Monday, January 11, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of January 11, 2016: Back to Work!

Well, I now know exactly one good way to find yourself excited about getting back to the regular schedule of a homeschool week.

Over our extra-long break, I did require the kids to work on their Math Mammoth regularly, and Will to continue memorizing her spelling words (she has a spelling bee this weekend!), and the kids managed to earn TWO new Junior Ranger badges (Syd chose to re-earn a third one!) and visit a new-to-us science and history museum. Nevertheless, I'm happy today to be back on a regular schedule.

Well, I *say* I'm happy, but Syd didn't wake up until 10:00, primarily because I kept them both up until 11:30 last night to watch the new Sherlock episode, so we'll see if I'm still happy when we're doing most of today's schoolwork tonight.

You'll notice that I reworked our work plans over the break. I had been giving out a second sheet just for the kids' chore list, but two sheets are easier to lose and more inefficient and wasteful than one sheet, so I figured out how to squeeze everything onto one page. Now the kids' daily chores are listed in their plans to check off along with their schoolwork--
This is what unloading the dishwasher looks like--they never *quite* put the dishes away where I want them to.
--and the space for special chores is at the bottom--I tend to handwrite in at least one of the chores on the day of, because I like to have the kids help with whatever I especially need help with that day. The chore that's already written in is usually something that's been nagging at me for a while. So, for instance, one of today's chores is written in as refilling the fish tank completely, because the sight of that 3/4 full fish tank has been bothering me, but I decided just this morning that I also cannot STAND having the Christmas decorations up for one more day, so I wrote that in this morning.

I also have been wanting, for a while now, to encourage the children to do more independent studying in projects of their choosing, so I've tentatively incorporated a Project of the Week for this semester. The idea is that over the weekend, the kids, with my help, each choose a project or area of study or activity that they'd like to work on independently over the week. I then have time set aside every day that week for work on that project. This first week, Syd decided that she wants to create three of the recipes from The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook, which I have checked out from the library. She and her dad bought the ingredients for all the recipes last night, and she'll make them this week, probably with adult help. Will's project is to research the perfect flight simulator computer game to buy with the money that her Uncle Chad gave her for Christmas, then to learn how to play it using the joystick that he also gave her--this is a handy way to work around the fact that she's grounded from all non-school screens until Friday, on account of she pitched the world's most ridiculous fit about modeling fraction division with Cuisenaire rods last Friday. We'll see how these projects go!

Books of the Week include a couple more biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., a couple more books about World War 2, and a few random books that I thought the kids would like--Amelia Bedelia for Syd, horses for Will, etc.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: Syd is in another time unit in Math Mammoth, while Will is finishing up dividing fractions. I have been surprisingly disappointed with the calculating fraction lessons in Math Mammoth--I feel like I have had to extensively supplement every single one, including making my own lessons in Adobe InDesign that model the calculations in understandable ways. I put so much work into these that I may put them up on Teachers Pay Teachers, so stay tuned!

We do a lot of writing, but I thought that it might be nice to try a more guided unit, so I'm going to experiment with the NaNoWriMo's Young Writers program--unseasonably, of course, but who says that you only have to write your novels in November? Lesson 1, which we'll do today, covers the definition of a novel, asks the kids to describe the characteristics of some of their favorite novels based on this definition, and then has the kids create an ad for one of those favorite novels. I'm curious to see if my two will want to videotape or write our their ads.

We're also going to spend one week a month using the MENSA A Year of Living Poetically curriculum, primarily because I like that the vocabulary and comprehension components of each poem are included. I'll introduce the kids to the poem today, then give them the rest of the week to complete the packet and memorize the poem.

Other work on this day includes our volunteer gig at the local food pantry, studying the spelling lists from the Scripps 2015/2016 spelling bee study guide, and a page from each kid's cursive workbook. We've also got a snowy playdate with a friend at the park this afternoon, and there will 100% be the selling of some Girl Scout cookies at some point. My kids are serious about their cookie goals this year!

