{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ Like an Eye-Opening Ride Through An Undiscovered Village}

alexander-sinn-DX5r6BNoWVE-unsplashWe are studying similes and we are trying to avoid the trite cliches that are “as old as the hills”, so we are making up our own. Everyone chose five abstract nouns and wrote two similes for each one. I thought these were some of the best:

 

  • He felt freedom like a feather in the open air.
  • Hatred melted away like a stream in the spring.
  • Reality is like a punch in the face. 
  • Forgiveness is like a safety net.
  • The crime was as big as a bonfire.
  • His anger was like a house-eating wildfire.
  • He was as dishonest as a killdeer.
  • Their romance was like a budding flower — ever changing.
  • His anger bubbled up like a volcano.
  • Accepting defeat is like trying to know somebody you’ve never met.
  • His adventure was as fun as a ride at ValleyFair.
  • The moonlit snow sparkled like a thousand tiny jewels.
  • Jealousy is like hair loss; it might take someone else to point it out.
  • He was as calm as a painting.
  • His hatred was as hot as a burning furnace.
  • Music is like a therapy session.
  • He was as fast as a full-grown cheetah in the desert.
  • The lion’s power was like a legion of angry dragons.

 

“Reading these similes was like an eye-opening ride through  an undiscovered village.” — Me

Feather photo by Alexander Sinn

Crazy Like a Fox

Crazy Like A Fox Simile Story

Similes Dictionary    |        Figures of Speech Poster   You’re Toast  – Metaphors

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{ Finally Learning or I Get to Go to School 11 Times }

We are finally in the 1970’s in homeschool history, and this will shine a spotlight on why — for us —  homeschooling has been the best way to go: 

this may be the first time in my life I will truly understand what was happening in my childhood when I was too young to comprehend or care. 

Questions like the following will be answered for all of us: 

  • What is Watergate and why did they call it that?
  • Where and what was Camp David?
  • Who was the Shah of Iran? 
  • Why did they put yellow ribbons all over fences and buildings?

As I assigned a few reports to my oldest homeschoolers yesterday, they didn’t get why I danced around the kitchen, singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” and got busy reserving “All the President’s Men” from the library website. They didn’t understand why I told them to: “Write the first paragraph of the report like a newspaper article — like a summary; like “Watergate for Dummies.” Explain the start of the Islamic Republic of Iran like you were explaining it to a child. 

