First Week of School

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My kids are easy to please.  All it took was the installation of a white board in the kitchen for them to get excited about going back to school this week.  The size of our school doubled this year since Brilliant B (now a 5th grader) has her brother Legohead L (now a 3rd grader) at home with her.  We were not sure how it was going to work out with both of them and how I was going to manage working and splitting my time between the two of them.  I’m still working at home this summer, but so far so good.  I’m glad we’ve taken this time to start easing into the crazy schedule and to get everyone used to the routine.  I’m also glad that it has gone SO WELL.  Rather than being annoyed by having her little brother around, B said that she is really happy to have a classmate.  L said he is glad that he has me to teach him because I am very smart.  Everyone is doing great, and I could not be any happier.

New Year, New Site

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We are starting our new school year in one week! As part of the preparations, I am making a few changes on the blog. First, if you’ve been here before, note that Cogito Ergo Homeschool is now Learning at Lakeside Academy. It’s still us, but we’re using our new school name. I’m also working on a fresh, new design to start the new school year. Stop by next week for our first day of school!

Choosing Curriculum

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My kids are weird.  Two years ago, before homeschooling had ever entered our minds as an option, Brilliant B and Legohead L would ask to “learn some more stuff” over the summer.  So, I would ask them what they wanted to learn about that summer and create little unit studies for them.  They liked it so much that they asked for it again last summer because “mommy is such a fun teacher”.  Brilliant B had been having all kinds of emotional problems related to frustrations in the classroom, and I considered this to be a test of what homeschool might be like.  It was on our radar as a possibility at this point.  Since unit studies had been working so well in the summers, that was the first idea of a homeschooling method I considered.

I spent last summer reading about unschooling (no way), textbooks (part of what we ultimately wanted to escape), virtual school (I wanted more control), Charlotte Mason (close, but lacking focus moving forward into middle school), and publishers with whole curriculum set out (either too much like textbooks or too religious in a way that did not match up with our Catholic beliefs).  When I finally found The Well Trained Mind, everything fell into place perfectly.

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The Well Trained Mind spoke to me because it touches on (1) everything that I knew was great about my own education and (2) everything I realized at some point my education had been lacking.  I was absolutely convinced that classical curriculum was the way to go, and I liked the way that this book set out a structure in which to apply the classical methods in your homeschool.  Of course, when I read the book we still had not actually decided to homeschool.  We were in the “maybe” stages.

As it turned out, our decision to homeschool came a couple of months later with really no warning and only about two weeks to plan.  I pulled out my copy of The Well Trained Mind and got to work ordering books and making a rough sketch of a curriculum.  I followed my gut with what I knew was right for me as a teacher and B as the student.  While I sometimes would second guess myself about how well we were doing with actual homeschooling, I never once second guessed the curriculum choice.

We don’t follow The Well Trained Mind schedule exactly, but it establishes our educational foundation.  I give myself the freedom to stick in interesting educational opportunities as they present themselves.  Trust your gut when you choose a style and curriculum, and don’t force something that doesn’t work with you or your kids.  The great thing about homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all.  The educational experience can be customized to meet the needs of each student, and it is a process of learning and growth for everyone involved.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Just enjoy!

Summer Fun

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So, we haven’t been to the beach or gone anywhere yet this summer.  Only one of the kids has even been to a pool this month.  I’m in physical therapy 3 times a week and teaching an online class this summer.  The kids have enjoyed the extra time to be totally immersed in their passions.

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1. Minecraft.  B and L love Minecraft, and we let them get their own server to learn how to install mods and run it.  They’ve also been having fun live streaming videos.  L is either going to be the next big Youtube sensation or a scary hacker.

2. Dance.  B performed in a production of Swan Lake at the beginning of the month along with a former gold medalist at the International Ballet Competition and this year’s silver medalist.  These dancers literally take your breath away.  She also spent two weeks at ballet intensive and competition dance camp/auditions.

3. Art.  B suddenly discovered a new love of drawing this summer and has spent hours and hours drawing Minecraft skins and similar characters.  She even spent her own money to buy nice paper and markers.

4. Day camp.  B went to a literature camp where they learned about writing stories, children’s literature, and how to play quidditch!  She loved it!  I loved that I tricked the girl who claims she “hates writing” into thinking it was fun.  L went to a musical theater camp, and they put on a 30-minute show on the last day.  It was fantastic, and he came home asking to go again next year.

We’re starting school again in about two and a half weeks, so I’m going to get ready to start posting about those plans.  Until then, go soak up some summer sun!

 

Top Three Ways to Celebrate World Cup Fever

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Since I used to play and coach soccer and L plays on a select soccer team, it should come as no surprise that World Cup Fever is alive and well in our house.