TUESDAY: I'll likely be combining geography and history quite a bit during our American Revolution unit study, so before we even begin the history component, I'm having the kids simply memorize the states that were once our 13 original colonies, along with their capitals and geographic locations. I think this will add valuable context to our history studies right from the beginning.

Finally, both children are old enough to compete in the many essay contests that rule our winters--mwa-ha-ha! Happily, one of the possible topics for this particular Black History Month essay contest is the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Can you guess what city we drove through to and from my hometown last week? Little Rock! Can you guess where one of the places that the kids earned a Junior Ranger badge is? The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site! We discussed the questions posed by the essay promote both before and after our visit, and so I think they'll be well-prepared to write this essay.

We've got a sledding playdate today, and I wouldn't be surprised if our homeschool group's playgroup on this day also involves sledding!

WEDNESDAY: I had a little time over the break to do some Girl Scout badge research, and so I have a plan to do some badges together as a family, sneaking in yet more academic enrichment as we do so--don't tell! The first badge we're doing together is the Animal Habitats badge for Juniors and the Animal Helpers badge for Cadettes, combining them so that each project that the kids do will count for each badge. On this particular day, we'll be watching episodes from PBS' Nature series (to meet a requirement for the Animal Helpers badge that asks children to research animal/human interactions), and then filling out this animal habitat form for three different animals found in the series (to meet a requirement for the Animal Habitats badge that asks children to research animal habitats).

I am REALLY excited about our cooking lessons! I was given a free copy of Your Kids: Cooking to review, and on this day we start with lesson one, French toast. There's a DVD tutorial that kids can follow along, and extension recipes that kids can cook afterwards that build on the specific French toast skills. Frankly, this book is going to teach me how to cook, too!

Following my essay-writing plan, this is the day that the kids will each write the rough draft of their Little Rock Central High essays.

THURSDAY: Will wants to study rocks and minerals, so I found a 9th grade science textbook that we'll be using for this study. I chose this particular textbook because it begins with a chapter on atoms and elements, and then moves on to chapters on minerals, sedimentary, and igneous rocks. I'd been wanting to cover atoms and elements with the kids, so I'm happy that I don't have to wait for a unit on chemistry to do it. Some of the information in the textbook will be over Syd's head, particularly, but I can help her distill the most important facts while Will absorbs more of the material. As part of this chapter, we'll be making atom models for various elements using beads and wires (and perhaps also using them to explore isotopes and electron energy levels), and the chapter's experiment on isolating the iron from fortified cereal for our STEM lesson on this day. The kids will enjoy picking out some sugar cereal from the grocery store!

FRIDAY: I am VERY excited to study the 2016 election with the kids, especially as Will is super into politics and government. We'll be using Election 2016: A Guide for Young People as our spine, but with a LOT of supplementing. For instance, after reading about all the candidates on this day, I'll be having the kids research each candidate online, finding their photo and main stances, perhaps watching a campaign ad, then making an infographic about each one that will allow us to track their progress throughout the year.

We need to study health this semester, particularly women's health, and most particularly puberty, so on this day the kids will be making a kid-sized model of the human body, complete with organs, just so we know where everything goes.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Ice skating, a spelling bee for Will, and rock climbing for our Girl Scout troop! Also hot chocolate, I think. Maybe a Family Movie Night. Definitely a lot of reading on the couch. Brownies? Perhaps...

As for me, I'll be spending the week working on that health unit, making a couple of etsy orders, dyeing wooden beads for atomic models, doing TONS of Girl Scout cookie sales prep, and rethinking the bedroom nook where the children have their bunk bed. After all, Will needs a place to store her sword collection AND her dragon collection, don't you know?


Kristin said...

Would you mind sharing the resources you found for your unit on women's health? It would be very helpful! Thanks!

Tina said...

I had french toast this morning! I love french toast.

Oh, I am excited that you and the girls are trying out NaNoWriMo. Emma has started reviewing her novel. We didn't really follow the lesson plans, (because we both know by now that I suck at that sort of thing), but the workbook was pretty self-explanatory so Emma was good. I've researched a little on how to do the revisions, but every time I try to explain what I read to Emma, she get's overwhelmed. Finally I just printed out a copy of her novel, handed her a red pen, and told her to make notes on anything she noticed that needed to be changed.

