Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Art Lesson Tied to Current Events

Infographics. While I'd never heard that term before, it makes sense after watching this NY Times video.

Infographics reaches beyond mere graphic design and gives our smart and imaginative journal/artists a hope for a wide open future. It was neat to be able to give "use" to art and note that there are interesting career opportunities for our creative kids.

We used the New York Times' Learning Network to first learn about infographics, then viewed lots of great examples of what they are and how they are used, mostly in media. This particular unit of the Learning Network includes a few lesson plans and exercises that SJ will complete by week's end. Looks like they have all sorts of lesson plans in all discipline that use current news as a platform.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Will She Keep it Up?

I'm on to something. I just know it. Super excited. High hopes. question to me: will I keep it up?

How could I not? It's so simple, so helpful, so...organized.

I'm talking, of course, about my newly revised calendar on iCal. There's been lots of discussions on the homeschool blogs regarding organization as we ramp up for the new school year. Seems that time management is an area most of us never master. I've used iCal for years but more as a supplement to my wall calendar. Because we can sync it, I used it to inform my husband of family events, mostly.

Now, I have made it my very own. Check this out:

I made an orange calendar for Independent Work and a green calendar for Together Work (work that requires me). I sync those two calendars and the pink Kids calendar to SJ's computer so he can print it out complete with the notes to the right that tell him exactly what he needs to be doing. He uses it like a checklist. A further benefit is that we can pop these in our Log Binder and hand them over to The Handler and she can easily see exactly what we have done. I can use the URL link to add websites pertinent to the lessons or recipes for my dinner schedule.

You can also view the calendar in weekly or monthly formats although they are a lot less detailed. 

Today I feel very organized. God give me the grace to continue.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Artist in the House

So nice to have big sister home to tackle the first art lesson of the year. Since she is entering her final year of college as an art major, she has a better grip on the subject than I could ever hope to have (and some pretty cool art supplies). Good heavens, what will I do the rest of the year?
 I think that despite himself, SJ cherished the time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making the World a Better Place

Just had to share this list that SJ threw together in his 15 minute journal-writing time. I thought he would squawk at the exercise but he surprised me by throwing himself into it, even begging for a little more time to add to his list. So here are the worldly reflections of a 13 year old and ideas to make our world a better place:
  1. Solar hover cars to destroy gas.
  2. Eco/green buildings
  3. Hover motorcycles
  4. Air powered spaceships as planes
  5. Giant force fields that make it so peole don't bring in sicknesses
  6. Water color changing pools
  7. No super expensive prices (I love that one!)
  8. Power plants that also run on solar (stores, too)
  9. Free candy and ice cream every day
  10. Super soldiers
  11. Paintball fields in every city
  12. Epic video games (like Call of Duty 12: Future Soldier)
  13. Laser guns (so we don't need bullets)
  14. 24 hour surveillance cameras that shoot lasers at intruders
  15. Secret rooms in houses
  16. Awesome paintball guns and gear
  17. Dreams that become real
  18. Furry cuddly animals and pets
  19. Waterbeds (how funny is that? He really didn't know that such a thing existed!)
  20. Nuclear bunkers for guest rooms.
  21. Giant robot walking suits that can be used for building
I love that his mind wandered from global to individual, identifying bigger ideas such as energy and oil needs, and then reverted to his own world of paintballs and make believe. Such a precious juxtaposition. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

And the Dog Biscuit Business Begins...

Much to my delight, SJ plopped on the couch shortly after his last pronouncement of needing money and said, "Dog biscuits." My daughter uses this term as a polite expletive. He meant it in the truest sense, as in dog biscuits for sale.

Let me note that he isn't one of those kids with a budding entrepreneurial bent. He is generally averse to work which offers the clue that he was highly motivated by something. Whatever works is what I say. In this case, it's an out-of-town paintball event and it gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss "true" costs.

At first glance, this thing was a $15 deal and, of course, that's how he was selling it to me. I had him add in the cost of his paintballs, keeping in mind that this would be an out-of-town trip and that he would probably want more than five minutes worth of paintballs. At this point, he still felt pretty good about the cost. Next I explained that he would require the use of my car for the trip so I had him Google the mileage and figure out the cost for gas. His face fell as he realized his little $15 day would now cost about $80.

Apparently he really wants to go as evidenced by the fact he came up with a solution to the money problem on his very own. It's been a fun process for both of us and he has started to see the possibility of repeat business and expansion into the feline world. Sometimes lessons come in little surprises.

The manufacturing plant.
The packaging plant.
The biscuits.
The customer (and lab tester).

