Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homeschool Activities

If you ask the kids they love and hate homeschooling. They love that we can spend weeks studying things we are interested in but they hate not being around other kids for school. We try to do outside activities (dance, music and sports) plus this year three of them are taking science classes at our local nature center. We have had some bumps as we got started this year because Milagro officially started kindergarten this year. The rest of them are a bit jealous of the attention she needs to do her learning. Other than that we are moving right along.

Currently we have a staggered schedule because of all their attention issues. Milagro and Tortuga are our late sleepers so we start our school day with Pollito and Corazon. They begin their days with breakfast and morning chores (cats, litter boxes, recycling and unloading dishwasher) then they do their morning gratitude and journal writings, update reading logs, and drawing. Corazon's schedule is mostly self-paced so we meet once/week to map out her progress and what she needs/wants to work on for the week. She does math, writing, reading, social studies/history pretty much every day and we have science as a project-based activity. She is also taking two homeschool courses at our local Science and Nature Center (one meets once/month and the other meets twice/month and has them working on a science project for a science fair in February.) Pollito is still learning to read (it has been an uphill struggle) and while he is 8 he is still more like a first/second grader. He has a  daily folder of activities that follow our weekly theme(shared with Milagro) and he can pick what he does and the order he does it in. He always has reading, writing, math, science and theme (usually a mix of different subjects.) He has active work on reading so each day he does at least 4 of the following 6 literacy/reading activities: Read by himself, Read to Someone, Read WITH Someone, Listen to reading (audiobooks, ipad, or computer), Word Work and Practice writing. He also takes the monthly science class that Corazon takes.

Milagro usually gets up an hour or so after the first two so they are well on their way doing independent work so that I can work with her. She has a daily schedule that she follows on her own: Calendar, Weather, "Folders" (writing/numbers/math/patterns/letters/sight words), Storytime, Reading (with me) and at least 2 of the 6 literacy/reading activities that Pollito has. After that she has computer/ipad time which may include science, math, literacy activities and then "specials" (crafts, art, music, science, etc.). She also takes the same monthly science class the others take.

Tortuga is the last to get up and the one needing the most attention. While I do one-on-one work with Milagro, he goes through his morning routine, chores, gratitude journal and daily journal prompt. I usually have a daily "sheet" for him that details his assignments for the day although much of it is self-paced in the same way that Corazon's is. However, he has many more breaks and interruptions because his self-control and impulse control are still a challenge. Anytime he has a comment or question about anything he is doing he tends to want to interrupt so we have a pretty elaborate system to keep him in check around this. For the most part he loves learning new things (as does Corazon) so much of their work involves reading about specific subjects on a much deeper level than would normally happen in schools. Currently they are working on dystopic novels/stories so they are working their way through several author studies and will ultimately write their own dystopic story.

It is a sophisticated balancing act but for the most part it keeps things running pretty smoothly, except of course, when it doesn't. :-)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. I have so much to be grateful for especially the most incredible partner in the world. I am grateful for her every. single. day. As Toni Morrison wrote in her book, Beloved:  “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me... (T)he pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”  I am blessed to have my family, great friends near and far, a comfortable home, happy and healthy children, safety, love, laughter, everything I need and much of what I want, and reminders to never take these for granted. 

This month our family has regularly shared our gratitudes nightly at dinner. It has been fun to hear Milagro be thankful for "care bears" (because they keep us caring) and Pollito express his gratitude for trees, rocks, and trucks. The older ones have been thankful for books, science classes, and two moms. One day Pollito commented that he was thankful he didn't have a dad which sparked a wonderful conversation about moms and dad, birthmoms and birthdays, and ultimately "what matters most" which in Pollito's estimation was a mom or dad "who loves you no matter how many things you break!" :-)

This Thanksgiving we are continuing a tradition from last year. We hosted my sister and niece (who live in town) and C.'s parents (from CO.) Then my mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece came in from South TX. It was basically the same crew from last year except that our dear friends A. & H. and their kids weren't able to join us. The kids were disappointed and made comments like "it doesn't feel like Thanksgiving because _____ aren't here." Milagro went as far as asking me to call and tell them to drop off the kids, J. & Z, even if the adults couldn't make it. :-) I made a big meal and we watched football and just spent time together. On Friday, we avoided shopping areas, went out to everyone's favorite BBQ place and had a grand time. It is so much fun to watch my older niece (who just turned 17) spend time with her younger cousins. They don't see each other much and it really hasn't been that long that the kids have known one another. My brother's religious views had kept him from accepting our family although he seems to have had a change of heart in the past two years. He used to simply ignore C. but now he has discovered her sense of humor and they seem to have found some shared interests.

Perhaps the highlights of the holiday were that Tortuga had no major incidents and for the first time ever Corazon was able to help with the cooking in ways that didn't interfere with, sabotage, upstage, disrupt or otherwise create more work for me and meltdowns for her. She was appropriate, pleasant, and absolutely awesome. She followed directions, did grunge work, had fun, kept me company, and got to take pride in her terrific work as sous-chef. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What's working for us these days...

Corazon has continued to stay on her schoolwork ever since I told her "quit" school. She still struggles at times but insists the schoolwork is interesting and engaging and that it is her own attitude that gets in her way.  She still gives me attitude about things and we still battle for control but her schoolwork issues are greatly reduced. At about the time that I told her to quit school we brought out her "mother/daughter" journal and we started writing back and forth to each other again. I was able to express my disappointment and frustration (and hurt about how she was acting) in ways that felt safer to her and that she could actually "hear." She shares some of those frustrations and disappointments in herself and she was able to own them in writing in ways that she would never do if we were discussing them. When I forget to write back within our timeline (48 hours) she gently reminds me and says she misses it. So that is working for us.

We also started using the noise canceling headphones with her again. I had forgotten how well they worked and why we stopped using them. She is allowed to listen to her MP3 player which starts out with reiki music, gregorian chants and Mozart and then continues on with other classical music. She reports that she loves the feeling she gets from the music and it helps her focus and concentrate. I certainly think it is helping her disposition tremendously too! She is less distracted and much more relaxed both while she is doing schoolwork and afterwards. We are instituting the headphones with the boys soon as soon as I can get them ordered.

We have also started using a new combination of herbal supplements with Tortuga and while I think it still needs tweaking I think we may be onto something. More on that later.

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