Also, I would highly recommend looking at Scrivener ( for writing the novels. It has a free tutorial and some cool features that help with the writing and revision process.

So, feel free to share your election info! Every time election comes around I promise myself I will keep up with it, but I don't own a pair of boots tall enough to wade through all the crap. I am not good at picking out the useful info and letting the rest go.

Oh, the joys of puberty. I'm not sure if every child asks as many questions as mine does, but I'm ready for her to be past this stage. She asks very well thought out questions, but very detailed and sensitive questions. I never lie to her, and if I tell her that isn't something she needs to know right now, she freaks and thinks the worst, so I end up just telling her anyway. sigh. I'm pretty sure I am scaring her for life.

On the plus side, she has assured me she will never, ever, have sex.

julie said...

Yeah, I may have accidentally informed my children that I've had a lot of sex, while responding to a child's comment that implied that one got pregnant each time one had sex. I may have said something along the lines of "Well, if that was the case I would have thousands of babies!" and then I showed them a condom. It wasn't tactful, I suppose, but at least it was forthright?

I'm still in the beginning stages of my women's health unit (which I am formalizing precisely so I stop accidentally telling the children how much sex I've had or answering their other questions equally awkwardly), but I will definitely share my resources! So far I'm imagining our primary textbooks as the Robie Harris series (It's Perfectly Normal, It's so Amazing, and It's Not the Stork), The Care and Keeping of You from the American Girl series, and maybe some selections from Our Bodies, Ourselves. I'm considering, as well, a Days for Girls service project, and I know that we'll be doing a science experiment to determine how much liquid various pads and tampons hold. I am *maybe* thinking of trying to schedule a field trip for several girls to a gynecologist's office, but I don't know yet. I might try for a family doctor's office or maybe the hospital, instead.

Tina said...

Ha! That's awesome. I made the mistake of telling the kiddo (who was paranoid about walking in on us) that we usually close the door before hand. Now she tells me she always wants to check to see if the door is closed when she gets up to pee. Apparently I can't win.

That experiment sounds cool. Do you plan on testing homemade pads? I'd be interested to see how a double layer of fleece would hold up to the store bought stuff.

We love the Robie Harris series. Well, I love it. Emma is freaked out because there are "pictures" of naked people in them. Uh, kid, that's kinda the point.

I've gotten so tired of answering all the questions, I told her it's time she started asking her dad some of them. It's not nice, but it makes me giggle at how awkward it makes them both :0)

Unknown said...

This was always my favorite book about growing up/girl stuff:
It's sort of third-wave-riot-grrrl-feminism-grew-up-and-is-now-a-mom. Paired with a healthy dose of girl punk music, it got me through my adolescent years and navigating having a female body/identity. It is super frank about sex, puberty, mental health, drugs, etc, and most of it is phrased in the form of questions from real girls. I kept it on my shelf and pulled it out for reference at sleepovers well into high school before passing it on to a younger cousin. There are also some great articles at

(I am a student in a teacher prep program and stumbled across your blog a few years ago researching free-er form homeschooling, and have followed it with a future educator's interest since! As a recent adolescent and someone studying working with tweens/the history of women's healthcare, I couldn't help but chime in. Actually, you/your girls might actually enjoy some vintage sources on this topic as well--they're a great interdisciplinary way to discuss sexism, debunk some myths, and giggle--they're hilarious, propaganda-y, and easily found via basic pinterest/google searches. One of the most interesting and fun lectures I have ever seen was on vintage sex ed/tampon advertisements and how frighteningly similar their sexist messages are to today's ads)

julie said...

Okay, I just requested that my public library buy that book--I can't wait to read it!

I love your idea about checking out vintage sources! I had the idea to have the kids watch/critique/laugh at older puberty education films, primarily because I have been searching for my entire adulthood for the film that I was forced to watch as a 6th grader. It starred the Broadway cast of Annie, and all I really remember is that one little girl said that when they got their first period, they were fired from the cast.

Seriously, I would pay good money to watch that film again.

Anyway, vintage tampon ads?!? I can't wait!