Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mission: Homeschool

There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. The flexibility that is possible is just one of the many reasons that this style of learning fits our family so well.

In California, 4th graders study California History. That means missions, ranchos, and the gold rush. Oh, and did I mention missions?

We started our study of our state's history last year
, when Jelly was in 6th grade and Doodle was the official 4th grader. Because we split our Social Studies time by also finishing a study of World History, we decided to give California History a little more time this year. It fits perfectly this way because at Wonderwood Academy, the explorers have now found the New World, and the colonists have arrived on the East coast. So we're learning about what happened with the Spanish padres and the Native Americans on the West coast while the settlers were working things out with the Eastern Woodland "Indians" in Jamestown.

Last week our learning adventures took form as one of our extended field trips, and managed to combine it with some great family visits. We learned a lot, had a great time, and made some wonderful memories.

Since we covered the missions to the south of us last year, it was time to go north. Saving the two closest to us, because we can do those in a couple of day trips sometime when we need a spur-of-the-moment get-away, we left Friday after work and drove up the coast to Lompoc.

No offense to Lompoc, but there isn't much there. Well, there's a federal prison, an air force base, and a mission. Our visit was confined, pun intended, not to jail or base, but to pursuits historical.

We got to our hotel in time for the girls to enjoy the pool.

After a breakfast that would have been more satisfactory had I been able to enjoy it WITH my family, rather than at the bottom of the stairs above which the breakfast room was located (NO elevator, thus no access), we trekked out to the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. Our visit was timed to coincide with very infrequently held "Village Days." In retrospect, it was the girls' favorite of the trip. Location allows it to feel more like it probably felt during the mission era than the other missions we've visited so far. AND, Village Days are highly interactive. MUCH to see and do... with DO being the keyword. The girls carved soapstone charms, wove baskets, made reed ducks, tried their hand at a Chumash game, decorated toy bull roarers with pictograms, created palm frond brooms, chatted with costumed docents and authentic mountain men, and explored top to bottom. It was a blast! See for yourself.

It sprinkled, almost, as we were on our way to Buellton, CA, home of the famous Andersen's Restaurant. It poured buckets while we sipped split pea soup, gazing out through a beautiful picture window onto a rain-washed garden. When we were ready to leave, the downpour slowed to a drizzle and then was over.

Perfect timing. There was a wedding going on at Mission Santa Ines, so we enjoyed the gardens before going inside the mission church.

I have no picture evidence, but our next stop was Goleta Beach. The girls enjoyed their customary pier walk with Papa, and then we enjoyed his and his wife's hospitality for the night. The girls were introduced to the story of "Brigadoon" and it made us wish even more that we'd been able to see goddaughter SwimChick, who lives in Vancouver, WA, in a recent youth production of the musical.

More traditions kept as the girls picked fresh citrus the next morning before we said our so longs. We like to take oranges and lemons from Papa and Dorothy with us to the cousins, who are usually our next stop.

We couldn't leave Santa Barbara, though, before a visit to the Queen of the Missions.
It was exciting to learn that the lone woman of San Nicolas island, on whose life the book Island of the Blue Dolphin is based, is actually buried in the cemetery of the Santa Barbara Mission. We are currently listening to/reading, and very much enjoying her story as part of A New World of Adventures unit study curriculum.

Our last night, but NOT our last evening, was spent with the aforementioned cousins. We had a great visit, and since the twins weren't starting school until Tuesday, we extended our visit time by taking them with us to our final mission of this trip.

I can't believe it, but again I have no pictorial evidence for this part of the trip. We did, though, thoroughly enjoy visiting with the twins' family, including a loving mama, a big brother who introduced Jelly to the awesome world of rpgs, a big sister who has since started her first term at UC Berkeley, and a new baby brother, adorable but with one of those sensitive level sensors that activate fussing unless he's being held by someone completely vertical, slightly bouncing, and who is preferably serenading him softly so that he knows he has their complete attention. Their daddy, unfortunately, we did not get to visit with, as he was on the road. One of our tradtions here is to exchange hand-me-downs. It's a wonderful system. Oh, for the record, the lemonade and orange juice, freshly squeezed by the kids, was delicious, as always.

