the higher grades stuff. Nowadays I want to put that time into my winter garden plan, dust off the sewing machine so I can finish off that duvet cover I started for FDPG 4 years ago, or just sit on the couch and read. I'm also less gripped by the politics of the homeschool world: when people start discussing terminology and placing themselves in the various positions (unschooler? lifelearner? homeschooler? enrolled? registered?) I find myself losing interest, and mentally adding termin-what-EVAH. All they do is divide us all at the end of the day. If only people could see it.

The youngest two are in grade 8 this year. Instead of Circle Time beginning our day we do math. We still have read aloud time every morning, because none of us wants to give that up (it's also an amazing way to get through a TON of literature), but now we start the day with the tough stuff, leaving the afternoons open for less cerebral fare: art, cooking, science experiments, crafts, museum visits, or history videos. I frequent fewer online homeschool groups, too, but again, I think that's just the way it goes as the kids grow up. I don't need the reassurance anymore. I don't care what someone's interfering mother-in-law said. We have our groove and we're happy with it.

And so it goes. Back to school. How time flies!