Friday, 29 August 2014

Artist study--Henri de Toulous-Latrec

Once again using the Meet the Masters program we took at look at Artist Henri de Toulous-Latrec who was a famous artist in France in the late 1800's.  He is best know for his poster work to advertise the many dance halls and night clubs in Paris, France.  The most famous being the Moulin Rouge!  For his posters he used minimal dark lines and colors eliminating unnecessary details to give an almost abstract feel to his posters.  The kids and I set out to try to recreate his style.

We were all given instructions to concentrate on only one part of the human just so happened we all chose the face:)

Firedrake wanted a  side view of a face.

Mario chose to use the paper to give an unique angle to his face

using only 3 colors we chose to emphasize only specific parts of the poster

Firedrakes poster

MarioFans version 
My version of the style

I really love how each of us chose a different version of a face and how unique they all turned out!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Pokemon convention

A very good friend of mine was in the Washington DC area with her youngest son as he was competing in the World Pokemon championship.  Her youngest son won the New Zealand Juniors competition this year, whereas last year her oldest son won and went to the Championship in Vancouver.  I haven't seen my friend in nearly 7 years when she relocated back to New Zealand.  So I took this opportunity to cash in some of my husband's frequent flier miles and headed to DC to visit with her for 36 hours and I got to see what a Pokemon championship looks like.  My kids were so jealous:)

I was to met my friend at the convention center Friday evening as her son checked himself into the competition.  This was the scene upon my arrival...somehow we did find each other but it did take a bit of time!

A very excited competitor!!  this young man practices his game for several hours every Sunday at a game shop near his home in New Zealand.

Next we stood in an unbelievely long line to check out the exclusive Pokemon shop.  Only competitors were able to shop on Friday night.  It was open to the public on Sat and Sunday however the line was incredibly long, luckily for me when my friend went in she got me a T-shirt to take home to my kids:)

All the countries represented at the Competition.  I had no idea it was so big and honestly my kids and I have no idea how to play the pokemon card game, although the kids to have a deck of cards given to them by someone:)
Saturday morning was the day of the competition, I missed the opening ceremony so once again I had to try to locate my friend in the crowds.

The main room of families and competitors...and in case you didn't know this is very serious business.  Some kids showed up with entire families in matching T-shirts to cheer them on, others had colored their hair or dressed up in their favorite Pokemon costume.  

I honestly can't tell you what any of these characters are, but enjoy the crazy pictures!

Pokeball hair cut cracked me up:)

While siblings were playing their games, many were playing  games in the halls, along the stairs through out the convention center.  Wearing pokemon hats was very popular:)

A place to review all the world champions and learn about them

There were even interviews with winners of certain matches and play by play commentary for the video games.
The convention was divided into 2 sections those who play the game via computers

It was fun to see the games on the huge TV screens and sometimes there were oohs and ahhs and gasps of frustrations in the entire hall based on a play.  It made me smile and I had no idea what was going on as it all went way to fast for me.

The other side of the room was for those playing the card version of Pokemon

There were several hundred players all played a total of 7 games each lasting about 60 minutes...the more games you win the higher you place

There were lots of judges available and they were there to help players with any disputes and their ruling was final.  Some of the players needed interpreters 

Had a wonderful time meeting up with old friends and watching her son compete in the championships!

My kids have informed me they want to go the the Pokemon convention next year, fortunately for me they want to go as observers not players.  We shall see:)!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Not Back To School Pictures:)

I don't usually do yearly pictures to signify the start of the new year, mainly because I take so many throughout the whole year according to my kids.  They wouldn't even sit for ones this year so I had to grab photos taken in the last few weeks to use.  But I did get them to do a little self inventory:)

Firedrake is now 12 years old and entering 7th grade (middle school)!  She is my trickster and loves a good joke or funny story.  She saids her favorite school subject is Music and her least favorite is Math.  Her hobbies are Piano, Drama, reading, drawing, typing stories and playing video games.  Favorite type of books are fantasy stories, anything with a dragon in it:) and her favorite food is her mother's enchiladas:)

Mario Fan is now 10 years old and entering 5th grade.  He is my happy go lucky child.  He really does try to please everyone.  He says his favorite school subject is Science and least favorite is Math. His main hobbies are playing video games and piano.  His favorite type of books to read are science books and his favorite foods are pink lady apples, pizza and lasagna.

The kids and I have drawn the name of the winner for the Our America series give away and sent an email to them.  The winner has 72 hours to contact me before a new name is drawn.   Thanks for participating:)

Friday, 22 August 2014

School Schedule and documentation

Since returning to the the states and because my oldest is in middle school, I am becoming more and more obsessed with how I document our schooling.  Fortunately the state we live in is fairly relaxed and only requires that I keep track of hours.  However since High school is around the corner I felt it necessary to try to improve my documentation strategies.