Hooray! I might finally understand all this stuff. More soon.

 ~~~~

Images:

Richard Nixon: Image by gfk DSGN from Pixabay

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis, MN.  January 25, 1981

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{ Blunders, Blossoms & More }

 

 

 

This week, I finished two things.

  • I finished a writing project– an 1800-word health article. The problem with writing about health supplements is that when I complete one, it gets me thinking, “I need some of that!” So, the jar of herbal supplement pictured above came from Amazon this week. It’s supposed to suppress my sugar cravings?
  • I finished the book The Willpower Instinct, which I added to my Winter Reading Contest list.  What I liked: The author gives lots of practical tips on how to overcome bad habits. What I didn’t like: Modern scientist authors usually present evolution as a logically accepted, scientific fact. Interesting…because macro-evolution is not science.  It does not follow the scientific method, not being observable or repeatable. That said, other than these kinds of assumptions, I really liked the book. 🙂

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On Monday, we took a rare field trip to a local ski hill, since it was Homeschool Ski & Snowboard Day.  We were the first ones that showed up, arriving 1.5 hours before the chairlifts started lifting. Mark this day down in history.

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To go skiing, I wore the LL Bean jacket that my husband gave me 20+ years ago.  One lady remarked that she liked my vintage jacket.  A little girl asked me, “How do you take that thing off?”

I’m just glad I didn’t break any bones wearing it.

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Here I am with my two beginning skiers: Gianny & Marco.  They started their beginner lesson at 10:00. The teacher shooed the parents away, so I took to the hills with my 13-year old Ava.  After 20 minutes, I thought I’d go check on the boys.  We were halfway down a hill when I heard a familiar voice yelling, “Hi, Mama!”

Words cannot describe how surprised I was to see Marco on the chairlift, seated beside two strangers.  I had left him safely gliding down the bunny hill, supervised by a team of ski instructors. But now here he was, 20 minutes later, waving and smiling confidently from high on the chairlift.  A few thoughts went through my head:

  • Did he leave the hill and follow us without permission from the teacher?  
  • What is he thinking?  
  • How can I hurry up there and help him down the hill before he tries to ski down alone?

Then, Ava and I watched him sail down the hill like an expert.  The truth was: Marco did so well with his beginner lesson that the teacher graduated him early and told him to head to the chairlift and enjoy the hills. Whaaaa?!  After I recovered from the shock, it was clear to me that he was capable and fearless. It made me giggle to see his little beginner body cruise down the hills with ease. I still smile to think about it.  He’s got good Scandinavian blood, no fear and the faith of a child. 🙂

 

 

 

So, yesterday I didn’t make dinner. (Almost as rare as a day at the ski hill.)

I ate out with my younger children. because Chik Fil A was giving free sandwiches if you wear your MN Wild hockey jersey.

Later, I came home to a few grumpy, hungry and bewildered young adults that couldn’t seem to hunt and gather food for their dinner.

(These are the same young adults that are often out and about and don’t eat the dinner that I regularly make.)

The cupboard was a bit sparse, but we had eggs, milk, bread, butter and cereal.  And a few other things.  Let’s use our imagination?

Sigh.  Mama got mad and started to bang pans around in her bothered haste to make some food. Then she walked into her room where one of said young adults had, one hour earlier, gently laid three flower bouquets on the desk with a loving note attached.

Tears. Laughter. More tears. Hugs. Repentance all around and smiles.

After this, I happened to read through Dolly Mama’s blog post and shed more tears.

So…that was a slice of my life this week.

 

{ Today in School… }

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Every Monday or Tuesday, I view the WordPress word prompt and offer it up as an assignment to my little band of (homeschooled) students.

I know it sounds crazy, but most days, they really like this.

I’d like to think it’s because they love the writing process and the literary satisfaction of creative thoughts being visually voiced.

But, it’s probably just because I bribe them with the promise of skipping the usual boring workbook pages.

Either way, I guess it’s productive and beneficial for many reasons:

  • It’s good writing practice.
  • It’s good speaking practice.
  • It’s good practice being a gracious audience and
  • It doesn’t always come easy, but it’s good practice giving positive feedback to others.

One child sits in front of a computer, busily typing.  One child eeks out words sparsely, with a pained look on the face. Another is scrawling words with a pencil so fast, the work is barely legible.  Spelling doesn’t matter at this point — just write what you are thinking.

After about 20 minutes, we share our pieces.  And, I have to say…it’s incredible what they come up with.  Everyone has something unique to offer.

My standard response is: “That sounds like the start of a great story!  Next time we do a word prompt, why don’t you continue the story?”

But they never do.

Today’s word was “identical” and today’s excerpt is from 13-year-old Mo:

 Leopold Larry

So begins the adventures of Leopold Larry. Larry Hillenburger was born on Leopold street in southern New York City. He was an only child. And it was true that if he wanted to, he could take over the world with several clicks of several buttons. However, Larry did not carry out such a task due to his strong morals. Larry could only do such a thing due to several impressive computers. He had found a way to hack into all of the wireless nuclear defense & offense systems.

