Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week 9: In Which we Define Normal and Enjoy the Classics

This week was about as normal as we get around here, which isn't saying much about the meaning of "normal." We did our school work, got in our usual CrossFit WODs and had a wonderful afternoon of art and listening to Black Ships Before Troy in anticipation of our study of Ancient Greeks, The Iliad, and The Odyssey. (I have also been listening to the Great Courses presentation on the Iliad, and plan to listen to the one on The Odyssey as well.)

I have linked above to the Audible resources I am currently using. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to a modern, unabridged translation of the Iliad. Sadly, in my own educational journey I have missed out on the depth and intricacies of Greek mythology. I never really enjoyed it, so I did only what I was obligated to do in school and skipped the rest. Now however, I am seeing it through the eyes of my son, who has always been fascinated with Ancient Greeks, their mythology and history. He has no fear of the classics and has embraced them with the energy and enthusiasm that every kid has for thrilling tales of heroism, monsters, and adventures in which the heroes defeat the monsters! On another level, I am cashing in on my graduate work in intercultural studies and understanding how the Greeks as a people understood life, the gods, and the concept of fate. All synapses are firing, here, and we are thoroughly engrossed.

One of the beautiful things about Audible is that I can enjoy being read to, right along with the kids. There is such value in reading aloud, but I have to confess, I do not always enjoy doing it. While we listened the other day to Black Ships Before Troy we did art! We all enjoyed the story and painted at the same time. It was wonderfully theraputic for me, as the week had been very busy--I had needed a day at home to just focus on lessons and the kids. At the end of the day, I was so happy to have had that time with them.

We are approaching week 9 and the end of the first unit of Tapestry of Grace Year 1. We have learned quite a lot about ancient Egypt and the beginnings of ancient Israel, had some very good discussions about the origins of our own faith, and have even gotten crafty with clay and lap books.

Molly completed a lap book displaying different gods of Egypt and the 10 plagues that God sent upon the Egyptians. While it would be impossible to examine all the different gods of Egypt, we chose 10 of them, discussed what they represented, and talked about how God undermined them through miraculous plagues designed to influence the pharaoh to let the Israelite slaves free to exit his land.
Molly's lap book on the ten plagues
The older dialectic students are working on models of the tabernacle, following discussion of the Israelites' wanderings in the wilderness. This has brought on interesting discussions of what it means to worship a holy God and what he expects from those who follow him.
building the tabernacle model
In non-academic news, I cannot resist the urge to brag a bit on my son. He and I entered a competition series at our CrossFit box in which we will do a different "classic" CrossFit WOD every Friday evening for the next four weeks. Everyone was welcome to participate, so he decided to do it with me. This week we did "Helen": 3 rounds for time, 400 m run, 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pull-ups. Matt completed all of that in 12:45, WON the men's scaled competition and got 20 bucks for it! Booyah!

I on the other hand did not win, but I am okay with that. I had hoped to complete Helen in under 18 minutes and preferably in 15, and my time was 15:28, so I met my goal.

"Band of brothers" except they are sistahs...
This is me with three of my dear CF buddies who completed the WOD with me. The blur at the bottom is my son, attempting to photo-bomb the picture!

After the fun of Helen, friends from CF came over and celebrated our one-year anniversary of CF with us. It was a perfect night for chili, hot dogs, s'mores and a fire in the fire pit. The kids ran around outside and the adults wisely stayed inside and enjoyed some good laughs.

Saturday evening we went to Belvedere Plantation and enjoyed another bonfire, more s'mores, and lots of harvest-fest activities, not the least of which were pig races. I've never seen such a cute and funny event--little piggies running around a track, jumping over, running around, or crawling under little jumps. The kids enjoyed zip lines, giant slides, corn mazes and running around together.
All in all it was a busy, fun, exhausting "normal" week! Today we are resting and recovering from all the activities and late nights.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week 8: In Which We Have a Bye Week

Like every good team, we need a bye week once in a while to recuperate. This was a good week for a break--everyone was starting to feel less than fresh when it came to school work, we still had Dad home due to the government furlough, and we had a scheduled field trip. I required only that the kids keep up with their history and science readings so that we would be prepared for next week's co-op.

On Monday our CrossFit Box had holiday hours which translates into huge crowds for workouts. We stayed home and did a workout (WOD) together. You can read about that at the Accidental CrossFitter, if you are at all interested.

