I am a member of the Homeschool Alliance, which Julie from Bravewriter runs. One of the principles we were introduced to is the One Thing principle. Focus on one thing for a month. It can be something you want to improve on, something you want to add to your homeschool or life, anything- but just one thing. This goes along with what Gretchen Rubin says in Better Than Before, something along the lines of- You improve what you track.
For February I wanted to have one thing to focus on in our homeschool. I asked Jack what subject he would do every day if possible, of course he chose science. I asked if he could do one science which one would it be, he chose physics. So we made physics our one thing for February. I gathered a few books to have on hand. My favorite is Physics for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave- the activities are quick and easy and most of the supplies are things you have on hand around your house.
We did a physics project every day that we did school during February. This was usually 3 days per week. Yes we had a light schedule due to ski days, park days and other activities.
We both enjoyed this month of physics. One thing that I have noticed is it got Jack back into experimenting and doing projects. He is now waking up with an experiment or project already on his mind. We are planning to continue focusing on one thing per month and have already chosen Astronomy and Rocketry for March. Okay that might be two things, but they go together well.
Have you tried the One Thing principle? Want to share your experience in the comments?
I love projects. My husband loves projects. In fact, my husband is a great example of a project based learner. He is constantly researching and then experimenting. This is his latest project. A circle based adobe type house model. He he been interested in alternative building styles for years and drawing up different house plans.
He gathered clay from our area, added some temper and started building a to scale model.
After a while, Jack and his friend became interested in what Zac was doing. They decided to research pictures of Native American clay houses and start building one together.
Both projects are still in progress and I will post more when they are done.
This was another fun week in our physics study.
First up: Heavy Air from Physics for Every kid.
Next: making a bubbler to study how the air displaces water. I didn't get a picture of this one, but we did have some fun with the balloons afterwards.
Last: Seeing if the swing of a pendulum changes if the length of the pendulum is shortened.
Choosing one thing to focus on doing well this month has worked wonders for us. I'm starting to think about what topic to do for our one thing next month. Math keeps coming to mind. It would be perfect since Pi Day is next month.
The one subject Jack can't get enough of is science. In hopes of bringing some enchantment back into our homeschool I decided to do a quick science project every day we did school during February. So far we are having a blast! Every day I pick an experiment from either pinterest, Physics, Rocketry, or Astronomy.
Here is what we did for our first week;
Tinker Crate Automaton.
Make your own Newton's Cradle.
Demonstrating the force of attraction between charged particles.
It's been a great way to add a little magic into our homeschool every day. If there is something that your child loves, I challenge you to work on adding it in every day for a period of time.
We have had a cold, wet winter in our area. It sometimes makes doing nature study outdoors difficult because we have little ones in our group. We had to cancel a couple of nature days in December due to the cold and rain and I knew it was time to come up with an alternative plan for bad weather days.
This past week, nature study fell on a cold day so we decided to go to our local wildlife museum for some nature journaling.
Our local wildlife museum consists of hunting trophies from a local hunter so it is a interesting place to hang out.
We walked through the whole museum, which takes about a half hour, listening to the audio provided. While they walked the boys tried to decide on something to add to their nature journals.
Jack decided to draw the leopards spots. They sat and did a quick sketch.
Since this week it was just the three older boys, they asked if we could walk to the river nearby. The cold obviously wasn't an issue for them.
They walked down to the river, skipped some stones and ran through some of the tunnels that were nearby. We saw ducks and a few birds.
I also took plenty of pictures for some future nature journaling at home.
That January homeschool reset really didn't last long. When I finally thought we would be able to start again, a dear friend passed away.
That did give me time to watch a couple of the Bravewriter retreat dvds and also a few awesome scopes from Julie of Bravewriter. These have helped me find my way back to how I want our homeschool to be.
Here is the plan that we came up with for the month of February.
- math- looping through Life of Fred Fractions, Beast Academy, Khan, and whatever else. Variety is the key for this.
- Morning time
- Writing- working through Partnership Writing and an online Bravewriter class.
- Copywork- taken from our current read aloud, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
- Physics- simple fun experiments.