The finished product. Now wouldn't you pay $5 for a bag of organic dog treats presented like this?  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lamenting the Loss of the Paper Route

Whatever happened to job opportunities for junior high boys? That cornerstone job, the newspaper route, went by the wayside why? Crime? Cost? Liability? Not sure, but sure am sad that it went.

Not that I would let my kid ride his bike in the dark, in the cold, wearing a heavy bag loaded with rolled papers, in questionable neighborhoods, going door to door, and maybe even a few miles from home. Gasp. Simply unsafe! Still, don't I wish he had the opportunity?

Yesterday, SJ plopped down on the couch and announced that he would ask his dad for a job at our store when he got home. He has a goal, you see. He needs new paintball stuff. Always the encourager, I laid it out for him. "Sorry Bud. We don't have work for you." I know. It was a soft letdown.

But it made me wonder. Aside from allowances (that come from our pocket) or jobs with parents who own businesses (that comes from our pocket), what is a young man to do for money? Have your kids found some safe and effective ways to market themselves for odd jobs? How do they do it?

I would love to hear your ideas.

On a more successful note, my 16 year old who does work for us, opened his wallet and bought his own Subway sandwich yesterday. "I can buy my own, Mom," he said. I let the guilt of it prick me for just a sec, then realized the greater good in letting him feel the success of a penny earned.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What is Teaching?

Ran across this excerpt, written in the 1940s, about why our kids might not like us all the time:
What is Teaching?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ramping up for 8th grade.

It's August 4th. Homeschool officially starts on August 30th so it is with a smug bit of feeling accomplished that I note my well-laid plans. No worries. Not too tidy. But enough to feel like once we are out of the gates, I have an idea at least how our days should look.

I am still new at this homeschool bit but after detoxing and finding our way for the last few months of last year, I feel like I am ready to go at it with a little more structure and accountability. A good part of my planning was spent focusing on my goals for SJ this year. I have to keep in mind that we are taking this one year at a time, so I might well be preparing him for the rigors of high school next year. That would include not only academics but time management and self-discipline as well.
  • I am not an authoritarian style teacher but I do need to remember who holds the key to our schedule and be a little more insistent (to both of us) that school needs to start at a certain time each day--we should be showered, dressed, fed, and ready to go. 
  • Given the scope and subject range we want to cover, I need to make it clear to SJ that he can expect four hours of work each day. I won't keep a school bell nearby, but without the expectation, my son tends to cut it short (what kid wouldn't?), stopping shy of doing his best work. I don't want him "just gettin' it done." I want him to stretch his own character and integrity by working beyond what he believes he is capable. At least sometimes.
  • We are going to try something different with our Handler (Educational Specialist) this year. In the past, we have met for a quick hand-off of lesson plans and work. SJ pops in to say hello. Noting that I tend to fall short on follow through and accountability for assignments, I am going to ask her to be the Fall Guy and SJ to have the onus of proving that he has learned what he tells me he has. If I have him memorize something, he will need to say it to her. If he writes a paper, he will need to present her with the final draft. I think it will take away the opportunity to scam the softy (that would be me). She will also be responsible for teaching and assigning his writing, although we will work together on choosing topics.
  • Screen time must be curbed. Let's face it, our family likes our evening TV shows (good ones, of course, on Discovery, History, and Versus). Still, this particular child warms to the click of the remote no matter what time of day...even when he knows he shouldn't. Far too much spacing out for him. I don't love imposing jail-like controls in my home, but I am consid, ering blocking channels during daytime hours. I think our service will allow it.
  • My days need to be devoted to school first. I tend to be a morning person so my struggle is with wanting to do everything within a few hour window before noon. That includes my exercise, daily devotion, writing, homeschool, bible study, housework and work for our business, not to mention errands and coffee dates.. It's not possible and I will be making an effort to move parts of my day to the afternoon. I have to remember that homeschooling is a bit of a sacrifice and this may come at the expense of downtime, social time, or nap time (seriously). Can I do that for at least a year?
In all, I am getting excited to begin. I am anxious to get my hands on the books we've chosen as I believe there will be a nice blend of options to intrigue his learning style. He is especially excited about working through a Legos Robotics curriculum and learning how to design a video game.

Aside from the time I will be spending on SJ's education, I will have my hands full helping my high school junior navigate through a pretty tough schedule. We've asked him to step up his level of academics and he is already stressed. He has always been bright and we know he is capable. Somewhere along the way, his bar got lowered and he lost the confidence (or the desire) to work a little harder and be a bit more disciplined.