If you are wondering how to get your kids more active, how to find time to exercise, or are looking for a sport that everyone in your family can participate in, consider trying CrossFit. While memberships at a box (what CrossFitters call their gyms) can be spendy,  we have made room in our budget for them because fitness has become such an integral part of our lifestyle. If you cannot afford it for long term, many CF boxes have shorter-term contracts where you could get the coaching for the movements and techniques and then simply follow the CrossFit and CrossFit Kids websites, which post WODs every day. I can honestly say I have never been this fit, this strong, or this confident in my own skin. Even when I was involved in athletics, I was only trained for that sport, and I was never involved in any given sport for very long, as I have never really considered myself an athlete. I just played for fun. Now, I am playing again for fun, but life is the game and being fit makes it so much better!
Enough about that...On Wednesday we went to the Kennedy Center for National Symphony Orchestra Youth concert, "Music is a Language." Both kids and I enjoyed it immensely--it's the NSO--how can we not? I appreciate the fact that we live in a place where there are so many opportunities for rich cultural experiences. I do not, however, appreciate the traffic we get stuck in going to such events. Inevitably we come home completely wiped out--not from the event itself, but more from whatever traffic jam we got stuck in, or from having to drive in the city, which fries my neurons horribly. Minivans in the city are just wrong. I need a Mini (without the van part)!

Now with the furlough behind us (until the next government crisis), Dad will return to work tomorrow and we need to get back into routine. I will miss having my best friend around. I will miss having the laundry caught up--he is the best at keeping that under control! While some moms may have been thrown off by having dads around unexpectedly for two whole weeks doing who-knows-what, I was least not much.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Weeks 6 & 7: In Which we Bend and Stretch and Remain Flexible

I haven't posted the past two weeks because life has been a little less-than-predictable, and ever-so-interesting. Last week we were blessed with completely unexpected house guests. Thankfully they are also folks who homeschool, so we still got work done, but not the usual amount and I certainly didn't remember to take photos.

This past week has forced us to flex because of the so-called government shut-down. Dad is therefore home with us for the week, with no apparent notion of when he will return to work. It's wonderful having him home, but there is that small bit about getting paid--he isn't. We can't do much but hang out at home and enjoy being together, or go to CrossFit since that is not an out-of-pocket expense. Hubs has done a ton of yard work, and it all looks great. I'm ready to fill in my flower beds with pansies and mums, now...just as soon as he goes back to work. How long until an election? 

But this week was wonderful, and since my husband was home, and we carried on and made up for last week's loss of routine with a concerted effort to get back on track. So we...
refreshed Mrs. Chicken's salts

Set goals

Turned into grammar ninjas
just keep diagramming...
Oh, he is hilarious, alright!
did a little science-for-fun
caught up on TOG reading
enjoyed the beautiful weather on the patio
did a tough WOD together

Then last night we had the most amazing supper and friends over to enjoy it with us! Truth is, I would rather eat food like we had last night with good friends than go out to eat any day of the week...

I am finally reaching the point in my homeschooling journey where flexibility and loss of time spent on books does not upset me. I am learning to take all of life as it comes and not separate out schooling as being an entity different from life. Here I reiterate the point that I have made before--I want whole individuals who are trained to live life and be learners in every situation. I think these goals have been well served the past couple of weeks. It appears that we will have about one more week to bend and flex...Maybe Congress should take some lessons...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 5: In Which We Think A Lot About Food and Mummify Some

I have a son who is growing into a man. He eats. A lot.

We do not eat junk food. I am not sure what you would classify us diet-wise, but it borders on paleo / primal because we do not eat many grains, but it isn't paleo because we occasionally eat rice and raw dairy. Aside from this, we also eat beans, soaked and / or sprouted. Therefore, all of these minor indulgences mean that we don't fit into any particular diet scheme except for "real food."

It may be easier to say what we don't eat:
- foods containing gluten
- refined sugar
- high fructose corn syrup
- meat that originated in a c.a.f.o.
- most grains, except basmati rice, buckwheat, and rarely, gluten free oats
- foods containing non-fermented soy
- foods containing nasty oils that tend to be high in omega-6 such as canola or vegetable oil.

What this means is that I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately. My son is probably getting ready for a growth spurt because he cannot get enough to eat, and everyone in the household is doing rigorous CrossFit workouts which keep the apetite up.