- nature study
- park day
When we feel like it:
- History- right now we are slowly watching the documentary The West
- Astronomy- when it's not cloudy
- Chess kids
That's all and it feels wonderful.
Playing along with Modern Mrs. Darcy
1- New beginnings. The start of a new month giving me a fresh slate is saving me right now. January was not that great. I didn't make a lot of progress on things because I was too busy trying to keep my head above water.
2-Coffee. Yummy, hot coffee. My two cups a day are perfection.
3-Wool socks. This winter is kicking my behind on trying to keep warm. Wool socks are the only way I can get to sleep.
4-Ski days. I was hoping to get back to a rhythm homeschooling in January and that didn't happen. Ski days are saving us. Ski days are providing a break, something to look forward too, and a new life passion. I also get about 6 hours of me time to work on reading, writing, homeschool teacher enrichment.
5- Speaking of homeschool teacher enrichment, Julie Sweeney of Bravewriter fame on periscope, her retreat dvds, and her homeschool alliance. SAVING me right now. I am learning so much and I am finding my way back to us-schooling.
6-Friends- Those good friends who empathize and help me through. Near or far.
What's saving you?
All the Light We Cannot See
Daring Greatly, Brene Brown- My second time through this book. This time for the Living Brave Semester.
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
This past weekend, our homeschool group held a Night at the Museum fair. The children picked a character from one of the Night at the Museum movies to be for the fair. They would hopefully dress like the character, present a "museum" type display for the character and then if they chose they could give an oral presentation.
Jack chose to be Teddy Roosevelt.
For his display he made a model of the Badlands.
He also drew a map of Sagamore Hill.
He gave an oral report, detailing the major events in Teddy Roosevelt's life starting with his birth and ending with his death.
Some of the other presentations were: Jedidiah Smith, the Egyptians, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Capuchin monkey, and Escher.
This was a really fun activity and I am looking forward to doing it again.
I've been trying to write this post for over a year, but each time I get started we get swept into it again. I have had people ask how I got Jack started in studying this topic and how I introduced it. Honestly I didn't do a thing. He got this started all on his own. Once he was going I tried to answer his questions and provide materials for his consumption. How I think it got started?
From a very young age Jack was obsessed with Albert Einstein. He wanted to read books about Einstein but at 5 years old we had a hard time finding a book he could read on his own, with enough information to satisfy his interest. I ran across the manga biography series Great Figures in History. We bought the Einstein and he wanted more. So I bought the Gandhi book, followed by the Mandela book, then Mother Theresa. He couldn't get enough of them. I think these are what planted the seed. It took years for the seed to start growing but eventually he was asking more and more questions.
When he was nine he wanted to learn more about Gandhi and I tried to find more for his age, which was hard. They were either to simple or too adult. Eventually we let him watch the movie, with us of course. He had so many questions. We tried to answer them as best we could and researched what we couldn't. During our conversation we brought up Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. He had read the Mandela book and wanted to know more about him. So we research more. This was about the time that the movie, A Long Walk to Freedom came out. My husband and I watched it first, and decided to let him watch it. It really fanned the flame. I remember he watched it on a Friday before our homeschool group park day. We were over an hour late, because he had so many questions and the questions didn't stop for days.
Through our research we also learned of the documentary, A Force More Powerful. I would highly recommend this to anyone. It is a wonderful look at non violent protests throughout history and their effect. I also liked that it looked at some of the well known protest through the lives of participants who were not as well known as say Mandela or MLK jr.
During our research, it was mentioned more than once that Gandhi was a big influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and our civil rights movement in America. We started watching and reading what was available. There is a great episode of American Experience about the Montgomery Bus boycott.
Last year on Martin Luther King Jr. day I took him to see Selma. It was an amazing experience to be in the theater that day. As we were standing in line to get tickets, an older couple started sharing their experiences of living through the time of Martin Luther King Jr. and what she remembered.
Just recently we were able to attend an event at our local university and the main speaker had interviewed Martin Luther King Jr., marched at Selma and attended his speech at the March on Washington.
