Ani’s Plans

One thing that has frustrated Ani being in public school is lack of time to do things she wants to do. She wants to volunteer, teach/run writing groups, at some point get a part time job, learn things she wouldn’t necessarily learn at school, and take some college courses. And of course write. A lot.

There are lots of opportunities for 14+ year olds to volunteer where we live. She’s deciding on exactly where she’d like to volunteer, but some options include the library, the zoo, the children’s museum, and the hospital. The library and the hospital are currently at the top of her list.

She wants to teach a writing class to little kids, probably 8-10ish years old. I told her I’ll have to round up some homeschooled kids for that one. She’s thinking about starting a writing group for teens as well. And, maybe, a group at a senior center. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up (and she’s not sure if she wants to teach elementary or high school) so writing classes/groups would be very good for her.

This weekend she starting making lesson plans for herself. She started with psychology. She’s using a combination of an MIT OpenCourseWare Intro to Psychology course and CrashCourse Psychology for that one. For World History I think she is doing similarly (I know she is using CrashCourse World History and think she found a world history MIT OCW course to go with it). For literature, she took the list of books they read in a first year course at a local university and combined that with CrashCourse Literature. She’s aiming high there with things like the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno. (For chemistry she’s probably going to help me teach the little guys and for math she will be using Life of Fred.)

She’ll be doing dual credit starting, at the latest, next fall at a local community college. They allow 2 3-4 credit courses per semester junior and senior years. Kids can do 1 3-4 credit course per semester sophomore year as well, but there are things she to do (like taking the placement test – which she hadn’t done yet because the dual credit is only allowed here starting junior year if you are taking the class at the public school – and that was the plan before she decided to come back home) before starting so if she takes a college class this year, it probably won’t be until the spring.

She’s got several ideas for novels and some of them are really, really good. So she’ll be writing a whole lot. She has a novel writing guide (from IEW) and also an old writing course set that my mother used decades ago. A friend of mine got her degree in creative writing and has agreed to be a bit of a mentor to Ani in exchange for being a mother’s helper sometimes.

I’m still a bit nervous letting Ani take so much control of her high school education and just being the facilitator rather than the teacher. She, however, is really excited about the whole thing. She loves to learn, but that love had kind of gotten dulled by my box checking at home and squashed by public school. It should be an interesting three years.

Sometimes things change

We put the kids in public school last fall with the intention of giving three of them the option to do the virtual school next year. We figured that’s what Cameron and Fritz would choose and Ani would stay in public school. Of course we only made it half a year for the little guys in public school (and, technically, Fritz could still do the virtual school next year, but I don’t think it would be a good fit for him). Ani and Cameron both loved public school. It was an agonizing decision for Cameron, but, ultimately, he decided to switch to the virtual school next year.

We’ve been going round and round about where Ani will go to school next year. The creative writing part of school is fine (though seriously annoying to us as parents because the instructor is a bit of a flake and it involves a lot of after school activities). The rest of the school, well, it’s better than the district in Maryland where we used to live. But compared to most of the rest of the high schools in our district here, and particularly when compared to the high school we’re zoned for, it’s a pretty bad school. We wanted her to go to the zoned high school. She was pretty strongly against going there.

While Ani loved going to public school, there were things she wasn’t thrilled about. She feels like she has learned absolutely nothing (aside from the creative writing classes) this year. Of course she has learned things, but I think it’s more about the waste of time. She could’ve learned the same amount on her own in much less time (this is actually one of the reasons Cameron decided on the virtual school). She is also an extreme introvert. She can handle crowds of people only to a certain point (honestly, I am shocked she didn’t punch anyone all year). By Thursday every week, she was in rough shape, completely physically and emotionally spent. The school day here is very long. High schoolers go for 7 hours and 20 minutes of school and then she had to be bussed to and from school. That made it about 9 1/2 hours from the time we left our house in the morning to drop her off to the time we got home in the evening after picking her up. Plus add to that an hour in the mornings for seminary, time to eat dinner, taekwondo two nights a week, young women activities once a week, and time to do homework and she literally was left with no time to relax. She’s been so much happier and, really, her truly amazing self, since school let out. Last week she went to a writing camp for 7 hours a day. She loved it. But when we got home Friday she completely crashed, exhausted, and slept from about 4:30 (getting up for dinner) until 3pm Saturday. It just reminded us too much of how she was all through the school year.