Now, enough of all the talk about Larry’s scheming. Larry, at the time our story takes place, is 14. He has just finished a grueling year of self-tutoring. The reason that it had been hard for him was because he was acting as both teacher and student. As the teacher, he had to deal with a stubborn and rebellious student, and as student, he had to adjust to the strict teacher, dull sessions and much else besides. Also Larry had no siblings; much less a twin, much less still, an identical one…

Photo credit: Angelina Litvin

{ Un-Saintly Samples }

The light bulb went on recently.

I am a homeschool educator and if I’m going to spend time writing these “Daily Word Prompt” posts, I should probably pass along the learning and inspiration to my students (my children.)

Duh.

That way, I can

  • Justify spending time in writing exercise
  • Share and pass along the learning
  • Give them the opportunity to exercise their writing muscles

Most of all, I want them to see that you can just dive into writing.  Do it regularly. Don’t stare at a page for wasted minutes, just move your pen or mouse and start writing.

Very important: Spelling doesn’t matter in these exercises. The focus is to loosen up the flow of writing, making it fun & easy.

During the last week, I have shared the “word prompt of the day” with them.

Then, I give them one other challenge, such as:

  • use one of your spelling or geography words in your paragraph
  • include a few hyphenated compound words
  • Use “island” or the specific name of an island (we are studying islands this year.)

Someone even asked for the new word prompt today before breakfast!

They are allowed to bring up their laptops and start in.  This gives them something to do while everybody migrates to the work table…and it gives me time to make that second cup of coffee.

They are allowed around 15 – 20 minutes at the beginning of our school day for these writing exercises.

Today’s word: saintly.  They can use the negative “unsaintly” also.

(Most everyone liked using “unsaintly” instead of “saintly.” Hmmm….)

Today’s extra challenge: use at least one of this week’s geography vocabulary words.

  • Marco, age 10 wrote this:

The unsaintly, unshaven robber stole some money from the Commerce Creek Bank.  He hid it inside the hollow tree.  An alarm went off.  The police came.  They found no evidence or fingerprints.

  • Here is another, by 9-year-old Gianny:

Hello, my name is Daniel.  I am camping with my dad, next to a humongous waterfall.  Some people think camping on a Sunday is unsaintly.  I don’t think so because when I look at a waterfall, I can praise God for what He made. 

  • Ava, age 12 is a prolific writer and here is an excerpt of today’s work:

Thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, rain pounded on the rooftop.  Little Marie tossed and turned in her bed.  She could never go back to sleep in the middle of a thunderstorm, knowing that the creek just in back of her house could easily swamp their house as soon as it got too high.  Marie could finally take no more.  She pushed the warm, fluffy covers away from her and slid her feet into her white cotton slippers.  It was dark in the room, despite the angry flashes from outside…

  • 13-year-old Mo has the beginnings of a novel. Each day’s challenge builds on the story the day before.
  • 14-year-old Clara writes an excellent “how to” / step-by-step piece every day.  Her work is amusing and well-crafted.

This experiment has me surprised and happy.  They really like taking this time first thing to write.  They look eager, but relaxed. It’s a great way to start our school day.

I wish we would have started this in September.

© Lisa M. Luciano 😊

{ Deism, Drones & Death: Musings of a Homeschooling Mom. }

What I am learning this week:

  • When you plan a big party, remember to double-check to see if your mother-in-law’s invitation got sent.  (I am in the process of making this right.)

 

  • Little people listen more than we realize. When I asked my children today during American History, “What do you remember about Deism?” I didn’t expect eight-year-old Gianny to be the one itching to answer: “It’s the belief that God set the world in order and then went away until judgment.”

 

  • Drones are cool and come in two main styles: quadracopter and hexacopter. People who get to review drones online are very cool.  People that blow things up using household materials are possibly even cooler. And, I was just informed that the King of Random just flew a drone online for the first time.  That’s cool colliding with awesome. (This information was generously handed to me by my 13-year-old, who offered me the pleasure of watching a 7 minute drone video. I am a blank slate when it comes to knowledge of drones, so I learned a lot.)

 

  • Gardens eventually die. Looking out the window this morning, I saw the bittersweet view of a frosty garden.  I mourned my basil and zinnias for about five seconds and then was grateful I wouldn’t have to battle the tomato slugs anymore. I gathered what I could. Photos attached.

 

  • The last peach in the bowl is always the most precious and sought after.  I could divide it into 12 tiny slices….or just eat it myself after everyone is in bed. 🙂
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I will miss the bright beauty of the zinnias.

 

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Green tomato recipes, here I come.
Isaiah 40:8~ "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever."

 

{ Education Anticipation }

IMG_20170906_191416768.jpgEvery August, I wait for a spark of inspiration to help me dive in to September’s back-to-school.

It’s amazing what tiny little event or conversation can give birth to the mysterious *muse* — brightening my dull outlook on the year ahead.

A conversation with my friend Pam recently put that spark into motion. The inspiration is there – finally.

ISLANDS: a unit study.

Unit study learning is a way to compel students to read and write about interesting topics while hiding the fact that they are actually learning.

I usually begin my year with an engaging unit study, and if we need a boost mid-year, sometimes I sneak one in around January.

So this fall we will plan to study islands, in addition to the other reading, writing, arithmetic, and history that we always do.