This has been one of my favorite rabbit trails in our homeschooling experience and a perfect example of how I want all of our homeschool experience to be. I can't wait to see what else we will explore on this subject and where it takes us and especially where is takes Jack.
Currently I am:
Listening to: Pandora Madeleine Peyroux Radio
Creating: Working on Valentine Day decor, still stitching my little cacti, and working on planning out a few projects.
Planning: plans for our book club meeting next week, menu planning seems to be happening all the time, starting to itch for a trip.
Wishing: I could catch up on my sleep. I am dragging after a few nights with very little.
Wearing: My Charlotte Mason Motto shirt from Charlotte Mason Living, jeans, hair up as always.
Feeling: sad, nostalgic, tired.
Watching: Jack and I started watching the series The West today for history.
Eating: Chicken Parmy for dinner tonight.
Wondering: If the sky will be clear enough tonight to pull out the telescope.
Drinking: Coffee or tea depending on the time of day.
Loving: That the weather has been a bit warmer and the sun has been out. It's been gorgeous!
I thought I would write a little more about our homeschool reset and why I am choosing to do this right now. I kind of tend to straddle the line between classical homeschooler and unschooler. Meaning, that classical education appeals to my organized, public educated self. Being busy, worksheets, checklists, being able to see progress on a subject appeals to me. I LOVE checking off lists. I LOVE having tangible proof of what they have done in the form of worksheets, narrations, math books. I LOVE it. But then there is this part of me that knows this is not the only way to learn. That this isn't my true version of homeschooling. I'm not sure I am describing this well, but I am trying my best.
I have always said that Jack would make the perfect unschooler. I unfortunately would not make the perfect unschooled parent- because of that need to quantify his learning.
I have seen it in action with him though. The time he has spent learning about civil rights and nonviolence, those were all his doing. He chose it, he owned it. And right now he knows more about those two subjects than most adults he knows. It may also come back around again. So I am choosing to give him the space and the tools necessary to find his next subject. To find something that sparks his inner self. And I am tamping down the urge to quantify it, or to turn it into something educational which will in turn take the ownership away from him. It's kind of the same thing I am trying to do for myself. Allow myself the space and time necessary to find myself. To find my passions. To find my spark. So maybe in giving myself this, I am seeing the need to provide it for my children. For my husband. Maybe that is the biggest and best thing we can do for those we love, to hold the space for their own self explorations. To hold space for their spark. Provide gentle encouragement and accountability when needed. Interesting thoughts indeed.
With this all in mind. I asked him last week to give me a list of learning goals, or thing he would like to work on. He would like to keep our morning time, we both enjoy that time. He wants to study fractions for math and gain some mastery. For science he wants to focus on astronomy, more specifically he wants to learn more about black holes and star formation. He is also going to be taking his telescope out each night to study the sky. In history he would like to learn more about the gold rush and westward expansion. We will be starting to do some activities with our kit from Stamps That Teach. And of course we have our Bravewriter class. In addition to that, he will be choosing a topic to do more research and maybe a project. He has chosen to research Nasa rockets, specifically the Apollo designs. I had him write a list of questions that he would like to answer in the course of his research. I will write more about the specifics of that in a future post.
One of the major goals I have this year is taking time for myself. I am not good at it. I used to be, because with 3 kids under three years old it is necessary for survival. Over the years it has become harder and harder to do. Life seasons I guess. Those little ones became teenagers, who sometimes needed me more at that age than the toddler years. Classes, sports, homework, projects, there was just too much going on. And so that time for myself slowly disappeared.
When I was telling my hubby about some things I wanted to change, he mentioned that he wanted me to take more time for myself and start doing things I want to do. So we made a plan, I asked him to help keep me accountable.
Here is how it looks so far. I pack up everything I think I might need and head to the coffee shop or library. I tried the book store but that was too distracting for me. I needed someplace quieter. I try to spend at least one and a half to two hours. During this time I try to do things for me. I try to forget all my other to do lists- for family, for the homeschool group, etc. I even try not to work on our homeschool stuff during that time. Easier said than done. Two weeks in, this self care is working wonders. My family swears I come home happy. It has also helped me set boundaries in other areas of my life.
