Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Teaching the Test


If you are a homeschooler I think you would agree that a big motivating factor in your decision to homeschool is that you have the right (with limits in some states) to teach your children what you want to teach them. At least in Missouri, we do not have to get approval for our curriculum or follow Common Core.

Brynne will be reentering public school in the fall for 7th grade. The school will require her to submit assessments to enroll, standardized test results. We do not take standardized tests. Really, we do not even take tests. Our assessments are typically based on discussion and mastery of materials as we compete lessons.

The elementary school has agreed to allow Brynne to sit with the other 6th graders to take the MAP test in May. That way she does not have to take a standardized test by herself at the high school sometime this summer, and I want the school to proctor her test so there is no question about its results.

The 6th graders do testing in Math and English. Because we do not follow Common Core, I need to make sure that Brynne has covered all of the topics that will be on the tests. I purchased Study Island for two months. She is working on a lesson of both Math and English each day. English has been super easy for her so far. Math has presented a few challenges, but she is moving through the problems nicely.

Because Eli and Brynne use the same curriculum in all of our subjects, we have put away our current Math curriculum and Eli has also been doing the Math portion of Study Island. Although he will not be sitting for the MAP test, or any standardized test in the near future, the use of Study Island is helping me see his strengths and weaknesses in Math. It has helped me see where our focus should be next year. In fact, it has shown me that, perhaps, we should scale back a bit for him with Math concepts, to slow down and let him digest some things that we have, obviously, not covered thoroughly enough. He was showing some extreme frustration and distress about his progress, so we shut down Study Island and covered some other material for a few days. His entire demeanor changed (I mean for the whole school day) because he was experiencing some success in Math instead of constant failure. It has helped me identify what Math we will be covering the rest of this school year, through the summer, and into next Fall. Homeschooling is a blessing, even when standardized testing gets involved.

But Brynne is pushing on in preparation of her test in May.

What this whole standardized testing thing has really shown me, though, is that our public schools really are so standardized.

I was at the high school last week at a Meet the School Board candidates forum and play practice was going on in the gym. I looked around the commons area at the posters and things hanging on the wall displaying some of the other areas of extra-curricular activities. I listened to the school board candidates discuss the challenges in our schools including technology, making sure students are ready for college and life after high school, etc. But in my mind all I could think was, "How in the world do you have time for all that other stuff if you have to be 'teaching the test'?" No wonder our students are strung out, spaced out, and stressed out.

I can see it in the eyes of my two students at home in just the little bit of standardized learning they are doing with Math.

And the standardized learning is anything but enjoyable. And because there is so much of it in just one day's lesson, we have had to put some of our other topics on the back burner just to get them completed.

Public schools have to do that every day. That's why you see so many extra-curricular activities happening only in after-school hours or being eliminated from the schools altogether.

I am not going to lie when I say that I am sad that Brynne is going back to public school. I think they try, I really do, but they are just not able to meet the needs of all of their students. I pray that she will not get lost in the shuffle. If anybody can navigate the waters of public school it will be Brynne. But I can't help to stop and think of the other students like Eli who would drown in that environment.

I only have 6 weeks left of teaching Brynne. I hate it that those weeks will be spent teaching the test. But, for her to be prepared, it is what has to be done.

Instead of taking off a full week for Spring Break this year (um, we did just start back to school from Christmas Break at the beginning of February), I told the kids that I would just give them off 5 random days between now and the end of our school year. They thought that was a great idea. We had pre-scheduled a day off this past Monday because we had such a busy weekend and I was pretty sure we would all need the day off. I was right! We were exhausted that day, and I had caught a cold and needed some mindless rest. Then yesterday we took off another day because I got asked to sub in my mom's card group, and I played cards all day. This week was a little low-key, but that was great for us. We still completed what we needed to complete and are ready for a full, strong week next week.

2016-2017 School Hours Logged: 752.5 hours, including 160.75 hours outside home. Plus Summer 2016 Hours Logged: 70.75 hours, including 27 hours outside home.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Simple Woman's Daybook


I just plain don't have an answer for today's Tuesday Coffee Chat question, but I am up early and drinking coffee and in the mood to write so I am going to do a Daybook entry instead.



Looking out my window ... It is dark and chilly. It seems we are having a last blast of cold air before spring temps settle in for the duration. Why is it so dark at 7:07 a.m.? Because of that darned Daylight Savings.

I am thinking ... about how behind I am on my 40 Bags in 40 Days Lent challenge. A super busy weekend and then a cruddy cold zapped my time and energy.

I am thankful ... that I feel much better today after several days in a row of that yucky cold.

One of my favorite things ... is when I am struggling with a particular issue and then God speaks to me directly through scripture. Seek and you will find.

I am creating ... thoughts and ideas for our softball season rapidly approaching. I am coaching this year!

