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Image from this wonderful sounding class: http://www.women-philosophy.org/portfolio/university-of-paderborn-erasmus-mundus-history-of-women-philosophers/

 

After reading what this dingbat said about the lack of even one great female philosopher in history (he said that he could only recall one important female philosopher, “and she was not a significant thinker in the estimation of historians of philosophy.”), I decided it would be nice to do a unit study of famous (and not so famous) female philosophers with the kids.

Here’s a list of some to start, courtesy of Wikipedia:

A list of women philosophers ordered alphabetically by surname:

I figure we can combine copywork with history and philosophy, filling a journal with bios and some printed photos and quotes.  My goal is to work on it with the kids over the summer.  Even if we don’t make it through the entire list, the kids will be better educated on the subject than Mr. Murray.

 

Here’s a neat look at genetics from a different standpoint, by looking at the DNA of 85 dog breeds.  Click on the image to view it full size.

Found via Pinterest.  Source:  Human Genome Research Institute, NIH

 

Okay, there is no way I am really summing up twelve years of homeschooling in one blog post. :)

It just occurred to me today that I’ve been officially doing this for 12+ years, since we decided to homeschool for Victoria’s preschool years and then kindergarten and so on, and she’s now in 10th grade.  Counting two years of preschool, that would make this her 13th year of homeschool.

No matter I get a little burned out once in a while.  ;)

I honestly have no idea what big lessons I’ve learned along the way, now with five kids of all ages.

But I think the biggies for us would be…

  • Kids learn best when it’s fun.
  • Kids learn best when they feel control over what they’re learning and how.
  • Homeschooling isn’t fun for anybody if you don’t keep it fun for kids and parents.  And yes, it can be fun for parents too.
  • Your homeschooling should fit your personality, and your children’s.  If you love schedules and deadlines and following directions, you’ll thrive using “boxed” curricula.  If that’s not how you roll, don’t try to make that your homeschooling MO.  Likewise, don’t try to make your kids homeschool in ways that fit your learning style and preferences and not theirs.
  • Everything is easier when it’s hands-on or there’s a pile of fun books to expand the learning.
  • Learning opportunities are everywhere.
  • Games are invaluable as educational tools.  All types.
  • It’s okay to hang around in your pajamas and play unschoolers for a while even if you’re not unschoolers.  “A while” can be however long you need.
  • Never underestimate how much your kids can learn just through copious trips to the library and huge piles of books.
  • Scope and sequence lists are for suckers.  Teach each subject until it’s fully mastered to your satisfaction and your child’s need, at whatever pace that takes, in whatever order works for your kid.
  • There are excellent free educational materials out there for every grade and subject.  Sometimes you just need to look a little bit to find them.
  • There are also more and more free educational materials that are not excellent and have ulterior motives.  From free history curricula that teach political agendas to free nutritional curricula that are paid for by GMO companies, there are lots of organizations working to buy off your family with a free poster and some lesson plans.  They are not worth it.
  • Your enthusiasm will set the tone for everybody else’s.
  • Sometimes the best way to teach a difficult subject is to step back from it for a while and do something else.  Nine times out of ten, it won’t be as difficult a subject next time.
  • If you homeschool, you have even more of a moral obligation to provide your kids with things to fuel their passions.  That means you consider it an educational expense to buy cool science materials or zoo memberships or art supplies or legos (I recommend thrift stores for those or you’ll need to start selling body parts).
  • Life is too short to stick to the lesson plan.

Okay, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the things I learned the first dozen years, but those are some big ones to come to mind.

Any you’d add?

It’s been a while since I posted one of these so I thought it would be fun to do another.  Here are some fun ways to work in all sorts of subjects with a bit of fun…

