Sunday, November 28, 2010

Testing. It's like a swear word, isn't it?!!

I hate testing.

I did well on tests when I was in school. That doesn't mean that I enjoyed taking them.

There was so much pressure involved. I knew the material, yet would have this massive build up leading up the test. When test day finally arrived, I would sit down, take a deep breath...then freak out and start to hyperventilate. I couldn't help it. It didn't matter that I knew what was on the test. The only thing that mattered was that my grade was high enough.

I know, I know, if I knew the material then the test should have been easy. But it's one of those things that happens when you're under pressure...your brain just freezes up and locks down.

Homeschooling benefit number 491? Very limited testing. I wish I could say NO testing is done around here, but the school board will come get me if I say that. ;)

The boys have their quizzes and tests on their curriculum, but there is no pressure involved. They don't have to be a part of a grading curve, or feel bad if they don't make as high as their classmates.

We are supposed to have a standardized test every 3 years, just to make sure they are progressing. It can be very daunting. But not for the boys. Oh no, they are fine with it. It's ME that has to have a honking big margarita just to make it through the thing. :D

I know other homeschooling parents who feel the way I do...I'm totally (ok, marginally) confident I am doing alright by my boys in regards to homeschooling. Except when it's time to test. I am always afraid that when their test scores come back, they are going to prove I failed.

Even though it's only partially comforting (even the honking big margarita doesn't erase ALL my fears, it just  makes me giggle at them), it's comforting nonetheless to find information and resources online.

Just to shamelessly plug our curriculum, Time4Learning, I was surprised and thrilled to find information on standardized testing by state on their site! The wonderful thing is, you don't have to be a member of the program to benefit from the information they have there! They go over what type of testing is done, as well as what you can expect to find on the tests.

Besides the icky standardized tests...hey, I said I was grateful for the info, didn't say it made me like testing! ;)...there is the big daddy of all tests, the SAT to worry about. Yay for not having a high schooler yet. I have a few years to mentally prepare the boys and myself. And to discover what size margarita is bigger than "honking big."

Even though my boys are no where near the age of prepping for their SATs, I would definitely suggest that my homeschooling friends with high schoolers go visit T4L's SAT courses information page. I remember (surprised I can remember that far back, lol) that the writing part of the SAT was the most intimidating for me. I would have definitely liked to have had an opportunity to take an SAT writing course to help me and ease some of my worries.

Ok, I guess I'm not promoting now. :D

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, I hope everyone else did too! I am hoping I will have time this week to post some pics from the weekend.

Now, where did I put that Christmas tree...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Omagosh...the holidays can't be here again! Can they?

Why is it that the older we get, the faster the holidays roll back around again. When I was little, I used to think that Christmas would NEVER get here...surely there was a 5 year wait between one Christmas to the next. Now, it's like I close my eyes and take a deep breath to enjoy the peaceful "after Christmas" feeling, only to open my eyes back up and realize that it's a month away again. A month. And I haven't bought the first gift yet. Gulp.

Even so, I love this time of year. I love the lights and decorations. I love the Christmas music. I love gathering with my family and my friends. I love watching my boys opening gifts and discovering that Santa brought them exactly what they asked for.  ;) I love the spirit of Christmas. And yes, I love what Christmas truly is about.

Fortunately, we follow a year round school plan and we have a flexible holiday schedule. Very flexible, lol. The summer around here is too hot to really spend a lot of time outside, so the boys don't mind working longer into the summer, if it means they get more time to bake and make candy with Nanny. And they get to visit family. And go Christmas shopping with mommy. :)

We don't completely avoid school during the holidays...we just do it less. Braeden is blazing through the first grade, much like he did with Kindergarten. I'm pretty sure he will be able to take a nice break from his normal curriculum. I'll let him work on spelling and handwriting, because those are things that he is currently struggling with and I don't want him slacking off on those. :) In addition to spelling and handwriting, I'm sure I will let him play some of the online games that we've found recently... like math games, vocabulary games, art games etc.

Since Bailey's sixth grade curriculum is harder and more involved this year, I don't know if he will be able to take as much time off as he normally does. We honestly have to play it by ear and see what comes up. Of course that isn't going over well with him, lol, but he's a trooper.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Extra-curricular Activities / Lessons...?