Another step was signing Jack up for an online writing class. Writing tends to be subject in our house that gets ignored, or causes tears. I decided that we would try one of the Bravewriter classes and we love it! It has been a blessing for both of us. We are both learning and it takes some of the stress off of me as the teacher.
Another instance, in our homeschool group that I run, I usually volunteer my house for activities. This week I went to the library and reserved the community room for all of our upcoming activities, including the one this Saturday. I left the library feeling great. Activities at our house usually take me at least a day to prep and clean up from. No more. It felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. And my kids are happy about it- because it's their rooms that get messy, or their toys, or their lives that get interrupted. And that is exactly what it was an interruption. Now we can enjoy the activity itself. I'm so excited about that. And that feeling is snowballing. I am starting to look for other areas of my life that I can outsource or things that can be cut out of the schedule.
This year has been a hard one homeschool wise. We just haven't hit our groove, which has been odd because with Jack we have always had our groove. He has always been easy to homeschool. I'm not sure if it is him or if it is me, but this year we have been struggling.
Early in December, I decided that we would take time off until January. Our schedule was busy already with holiday activities and I could take the time to decided on a game plan for the rest of our school year. Call it professional development. On January 4th I was still not ready to start school, but we tried. The first day we found ourselves back where we left off. In a rut. Unhappy. This wasn't what I wanted for our homeschool. I called another time out and started doing some serious reflection and learning on what I could change.
Enter Julie Sweeney and Bravescopes. I have been following Julie's scopes since the beginning, but still hadn't managed to keep up on watching them all. Specifically I listened to the Morning Routine scope and the Enchanted Education scope. It was just what I needed. In talking with a few friends it dawned on me that Jack was bored...out of his mind. He is the child who only needs to hear something one time and he has it. He is the child who moves at the speed of light through concepts and understanding. He is the child who can carry on scientific conversations with college students. And here we were trudging through a curriculum. And that is what it felt like. Trudging. Okay so how could we change this.
We are bagging most of our curriculum. I know. Part of me cringes at this thought. We are bagging our schedule. Ouch. That one is hard for me too. Here is our plan:
- Wake up, read, play. He always reads in the morning and I am not going to rush him anymore.
- Breakfast and animals. He always comes out of his room dressed so that is not an issue. He will eat breakfast, usually with a book in his hand and then turn on the lights for his lizard and snake.
- Morning Time- We love morning time. We will read our current book club read, science, astronomy, history, whatever. Rich and varied.
- Table time- math, Bravewriter class, and whatever else I feel like we need to work on.
- Lunch break. Food and movement.
- Project time. The time after lunch we will work on science or history projects. I have a friend who does science one week and history the next, this gives them time to go deep. I'm not sure how this work for us yet, if we wills witch every day or go by the week. I kind of think we will just go with the flow.
You will notice that we also signed up for one of the Bravewriter online classes. I've been homeschooling for 16 years. I have never outsourced a class. We have never had a co-op that offered classes. It's time for that to change and I felt like this was the perfect opportunity for us. So far we love it. I would highly recommend Bravewriter online classes.
My main goal with these changes is to slow down, allow him time to engage with learning that interests him, and allow time for enchantment.
This week our learning plans are:
- start reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for book club
- Work on a display for our groups Night at the Museum activity this weekend, he is doing Teddy Roosevelt.
- Study astronomy- books, telescope
- Our Bravewriter course.
- Harry Potter- he read the first four in one week and is now reading the fifth. This has taken up most of his spare time.
For the past few years I have been using a bullet journal instead of a planner to keep organized. I found that a traditional planner didnt give me the space I needed to organize our homeschool days. I like being able to customize the journal to our current stage of life, different goals, and I really liked having a place to track my habits.
My weekly habits that I want to track are: journaling, exercising, working on a project, writing, blogging, Bravewriter(alliance, scopes, and classes), dog training, reading for an hour/day, morning time, homeschool, quiet time, school records, bullet journal, motivated moms, handwriting 10 minutes/day, apple cider vinegar daily, trim healthy mama eating, and stitching. These are all listed on my weekly habit tracker.