  1. Spit ball geography: Get a big world map and play a different game with it every day this week.  For today, try launching spit balls at countries that other people call out!  Here’s how to make spitballs, or you could also use a dart gun.
  2. Balloon challenges: There are all different variations to try with this one.  Blow up a balloon and bop it with family members as you take turns calling out math problems.  Kids have to answer before they bop it back up in the air, and everybody works as a team to try to keep it from hitting the ground.  Or take turns calling out items in a group (for instance, elements from the periodic table, states, words that start with M….).
  3. Sistine Chapel Art: Lots of folks have done this classic art idea.  Tape coloring pages of the Sistine Chapel on the underside of your table and let the kids color them on their backs as Michaelangelo did.  Here are coloring pages to print out if they want to use those (or they can create their own masterpieces) and here’s information on how Michaelangelo created the Sistine Chapel.
  4. Lego homeschooling: Here is a compilation of all sorts of Lego lesson plans, from Lego chemical reactions (complete with printables) from MIT to a Lego balloon-powered car to plans for building the Nile River from Legos to a subscription to the free Lego Magazine and more.
  5. DIY flash cards: Give the kids index cards and art supplies to make some really fun flashcards to teach any math facts they have trouble remembering.
  6. Famous person Who Am I: Gather the kids and put a sign on each one’s back with a famous person written on it.  Have them go around the room asking questions to figure out who they are.  You can use historic figures, artists, authors, you name it.  You can also use elements for older kids (Am I a gas?  Am I poisonous?).
  7. Make an educational video: Challenge the kids to give a 2 minute report on any subject they want to research and record it as a video.  If they like, they can use fun editing apps to add text and music.  If they get excited about the project, you can even start a family blog with a new video every week.
  8. Use window markers to do math problems: Enough said.  :)
  9. Photography Challenges: Let the kids use a digital camera and agree on some fun challenges such as taking a picture of something for each letter of the alphabet, 3 kinds of clouds, each state of matter, etc.
  10. Do the purple cabbage pH experiment: This is one of our all time favorite science experiments.  Even I have fun mixing and matching to make the cabbage water turn colors (and even turn it back!).

Anna is off in Arizona visiting one of her best friends, so I have one less child to occupy and educate for the week.  Now I’m off to find some Lego fun to play with Jack, and then I have a small girl who’d like to “eed yots of books!,” a boy who’d like to play a phonics game, a teen who wants to do some poetry exercises and a house that could use several hundred hours of cleaning (let’s be honest, it’ll be lucky to get one!).   :)

You know how I love to have themes this time of year.  Well, I’ve decided on the theme for Feburary… Try it out, use it up!

We have so many things we’ve accumulated that we still haven’t used, done and tried…

  • Board games
  • Science kits
  • Art supplies
  • Recipes
  • Pinterest ideas
  • Exotic foods
  • Craft kits
  • Books…

So every day of February, I plan to do/try/make/read/use up at least one thing that we previously were leaving to sit unused…

I want to use up the urad dahl beans that I got from the Middle Eastern store in NY and the canned jackfruit that is supposed to be the world’s best shredded chicken substitute for vegetarians and the apple pie filling that we canned last September…

I want to try out the science kit we picked up at a garage sale and have sitting in the front porch closet and the box of soil we received to sift for fossils from a university project and the laminating machine I’ve never even taken out of the box…

I want to make at least a dozen recipes that are dog-eared in cookbooks and still  haven’t tried.

I want to try at least 10 homeschool ideas that I have pinned on various boards.

I want to use up a ton of art supplies!

I want to actually finish any history book we’ve ever purchased as a read-aloud.  :)

And so on.

I’ll report back as I go.  Wish me luck!

 

Making Math Easy

Math has been quite an adventure for us over the years.  There are a lot of things I learned along the way with the older kids that made it easier with the younger ones.

Here’s what works for us for all the kids’ various ages for math….

Making math fun and accessible: From when the kids are toddlers, I try to keep lots and lots of hands-on math gadgets and tools around for them to play with.  This includes everything from adding machines (the clicking noise just adds to the allure!) to thermometers to stopwatches to playing cards.  Here’s my list of 50 awesome household objects that will help kids love to play with math and numbers.

Teaching numbers and math through life and play in the early years: When our kids are young, we use books, money, cooking, games, counting and such to help them master math and numbers easily.  See Easy ways to teach numbers, counting and math for lots more ideas.