I don't know how we managed to reach the ages of 11 and 6 without the boys asking us for some type of artsy or musical lessons.  Really.  But we did.

Braeden has enjoyed playing online art and music games on a great website,  He enjoys playing any game on the computer, but he's really taken a shine to the music ones.  He loves playing Rockband (we play this as a family but we also got the boys the Rockband 3 game for their DSs) and really enjoys just listening to music.  He does really well with remembering lyrics and a while back starting requesting music by artist.  He has an awesome, eclectic taste.  He likes a little bit of everything, but right now he is as obsessed with the Glee soundtrack as I am, lol.

He has a small guitar that he got for his birthday a couple of years ago and has enjoyed playing around with that. On this year's Christmas list, he has been begging, begging for these new things called Paper Jamz.  Personally, I can't imagine these lasting more than an hour because they are made out of paper. Well, cardboard actually.  But they really do play.  They have guitars, drums...even amps.

At this point, we are kinda thinking we want to explore his musical interest more. We are talking about trying to find him some music lessons, but he's struggling with pinning down just one instrument right now.  I'm not opposed to him playing more than one, most musicians do, but we have to start somewhere.  And I don't want to have to sell an organ to pay for music lessons for multiple instruments at once.

Fortunately for us, we have a local music store where people can take lessons. I also have my dad (if Braeden wants to play a guitar), when we get a chance to see him.

Bailey enjoys listening to music, but that is a new found thing for him.  Where Braeden has been loving music his whole life, Bailey just really started getting interested in it a couple of years ago.  His tastes aren't quite as eclectic as mine or Braeden's, but he does like a decent array of genres.

Music lessons probably won't come into play for Bailey.  He likes it, even enjoys playing Rockband, but he doesn't seem to want to go any further than having color-coded keys.  I don't blame him there, lol...

Bailey's passion is in art.  He loves painting and drawing.  He has some "How to Draw" books that we've picked up for him and last year, he really started to delve into painting.  My sister in law is an incredible artist.  No, I'm not just saying that.  She's amazing, but she doesn't give herself the credit she deserves. Anyway, last year for Christmas, Bailey wanted some paint and a desk easel. Grandma got those things for him and Stacy (the SIL) was able to show him some great techniques, like how to make trees and blending colors.

It was a great start and I'm thinking he has some natural ability.  Here is a painting he did of a character from a webcomic that he's been reading:

He also completed the animated art program that our homeschool curriculum offers.  He enjoyed it so much that after he finished it the first time, he went through it again.  If he only had the same enthusiasm for the other subjects...

If we find music lessons for Braeden, it would only be fair to try and find some art lessons for Bailey.  I have been doing a little research online, and have found a few things.  All of them are in Athens, which is almost an hour away, but we go there often enough we could find a way to just combine trips or something.

Stacy would make an excellent art instructor and I wish we were able to have her give Bailey more lessons.  Unfortunately for us, she's living on a tropical island at the moment.  Yeah...hardship, huh? ;)

Given our soccer and scouting schedules, I'm not sure when we would squeeze these lessons in, but we do what we do for our kiddos.

If anyone has any ideas about either music or art lessons, feel free to share! :^)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moments of GRRR...

I love teaching my boys.  I have no regrets about our decision to homeschool and I don't long for the day I get to put them back in public school.

Having said that, it's not the easiest thing I have ever done.

It's hard to break down how to teach a wee one to read when reading is something I honestly take for granted.  I feel like I've been reading since birth and can't remember far enough back in my life to a period where I couldn't read.

Science and history are not my areas of expertise.  I love watching shows like Mythbusters and How It's Made, but that's as far into science-y stuff as I go. History is certainly important for any child.  For that matter, any adult.  But still...I struggle with those subjects.  Even though I completely understand their importance, it's hard to retain information and be excited about something that, simply put, bores me.  I know, I know.  I should be ashamed.

Our homeschool curriculum works wonderfully for us and because it's online, it prevents me from going crazy trying to plan out lessons. There have been a few times we need to supplement it, for something specific, but overall I am fairly burden free.