I am using two different documentation strategies as I am trying to increase Firedrakes independence in completing her school work.  I have looked at many different planners online but decided to just go with the basic.  I am not a month to month or even week to week planner, so I needed something I could write out each day and yet still give her independence.
I found a cheap planner at Walmart and it is divided into monthly sections on the calendar section I write in field trips, and the list of assignments I have due that week from Firedrake.  I also keep track of the school hours whether we worked a full day or a half day.

Each morning I write out exactly what assignments are due for the day.  As they are completed Firedrake checks them off. She also writes in the length of her day another way to keep track of our hours. 

MarioFan is not able to work independently yet and still needs me to assist him with school work as he gets distracted easily.  So we still work side by side on many tasks.  As he completes his assignments I write it down in a notebook along with the hours we attended school.

Another tool that I am using is the Olly homeschool tracker which keeps track of grades and assignments it is probably an overkill in documentation but I tend to go overboard on things:)
I like that this program gives me the option of using letter grades or just pass or fail options.  I don't grade everything the kids do at this time.  Only certain subjects get a letter grade.

Lastly for both kids I keep an expandable file folder for every month of the school year (we school year round) and I add papers, assignments and others things that I want to keep as part of our school records. Again I probably keep too many things but should anyone ever asked what the kids are doing I will have proof and plenty of documentation!!!

Lastly I have tentatively put together a weekly schedule.  I always hesitate to do this as I don't like to be very structured in exactly what we do each day.  I do allow the kids the flexibility to change things around.  Also with the many field trips and travels we do I sometimes concentrate on one subject for longer periods while skipping others for as long as needed.  Ultimately we always seem to get most of our "school" done.  Currently our heaviest school day will be Mondays and Wednesday once the coop classes begin in mid Sept.  I have made Friday kind of a catch up day.  Again this schedule is very flexible, somedays I may add more things to the day it I know we have a field trip scheduled later in the week in order to stay on schedule.

So that is my crazy system.  I am sure others out there have far superior systems but this works for us and gives me a fair idea of the goals and what we should be accomplishing during the week!  As always I look more at the bigger picture of what we accomplished by the end of the school year.  Anything not completed during the main school year gets carried over into the summer when we do a lighter load of school.  

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

School Year curriculum 2014-2-2015

So it is that time of the year again to write down what we plan to accomplish this year.  I have been much more stressed about our curriculum this year mainly because Firedrake is entering 7th grade and I have been attending "Getting ready for high school seminars" and they are really freaking me out.  Am I doing enough, are the kids really prepared for high school, are we doing too much, too little...It is enough to drive a person crazy and my husband has had to talk me down from the cliff a few times in the last couple of weeks.  Bless him, he is my biggest supporter and thankfully whole heartedly believes I am doing just fine educating our if only I would believe it:).

So here it goes...our 2014-2015 Curriculum choices -- Note we do not do everything on this list daily, I will post the school schedule on Friday along with how I am documenting and keeping records of the kids work.


We are concentrating the entire year on the body systems and sex ed.  I an going to use Real Science Odyssey as part of my spine for the human body.  But I have been gathering other resources such as books, DVD, lap books and science kits to help us in this area.  For our lessons in Sex ed I finally found a program that I like (after much much searching) using the book called Perfectly normal along with the free program from the Unitarian Universalist Association.   I will be gearing the science at each child's level expecting more of my oldest.


Again I tend to do history on my own.  I am using the books  The History of US by Joy Hakim as a spine but I supplement greatly.  My goal is to cover post revolution up to the end of the civil war this year.  We cover history by reading books, watching DVDs, lap books, map work, notebook pages and doing hands on activities and visiting historical sites.


Both kids are working on a mine craft server and we will be taking two classes this year covering US regions and the 7 wonders of the world.  I will also incorporate individual country studies as time permits.  Usually we are able to do three a year so that is my goal.  With our country study we do notebook pages, map work, DVD's, meal from that country and an country craft-- if I can find one:)


We are continuing with All About Spelling and I hope to have both children completed book 5 by the end of the year.


Last year we used Wordly Wise computer program and I really like it and saw some really great gains by the children in their writing, but am unsure if I want to continue to use the program mainly due to the time each lesson took (nearly an hour to complete).  I think this year I am going to try to incorporate vocabulary into our daily use and see if works.  If I find that isn't working I am considering trying Word Smart computer program or going back to Wordly wise again.


I am continuing to add at least one book a month for reading and am including more classical reading.  The kids are completing either a project, lap book, notebook pages or answering questions on the book they read.  I am still gathering which books we will incorporate in our year.  I often pick books that relate to our history lesson but sometimes I choose books I find on the classical book list for the children's specific grade level.

IEW - Writing SICC-B

I saw tremendous progress in both children's writing using the IEW method.  I have purchased the continuation program and will continue with this program.  Last year I kept both children on the same lesson which was really too slow for my oldest so this year I am going to have her work at a faster pace so she isn't bored.  Since my youngest is having more difficulty with writing I will work at a slower pace for him.