Khan Academy: If you haven’t been to KA lately, go check it out again.  It’s even better than the original, with all sorts of tools to help kids and parents make the most of it.  With Jack (10), Anna (14) and Toria (15), I just ask them to log some time every day at Khan Academy.  They can pick and choose from their own dashboards and do mastery challenges, learn new topics or hop around however they like.  KA sends me a summary each week of what they’re all doing, and I always tell them which kid logged the most time in math.  I’m not about to pass up a chance to play on their natural sense of competition with each other.  ;)

Finding alternative ways of doing math: My kids really love learning better ways to do math, and there are a surprising number of really good methods out there that we find far easier than traditional methods.  For example, I stumbled upon a site about short division years ago and Anna became such a fan that to this day she asks me to give her division problems to do for fun.  (See Short division makes math easy for how to do it yourself.)  My kids also loved playing with Russian peasant multiplication to multiply big numbers before they learned their math facts.  Vedic math is another example.  We got some really fun and simple math shortcuts from the PDF book here:  Teach kids how to make math faster and easier with Vedic math (free PDF book!)


Making it fun and hands-on: For things like learning math facts, my kids aren’t big on sitting and using flashcards or doing rote memorization drills for hours.  We have way better luck with things like math games, counting stars and multiplication tricks.  See 22 Fun ways to help kids learn their math facts for lots of fun ways to help kids with that sort of thing.

Math games and activities: We use tons of hands-on games and computer games to help the kids gain math skills.  Math Live is an example and I have lots of other games and activities pinned here.  We also talk about math and make up really zany math problems like the ones here: Mad math! (yes, we helped our kids figure out how many Minnesota Vikings would fit in a swimming pool):)

Free online textbooks and thrift store textbooks: I love the variety of good quality teaching materials that are out there these days, and we use them for the older kids when needed.  We’ve used this intro geometry book and CK-Foundation flexbooks and tutorials, plus we’ve also used college textbooks we picked up for two or three dollars from thrift stores.  Those are especially fun because the kids can highlight, draw, alter and otherwise mark them up to help retain the information.

Life: This is the biggest way we teach math around here.  The kids use it to cook, garden, plan projects, budget their money, play games, figure out how many days are left till their birthdays, and so on.

I’ve also learned not to sweat the core standards or typical math timeline. We have mostly unschooled math all along with all of our kids, and not one of them has ever tested below grade level in math.  I learned the hard way that if I tried to follow the traditional school path of math instruction (first you learn this, then this, then memorize these and these, then move on to this…) that kids can get hopelessly stuck because of one small area and can incorrectly assume that they’re bad in math.  Don’t stop introducing new math concepts because one area hasn’t stuck yet. For instance, if they don’t know their multiplication tables, stick a chart up on the wall and keep going.  And if one area of math is no fun right now, switch to something different like geometry or graphing. The more kids learn to love math, the easier all of it will come.

It turns out math is way easier than I thought, once I learned to ignore how everybody else does it.  :)  

See also…

 

Our January Homeschool

It would seem insane for my cold-loathing self to love January in Minnesota, but I have finally come to embrace that fact.

I love winter this year.  I love the temperatures that are so bitterly cold that Daryl and I made vaporized hot water clouds in the street over and over again for the kids.  I love having so much snow that schools are canceled again.  I love going for a walk with the dog and my hubby in a world so white and blustery that we feel as if we’re the last people in some strange snow globe world.

Every time one of my Facebook friends posts another gloating message about how fun it is to live in Arizona or some other place that gets no winter, I think to myself that they just don’t get it.

Yes, it’s brutal.  It tests us.  We miss the sunshine.  We miss being able to spend lots of time outside.  We miss our gardens.  We get cabin fever and we snap at each other and drive each other a bit mad.

But it’s also so much more than that. I talk all the time about how we homeschool by the seasons, and I do believe there is a need for every season that we live.

We are so busy as a family during every other season.  Spring is full of gardening, traveling, rejoining the world.  Summer is pageant time, nature studies, gardens, foraging and a million opportunities that never seem to come up any other time of year.  Fall is harvest season, more foraging, more travels, more opportunities, conferences, our anniversary (and new wedding every year) and so much more.

And in winter, we rest.

I love the forced solitude and quiet of winter.  You’ll stay home, inside with your family, like it or not. :)

Sure, we get out a lot to trek to the science museum or go grocery shopping or meet up with other homeschoolers for tubing and winter fun.

But we also hole up inside…

We read piles and piles of library books we’d never get to any other time of year.

We do melted crayon art experiments.

We play on the computer.

We watch family movies.