I am watching ... lots of DVR'd shows. I have also started watching House of Cards on Netflix while I run on the treadmill.

I am wearing ... pjs and robe now. Workout clothes in a few minutes. And then I'll shower and put on some jeans, a sweatshirt, and probably Ugg boots to do my senior citizen meal delivery.

I am reading ... The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. 

I am listening to ... The sound of my air purifier and my diffuser sputtering as it empties the last of its contents. And dogs snoring.

I am hoping ... to get caught up on some housework and laundry today and get our bread baked for the week.

I am learning ... that is best to just keep my opinions to myself most times.

In the kitchen ... something is stinking in my refrigerator and I cannot figure out what it is. I have pulled everything out twice and can't find the culprit. Yet, each time I open it I smell something funky. 

In the schoolroom ... Instead of taking off a full week for Spring Break I told the kids that we would just take off five random days between now and the end of our school year. Yesterday was one of those days after a crazy busy weekend of basketball. That pre-scheduled day off worked out great because I felt so rotten yesterday. Back to the books today!

Board Room ... I love this idea for the pots on my front porch! They would smell amazing and I could harvest right out my front door.



Post Script ... Sadly, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away yesterday of Ovarian cancer at the age of 55. She wrote an amazing article called "You May Want to Marry My Husband" that I just adore. What a sad day for her family.

Shared Quote ... I actually dreamed last night that I forgot to take my cell phone with me somewhere when we really needed it. Then I saw this today and literally laughed out loud because I have actually done this!!



A Moment from my Day ... We have been doing a whole lot of basketball lately. Basketball is a long season, starting the first of November. We have one 3 on 3 tournament and another team tournament scheduled before we end our season. This is the last year for Brynne to play rec basketball, and she is going to miss it so much! Her coach has been amazing and has instilled in her a real love of basketball. She is ready for junior high basketball because of him. (In fact, I blame him for her going back to public school. She just cannot not play basketball. It is now in her soul.) There were over 15 girls who played basketball this year for 5th and 6th grade, mostly 6th graders. That required the coach to divide up the tournament team (the team that played together last year) to have two equal-skilled teams. Brynne's team won second in their conference in both the regular season and in the conference tournament. The other team finished 3rd in both. It has been such a fun ride! I am so incredibly proud of Brynne and her skill and character when on the court.






Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge


What is one area of your life where you're a perfectionist? Is that a good thing?

This is kind of a hard one! I would say that I don't think I am a perfectionist, but I have a feeling my family would object and start hurling examples. I know that I like my day to go a certain way and when it doesn't I get my feathers ruffled. One thing I do obsess about all day every day, though, is my couch pillows. I want them on the couch properly so I reposition them several times a day (and sometimes pick them up off the floor. Really, people?).

What's something you find perfectly ridiculous?

Oh so much. Mostly it's people and their need to have a cause when it eventually becomes clear that they don't even really know what they are standing up for except just to be making a point (and an ass of themselves, ahem!). i.e. Colin Kaepernick and his National Anthem fiasco, and I could name oh. so. many. others. Enjoy the UK, Miley Cyrus!

What's a skill you've developed by way of that old fashioned saying, 'practice makes perfect?'

Running. Running was something I kind of started out of necessity ... I either jogged with Crusoe or he drug me around the block. Getting to where I could run a mile without stopping was one of my defining moments (in fact I was just a few feet from the end of it when said Crusoe decided he needed to stop and take a poop, so I drug him to the end). I kept at it, and I remember the exact day that I realized that I wasn't winded after running a mile and just kept going. I have run some 5Ks and a 4-mile run. I would say that I am far from perfect at running ... I am slow and not always motivated. But I have hit a really good groove where I run 2-3 miles about 4 days a week, and it feels good, and I actually enjoy it. I am finding new ways of extending my endurance, increasing my pace, and taking care of my body.

What's your idea of a perfect breakfast?

One that I don't have to cook. Ha! If I could choose I would go to a brunch buffet at a nice restaurant. My plate would include an egg casserole, biscuits and gravy, sausage, some fruit, and a cheese danish. And lots of coffee!

What's a trip, holiday, vacation, or day outing you've taken that you'd rate a perfect 10? Tell us why.

I have been on many perfect 10 excursions. So to choose one is extremely difficult! I would have to say the day that Kyndal and Collin got married in Cozumel in 2015 ranks up there with a perfect day/trip/holiday/vacation. The event was flawlessly orchestrated by the coordinator from the moment we stepped off the ship to the ceremony to the cake to the seaside champagne toast to the post-wedding beach day. Everything about it was perfection.



What quote or saying perfectly sums up your life right now? If you can't do perfect, how about one that comes close?




How would you spend $300 today?

