Monday, November 28, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of November 28: The Nutcracker!!!

We had a short school week last week (although not as short as the children would have liked, considering their outrage when they learned that they still had to do math even with their father home from work on a Tuesday), and it was wonderful.

The past couple of years, we've preferred to go out to eat at our favorite Indian buffet on Thanksgiving, but this year, we decided to cook on Thanksgiving and eat out on Christmas. Everybody in the family helped make our feast!

Syd made the mashed potatoes and the flower arrangements:

Will made the cranberry sauce and was my general go-to girl:

Both kids sculpted the turkey bread--

--and unpacked, sorted, and washed my Mamma's china:

This was the first time in my life that I have ever eaten off of that china, by the way. For my entire living memory with Mamma and Pappa, that china was displayed in a gorgeous wooden cabinet in our dining room. Pappa worked for Dixie Cup, so we always ate off of the free paper plates that he was given, even on holidays--my mother claims that there was one holiday in which we did eat off of the china, but when questioned further, she admitted that I was a very young child at the time and was seated at the children's table, where we most certainly did NOT eat off of the fine china.

I made the roasted brussels sprouts, the dried cherry and sausage stuffing (Matt and I LOVED this stuffing, but the kids picked out every. Single. Dang. Cherry), the creamed cheese corn, and the peanut butter icebox pie. Matt grilled the steaks (we don't care for turkey) and made a lemon chess pie and two pumpkin pies.

We ate off of that fine china until we were very, very full.

And then--and I totally don't care what you say!--we went Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving. Will and Matt needed snow pants, which were 50% off at MC Sports, which opened at 5pm on Thanksgiving. Michael's opened at 6, and although we didn't need anything there, I wanted a giant canvas--70% off--for various school projects, and Syd wanted Christmas decorations for her dollhouse AND a 2017 planner (both 50% off, with a 30% off your total purchase coupon on top of that). Kohl's also opened at 6, and Matt needed a new winter coat (60% off) and we secretly bought the kids a drone at the doorbuster price. We're also secretly going to test it out sometime this week after the kids are asleep to see if it's any good.

The kids and I LOVE the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but we don't actually have TV reception, so we cheated and watched it on YouTube the next day. The Girl Scouts had a float in the parade this year, and there was a Girl Scout badge that the kids earned by completing a scavenger hunt while watching the parade, designing their own Girl Scout parade float--
This is Syd's!

--and writing an essay about their favorite float. Don't tell the kids that this was also secretly schoolwork!

In unrelated news, I think that Will is about to have yet another growth spurt, as our night owl has routinely been falling asleep at 8 or 9 pm this past week, often in the middle of a family activity. She fell asleep on my shoulder during a break in decorating the Christmas tree last night (and how I did treasure that!), and here she is loudly snoring during a VERY exciting moment in Lord of the Rings:

Our fencing club for the next two nights doesn't end until after Will's been falling asleep all last week, so we'll see how she does...

The day after Thanksgiving is the first day that it's okay to start decorating for Christmas, if you ask me. Time, then, for the tree farm!

I thought that this tree looked really cute, but now that it's up and decorated, it's actually really wonky and lopsided and way too fat for our space. Oh, well!

And yes, we cut it down ourselves.

This kid actually cut most of it down.

This kid worked for two seconds and then wandered off with the dog. She is REALLY skilled at getting out of work.
 We have another short week this week, since this is performance week for our university's production of The Nutcracker, starring the deeply talented Fourth Soldier from the Right. Not only does Syd have four hours of daily rehearsals beginning today, but extended family begins arriving tomorrow evening, starting Wednesday I'll be volunteering backstage at all of Syd's rehearsals and performances that I won't be attending, and we'll have guests straight through until next Tuesday.

In previous years, we've taken this entire week as a vacation from school, but this year, my plan is to have full school days today and tomorrow, and then very short school days that can be ditched, if needed, the rest of the week. I have learned the value of keeping up the children's routine, even their less preferred routine of schoolwork, during weeks when it would otherwise be tempting to simply toss routine out the window.

Books of the Day for our short week, then, include titles on Greek mythology and Ancient Greece. In Memory Work, we're continuing with Sonnet 116 and geometry formulas amongst our other random tidbits.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: So far this morning, Will has zipped through her Math Mammoth (integers are a piece of cake!) and her grammar (she's still making a lot of labeling errors, but is getting consistently better), and is now requesting ebooks from the library for her MENSA reading list. Syd... is drawing and listening to Auggie and Me for the sixth time. Yeah, she may not get her schoolwork done this week.

In Math Mammoth, Syd is finishing up decimals and moving into graphing, which I think that she'll like much better than decimals. I still have to keep a close eye on her to make sure that she keeps up with her math, Junior Analytical Grammar, and Wordly Wise--it must be the age, because two years ago, I remember being in just the depths of despair about Will's flat-out refusal to do her schoolwork. Syd is less antagonistic than Will, so instead of fighting me about it every day like Will did, she will happily spend the entire morning sitting at our work table and piddling, and then as soon as I get distracted by the rest of my own day, she'll wander off and spend the afternoon playing. It's a shockingly effective strategy for her.

Will loves her Wordly Wise, and doesn't mind Analytical Grammar, although she doesn't love that there's so much work to do for each day's activity--label the words, and diagram them, AND sometimes summarize the passage, as well! It's shaping up to be an excellent mastery program, however, and I'm thrilled that I finally have a grammar curriculum that I like.