So what to do for school. Like I said, we wanted her to go to the local high school. She’d still have almost 7 1/2 hours of school per day, but no bus ride. She’d still have a lot of wasted time and not learning a whole lot, but that’s just how public school is. We offered her the option of doing the virtual school like Cameron.

Then I felt like I should offer her the option of a method of traditional homeschooling: Unschooling. This is crazy. I like to check boxes. I like the feel of traditional school at home. We don’t always use textbooks, but we have specific subjects and specific things to do in those subjects on specific days. Unschooling is just not my style. But, nevertheless, no matter how much I fought it, that was the answer. Offer her the chance to unschool. And, you know, when you are praying and that’s the answer you get, sometimes you have to do as you are directed.

I told her unschooling was an option. Her eyes lit up a little bit. We talked about what it would look like for her. Unschooling takes a lot of forms for different people. For some it is the complete and total eschewing of anything that even remotely looks like school. For some it is providing a super learning-rich environment and letting the kids learn as they live. For some, and this is really common among high schooler unschoolers, it is providing everything they need to learn what they want/need to learn (and this includes textbooks) and letting the kid take control of their education. This is the form Ani’s unschooling would take. We talked about the things she wants to learn and how she would do it. We talked about other things she wants to do – non-academic things – and how she could accomplish these things when not constrained by her insane school schedule.

And then we let her mull it all over for a really long time. Occasionally we’d discuss things a little bit. Eventually it became clear she was leaning toward the unschooling idea. Yesterday she told us she had made her final decision. She’s coming home again. Unschooling it is.

Frankly, this scares me. I really, really, really like to check boxes! Honestly, though, if I think about it, when I was a homeschooling high schooler my parents educated me pretty much the way we envision Ani’s education going. We just didn’t know unschooling was a thing. I would complete an entire year of a subject in a month or two. And then I’d move on to the next subject. My parents provided me with everything I needed and then let me decide when and what to do. Some things I never really did at high school age, but I covered them in college or since I became an adult.

So now on to the next adventure. Four kids home again. Two traditionally homeschooling. One doing the virtual school (we’ll see how long jumping through those hoops lasts). And one unschooling. She has some amazing plans. Those will have to wait for another blog post, though. This one is already entirely too long!

Baptism Family Home Evening

Fritz will be turning 8 next month. His baptism will be in September due to scheduling conflicts (in our stake the 8 year olds are only baptized once a month). Since we’re coming up on his baptism I figured it was time to start having family home evenings on baptism.

I found one here and printed out the letters and cut them out. There are seven letters in baptism so we each got one and Fritz got extra one.

We spelled out BAPTISM and discussed what the word(s) on each letter meant in relation to baptism. I made sure Fritz got T (turn 8 years old).

We put our letters up on the wall as we discussed them.

Until the whole word was spelled out!

We talked about our memories from our own baptisms as well. Fritz is very excited!

Summer Crafting Fun

In an effort to break up our summer days and make them a little more fun, I’ve started giving the boys craft items some afternoons to play and create with.

I bought these velvet pictures and markers sets a couple years ago on clearance at the Target Dollar Spot. Adrian actually liked coloring for once!

I love pipe cleaners. Shiny pipe cleaners are even better. Fritz decided to make the biggest ring ever. Adrian made them into letters.

