September 26, 2009

Homeschool Update

Bridgetender School is currently in session with three grade school children and one pre-school. We started on August 17th, 2009. God has truly been blessing me in getting contacts in the homeschool groups here. The Arizona Homeschool Convention was held in Phoenix in July, which helped me find a couple of friends. I have also found homeschoolers in the church and who are friends of neighbors.

Once again, we are studying history and science as a group. This year, we are learning about the colonization of America, the Revolutionary War and the Constitution and American government system. We started by talking about some other documents that inspired the developers of the Constitution, like the Magna Charta. We also discussed some of the explorers of the New World, like Leif Ericsson, Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Every other week we are getting together with a retired homeschool mother who is teaching us basic colonial skills like washing wool, dyeing it, and, soon to come, spinning and weaving it. We have also planted seeds, which the smart colonists would do. All of our gardening this year will be container gardening. So far, we have planted tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce and several herbs and spices. Science is a continuation of the Apologia curriculum covering flying animals. We are starting with birds and what makes them fly and some of their behavior. We will be starting to establish a bird journal which will . We are also going to set out bird feeders with different seeds and see which one is preferred by the birds. Apologia recommends some homemade suet as one alternative, but methinks that suet would melt in Arizona temperatures.

For math, Kris is continuing using Math U See. Elizabeth is almost finished with the third book and will be starting the fourth book, which will cover fractions and all the wonderful things you can do with fractions. Jessica is starting to learn multiplication and Kyle is starting addition. I think that they are all telling John math facts because he is starting to memorize certain facts.

For literature, I am using material from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, specifically related to literature. We are reading _The Princess and the Goblin_ by George MacDonald and talking about basic story elements, finding alliteration, similies, and metaphors. This also, we are doing together.

We are managing to do grammer a little bit together. I am using "Grammer Rock" to introduce topics, use the Bafflegab game to create sentences and then analyzing them, based on their level. Kyle is learning about subject/predicate, Jessi is having the basics parts of speech re-inforced and Elizabeth is learning about direct objects and will be learning about indirect objects. When President Obama gave his speech to Congress in regards to health care reform, I printed out the text and had the children take a paragraph and look for something, either subject, noun or verb. The kids like playing Bafflegab, in which they are given five words and have to come up with a sentence or two using as many words as they can manage.

Kyle is starting penmanship and Jessi is starting cursive writing using "A Reason for Handwriting." Jessi and Elizabeth sometimes will have copywork or dictation exercises. They also will sometimes be assigned writing activities. Most of the writing activities are short, but I did give both girls a biography to write and then verbally report to the rest of the school. Elizabeth did a great job and I will publish it soon. It was too much of a stretch for Jessi, though, even when I broke it down for her a little bit.

Outside activities include PE club called SportskidzAZ which meets Monday, art class, which meets Wednesday afternoon. The art class is another one of God's blessings. I found it by missing the turn to get to Usery mountain. I passed a house that looked like a castle and as I was pointing it out, I saw a sign indicating that someone was having art camp. I eventually wrote down the web site and found out that a local artist is teaching kids art in the area. He has been letting them make sculpey creatures, make wooden structures and is starting them on oil painting. Wow! The girls are also taking music lessons, Kyle has become involved in Cub Scouts and Jessi and John are taking gymnastics. Elizabeth has also become involved in the church youth choir and is taking horse riding lessons, which meets her P.E requirement. Her volunteer opportunity is helping her teacher, a college age girl, take care of the horses for an hour after her lesson. We meet once a month for a homeschool support/fellowship group and once a month for the group's playdate. Once again, God's grace is obvious because many of these activities involve more than one child at the same time, so that I don't have to be constantly in the car, though it does feel like it. We are currently evaluating the gymnastics day that Jessi and John are attending because it is already very busy.

I feel priviledge that God is still allowing me to learn so many things through my kids, not only stuff that I should have learned in school (reference to "Whaddya Know" program out of PBS--WI), but also how my kids "tick" and how to give gentle critism of their work. The best thing He has taught me is to recognize when I am being too tough on the kids, expecting their work to be high school level. When I catch myself in the middle of this train, I jump the tracks by saying, "Well, this is okay for a sixteen year old." The kids laugh at this and then I start "guessing" their real age. When I guess correctly, I tell them, "Well then, this is awesome for a ____ year old." And we hug. I am currently reading a book by Cynthia Tobias called _How They Learn_, which is a great way to have discussions. I am looking forward to learning more from Him and from my kids. I am amazed at what they can do.

We took a short break when a friend from Illinois, Denise, visited us, which was a LOT of fun. We will be taking a short break from all but the basics in October when we get a visit from Papa, Nana and cousin/niece Emily. We are really looking forward to seeing them.


Cynthia said...

Greetings, Kris.

I just discovered this site. Those are wild looking bikes you have. Were they custom built?

It's great getting an update on what you're doing. Yay, homeschoolers! (I work in educational publishing and see how awful the books tend to be.)

Don't underestimate the degree to which the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, contributed to our laws. People always tend to overlook that -- but there are things that were lifted almost word for word from the Bible. You could reconstruct much of our judicial system with nothing more than a Bible.

Let me know if you'd like any online resources for U.S. History in particular. It's really far more remarkable than what schoolbooks teach. (Did you know Sam Adams started at Harvard when he was 14?)

Have fun with the kids. Glad to hear you're settling in out in Arizona.

God bless you.


tandemingtroll said...

Hi Cythnia! Those are standard tandem bicycles, but we have attached a "trail-a-bike" at the back of one and a trailer at the back of the second.

A trail-a-bike is designed for children who don't quite know how to ride a bike or who are still at the slow, wobbly stages. One end of the bike is a wheel and the other end hitches onto a regular bicycle or tandem bicycle at the seat post. The child pedals independently of the other rider, but it allows adults to ride bicycles with their children attached.

The trailer is for babies six months old up to three or four years old. It has storage in the back, places in the front for holding sippy cups and books and a five star harness for the kids as well as a seat belt. It attaches at the V part of the frame near the spokes. In addition to hauling kids, I have attached it to my bike when I wanted to go grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly down the street from our old house. It is a great grocery cart!

The yellow tandem is pretty cool. It has dual telescoping seats, which means that Jessi and I can go on a ride with me in the front and then we can adjust it so that you and I can ride, or that Eric and I can ride with Eric in the front.

The nice thing about bicycling with all your kids "attached" to you is that you can go on fairly busy streets and not be worried that the kids will lose control and suddenly veer out onto the road to be crushed by a car. The difficulty is managing the additional weight during stops and the fact that the trailer acts like a really nice sail on windy days, working opposite of the rider's efforts.

Before we bought the second tandem, we would go out with the trail-a-bike attached to the purple tandem with the trailer attached to it. The whole set up was longer than our Toyota Corolla!

tandemingtroll said...


I would love to hear about resources for American History. Last year, we focused on Ancient History and talked about how similar the Hammarabi code was to the Levitical laws. For American History, I get different books from the library, like _Primary Source Documents_ and own a book called _This Country of Ours_, which covers the discovery of America to just before the Civil War. One amazing fact that I don't remember being taught is the contrast between the Jamestown Settlement and the Plymouth Colony settled by the Pilgrims. Even though there was a lot of suffering in both places, the Pilgrims seemed to get established far quicker than the Jamestown colony because they had different goals and because most of the initial colonists were hard working farmers rather than gentlemen adventurers and convicts. I really think it is God's grace toward the Jamestown colonists that gave them the favor of the Indians in spite of the fact that they sponged off the Indians for at least two winters, maybe more. It is truly by the grace of God that they survived and eventually thrived.

Anonymous said...

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