Next to my habit tracker I have space to write my goals for the week. These could be longer term goals that need to be on my radar, or just goals I would like to hit curing the week. For instance: signing up for class, finishing a certain book, figuring out a certain problem, mailing something, something that needs to be done for my homeschool group, etc.
Under the habit tracker and goals section, I divide the bottom half into the following sections: menu, blog ideas, projects to work on, school focus, homeschool group to dos, house to do, and to do. This leaves me one section that usually ends up as notes.
On the right hand page, I have my weekly planner. I list the days, with dates next to them leaving enough space to write in what we have to do each day, about 7-8 lines and two columns. Over the weekend, I list what is already planned for each day: homeschool activities, appointments, classes, etc. Then each night I go over my lists and add in what needs to be done the next day. At the beginning of the week, the planner looks pretty bare, by the end it is all filled in and usually messy. It's okay, that is what works for me.
In addition to my weekly spread I have the following pages:
long term planning- four months at a time.
A monthly list of weekly goals- from this I pull some of the goals listed on my weekly spread.
Books to read.
A list of things that make me happy
Homeschool check in- to keep track of ideas and notes.
Homeschool group goals, event ideas, to dos.
Nature study ideas. I lead a Charlotte Mason type nature study each week. This is a place to list all the ideas and refer to throughout the year.
Wants- things I would like to buy or do.
Projects- I always want to do holiday crafts but leave them to the last minute. My goal this year is to work on some each month. This page is divided into months for each I will list 1 current project(non holiday) 2 holiday, 1 long term(like a yearly stitch along), and 1 gift.
And that is a peek inside my bullet journal. Do you bullet journal? What is your favorite way to plan?
All the Light We Cannot See
Writing Down the Bones
The Nature Principle
Signature of All Things
The Book of Forgiving
The Places That Scare You
The Four Agreements
What I Know For Sure
Adventures for Your Soul
Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better
Any books you would recommend?
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. This book was a game changer for me. It helped me figure out exactly why habit or goals weren't working and how to make them work for me. Game changer.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I love Anne Lamott. I have a friend who was always recommending her books to me, but I resisted until last year. And now I am catching up.
Rising Strong. Brene Brown. Read it. It will change you. Enough said.
Daring Greatly, Brene Brown. See above.
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert. I started reading this and an hour later I was ordering 4 copies for Christmas presents. Everyone who leans to the creative life needs to read this.
Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes. As I said on Instagram, "Finished this gem this morning and ready to dance it out. I'm pretty sure in some other life Shonda and I were besties- I was the Meredith to her Christina- and this book was her telling me what I needed to hear, what no one else could or would say to me. So here is to 2016- a year of saying yes, being an awesome adult, and dancing it out."
Magical Journey, by Katrina Kenison. This book came along at the perfect time for me. The journey from being a parent with children at home to a parent with adult children moving out of the house and growing up can be a hard one. Redefining relationships, not having an active role in the daily parenting, and wondering who you are as a parent of an adult. This book held my hand on that change. It helped me know I was not alone. It showed me that it is never too late to find yourself, redefine yourself and grow into yourself. Great book as are all of her books.
Consider This- For the homeschool crowd. This was great as a homeschooler who wanted classical but yearned for Charlotte Mason. I loved this book. It took a few chapters for me to get hooked, but then I couldn't put it down.
What were your favorite reads?
Storycatcher Christina Baldwin- Loved this book. Enjoyed the stories and the meaning.
This past week, our homeschool group held a handmade market day for the kids. There was some miscommunication in the group and the planning was left until the last minute. There was a lot of debate over how to handle the market, payment, etc. We have held one in the past in which some of the items were priced incredibly high and wanted to avoid that scenario. A few days before the market we got some details on how we could run it, but in the end the kids decided that they just wanted to trade items anyways.
Jack made perler bead items and also did origami by request.
Here are some of the items other children brought:
tic-tac-toe bag games.
Homemade cookies and custom lego sets.
Popsicle stick and q-tip bow and arrow set.
Pool noodle nunchucks.
Fabric belts, popsicle stick boxes and bent popsicle stick bracelets.
handmade greeting cards.
Looking forward to doing this again!