We read family read-alouds.

We talk.

We play piano.

We do homeschool projects.

We take pictures of frost on the windows.

We simmer pots of scented water on the stove all day to humidify the air and then track the difference it makes on the gauge on the wall.

We take long baths with books and magazines.

We take silly selfies with each other.

We assemble racetracks and marble runs and makeshift forts.

We cook and bake with all those wonderful treasures we grew and foraged and carefully preserved last summer and fall.

We learn new things.

We sleep in.

We have long talks.

We breathe.

I’m getting ready to head out in the morning with Anna and Fiona for a week in the Twin Cities with friends (old and new).  It should be fantastic fun.  I am so glad that it’s in the midst of this calm so we can truly savor it.

And I’m so glad that there’s lots of cold, gray, white, miserable winter left before life bursts out for us again.  :)

 

 

 

 

Anna is really into poetry lately and Toria has been having fun writing some poetry too.

I used to be quite a prolific poet, with over a hundred poems published in my angsty younger days (mostly in small journals).  I minored in creative writing in college and did poetry readings in coffee houses in slightly scandalous clothes.

I also used to have fun doing poetry assignments with friends, challenging each other to write in different voices or with strange requirements.

I thought it would be fun to make up a list of a month’s worth of poetry assignments for my kids, and post it here in case anybody else wants to play along — parents too!

If you or your kids do take part and you want to share any of the resulting poems, please do!

Remind the kids that the only rule of poetry is that there are no rules. Poems don’t have to rhyme.  You don’t have to use proper capitalization or punctuation.  You can break sentences in the middle of the line (and it’s often a good thing!).

In the spirit of no rules, let the kids know that they’re free to substitute their own assignments or change them up on any day, too!

30 Days of Poetry Assignments

  1. Write a poem where every line starts with the same letter.
  2. Write a poem from the point of view of a plant.
  3. Write a poem that uses a great deal of alliteration (here’s a refresher what alliteration means).
  4. Write a poem to yourself.
  5. Write a poem that starts with the first three words of a song lyric that you like.  End it with three more words from the lyrics.
  6. Create a found poem.  Here’s a refresher of what found poetry is.  Experiment a lot with where you break the lines and end the poem in order to make the biggest impact.
  7. Write a poem with lines that all have odd numbers of words, and no repeat of numbers (for instance, lines could be 7, 5, 9, 13 and 1 word long).
  8. Write a poem about a historic figure.
  9. Write a poem that retells a fairy tale theme in a new way (for instance, from the perspective of the wicked witch, or with Snow White choosing a different ending).
  10. Write a twitter poem — it must be 140 characters or less.
  11. Take an old poem of your own and replace at least 50% of the words with new words (they can be synonyms, antonyms or any words at all).  See which version you prefer.  Then write the poem again with whichever words you prefer.
  12. Do the same exercise with a classic nursery rhyme.
  13. Write a poem that is exactly 16 lines long and starts with the word sometimes.
  14. Write a haiku about winter.  (Remember, a haiku is generally 5-7-5 syllables long.)
  15. Open up a book and put your finger on a random word.  Do it 9 more times.  Write down those 10 words and use them in a poem.
  16. Write a poem that includes the words other, mother, smother and/or cover at least 10 times (any of the words or all).  Feel free to add other words and phrases that sound similar (such as brother and of her).
  17. Write a poem as an elderly version of yourself looking back on these years.
  18. Write a poem that starts with the word and.
  19. Find a photograph that you like (that you took or found) and write a poem to accompany it.
  20. Write FOREVER down a sheet of paper.  Write a poem with each line starting with the corresponding letter.
  21. Pick one of the 24 poets every child should know and read at least 5 poems by her/him, then write a poem about a subject in one of the poems while the poet’s voice is still fresh in your mind.
  22. Write a gravestone poem — a poem about someone who has died (made up, real, historical, anyone) that would fit on a gravestone and sum up that person in just a few short lines.
  23. Write a poem about an aspect of yourself that is made up for the poem (for instance, what it’s like to be an immigrant or the time you saved the world).
  24. Write a dice poem.  Get out one or two dice and roll to see how many words each line should be.  If you like, roll to find out how many lines long it should be, too.
  25. Think of a popular ad slogan and work that into a poem.  Try to use the phrase in a totally different way (for instance, making “good to the last drop” be about tears).
  26. Write a poem about a childhood memory.
  27. Set a timer for 3 minutes and write a random poem about anything that comes to mind nonstop with your non-dominant hand (for instance, your left hand if you are right handed).  When the timer goes off, recopy it with your dominant hand and add three lines anywhere in the poem.
  28. Write a poem about a dream you’ve had.
  29. Write a poem that incorporates at least three senses (for instance, what you can hear, see or taste).
  30. Write a poem about yourself in the third person (as if you were writing about someone else).

