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Recently, while we were eating out at a local restaurant, someone actually approached our table and said that our family had the best behaved small children they had ever seen. They had a teenage son. Can you imagine? 😀

We have been doing a lot lately. I know this is true because when I look back at all the photos that I have taken, I see, objectively all the places we have been, things we have done, people we have seen, etc. However, it’s difficult to have the mental space to keep running tally of what exactly we have been up to.

This year, we are part of a charter. For those unfamiliar with homeschooling — hey I had NO idea what this was even after we started homeschooling– a charter is registered with the state of California, and works with parents to procure the materials they want, while maintaining supervision over the students, including meetings every so many school days, etc. All of these charters have different nuances. So for our charter, I have to submit grades, for example. Arbitrary. I definitely dislike.

However, as I submitted my grades for my 5 and 7 year old, I decided to include a brief overview of what we have been up to– I sometimes have to send this in/tell the teacher as well. What follows are excerpts of verbatim what I told our “teacher”:

We took a fieldtrip to Cal Academy, and the girls were volunteers in an Ocean Acidification experiment.

photo (15)As part of this, they blew into straws, which then blew into the water that contained purple cabbage water, to demonstrate the production of additional CO2 in the ocean. It was really amazing, actually. We did a lot of other cool stuff there too. This was one of the first times that my 5 year old was engaged in what was going on in the exhibits.photo (11)

For example, she grabbed a nearby guide of the different fish, and started pointing out which ones were in front of her. This was just one thing that stands out in my memory. Big changes!

We’ve been working on reading The Little House in the Big Woods, and watching some episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

Little House is a big thing in the local homeschool culture, perhaps the culture at large, I couldn’t say. (In fact, one of our friends recently visited the Laura Ingalls museum/site in Missouri! Jealous!) But when this book was assigned as a part of the Mentoring in the Classics cohort, I knew this was our best chance at getting the girls interested. I also happened to have ordered them sun bonnets to replace their floppy previous sun hats.

“Kindness and neighborliness are not just for Sundays, Laura.” We happened to pick up Season 2, which opens with the incredibly annoying and unpleasant storekeeper/neighbors protesting over the girls having an unfair advantage at collecting leaves by going on a camping trip. All I could think in my head was “Whatever!” The girls, LOVED watching. They continued to point out how mean and sour that family was, and how nice the Ingalls family was. It was neat to watch. There are still some stressful and probably advanced story lines in the show, so we won’t watch it too often, but I could really see how it made the pages of Little House come more alive for the kids.

Little House in the Big Woods was actually the book for December, so we are a bit behind, and still working on it. Just don’t tell the librarian!

[7 year old] is continuing to work on her times tables, and both girls like playing the chocolate chip Math game that we bought at the thrift store.

“5 times 5 is 25, mom. My friend told me, it’s true!” These days even my 3 year old asks me what 2 plus 2 is and then 4 plus 4. It’s interesting and exciting to them. I remember what that was like. Multiplication drills were fun because they were isolated, short, and I knew them. They have their time and place, and I’m glad my kids like completing them when they feel like it. Chocolate Chip Math is essentially a Math facts drill game with the guise of chocolate chip cookies. (I can’t link to it because it literally is not linkable, like I said my 5 year old picked it out at the thrift store!) I had nothing to do with the selection, just like I don’t usually have anything to with them playing it– Inspire Not Require.

We’ve also been playing LOTS of Horseopoly— the kids are obsessed with counting money and learning about how transactions work. My 7 year old is also very interested in horses.

We recently got some 15 penpals for the girls across the country! I think only 1 is homeschooled! So we bought paper, pens, envelopes, stamps, and after the girls wrote their letters, we took a trip to the Post Office to mail them. We have a map of the U.S. noted with all the states of where the friends live.

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I am realizing now that at least two of these sibling penpal sets are homeschooled, oh well! This has been really neat because my 5 year old dictates her letters to me, then signs them, and the envelopes herself. photo (10)My 7 year old writes the letters herself (we need to work on handwriting, this provides the least arbitrary setting), and also writes her name and the intended person’s name. She could also write the addresses, but I worry that the USPS would not be able to read them– which brings me to the point of this post, eventhough this is only the middle of all the things I have to say here:

A stamp has to be in the upper right hand corner of the envelope, or it will not get mailed. 

Just like the recipient’s address must be neatly printed in the middle of the envelope, and the return address goes in the upper left hand corner.

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I’ve long accepted the unschool/TJEd notion that requiring things arbitrarily isn’t necessary because actually living life presents opportunities for children to see firsthand that sometimes things MUST be done a certain way. Reflecting on this point I realized the envelope situation. My 5 year old started putting stamps wherever she pleased, like stickers. I had to move the stamps or else who knows what bureaucratic situation would have her letters cast aside. In order for them to reach their destination, the stamp needs to go where it needs to go, because. That’s it. Life Lesson. Sometimes rules are arbitrary and we MUST follow them if we want to accomplish our goal.

We’ve also started listening to many different History audio CDs that we have downloaded through Freegal (a free library service). We have listened to Greek Myths and also Story of the World.

This is a BIG thing for us because my 5 year old has up until now HATED audio books. Like the second I put them on, she literally starts screaming, “NO!!!!!!! Turn this off, it’s STUPID! I HATE IT!!!!” I posted this in a TJEd #Fail post on facebook recently. Well, these days she is actually tolerating AND LISTENING TO Audio CDs!

The other day we were listening to SOTW (Story of the World), and it was talking about Ancient China, and how they were trying to make gold, but one day instead discovered gun powder. I looked in my rearview mirror to see my 5 year old with a suprised look on her face, and then she said (after the narrator) “It exploded!!” Oh! Also, my 7 year old has begun her Mandarin Rosetta Stone study, will have to blog about that experience later!

If you haven’t heard about Freegal, you MUST check it out. You can download FREE audio tracks. They have music, ebooks, and also these Greathall CDs narrated by the homeschool celeb Jim Weiss— whom, incidentally I also did not know was so well known. Guys, check it, he is a professional story teller!!!! Talk about a neat calling in life! And we love him, he’s great.

So back to Freegal, we downloaded CDs on Greek Mythology, the Old Testament, Jewish Holidays, and Galileo thus far. There is a daily download limit, so I have to go back and get a few more tracks at a time, that I then burn for car trips. I am LOVING it, and I think the kids are too!

I have so many other things I want to say, but I still need to go back and add pictures, and I have big plans for our Kidschool today, so that’s all for now! Check back later this week for more TJEd posts!


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