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08 February 2018

This Week: Phenology Wheels

Last week's excitement about English history continues, and the kids dug up a game that we played the very first time they studied the Battle of Hastings, which was several years ago. They're also still listening to the stories of the Saxons nearly every day. Just as I was thinking that I would suggest a documentary, the kids found one on YouTube by themselves. All this interest in Hastings and King Harold has displaced a little bit of our regularly scheduled lessons, but I'm ok with that, as it's a great foray into genuine self-education, and I'm excited to see that. I can adjust my plans a little in order to encourage this kind of interest!

The biggest project this week has been making a collection of phenology wheels and recording some nature observations. The first day, building the wheels was our math for the day, working with compass and protractor. This was challenging for the younger kids, but we all got it done. It was fun to take a break from our regular math and have a special project; we haven't done that for a while.

Miss Kitty was especially fun to watch. She wanted to do it, too, but didn't quite follow what we were doing, and her project is adorably close to the mark. I love it that she's so enthusiastic about participating in school, even though she's "too little". Not that I would ever tell her such a preposterous thing: I'm in the business of feeding hungry minds, not discouraging them, however fashionable it is in homeschool circles to start kids late.

We're having another go at cursive instruction, for both boys this time. Hero is really just reviewing and shoring up things that he's already learned, and that he's ready to really embrace: he's choosing to do cursive in a lot of different places, including our phenology wheels.

Dragon, on the other hand, while we have tried it before, it didn't take. So he's using the main instruction book for the CursiveLogic course that we've received through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Having used our Latin box for a week or two now, I can see that although the system isn't perfect (it's hard to have one box for three kids of such different ages!), it's making a huge difference in how well we know our vocabulary words. This is huge. Latin has been a struggle; it's hard. I think that this will help. We even had some new word-play in Latin:

"Occupo puellam!" [I seize the girl!]

Whereupon Miss Kitty would be seized... and everybody would giggle. Good times.

My friend handed me an Amaryllis bulb shortly before Christmas, and said that it was probable that the kids would enjoy it. She was so right. It's been fascinating to watch it grow -- I don't think that I've ever seen anything grow so fast. We would check it daily, and nearly every day there was something that was obviously different. Then it made these beautiful red flowers. And we've watched the flowers fade as well, which was no less interesting to the kids. This week, the main flower stalk gave up, tipped over, and broke. We had a look at stem, but the most prominent feature was the large amount of sap. We slapped a little bit of it on a microscope slide, and had a look. Which wasn't very exciting. But it makes me curious about what other kinds of sap look like. One of these days, I want to get some more blank slides; I suspect that sap will be tough to wash off.

We had, of course, a bunch of books that we dipped into to one degree or another. Probably the most exciting thing is that Dragon(7) has finally gotten past the hurdle and is willing to read chapter books. This is such an exciting phase! I gave him a Jedi Apprentice book, about when Obi-Wan Kenobi was a padawan, and asked him to read at least a chapter for his free read on Monday. And pretty soon he was excitedly telling me that he'd gotten "all the way to chapter three!!" That book got missed when I took the picture because it's migrated upstairs and is sitting next to his bed. He's alternated between that one and Harry Potter 2 as his free reads this week. I'm loving that he's enjoying them so much. Hero also decided that he wanted to revisit Hogwarts, so he grabbed book and and read it. And book 2. And book 3. And he's into book 4 now. I think that one of the most common complaints that I get when we're reading is about the stopping places that I choose, or that we're stopping at all. Which always makes me chuckle: the book that they don't want to stop is the book that will wander back into their thoughts, and sink most deeply into their character. I don't mind at all when they don't want to stop... but we do stop.

This week, in Parables From Nature, we read a story about how the wind whispered to the flowers in the garden how unnatural and restraining their life must be, what with the gardener tying them to trellises and constantly pruning and whatnot. The flowers decided that they wanted their freedom, so the wind blew himself into a wild storm and trashed all the structures in the garden... which just destroyed the flowers. It was really cool to see how quickly Dragon realized the way that the wind was "mean" in the story, and how well he could articulate what was wrong with what he said, even though I'm an indifferent gardener at best. We spent just a couple of minutes talking about how to apply the parable to real life, and I asked him if he thought that Mom and Dad had any trellises that "restrain" us like the flowers. It was a good conversation.

Hero bought himself a new set of headphones, much nicer than the ones that we gave him that are now worn out and uncomfortable. It's so fun to see the kids getting old enough to be picking out their own purchases and working to earn them. Once he had them in hand, he wanted to be able to protect them, so I helped him make a drawstring bag. It's all his work, and he didn't do so bad a job! I like to see the pride in his work, and the confidence that grows when he makes something that's so obviously a good job.

Miss Kitty is making great strides in her reading and writing. This is such a fun stage. she's getting lots more fluent with her CVC words, and is excited to be able to read real books -- and highly motivated to get better at it, which is making for some good progress. With the reading progress has come more interest in writing, and she asked me for some copywork in her notebook this week. We haven't done as much with the notebook for her as with the boys, because her phonics program has a writing component, so she's getting good practice there. It was fun to have the notebook out again, though, and to see her writing there. She's still very much a beginner, but for barely five, I think she's doing pretty good!

By the end of the week, our phenology wheels were looking busier, but they're not complete yet. It's fun to see how everyone is putting their best into them. Hero even started a second one: the first one he set up is designed to collect observations weekly for a month, but he didn't want to be left out when we were doing the observations for our daily projects, so he made a second one. I made several suggestions about what they kids might like to observe, but left the final decisions up to the. I'm fascinated by the way that the Maple buds are just a little bit bigger, just a little more developed, every day that I look at them. I kind of wish that I'd made room for two weeks, though actually getting observations every single day is always challenging. Perhaps I'll start a weekly one when I get this one filled in, so that I can continue to record observations about our tree.

Interestingly, none of the other tree and bush species that I've looked at are doing any budding just yet. Of the things in our yard, the Maple seems to be the early herald of spring. My sister tells me that the Robins have even made it to her neck of the woods -- about three hours south of us. That's another hopeful sign that all this below-zero weather will eventually GO AWAY. I'm so ready. The kids are ready. C'mon Spring!!

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