This week I made this recipe for breakfast twice, and you should too, because your kids will think you are THE BEST MOM in the world. I served it with bacon or sausage, and it was a great stick-to-the-ribs breakfast. Looks fancy, but it's super easy.

Dutch baby with apples and almonds. MMMM!
And, inspired by the new Food Network program Rachel vs. Guy Kids Cook-Off, I decided my girl was definitely old enough to start cooking dinner with me. So we did this. 
The growing man ate three full plates of this, his ultimate comfort food; meatloaf, mashed red potatoes and green beans. Wasn't exactly paleo, but hey, the kid must eat!

I also made yogurt, granola, muffins, and soup, and eggs, and bacon, and whatever...but it was a lot of time in the kitchen, and honestly it's not the making that takes so much time, it's the clean-up.

Please remember as you are reading this: This blog is my journal. I am not writing this to boast or to brag about what a great mom I am. But I will pause to make this point to you who may be reading this and thinking "Great, another perfect homesteader-mom who picks her own food and milks her own cow, then brags about how she lives in paradise with all the health and abundance." To you, I will say that while I was busy cooking, all my plants died. I even managed to kill my poor daughter's Nile-flooding project, which is kind of a no-brainer. I do not have my own cows, chickens or anything, and I have one hopelessly neglected garden. I can make up for being a crappy gardener by going to the farmers market or the store. I would not be able to make up for feeding my kids poorly, so that is where I put my efforts. I can't do everything and neither can you.

Also, I should note that all this food prep is not my favorite thing to do, but I count it as part of my job of being a good mom. I have friends for whom cooking is their hobby and delight. While I do enjoy aspects of cooking (mostly the eating part), it is not what thrills me. But in order to do this well, one must be at home. A lot. You must be at home to homeschool well, eat well, and rest well. Okay, back to our week...

We had co-op on Tuesday in which we
tested how sound travels through different substances
sent funny messages
mummified chickens
and named them, of course
and had week 3 TOG discussion with our peeps!
After our Tapestry discussion the kids ran out and engaged in an epic battle of capture the flag, boys against girls, the end of which I have not yet heard! They constructed weapons for themselves using craft sticks and hot glue, and battled it out in the woods. Fun! They plan a do-over this coming week and hope to find some new recruits.

We also watched a video called Exodus Decoded put out by the History Channel. I didn't realize when I rented the video that it was produced by James Cameron, so I was immediately suspicious, however, it was very interesting. I personally don't agree with all that they posit, but it was refreshing to see an attempt by a secular source to prove that something Biblical actually happened, instead of trying to tear it down. If you have a dialectic student and want to give them food for thought and debate, I would recommend this video. My son had his Bible out and was checking their claims against scripture to see how they measured up and questioned their positions through the whole video.

The kids did a great job of meeting the goals that we set out at the beginning of the week and managed to cross everything off!

On Saturday we all pitched in together and did a deep clean of the whole house and that makes me very, very, very happy. The best part of it, though, was that I began listening to the The Great Courses audio on The Iliad, and covered quite a few lectures while I was cleaning and scrubbing. It is my goal to study the Iliad and the Odyssey this year on a Rhetoric level, which is something I have never done (I am sorry to admit). The lectures were very interesting and stimulated my thinking in completely new ways towards classical literature and the study of ancient history, which to this point has not been my favorite era of study. 

Next week will be our 6th week of school all together and week 4 of TOG. Time is flying, but it's been a great term so far.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Week 4: In Which We Have Interruptions

Much like the Deer Interruption from Week 3, we had a couple of cool interruptions again this week. Thankfully I keep my camera within reach most of the time.

So THIS is who has been eating our tomatoes!
Found guarding our front door. He was enormous--perhaps 3.5 in.

This was the closest thing to a "normal" school week we have had. Both kids had recovered from their colds and were functioning normally, both went to CrossFit and did their WODs, both did their school work wonderfully. I am so pleased with their progress. Having Molly reading independently in many of her texts has opened up new worlds of possibility, and I am enjoying instructing her so much more than before. I'll admit--teaching my children to read has been the most challenging, stressful job, and now that we are over that hump, we can do anything!

She has happily accepted any reading assignment I have given, loves reading Beast Academy Math, Apologia Science, and has even started reading for pleasure more than she ever has. I am breathing the proverbial sigh.

This week the family who hosts co-op fell ill in myriad ways and we decided to keep our distance and do just the grammar-level co-op at my house. We covered science, Story of the World and Geography, and played with colors in jars of water, just because if you have the food colors out, you should play with them!