Growing with Grammar for each child based on their level.  Also working on the next Fix it story The Frog Prince.


Math U see -- Epsilon (we are halfway though this book) and Zeta books for the oldest
Delta for the youngest
In between these book we are using the Life of Fred books as the children enjoy them and it gives them a little relief from constant work sheets.


We are continuing to use the Meet the masters online program for our art lessons and art history.  We enjoy the short computer lessons and the art projects at the end of the class.  My oldest will either   take art lessons with a local coop or I will find an art class locally as she wishes to learn art techniques with a art teacher:)


We are continuing with Piano lessons where the kids are getting music theory and some insight on composers.  Every year I say I am going to do a more in-depth study on composers and I never seem to have time.  But ever the optimist I will once again have a goal of at least 1-2 composers studies (which is down from 3 that I didn't do last year:))  I am going to look into Easy Peasy music which is all laid out and free online.  I am still researching the program.


Both kids want to participate in drama and I am signing them up at a local coop for a drama class which meets once a week and has a live performance at the end of the year.


Right now we have not formal class so we are just doing things naturally at home i.e. swims, walks, hikes, wii fit, bike rides, playing basketball in the driveway and field trips to ice rinks, etc...


My youngest is beginning to work on cursive writing using Handwriting without tears
Oldest has already mastered cursive writing


My oldest is still interested in learning Latin and we dropped the ball last year.  However she is still interested and is working independently on Visual Latin.  My husband is taking over grading her work and following up on this program as he himself has an interest in learning latin
My youngest in not participating in this at this time


We had a wonderful private Spanish tutor last year, unfortunately we were not able to continue with her this year:(  So I am trying a class at a local coop and seeing if that works for the children.

I have been searching all last year to find a home school coop that will suit our family's needs for some middle school classes for my oldest.  Most of what I find requires statement of faiths that I can not sign even as a Christian. I joined a secular coop in the city that meets 8 Fridays a semester for various activities that we are going to try.   I have also finally decided to give the city coop which claims to be secular (but really not) and it does not require a statement of faith a try for the Drama and Spanish classes.  I have once again probably over scheduled and put too much on the children's and my plate.  However we need to find a suitable place for us to join in higher learning level classes that my oldest needs and that we feel comfortable with, so we will see what we decide to remain with in the next year.  We also need to find more friends for the kids (and me) as I have had no luck with the religious groups closer to me.  Once I find our niche things will slow down and we will have a regular rhythm that will make sense for us all, I hope:)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Classroom set up

It is that time of the year when everyone is posting their School rooms.  I thought I would share ours. Since we moved into our new home last year I am down to having only one box left that is not unpacked (it holds mostly completed projects the kids have done for school but couldn't part with).  I was so excited to have a designated school room when we moved into this house since prior to that we spent five years schooling in the dining room.

This is how the room looks, so some pictures are messy as I didn't really clean up so I can show you how it really looks most days:)  I painted the room a very bright sunflower yellow color and I love it.

This is my desk area, the book shelves hold my resources for this year and those I bought for next year.  The red  pocket folder on the wall is where I keep things that I print out to use for upcoming units.  It helps me to not forgot to use things I print out which I am prone to do:)  I also keep excess school supplies here should we need them
This area is for storing art kits, science kits and additional items that we use.  I also have a few items displayed that the kids and I have made for various unit studies.

This area is where I keep my portable white/chalk board, easel that can be moved around the room and flip chart which I use for various things that need to remain written down for the kids.  Behind this I keep various posters and charts that I hang up when we are working on units.  Currently our weather posters are up and we refer to them often

This is the children's computer stations and our printer.

Next the the computers our two large maps (smaller maps are of the peterson maps)  We refer to these maps often

Along this wall are our school books--as you can see it is in disarray but there is madness to my system.  Each shelf holds a different topic.  Again the top shelf holds some of our completed school projects.

This is the main working station--kids on each side with me in the middle helping them as they need it.  I found a great timeline in Santa Fe that we have hanging up here that we refer to regularly.  We also have a TV and DVD player above the desk to review shows, youtube videos or short teacher DVDs as needed.  Longer DVDs are shown downstairs in the living room so we can comfortable stretch out on the couch!

Between the large windows  is another bookshelf which hold many novels and readers that I want the kids to  read.  I am addicted to second hand book stores:)  I also store many of my art and crafts in the white 3 drawer plastic bins.  I am still saving money and looking for a better storage system for this area.

These are the school records that I have maintain for the children since we started homeschooling nearly seven years ago.  They really should go down to the basement but I haven't moved them so far:(

Firedrake is starting to want to do more of her school work away from me and I am encouraging this, so we created a space in her bedroom where she can work without interruptions.  It is also where she like to work on her art projects.

That is our school space in a nutshell!  We still do school in other places in our house, the living room, kitchen even the back deck but it is very nice to have a dedicated space where I can keep all school supplies and not have it take over the whole house.  Next post I will let you know our curriculum choices for the year!