Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Birthday celebrations

Birthday season is coming up. Tessa and Josiah and three of their cousins have birthdays in the autumn. I get a bit stressed over it all, maybe because Josiah's and Tessa's birthdays are close together so I end up organising two celebrations at once. And maybe also because some years I haven't been good at setting reasonable limits. We've ended up with a party with friends and an excursion somewhere out of the ordinary and a special dinner. There were birthdays during the kids' preschool years when I made three cakes: one for the party with friends, one for the dinner at home with extended family and one to take to school. (The party wasn't on the actual birthday so we didn't eat three cakes in one day Ladies Shoes ) Even in recent years, I've sometimes ended up making two cakes.

So in preparation for this year's round, I have come up with a list of options I plan to offer Tessa and Josiah:

  • A cake (note the use of the singular). An excursion somewhere special with a guest or two.

  • A cake. A special dinner at home with a guest or two.

  • A cake. Dinner out with a guest or two.

  • A cake. Afternoon tea and activities at home with a group of friends.

  • A cake. Afternoon tea and a visit to a playground or similar with a group of friends.

I would like to place a further stipulation that the last two options, which potentially involve me supervising and entertaining a large group of children, are only on offer to each child every second year - one year to Josiah and the next year to Tessa - so that I don't have to do two big parties within a few weeks of each other.

Maybe occasionally there could be an added option: to choose one of the expensive package parties offered by every kids' venue in town.

I wonder if I am being ungenerous limiting the options this way. I like birthday celebrations to be special and fun, but too much complexity and expense makes it seem like a day of excess to me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our homeschooling year begins

Our homeschooling year has got off to a pretty good start. Tessa was nervous about her first Technicraft class (sewing, cooking, woodwork, metalwork and art) at the local intermediate school, and I was nervous on her behalf. But she loved it. The teacher was very friendly, making every effort to help the children feel comfortable. Climbing lessons have started up again, and the homeschool Chess Club.

Josiah has been keen to get to work at home. He has begun work on his project for the science fair. He did a project two years ago comparing how fast bananas ripen in different environments. It raised more questions than it answered so he has planned a modified experiment looking at the same question. Last time, I forgot to get Josiah to write his hypothesis until after he'd carried out the experiment, which meant he had to write what he had thought would happen and why, while knowing what had in fact happened - sort of a strange exercise. So this time Josiah's first task is to write a background, plan and hypothesis. Only problem is, although Josiah has decided how he plans to run the experiment and has worked out what results he thinks are likely and why, putting so much information down on paper is a mammoth effort for him. I don't know how to help him and yet ensure that the finished product is in his words not mine. At the moment, I am trying to write up in very lean note form what he has told me, with the idea that he can use my notes to get himself started. I want to make sure that the formation of the sentences is his.

Josiah has done a couple of maths lessons with me. We've all enjoyed reading about the vikings (history). We did the first critical thinking lesson in our book and the first language lesson I'd planned - prefixes. We haven't re-started Latin yet and Tessa hasn't done any maths or science yet ... she's been hard to motivate, still in holiday mode. Both kids have spent whole mornings in bed reading - they are hooked on the Warriors series at the moment.

I realise now that although the kids and I discussed what to work on this term, we didn't talk about our schedule or discuss how many sessions of each subject we would aim to carry out each week. This left me at a bit of loss when Tessa was reluctant to get to work. Will have to sort that out with them.

The other adjustment already called for is to my plans for our language work this term. Josiah wants to write a long story. I am thinking of suggesting that we alternate how we spend our language sessions: one week a Montessori lesson on prefixes, antonyms, homonyms etc, then the next week "writers workshop", we each work on a piece of writing of our own choice.

A friend brought a copy of Wordsmith Apprentice along to Unschoolers Group last week. It looked a lot of fun; I think I will try to get a copy of that to offer the kids as a writing activity. Josiah's story will keep him busy this term but Tessa might like to try Wordsmith Apprentice and Josiah might try it later.