Adrian is also going through 5 sight words a day and occasionally reading a little book to me. Fritz is finishing the last two books of the Life of Fred Language Arts series one chapter a day. Most days I read a chapter book to the little guys. Right now we’re working our way through the Beast Quest series. Twice a week we have taekwondo. Mostly, though, we’re just lazy in the summer, just how summer break should be.

Summer Reading

The other day I signed most of us up for the Summer Reading thing at the library. I didn’t sign Ani up because she’ll be out of town when they have their wrap-up party. Plus, as far as I could tell, the teen program didn’t involve actually reading. That was kind of weird.

The three boys will get a prize of a certificate – signed by the mayor! – and a book. Cameron and Fritz have to read 8 books each and Adrian has to listen to 15 over the course of 3 months. So far he’s listened to 2. Both of those were chapter books that took me about an hour to read to him (and Fritz).

For Jamie and me, we have to read or listen to 4 – 4! – books by August 31st. Four books. That’s it. I’ve already finished one book since June 1st. I’m almost done with two more. Jamie’s listened to three in the last week and a half. I’ve read 40-some books so far this year. I can’t imagine reading only 1 1/3 books a month.

Jamie and I will be entered into a drawing for an ereader after completing the challenge. That would be useful. Somehow my Kindle got a crack in the plastic shell. So far it hasn’t caused any problems for the eink screen, but one day it might. Plus having extra ereaders laying around is always a good thing, at least in a house that reads/listens to audiobooks as much as we do!

Planning Reading and Vocabulary

I decided that Fritz’s reading and vocabulary lessons would come from books with excerpts in Writing With Ease 2. It provides a little continuity, plus those are some excellent books. But that means I have to plan it out and come up with those lessons myself.

First I had to pick the books he would read. I went through the WWE lessons and made a list of every book used along with the week it is used. I checked each book on Amazon to see if there was a Kindle version. Books without Kindle versions available were immediately eliminated. I know this immediately rejects some good books, but I had to narrow them down somehow and that seemed like a good first step.

Then I started with the first book and checked how many chapters are in it and estimated how long it will take to get through the entire book. That determined about when the second book will start and so the next book to read needed to be used in WWE around that point. It actually ended up easier than I imagined it would. Only one slot could have been filled with two different books so I let Fritz choose between the two.

So, over the course of the 2014-15 school year, Fritz will be reading the following seven books:

  • The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
  • Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
  • The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe

Now I am working on reading through the books (the only one I’ve ever read before is Ginger Pye) in order to come up with questions, activities, and vocabulary words to study. I’ve done five chapters of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. It takes a little longer to do it this way instead of just buying a literature study guide, but I think it’ll work better for how I want that part of school to go if I make it up myself.

Cardboard Creations

Cameron has always been a bit creative and has always loved taking trash and making it into something else. One year for Christmas all he wanted was junk. We literally gathered bits of interesting trash from lots of people, put it all in a nice box, and stuck it under the tree. He was in heaven. He spent countless hours a few years ago creating things with Legos. He used youtube for ideas, but created his own things, too, like working little pinball machines. Another time, he got really into origami. He couldn’t really understand the directions in books, but could make pretty much anything a youtuber demonstrated. He rediscovered origami a few weeks ago. And now he’s moved on to making things – even useful things – with cardboard and duct tape.

It started because he wanted a bedside table. He got a box, a roll of duct tape (that I didn’t even know we had), scissors, and a knife and disappeared into his room. A couple hours later he came out with his bedside table. The inside is amazing with crisscrossing interlocking bits of cardboard. He knew without structure it wouldn’t last. He built this thing to last!

Then he made a hat. He wanted a beret, but cardboard and duct tape don’t really lend themselves to making a beret apparently, so this is what he ended up with. The little guys really love the hat and we had to put our foot down about not wearing it church.

And then there is the shelf to display his little things. The pieces that separate the cells are strong enough to stand on.

He asked his dad to please find more boxes at work to bring home. Cameron has grand plans for making a chair that he can actually sit on.