To top it all off, it is Friday night and I have managed to get all of the school planning done for next week! Wow! I don't think that has ever happened before!

It was a productive, colorful week, and I am thankful. I can't wait to see what next week holds.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Week 3: When the Buses Start Rolling

This was the week that brick and mortar schools opened in our county. The big yellow buses are at the end of the street each morning, forcing me to time the departure for my workouts very carefully so I don't get stuck behind them. Even so, it seems that those buses magically bring the two things I love about this time of year: the weather, and field trips! When all the other kids go inside for school, schedules, lunch room, and homework, we go outside for picnics, lessons, field trips, and play, because the weather at this time of the year is the best we get! This week was no exception, and we took full advantage of the fact that most venues are virtually empty right now and visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. We also started our science and Tapestry of Grace co-op with friends. It was a short, but lovely week. It went something like this...
Break time!
Flooding the Nile
Deer interruption...
measuring the density of various liquids
Teacher's pet daughter
listening well
building our Swimming Creatures box
all done! Ready for creatures!
Let's see some swimming creatures!

feeding time for the catfish
It's not a trip to the aquarium without dolphins!
a very kind, patient trainer answered all our questions!

My one regret is that I forgot to take a photo of the rest of the kids when they came over for TOG discussion. The same kids from last year's group joined us, and we had a wonderful time doing geography, history, and literature. I was so involved in the discussion I forgot to snap a photo. It was amazing to see how much each of the kids seemed to mature over the summer. Longer attention spans, better discussion skills, deeper understanding...It's going to be a great year. I love each of the kids so much, and count it a privilege to get to spend so much time with these wonderful people.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Week 2: Stepping Up

Had a great conversation with my son after the first week of school ended. The end result of it was that he was going to have to take some initiative and be sure to have everything that is on his weekly goal list completed. Then at the end of the week he would report to his Dad all that he had accomplished. At this last bit of news his eyes grew big, he looked at me, then across at his Dad then back at me and said, "Okay. I'll do it." I'm not sure if it was fear or excitement or some combination of the two, but this past week in school he really stepped up his game and cheerfully completed all of his work.

Throughout the week the kids participated in a fundraiser put on by CrossFit to benefit the families of the 19 firefighters who were killed in June in the Arizona wildfires, many of whom were CrossFit athletes. The kids' class alone raised $2200, and along with their coach pledged to do 1 burpee for every dollar raised. I'm wondering how they are going to pull that off--hopefully not all in one day! In addition to selling raffle tickets my son participated in the Hotshot 19 memorial WOD held on Saturday. Boxes all over the world were doing this WOD (Workout of the Day) to honor these heroes who lost their lives. We were so glad to be part of this incredible community and contribute to this cause. I was so proud of my son who completed the entire WOD, which was not scaled for kids, except in the weight that they used. (Read about his performance here, if you're interested!)

Here are the highlights of this week's lessons:

Reading easily on her own
TOG assigned reading
Timeline work. With helper.

Reading limericks together
180 squats, 114 power cleans, 42 pullups, 2400 m run
This week we begin our Tapestry of Grace co-op with a few friends. We will gather to discuss Geography and hold Socratic discussions about the assigned reading. I can't wait...I think the kids are looking forward to it as well.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Week 1: Starting Well

This week we began our academic cycle. How that works for us is predominately based on our Tapestry of Grace cycle. It is broken down into four, nine-week units, totaling 36 weeks of academics. Within that we cover Bible, history, geography, literature and writing.

The kids seemed quite ready to go back to a regular routine, so we did our best to fit in as much of the content that we have to cover. I am a big believer in pacing. In fact, I am beginning to think I may be an unschooler at heart, but cannot make the leap out of that ol' box. I don't think that school should be done for school's sake. I don't believe in checking boxes to just have them checked, I don't put any stock in "busy-work." That said, we do have one area that I have not figured out how to cover without a bit of busy-work, and that is in science. I think that next week I will need to make some adjustments.

In the meantime, we introduced Year 1 of Tapestry of Grace, the first module of Apologia General Science, continued writing, math, grammar, and spelling, and worked on some Geography review. Not bad for a first week!
Learning the sections of the OT books
Getting started in Science
Lego Star-Wars Pilot training...break time!
Oh, and P.S, we I have to add this, as it will be a major part of our school year...CrossFit!