If you want to do more with poetry, I have my 10 week poetry for kids course (free) online here.

I’ll share some of the poems we come up with here.  :)

 

 

 

A little poem by Anna

Anna (13) wrote this poem and I thought I’d post it in honor of the season.  She’s quite a prolific poet these days and I love watching her poetry evolve.

When We Were Young

When we were young
the simplest of Christmas lights
were a thousand stars in our eyes.

The mechanical reindeer
were unimaginable,
how did they move
if they weren’t alive?

The snow on the ground
was like the fine sand on Florida beaches,
and we made angels
for the sun to melt
like the tide washed our castles away.

When we were young,
Santa brought all our presents
and we were in bed by nine
waiting to see if we would hear
the bells on Santa’s sleigh.

When we were young,
candy canes were the highlight of the season,
along with our stockings
stuffed with bobbles and toy cars.

When we were young,
the world was a million times as large as it seemed,
and the full December moon
fit in a nutshell.

(Rhiannon Bayer)

Is it sacrilege to admit I’m happy the holidays are done with? :)   We don’t even have stressful holidays.  They’re rather nice and low key, but the whole tone of the world is so frantic and annoyed this time of year, and you can’t go anywhere at all because of the masses of people out shopping day and night.

And the disparity among the children — my kids have some teenage friends who got new cars and computers, and others who got next to nothing (some family friends weren’t going to be able to have any Christmas at all but that has been remedied).  I’m always acutely aware of how tough it is to be a really poor kid the week after Christmas.

Not to mention the friends who are dealing with grief this time of year — death, divorce and so on.  The only thing harder than dealing with something devastating is dealing with it while everybody else seems to be blissfully happy.

In any case, we had a nice holiday (or set of them).  We celebrated the Winter Solstice and opened our presents together Solstice morning, then Daryl took all of the kids to the matinee while I cooked and visited with a friend who stopped by.  We had an evening feast that night.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, braving quite a lot of snow and terrible roads to get there.  We had a lovely feast there too, and the kids got to play in the snow and spend time with family.

 

And now, I’m preparing for the new year and all sorts of goals and resolutions.

I am not at all the type to make New Years resolutions other than ones like these better homeschool resolutions for 2014 but I am looking at the new year as a time to try to implement some fun schedules and changes.

They go along with the new winter schedule that I posted recently, wanting to have some daily activities (reading aloud educationally and for fun, math each day and so on) and some weekly ones (messy art on Wednesday, field trips and literature on Friday, and such).

I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all better… homeschooling such different ages, spending quality time with five kids, keeping up with four columns and two blogs, cooking, chores and so on.

I think it ought to be one of my personal goals for 2014 to be completely caught up on laundry even one day:)

In any case, I’m working on it and will report back on anything that works well.

In the meantime, here’s a few odds and ends that might be of interest…

Bradshaw & Sons: how to make snow lollies...  Maple syrup, snow & a stick. Looks fun!

How to make snow lollies (boiled maple syrup, snow & a stick)

Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it's cold outside?

Cold weather exercise ideas… Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it’s cold outside?

Cold weather science!

Vaporize hot water in the air, blow frozen bubbles, testing the freezing points of various liquids and more… Cold weather science!

Waldorf ~ 3rd grade ~ Math ~ Vertical Subtraction ~ main lesson book

An interesting (Waldorf-inspired) way of doing subtraction (I couldn’t find a link, just the graphic on someone’s Pinterest page from their iCloud, but it is pretty self explanatory)

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

And more… Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

Graphing with sponges from teachertipster.com (no more info, just the pic)

And a nice little set of goals…

Now on to that laundry…..

 

 

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