  1. Reading (aloud and independently) appropriate grade-level books about islands. (I have a growing book list: The Cay, Treasure Island, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Baby Island, Island of Dr. Libris, Surprise Island, Shipwreck and Nim’s Island are some of the titles)
  2. Making analogies and comparisons about islands.
  3. Learning to spell words that have silent letters.
  4. Writing reports about island nations.
  5. Studying general geographic terms. I like the picture book: Geography from A to Z: a picture glossary by Jack Knowlton.
  6. Anyone have any other ideas?

Though not every student will eagerly anticipate the writing-of-reports, a happy and enthusiastic teacher is contagious and helps classroom morale!

I think 2017-2018 will be a good year.

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Word Prompt of the Day: Anticipate

Anticipate“>

Photo credit: Sergio Jara

{ Upside-Down Adventure }

IMG_20170528_074110.jpgThis is how we encourage writing with our kids:

1. My child has some event that seems worthy enough to tell mom about. It could be a happening with other kids, a sad movie he saw, or a dream, etc.  I tell him to write it down, and I will type it out.  We do this often.  Sometimes, I re-write it as a news report, poem, or article. (Good writing practice for me.)

2.  At the end of the school year, I collect these informal pieces, plus the reports and essays they have written for school.  We deliver these to Office Max, where they assemble the papers into a spiral bound book. It’s cheap: $3 – $4, depending on the book thickness.  The result:

  • a record that we have accomplished something for the school year
  • a memory book of stories, dreams and events
  • a way to show student progress in writing ability, year by year
  • something special to set on their graduation open house table.
  • a reason for grandparents to smile
  • a feel-good addition to our homeschool

My son’s recent tree adventure prompted this writing activity:

Marco’s version:

One day, I climbed a tree.  The tree was tall. It had a lot of branches. I was getting a view of the house and the road.  When I was getting down and my foot could not reach the branch, then I slipped.  And I was hanging upside-down.  I yelled for help.

Ava came first. She saw my leg, stuck in the tree.  She held onto me, so I would not fall into the stinging nettles.  Soon Gino came.  He pushed me back up into the tree and I got my foot unstuck.  I climbed out of the tree and put my shoes back on because they had fallen off.  Then I said “thank you” to Gino and Ava and I walked back to the house.   The End.

Mom’s version:

A nine-year old boy narrowly escaped impact yesterday when he hung upside down from a tree branch until rescued by siblings.

Marco regularly climbs the same tall basswood tree on his rural Midwest property.

“I like it because I can see the whole house and the highway when I’m way up there,” he says.

From an upright position, Marco doesn’t fear heights.  But yesterday, when he fell head first and dangled by a caught foot, he was afraid no one would hear his cries for help.

“I started to climb down, but I slipped. I yelled for help, but no one came at first.”

Ava, his eleven-year-old sister, was the first to hear him.  She ran over and held on to him, so he wouldn’t fall into a patch of stinging nettle plants. Gino, 16, followed, lifting Marco’s foot clear of the branch.

The relieved boy gathered his fallen shoes, thanked his siblings, and ran back to the house.

Shaking, Marco told his story to the rest of the family.

“I’m thankful I didn’t fall into the stinging nettles. God protected me.”

~ Lisa

Survive“>

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/survive/

Simple Homeschool Spelling

After 20+ years of homeschooling mistakes and victories, I think have discovered which spelling program works best for us:

  1. I collect commonly misspelled words in the English language.
  2. I gather every misspelled word that students use in casual writing of notes, messages and lists.
  3. I jot down words that are frequently used throughout the course of a typical school year (like geography and history words that are used in school writing assignments but not typically used in conversation – like Antarctica.)

This collection of words becomes my spelling list for school.  I choose ten words every week.

Benefits:

  • No add-on workbook and less correcting by me.
  • You can add any words that coordinate with what you’re learning in other subjects.
  • Students will learn to spell lots of words they use most often, and also learn words that are buggers for everyone.
  • It’s for all grade levels.  I have students aged 11 – 16 using the same list.

This is what our spelling looks like every week:

  1. Monday — Pretest. I read a list of 10 words, one by one.  Students try to spell each one on paper.  We correct this test together. Mark the scores, so that after the final test you can chart the progress. Students write misspells 3 times each on the same paper. Give each student a list of correctly spelled words for the week.
  2. Tuesday — Spelling sentences. Students write ten sentences, using one spelling word in each sentence.
  3. Wednesday — Peer Practice. Students quiz each other orally on the word list.
  4. Thursday — Dictation. Borrow 4-5 sentences from the work that the students wrote earlier in the week.  Read each sentence aloud, two or three times.  The student writes the exact sentence with proper sentence structure (capital letters, punctuation, etc.)
  5. Friday — Final Test. Students study words and take the final test. Record final score.

(We often skip a day’s activity. They still get lots of practice.)

Using this method, most of my students received an average of 90-100% every week on the final test. (Even though pretest scores may have been low, they always improve.)

This year, I collected a list of 270 words.

Please contact me for a free copy of this list.  You’ll be ready with spelling for the upcoming school year!

Or…make your own list using the words that your family typically misspells.  Add a few commonly misspelled words in the English language.

Do you have a spelling program?  What works well for your family?