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Even if you are not soccer players, this is a great chance to have fun and learn as a family.     What are some ways you can do this?

1. Play soccer.  All you really need is a ball of any kind that you can kick around the yard.  I am still hobbling around on crutches with a broken knee, but I encourage everyone to give it a try.  It is great exercise and helps kids develop strength and coordination.  It’s also great if your kids are getting antsy from being inside too long.

2. Watch the World Cup games.  Find each team’s home country on the map or globe.  What’s cool about the beginning of each game is that you also get to hear the national anthem of each country.  You may want to color a picture of that country’s flag.  This site also has a free printable bunting of flags.  You might also want to study the geography of Brazil and all the different stadium locations.  If you are feeling really creative you could make these homemade flag ice pops.  I wish I was feeling that ambitious right now.

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3. Read about soccer.  There are so many great soccer-themed books for every member of the family.

For lower elementary and below:
DK Readers L1: Let’s Play Soccer

Soccer Day (After-School Sports Club)

Froggy Plays Soccer

Soccer Sam (Step into Reading, Step 4)

Winners Never Quit! (written by soccer star, Mia Hamm)

 

For mid-upper elementary:
Magic Tree House #52: Soccer on Sunday (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))

Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #29: Soccer: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #52: Soccer on Sunday (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))

David Beckham (Amazing Athletes)

Go For the Goal: A Champion’s Guide To Winning In Soccer And Life

Lily Out of Bounds: Soccer Sisters Series, Book 1

Saving the Team (The Kicks)

Soccer Duel

The Wild Soccer Bunch, Book 1, Kevin the Star Striker

The Flea – The Amazing Story of Leo Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo The Rise of a Winner

National Geographic Kids Everything Soccer: Score Tons of Photos, Facts, and Fun

DK Biography: Pele

Soccer (DK Eyewitness Books)

 

For the older kids and parents:
Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia—and Even Iraq—Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport

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Are you watching the World Cup and doing anything special to celebrate this special event?

Westward Expansion

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I’m backing up a little now to talk about some of the fun things we did during the last few weeks of school.  I never got around to posting this, so you are getting it now as I am trying to get everything filed and put away to officially close out this year.  Next year is just around the corner, and planning is beginning to take shape here.  So, I really need to get this off my plate.

We had a lot of fun learning about Lewis and Clark, Westward Expansion, and the Gold Rush!  Some of the highlights included this great video by National Geographic:

Brilliant B loved reading Little House on the Prairie and completed this lapbook from Knowledge Box Central to go along with the book.  Jamie over at Simple Homeschool also has this really cool Little House virtual field trip.  If you are reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, I highly suggest hopping over there for a look.  B constructed her own wagon out of paper.

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She also let L help her to pan for gold one weekend.  We used this Gold Rush Panning Kit.

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This was definitely one her favorite units, and I think it was so successful because of how we managed to combine literature, history, and so many fun activities.  I had not been able to do as much of that earlier in the year since there really has to be a lot of planning to make this come together well.  I’ll be working on this more as I start planning for the next year.

 

Closing the Books on the First Year of Homeschooling

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It has been three weeks since B completed her first year of homeschool and L completed his last year in Catholic school.  I’ve had a lot of time to think about the journey to this point.  I never would have thought we would be a homeschooling family, but it started to enter my mind in a serious way about a year ago.  The decision to take B out of school last October was sudden, and I had little time to plan and schedule for the year.  A lot of times I felt like we were just winging it, but it still worked.  I liked having flexibility with our schedule, allowing B the opportunity to tailor her education to her interests, and spending more time with her.  Now I love homeschooling and can’t imagine our lives any other way.  I am so excited to have Legohead L home with us now for 3rd grade.

It hasn’t always been great.  I am so tired so much of the time as I juggle homeschooling, being a mom and wife, my career, and all of the kids’ activities.  I’m taking a lot of time this summer to get all of those things better organized (after all, I can’t do much else when I can’t walk), so I have hope that this year will be better.

B completed the equivalent of 4th and half of 5th grade.  We have not always had the best consistency when it came to devoting time to schoolwork, but we made it.  I know the key going forward will be better planning on my part and more time and energy spent on accountability by both my husband and myself.

B still cries when she struggles with schoolwork, particularly when it involves math.  However, she doesn’t have daily headaches and stomachaches like she did every day after school.  She isn’t angry and filled with angst.  She is not filled with tween drama and attitude.  She is a joy to be around now, and our relationship has never been better.

Overall, the experience has been nothing but positive and successful.  I am so glad that we took the leap of faith as a family and did what we knew in our hearts was best.  I feel so blessed to be able to give each child exactly what they need to grow and learn.  I am one proud homeschooling mom.