The hubs is professionally a writer and an editor, so he is an excellent resource for the boys and I when it comes to literature and grammar.  His most favorite subjects are science and history (depending on the time period) so he helps out (ok..pretty much manages) those subjects when needed.

So why do I say it's not always easy and why am I GRRR-ing?


Generally, if I'm growling at something school related, it's because of math.

Walter is flat out prohibited from helping the boys with math.  He's one of those mathematicians where 2+2=5.

Think "Rainman" more than "Einstein."

You don't have to feel like I'm talking bad about him...he admits this fact quite readily.  And don't feel bad for him.  I can comfortably say he is one of the smartest individuals I know.  Except for math.

How do I feel about math?  I'm fine with it.


I don't struggle with it the same way the hubs did, and still does.  I'm quick to pick up a calculator,  but that doesn't mean I can't do it in my head if need be.

My issues with math come in the form of what I think are useless concepts.  I fully realize it's not my place to judge whether concepts are useless.  Even if I feel that way about them, I don't skip over them in the course of a math lesson... but it frustrates me to see my kids frustrated over things that seem pointless.

Venn diagrams.

Did you have to go google that?  Most of you probably did, lol.  I did.  Tell me something...when was the last time, as adult, you used a venn diagram for something?  Those of you who work in the math field, or in a lab somewhere, you are excluded from answering.

What if someone asked you what a multiplicative identity was?  Could you answer? math majors and lab just sit back in your genius-ness and shush, lol.

We had a rough week with math this week, and not even harder math like that which Bailey is doing.  Braeden is doing first grade math and we were struggling.  Why?

Here is a sample question: "What is the fewest number of coins needed to make 23 cents?"

Should my 6 year old be able to identify coins? Absolutely.  Should my 6 year old be able to count out 23 cents in one way or another? I would certainly hope so. Should it matter if he used 2 dimes and 3 pennies versus a dime, 2 nickels and 3 pennies?  This is where the math gods somewhere say yes and I say emphatically NO.   I just want him to give me my 23 cents.  I don't care how he does it.

Then we have what he called the "trick questions."

Sample: "Which of the following makes 43 cents using the least number of coins?"
a.   1 quarter, 1 dime, 1 nickel, 3 pennies
b.   4 dimes, 3 pennies
c.   1 quarter, 2 dimes
(these were pictures of coins, not the words)

Braeden is sitting there answering "c" because that's the fewest number of coins.  Of course he doesn't stop to think that "c" doesn't even equal 43 cents. His response?  "Well if it doesn't equal 43 cents then WHY is it in a question asking me to make 43 cents????

His logic isn't wrong.  Not to me. :D

When I first started homeschooling, I wish I'd had a magic homeschooling guide.  One that assured me I was doing the right thing and one that pointed me in the right directions.  We had a whole lot of trial and error moments.  It would have been nice to skip those.

Now I wish I had a different that told me it was perfectly acceptable to tell my kids the answers to those stupid questions on those stupid quizzes about those stupid concepts.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family Weekend...

After slamming down massive amounts of meds last week, this weekend found me feeling pretty good.  We were supposed to go camping with our cub and boys scouts, but as the weekend drew near, we all had a moment of ... well... of "No, I don't wanna!"

Nothing against our scouts, by any means!  But we have had so much on our schedules lately (our fault, I know), that every time we had some time or a spare moment, there was something planned for us.  Soccer game, scout function, something.  We just looked at one another and said "let's do something that we planned instead, rather than do something that was planned for us."

Let me say, just to clarify, that I don't generally condone shirking responsibility (yeah right, I'm a shirker by nature, lol), but this weekend was a much needed shirk. 

The weather was supposed to be gorgeous and it was the last weekend of Oktoberfest in Helen, something that the hubs has always wanted to go to.  

So Saturday morning we got up, grabbed Nanny (my grandmother) and took off.  On the way to Helen, we made a spontaneous detour through Cleveland so Nanny and I could go to Babyland General Hospital...the Cabbage Patch Kid place... 

Nanny and the boys.

The boys were good little troopers and suffered through the tour of the place while Nanny and I oohed and aahed over the dolls. 

After that, we were back on our way to Helen.  I spent many summers hanging out in that town, tubing down the river and just getting to know the shop owners when I was younger.  The Dutch/German design of all the buildings is cool to see and the atmosphere is usually pretty good.  

