Lessons from the Tenth Week

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Time flies when you are having fun. Indeed, it applies to us this school year. Some days fun eludes us, but, overall, we can say with certainty this year has turned out better than the last.

Kids on a trail

Ijams trails

Just last week, my son exclaimed, “I love this new way of doing math!” He was referring to how we skip around the page, not doing every single problem in the chapter. I observe him solve the first few exercises to make sure he got the concept, and then I assign certain problems or exercises as I see fit. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Ninth Week

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We have started preparing for Science Olympiad this week. Although the coaches are still recruiting, they have already put assignments out for our children to work on. We might even add another event by the end of the week. Not sure yet. Our kids have to go through a try-out.

Boy lying on a log

Being in nature allows children to hug a log, among other things.

I will announce our final events next week, when we know for sure what they will have to do. Until then, suffice it to say that we are excited. And a bit nervous. Science Olympiad takes extra time to prepare. But the lesson is, stay positive, get organized, and keep calm. Keep Calm and Science Olympiad. Now there’s an idea for a T-shirt.

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Lessons from the Eighth Week

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In no particular order, last week we learned the following:

  • We still have days when we do not get the basics done. While I accept it on an extraordinary day, I fear this has happened a bit too much lately. We will reduce the screen time to 30 minutes per day, Monday-Friday, in an effort to increase their focus and attention span. On the weekends, they can still have one hour per day. We announced this during a family meeting and the kids took it well. No rebellion. I think they were scared they were going to get 0 screen time M-F, because I mentioned we knew families who did this. But then, when they heard they still got 30 minutes, they breathed a sigh of relief.
The Nina and the Pinta field trip

The Nina and the Pinta field trip

  • No fall break because we already take a break from instruction once a week, for Wild + Free. My daughter heard Knox County has a fall break next week, so no orchestra practice. She perked up, asking when we take our fall break. Sorry, there will be none. We already take only four days a week for book learning. We spend the fifth day with our local Wild+Free group, hiking or experiencing a nature destination. I never thought about explaining why we do not have a fall break. It goes to show how important communication is in any system, including a homeschool.
My kids next to the Pinta

My kids next to the Pinta

  • We learn life skills, a.k.a. adulting, as we travel to Wild + Free destinations. My son and I learned the hard way how to communicate as he gave me directions from the GPS on my phone last week. The lady said, “Turn left, then right.” I said, “Look at the map. What does she mean? I have several left turns available.” My son said, “She means to turn left, then left again.” I made a U-turn. He said, “No, not there. The next left.” We spent the next ten minutes explaining to each other what we meant and how we should communicate in the future. If you think this is not an important life skill, think again. When was the last time you had a “conversation” with your spouse about how she gave directions?
Playing with sticks and leaves

After a picnic, they played with sticks and leaves.

  • The Nina and the Pinta field trip taught us lots of things about Columbus. I wrote down two books from the tour guide and plan to get them soon: Columbus: The Four Voyages, by Laurence Bergren, and Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, by Samuel Eliot Morison.

Lessons from the Seventh Week

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This seventh week taught us several things. First, children will eat vegetables they pick out at the grocery store. One day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I took the kids to Kroger and showed them all the fruits and vegetables available. They knew most of them, but things like bok choy, artichoke hearts, and turnips looked unfamiliar to them.

Fort Loudon

My children at Fort Loudon Historic State Area

We do not use those veggies in our dishes, but I wanted them to know they exist. I have cooked turnips before, but I did not like them, so I stopped buying them. Plus, they remind me of rutabaga, and I have some bad memories about rutabaga. The less said about it, the better. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Sixth Week

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We lost somebody to cancer this week – an acquaintance from Romania, who was actually married to my sister’s sister-in-law. He suffered from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Tragically, he went from diagnosis to death in three months. Only 52 years of age, he left behind his wife, now a widow at 49. An avid hiker, he loved nature and traveling in general.

Walker Sister's Cabin Sign

They loved this hike to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin.

When we hiked to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin for our weekly meet-up with the Wild and Free Great Smoky Mountains group, we thought of him. He loved mountains, hiking, and the great outdoors. A citizen of the world, he had traveled from Iceland to Japan and to many countries in between. May he rest in peace. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Fifth Week

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Not sure how this happened, but today we start week 6 of this school year. It seems this year will go by even faster than last year. As I look back at week 5, the incident that jarred me the most was witnessing the aftermath of a horrific wreck when I drove to pick up my kids from art class.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flower we spotted in our neighborhood.

It must have happened a few minutes before I got there. Several police cars, two ambulances, and one fire truck took care of the accident and the victims. Two cars had collided at the intersection of Glades Rd. and Hwy. 321 in Gatlinburg. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Fourth Week

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The fourth week went by smoothly. The children had auditions for Knoxville Youth Symphony Orchestras on Monday. The results came in on Wednesday and, sure enough, they reached their goals. Our daughter wanted to stay in the same orchestra, but move from Second Violin to the First Violin section. She did. She instinctively knew the next orchestra would be too hard. Well, not just instinctively. She also knew from experience.

Mom and Kids at Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome, Observation Tower

Last summer, during string camp, she tried the next orchestra level up. She kept up, but barely. She prefers a more relaxed environment and we respect that. In fact, her violin teacher said this shows a rare form of insight for a nine-year-old, and also recommended we let our daughter go at her own pace. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Third Week

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Last week was nothing short of revolutionary. Have you heard of The Wild and Free community? We joined a local group. Also, we had our first outing with them – at the Knoxville Botanical Garden. I have been praying and hoping for more time outside.

Outdoor exploration classroom

Botanical Garden, Knoxville

The answer came in the form of this group. Another homeschooling mom introduced me to them. This means that I will only get four days of instruction at home with the children. We spend the fifth day exploring nature in our area, at local gardens, hiking trails, zoos, and parks. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Second Week

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This is the beginning of Week 3 already. As I look back at Week 2, I can see improvement already. Our attitude is more professional, and we approach homeschooling with purpose. We can even take walks and reap the benefits of nature study by discovering plants and animals in our neighborhood.

One of my children finished her school work at 11:11am one day this week. This has only happened once before in our homeschool.

USA puzzle

Putting together a USA puzzle helps with learning the 50 states.

The other child finished his work around noon one day on the first week. Finishing this early may be rare, but it proves that it is possible. When you stay focused, and do not take a ten-minute break after every subject, and do not stop to pet the cat every two minutes, you can finish it all early. Continue reading »

Lessons from the First Week

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We started on August 5 this year because we needed to have 150 school days before their nationally standardized test in March 2020. That is how I know when to start. I give myself 150 days of instruction not because I have to, but because I want to.

Why send them to this test unprepared? It would only demoralize them. As I have written here before, we do not think the standardized test represents the benchmark of our success in homeschooling. However, it is a strong indicator of our level right now. Continue reading »