Both kids enjoy working through their MENSA reading lists. There's no hurry to completing them, but I do like that the list encourages them to read some classics that they probably wouldn't otherwise choose, and they've both so far enjoyed everything that they've tried. I'll likely mention to Will, though, that as soon as she finishes the 4th-6th grade list, she can start on the middle school list, which has even more books on it that she hasn't yet read!

Will struggled a bit with her Math Mammoth geometry unit, in a way that made me think that she doesn't have good internal concepts to work with. The kids have done geometry before, of course, played with polygons and Platonic solids, built with blocks and LEGOs, poured and dumped water and played with volume, etc., but Will lives in her head and plays a LOT less than Syd, and this affects her math skills, I think. To that end, I checked out several geometry textbooks and teacher's guides from our local university library (I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I do this a LOT, and it's invaluable to my lesson planning), and have flagged some hands-on geometry activities that we'll be trying in the next few weeks. Among these is Zome Geometry, a geometry textbook for upper middle school and above that uses Zometools, which you know we already have and love. On this day, we'll be using the Zometools to build and calculate the interior angles of regular polygons.

The kids can do their Story of Science work mostly independently, although I do have to read the chapters out loud with Syd if I want her to actually read them. This week's chapter is about ancient methods of timekeeping and calendar making, and the quest book activity for this day asks the kids, in a fairly engaging format, to provide an in-depth summary of one ancient civilization's calendar. This is one chapter in which I feel like the hands-on activities are too light, as ancient calendars and clocks are fascinating and easy to recreate, so we'll likely spend next week on this chapter, as well. I mean, we HAVE to make a sundial!!!

Greek mythology is another unit that the kids can do independently. They love the readings, and the trading cards that they're making will be good tools for review later. I have a couple of additional hands-on enrichment activities in my plans for this unit, but not many.

Syd LOVES our daily creative writing, but nevertheless, once a week or so I usually substitute letter writing instead; the kids have a couple of pen pals, and, of course, things like sympathy cards and get-well-soon cards and thank-you cards must be handmade and written with one's own real words--no platitudes allowed!

Typing (through and keyboard (through Hoffman Academy) are also daily activities, and also done blessedly independently, although I do have to supervise Will or she'll half-ass her way through the whole thing. Will is also going to begin the Khan Academy SAT Prep unit on this day. She did--and yes, this is a mom brag, so indulge me--amazingly well on her SAT verbal diagnostic tests, so well that even with grade-level math skills, it's definitely worth it to have her take the SAT in the spring to make her academic status as a "gifted" learner official. My plan, then, is to have Will go through Khan Academy's SAT Prep in verbal and math, which is content-based, and after that to go through a prep program that's more strategy-based. Stamina and output (that essay has to be handwritten, and you know how I feel about Will's handwriting!) may still be concerns, but as-is, she's already well ahead of the baseline for gifted programs for her age group.

Mom brag over!

And whether we get all of that done or not, it'll be too late by 4:00--Syd has Nutcracker rehearsal and Will and I have fencing!

TUESDAY: The kids don't love this Animal Behavior MOOC as much as they loved the Sharks one, but Will, at least, is still getting a lot out of it. Syd might not be, but she's got plenty of other science in our work plans this semester. I'm finding that having a new dog is helpful in this class, as I can apply a lot of the class readings to her; on this day, the kids (or at least Will) will use the day's lessons on how animals learn to make a plan to teach Luna one new trick... her first trick, sigh. I'm researching obedience schools, but it's pretty likely that we'll have a leash-pulling, non-sitting, running-away-from-us-for-fun scamp through Christmas.

The quest book activity for this day asks the kids to graph a month's worth of high tides, then use that information to predict the next five high tides. Instead of taking the printed tide chart from the book, however, I plan to have the children pick whatever location they want from this US tidal chart, graph the month of November using that chart, then predict the first high tides of December and check their work. I'll sneak some other hands-on activities and videos about the moon and tides into the rest of their week to flesh out the lesson.

Both kids are almost finished with their Girl Scout first aid badges; Syd just has to create a survey asking people what comforts them when they're sick (I'm going to teach her how to use SurveyMonkey for this), and Will is working through an online Red Cross First Aid class that will cover all the rest of the information that she needs for her Cadette badge.

We're back to a story starter on this day! Syd and I use the story starters that I wrote, and we share our writing afterwards, but it's all I can do to get Will to simply put pencil to paper for ten minutes. She refused to use the story starter, and will consent only to describe in writing the dragon that she will draw when our writing time is over. Sigh...

WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY: I don't know if we will, in reality, even attempt this school with guests in town, but Will, at least, might appreciate some down-time from socializing. I've pared the schedule down to just math and the simplest of our daily assignments, with the addition of the current events journal that the kids started last week. On the days that it's assigned, they need to look for an interesting article in that day's newspaper, answer the Who, What, When, Where, and Why questions about it, and then write a good sentence telling me why this article is important or relevant to them (this is sneaky practice in how to write a good conclusion, mwa-ha-ha!).

SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Will has Chinese. Syd has three performances of The Nutcracker, followed by the cast party--don't let me forget to bring a Sharpie for poster autographing! We'll do fun stuff with family through Tuesday, and then it's back to school.

What are YOU up to this week?

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