Before heading home, we spent our last evening of this mini mission trip visiting with family on the Woody side. I think the girls were suprised at how much fun they had with just boy cousins. LOL The kids were having the kind of fun that moves too fast to be caught on film. I believe it involved an uncle and the kind of fear that induces laughing so hard you almost can't breathe.

Our mission for this mini mission trip was a complete success.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Living Dolls

Costumes, make-up, and pretend are not solely the domain of those Hollywood and Broadway folks who work so "hard" to make sure we are entertained. Dressing dolls is an entertaining passion for some. Our dolls dress themselves.

This post is just a small sample of some of the (I was going to say FREE ! LOL Anyone with kids knows how NOT true that is!) ways the girls have entertained us over the past year.

We participate in the traditional HUGE party, carnival, and Trunk or Treat at church every October, usually the Saturday evening before Halloween. Then, since the girls have already had a chance to stock up on sweets in a safe environment, we started a NEW family tradition to replace Trick or Treating. On the actual Halloween, the girls dress up in their costumes and then we go on an adventure. In 2008 we used our annual pass to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific. The colors in their costumes rivaled some of the gorgeous tropical fish we saw.

Doodle decided that we should have a Native American at our Thanksgiving feast. Here she’s helping to sauté the aromatics that will flavor our dressing. Doesn’t she have amazing eyelashes? My brother has eyelashes like that, too. No make-up needed there!

The Sunday after Thanksgiving finds us at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA, welcoming the Christmas season with a traditional Messiah Sing-a-Long. It may not be the White House, but the roses are beautiful and the smiles are sweet.

December runs the gamut from silly to sublime. Most of what you see here is the silly.

Jelly, at ALMOST age 12, got this sunny rose at her New Beginnings program – perfect for our sunshiny blondie. She is growing up wonderfully! (The roses in the background are in the planter at the front of our home. Jelly’s own bedroom window is just out of the top of the frame.)

This collage represents the months we all spent preparing and sharing the production of the Savior of the World. Everyone who knows us agreed that the girls were the most angelic angels!

Woody Family Vacation 2009 was dubbed “The Big Loop Trip.” We traveled over 5000 miles in a very lopsided figure 8.

We went so that we could participate in granddaughter Tamara’s (she’s the cutie wearing the pink jacket and belt) baptism, (and being so close, we couldn’t NOT go to the Mall of America),



and we stopped at many National Parks, monuments, and memorials, and kid-friendly museums along the way.

Salt Lake City was the last stop in the loop that provided dress-up opportunities of a HUGE variety, including not-pictured-here dressing up to go to a live broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Music and the Spoken Word in the company of the most wonderful senior missionary couple serving!

When we’d recovered from the trip, we didn’t wait long to further our adventures. The girls enjoyed most of the attention they got (they weren’t thrilled at the idea of being sold to pirates!) in their costumes at the German Renaissance Festival, Koroneburg, in Corona, CA.

Dressing up, dressing down, costumes, make-up, stylish do’s --- there are no end to the possibilities.

As Lucy Maud Montgomery, writing Anne of Green Gables said, "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"

That’s what dressing up or playing with dolls does – provides extra scope for imagination as we adventure along!

And if you’re entertained in the process, so much the better. ;o)

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Good Start

UPDATED WITH WORKBOX PICS Sat., Sept. 12, 2009 We have now had six WEEKS of school, rather than the six days of this original post. We have also met with our homeschool support group for the first time. We're still going strong!!