If I had to spend it today I'd go to the Amish greenhouse and buy all of my flowers for the spring. However, it's a little early to buy flowers (we are supposed to have snow on Saturday). If I could hold onto the money for a month or so, I would use it to buy future farmhouse stuff at Junkapalooza where I am going at the end of April.

Insert your own random thought here.

Being a mother of adult kids is agonizing. I worry so much more than I ever did when they were little kids. I have one who is trying to sell her house and buy a newer, bigger one that will increase their expenses, so I worry. I have one who is trying to find a job and figure out his future, so I worry. Both of them are good kids, smart, strong, but I still worry. I know they don't understand, and won't until they are parents of their own adult kids. I know they think all I do is harp on them and point out the negatives and feel like I don't support them. But, really, I am their biggest supporter. I am just a mama who is scared to death that her children will be hurt by life. Hug your littles, everybody. One day too soon they will be adults.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tuesday Coffee Chat




Who is someone you miss?

I have a few friends I don't get to see often enough, and I miss them. I miss my mom when she's in Florida for several months at a time. I miss Rick and the kids when one of us is away. But, to be honest, I have not had a lot of real loss of loved ones in my life.

There is only one person I think about often and truly miss, and that's my Grandma Alice. I especially miss her in the month of March because her birthday was on St. Patrick's Day.


At my Grandma's funeral I shared that she was the only person in my life who had never disappointed me. She was a tough old gal, but there was no question in my mind how much she loved me.

She was the grandma who had the family dinners where she served everyone while she stood at the kitchen counter to eat (plus she made the best chicken dinner on the planet). We spent the night with my grandma most Saturday nights. We would play double solitaire, watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, wind the clock before bed, and take turns sleeping with her. She always woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep and would turn on her lamp to read. She rose before dawn on Sunday mornings to sit at the kitchen table and prepare her Sunday school lesson. Then she took us to church.

My grandma attended a lot of my events, which was nice, but mostly she just welcomed us in her home. I have fond memories of picking and snapping green beans, playing with her dog, and she had the most amazing azalea bush in her backyard. (I transplanted some of it last year and I am praying it survived the winter.)

I have several things of my grandma's that reminds me of her every day. That old clock we used to wind is in my sitting room. I use her metal measuring spoons and measuring cups every time I cook. (I played with those spoons and cups when I was a baby, and now my grandson will get to play with them.) I cook my eggs in her extremely well-seasoned cast iron skillet every morning. My dresser top is filled with all things that were my grandma's ... the antique plates that hold my jewelry, the mirror frame that my mom made when she worked at a frame shop when she was a young woman that held my grandma's makeup, her antique brush and mirror, statues of a man and woman that I have had in every one of my houses, a small framed picture that I retrieved from her house when she went into the nursing home. My most treasured possession is her Bible.


 



One thing I regret is that I didn't talk to her enough. I didn't ask about what she was doing during World War II, how she was raised, things she did for fun when she was a girl, dreams she had, goals she met, etc. I learned a smattering of things about her through the years but I never sat and had an intentional conversation with her about her life. By the time I was really old enough to understand the importance of that, she was aging and conversations were a little difficult.


How I wish she was here so we could just talk.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Week in the Life


Today I am going to combine my Weekly Wrap-up (actually two weeks worth) with a post on what it's like to be in our homeschool in a typical week.

Quite honestly, we are in such an "ordinary" groove that I really don't have a very exciting wrap-up post to put up each week. I struggle to find creative ways to share that we did this, this, and this and that was our week.

What I have learned about my kids in this middle school stage is that they like routine, they don't care a thing about bells and whistles in their learning, they love me to read to them, and they get the most learning out of educational television shows and videos.

We have some daily non-negotiables in reading, writing, and math. I am a language arts freak so we do lots of grammar, spelling, writing (including cursive), copywork, and reading. Other subjects get sprinkled into our day, mostly dictated by someone's personal interest.

The only real difference between this year and years past is that we are preparing Brynne to re-enter public school next year. She went to public school for pre-k and kindergarten (for 6 weeks) in Oklahoma before we brought her home for her schooling. She's been home since then. But, Brynne plays all the sports, and plays them well. Recreational sports end after 6th grade in our little Missouri town; so in order for her to continue to play sports with the school starting next year she will have to attend public school. It's not a school thing, it's a Missouri sports organization thing ... to participate in any state-sanctioned sports team (school), she has to attend the school. On the one hand we are extremely bummed because Brynne really enjoys being homeschooled. But, on the other hand we know that she will be just fine in public school. The school is small, she has tons of friends already, she is a "school-y" kid so will adjust well to the requirements of school, she is extremely smart, and she is outgoing and determined. Really, I am the one who will have to do the most adjusting. I love her so much and will miss her. She's a great student and a great person.

So, what does a week look like here at our school:

Most days are the same ....

6:30 a.m. - Mom is up for coffee, quiet time, Bible study, computer time, exercise, showering, and getting ready for the day.