Unless it's Oktoberfest.

Good grief at the people!  We expected busy, but to be honest it kinda blew our mind.  And the town has gotten much more tourist-y over the last few years.  Many of the handmade candle stores and candy shops have been turned into one of only 50 or so different t-shirt and gift shops.  Even though we were enjoying ourselves, we were disappointed.

After taking a couple of hours to walk through all the shops, we headed over the fest hall where the Oktoberfest festivities were going on.  We sat around and listened to the German bands they had, watched the people dance around in their lederhosen (is that how you spell that?) and drink German beer.   

Well, we watched the majority of the people dance around in their lederhosen with their German beer.  There were a few small groups of people we saw dressed up in their mini-skirts walking around with pitchers of Miller Lite.  Really?  C'mon people!  German beer and lederhosen, and you guys want short skirts and flat, domestic yucky??  *Sigh*

Even with the disappointment in the tourist-y town, we really did have a great day!  The weather stayed beautiful and we really enjoyed not being on a time restraint or having someplace else to be!

They love these photo-op, prop thingies...

The hubs snapped this photo while Bailey was
trying to patiently wait for his lunch.
I absolutely LOVE this shot of my eldest! :)

He's 6, so of course that's really Heineken
and not Nanny's diet coke.
Sunday we had a big day planned as well.  Besides it being Halloween, it was Rockband 3 day for our band!! :D

We headed over to Tracy's place with mucho excitement.  Well, I was mucho excited anyway.  Rockband is my favorite video game! I was raised around music.  I love music.  My dad is a musician and I always wanted to learn to play the guitar.  Unfortunately, I could never "play through" the callouses and the owies on my fingers.  

Then came Guitar Hero and Rockband.  And I discovered I could finally play!  As long as there were colored keys anyway... 

Two Christmas's ago, Tracy's gang got the first Rockband.  Since then, we played as often as we could.  Rockband 2 came out and we were giddy.  The Beatles Rockband made an appearance and we were giddy still.  Now there is Rockband 3 which brings additional instruments into the mix.  We had a keytar!

Hehe... I love saying keytar.  Like git-fiddle.  Just one of those words that makes me go "tee hee."

Anyway, the adults popped in our shiny new game and had a great time for a couple of hours.  We eventually let the 4 boys play, albeit begrudgingly.  

The "next big thing" you say? Quite possibly.
Soon it was time to dress up and hit the streets looking for candy.   

Q dressed as a cool-beard-goggle thingy.
Braeden as a dragon with a leopard paw.
Bailey as a weird zombie/wizard hybrid.
ISO as a bouncing bunny.
Z as a butcher...with serial killer tendencies.

Initially we were really glad that they were going to do trick or treating in town on Sunday, since Sunday was in fact Halloween. That gladness went away slightly when we found out that because it was Sunday, it was starting at 4pm.  Yeah...doesn't sound like ideal light settings for a goulish evening, does it?

After about an hour and maybe a dozen houses that were actually handing out candy, we all gave in to our hunger and headed to the pizza buffet in town.  Buffets, of any type, can be hit or miss. Sometimes there's not enough selection, sometimes it's gotten cold.  But I love them when the restaurant is packed and busy. There's always plenty of hot and fresh on the buffet!

I think they enjoyed it!
No one seemed too bothered by the lack of "treating" so after dinner we headed back to Tracy's for more Rockband fun. 

Normally, our band consists of Scott on vocals, Tracy on drums, T on guitar/bass and myself on guitar/bass.  With the addition of the keyboard, we even got Walter and P in on the fun that night!  There are some great songs on the new game and we all really had a good time and are very much looking forward to our next jam session! :)

Walter got a 95% on the keyboard.
Tracy got a 99% on drums at the hard difficulty.
Scott got 99% on vocals on hard - but he always does great...
And see that...that 100% on expert?  That's me baby!  What did I tell you?  I really am the next Jimi Hendrix! ;)

(We don't have to acknowledge that those scores were achieved on what is quite possibly the easiest song EVAR, m'kay?)

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better weekend with my family and friends!  I hope all of you enjoyed your Halloween weekend as well!