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Here at Wonderwood Academy, we have had, as of this morning, six and a half days of the 180 minimum required by the state of California for the 2009-2010 school year. It has been a good start to the year. We actually started on Monday, the 3rd, and had VERY full (details to follow) school days Monday through Wednesday. Life intervened on Thursday (including a flat tire on our way to pick up a box of frozen blueberries arriving by special order from Oregon), so we turned it into a half school day. Mrs. Woody needed Friday to review and revise, so we quickly scheduled a student-free day. After a Saturday filled with House Blessing and weekly organizing, and a busy Sunday schedule (which included a talk given in Primary by the Doodle), we have again this week, as we did last week, had VERY full school days Monday through Wednesday.

Our VERY full school days have come about for three reasons that we can identify. First, the girls are growing up and need a more rigorous academic schedule. Second, we have been told that the first couple of weeks of A New World of Adventures curriculum has longer days than are usual. Third, we have implemented a modified version of Sue Patrick's Workbox System, and the structure gives us the ability to accomplish MUCH ("Children using this system stay more focused and are more successful in learning and completing their school work independently.") while making sure we don't lose the fun in learning that means so much to us. ("It will then be easier to set up a school day of curriculum, variety and fun...")

Our subjects this year include, in alphabetical order (at varying grade levels from 5th to 12th):
Art Appreciation - including artist studies
Basic Drawing
California History
Daily Devotional
Early American History
Geography & Map Skills
Home Economics
Language Arts - reading, narration, copywork, spelling, grammar, writing, vocabulary
Library & Research Skills
Logical Thinking
Music Appreciation - including composer studies
Science - currently Marine Biology, later we'll add Meteorology and Physics
Spanish - Level 1
Typing (on the computer)

Whew! No wonder our days are long! (And we haven't added in our local homeschool support group, which usually meets once a week, Wednesday afternoons beginning in September.) Now, we don't do all of these subjects every day, but some of them we do. I am still reviewing and revising our schedule/s nearly every night as I prepare to fill the girls' SmartFiles, which is what we choose to call our workbox system. Rather than the many actual boxes required for use in the original system, we use some very cool hanging file boxes that we found at Walmart for less than $10 each.

We use three fileboxes, one for each girl, and one for me.

These are the coolest! The flip-up lid has these great compartments. We use the compartment in the upper left corner to store task cards either not being used that day or cards for tasks/activities that have been completed. There are supposed to be scissors in there, too, but Doodle is a grand paper crafter, and her scissors are often in use!

Besides the files, another vital component of the system is a schedule grid. We don't do it exactly as the original Workbox System, but that's one of the beauties of homeschooling. The girls each have their own daily schedule grid. These show at a quick glance what they will be doing in a single school day. When I get our task cards finished, I'll post a picture of what the grids look like. We ARE using them now, but they're not in their final form. As we work the system, we are learning what works best for us and making modifications along the way. Basically, the grids include cards for things that we do together and that are the same from day to day, and they also include numbers that correspond to file folders that contain assignments that are individualized for each of our (two) students. As a task is completed, it is removed from the grid and placed in a tray contained in the lid of the filebox. You can easily see what you've done and how much is still to be accomplished. Very cool.

The grids are made from two pieces of cardstock, colors chosen by the girls, laminated, and then hinged together with clear packing tape. The girls get them out of their fileboxes in the morning and set them up on our mantel, where we can ALL see them. It's easy to see in the pictures when we're working together and when the girls are on their own. You can also see how I staggered their subjects so that, for example, they don't both need the computer at the same time. Also note, the girls take turns making lunch. In these pics, it's Jelly's turn to make lunch and Doodle's card just says "Break." I really need one that specifies a lunch break, but oh, well.

What's REALLY cool is that not once at the end of these extra-long days has either of our students complained. They are having a GRAND time learning. (See this post for evidence!)

It's their teacher that isn't handling the long days quite so well. Don't get me wrong... I'm LOVING that they are loving "school." I just need to find the balance that will allow me to get some other things done.

We'll get there. We always do.

In the mean time, we're enjoying the adventure.

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