9:00 a.m. - Kids are up for breakfast and to get ready for the day.

10:00 a.m. - We all pile into the living room for spelling, CNN 10 (anyone else disappointed with the change from CNN Student News?), copywork, read aloud time (currently the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series), grammar, group read aloud from McGuffey's, and personal reading.

Noonish-1:00 p.m. - Lunch. The kids disappear to their rooms and devices with their lunches. I do the same and maybe do a little housework.

After lunch - We gather back in the living room for math, astronomy, Greek Mythology, Missouri History, and usually some kind of research or a television show we are watching together (right now we are researching historical events from the show Timeless and then watching the episode, enjoying a weekly episode of The Zoo, and researching biomes and then watching an episode of The Wheel.) We typically end the day with more personal reading.

3:00-4:00 p.m. - We call it a day.

Evenings - The kids usually retreat to their rooms for personal time. Eli's consists mostly of playing his Xbox and watching YouTube. Brynne usually has some kind of sports practice. Right now it's basketball and running club, but will soon transition into softball.

I have found that I can leave the kids to themselves more and more to take personal responsibility for their work. I can leave them a list of things to accomplish and know that it gets done.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays - I leave the house from 11 a.m. - Noon each of those days to deliver meals to Senior Citizens in our town. The kids usually do their spelling, copywork, and personal reading while I am gone.

Wednesdays - Eli has speech therapy in another town at 9:15 a.m., so we get started with school as soon as we get back home.

Mondays and Thursdays - We end school at 2:45 p.m. because Brynne has Girls on the Run club from 3-4:30 p.m.

Thursdays - Eli's friend Nolan comes over at 3:00 p.m. for some enrichment time. The boys are watching Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego and charting her travels and jotting down facts about the geographical locations she visits. Then they get in some play time.

Fridays - We take it easy on Fridays getting caught up on anything we didn't get completed during the week, watching some extra videos, playing some games, and doing a little more reading. We have busy weekends with sports so we try to wind down on Fridays. I go grocery shopping every other week so the kids are here all day by themselves with a list of things to accomplish. They do a great job on their own.

Then we wash, rinse, and repeat.

We roll through our weeks at a nice pace, accomplishing everything we set out to accomplish, and generally feel really good about all we are learning. I have no complaints, and I can't think of anything I would do differently at this stage in our schooling. Everyone seems happy and satisfied with our level of learning.

I am just trying to cherish the days we have left with both kids here at home for their schooling, because next year things will look so different.

2016-2017 School Hours Logged: 701 hours, including 151.75 hours outside home. Plus Summer 2016 Hours Logged: 70.75 hours, including 27 hours outside home.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge



'Slow and steady wins the race' ... Tell us about a time this was true in your own life.

A healthy lifestyle is definitely something that I believe should be done slowly and steadily so that our ways become life-changing instead of a quick, temporary fix. This is something I am working so hard to teach my children and to work out in my own life.

'As slow as molasses' ... Do you like molasses? How about maple syrup? Caramel? Butterscotch? What's your favorite of the slow moving treats mentioned here, and what's your favorite food made with that sweet treat?

Molasses? Yes. Maple syrup? Not really. Caramel? Yes. Butterscotch? Yes. Caramel is a favorite overall, but I absolutely love molasses cookies.

Your favorite slow song?

Soul Provider by Michael Bolton



Your favorite thing to make in a slow cooker or crock pot?

Beef stroganoff.

'You may delay, but time will not.' ~ Benjamin Franklin. Are you more a hurrier or a delayer when it comes to unpleasant tasks that need doing? What are you currently either delaying or hurrying to get through this week or month?

Totally a delayer, every single time. I put everything off to the last second, and I work best under pressure. I have several things I am wanting to do, but until I feel pressured into doing it, I probably won't .... power wash my house, clean out my hall closet, clean up and purge the remainder of the basement, make Dawson's bedroom into an inviting guest bedroom. There is more, I assure you, but these are very pressing.

Tell us three things you encounter regularly or even just occasionally that you find to be annoyingly slow.

Traffic, my coffee pot when I forget to set my timer before I go to bed, anything and everything when I am in a hurry (see previous question about me being a delayer).

March is National Craft Month. Are you crafty? Tell us something crafty you'll try in the next thirty-one days. Or something crafty you'd like to try or wish you had the skill to make happen.

I would say I'm pretty crafty. I would like to redo the finish on the coffee table I have in the basement to use in our living room (AGAIN, see the question above about me being a delayer. Yep. Every single time.)

Insert your own random thought here.

My sweet grandson, Bennett, turned 6 months old this past week. He is such a joy and delight to our lives, and I am so blessed to be able to see him and kiss him and snuggle him every day. He is beautiful and happy and smart and healthy and perfect.