Well. It’s been a crazy, crazy half a year in our family. Job changes, new roommate, death of a cat and a hamster and a handful of hermit crabs, health problems, new car, and more that I won’t get into.
Through it all, we’ve had our homeschooling ups and downs – days when our unschooling is a hot mess and days when it’s amazing and everything in between.
In official news, we’ve gotten Sarah’s eighth-grade-ish portfolio approved by our school district and have officially begun what would be her ninth-grade year if she were still in public school! In semi-related news, I’ve finished writing a chapter on video-game learning for, editing, and then re-editing when my changes didn’t save AT ALL, a massive guide called The Big Book of Homeschooling, which I hope you’ll check out. (That’s an affiliate link – so if you’re interested in purchasing it and do so from my link, we’ll make a few dollars that we’ll immediately spend on the bookstore trip we’re planning next weekend. Shameless plug.)
I have grand blog plans – including a post coming Monday about our plans for ninth grade, a wrapup somewhere about how eighth grade turned out, “school pictures” for the coming year and a ton more – but I’ve decided to try something different to balance out the big stuff.
Through the month, I’ve been making a quick list of stuff we do and talk about. I’m going to share that here, with some photos, and try to do it regularly as we go through the year, mostly to log for myself all the amazing stuff that’s going on as we learn in our everyday lives, but also to give you a peek at some of the fun in our day-to-day routines. There may be sporadic affiliate links to books and movies we’re loving, but I can’t even guarantee that level of detail-oriented-ness!
I hope you’ll let me know what you think of this approach!
- The Matrix and Philosophy (Sarah got this as a gift from our friend Dan after we watched the Matrix trilogy together, and she is admirably working her way through a DENSE read on Kant, determinism and a bunch of other stuff!)
- Weird Pennsylvania (Sarah grabbed this and read it out loud to our family by candlelight during a power outage at home early in the month. It was pretty cool!)
- Batman Detective Comics Vol. 1: Faces of Death (You’re going to see a Batman theme when we get to movies)
- Batman Detective Comics Vol. 2: Scare Tactics
- For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond (Sarah’s first digital book on her new Kindle Fire)
Movies and TV
- Batman Begins
- The Dark Knight
- The Dark Knight Rises
- A Knight’s Tale
- Wild, Wild West
- George of the Jungle
- Quantum of Solace
- WWE Battleground (and a few Monday Night Raw episodes, too)
- Hercules (Updated to add this; I can’t believe I forgot that Sarah and Chris went to see this!)
- Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Well, at least we learned who Sir Francis Drake was. Can’t speak a lot to other specific educational value here, but hey.)
- Red Dead Redemption
- World of Warcraft
I’ve mentioned this when I talked about video-game learning in depth, but just to be super-clear as I talk about movies and TV and video games here: I realize our media choices are not for everyone. Many people believe some of these are inappropriate for anyone; others think they’re fine for adults but not high-schoolers. In our family, these are not “go off and play by yourself” deals. We game as a family, and more importantly, we use the situations in our games to discuss big issues, everything from language to racism to assault on women to crime to the Revolutionary War to online privacy and security. I’m not suggesting – and have never suggested – you turn your 7-year-old loose online or sit him in front of Grand Theft Auto for 8 hours unattended. And that’s all I have to say about that. 😉
AKA: Sometimes we spend a lot of time on YouTube, especially where cute animals and parkour are concerned.
Places and projects
- We made a terrarium as one of our projects in the 4-H Wildlife Watchers Club.
- We had a four-hour power outage, during which we painted by candlelight, Sarah read aloud, and we had a family game of “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding” (kind of like “Would You Rather?”)
- Following damage from thunderstorms and yardwork, we helped relocate a family of displaced catbirds from a bush on one side of our house to the other. (There were babies, not even flying yet! It was amazing.)
- My Uncle John came to visit – this is my mom’s older brother – he told us great stories about his work on his son’s farm, and helped us with the bird rescue effort.
- At the alpaca farm, Sarah started working with her 4-H Alpaca Club project animal for this year, a gelded male named Jupiter who is BIG. Way bigger than any of the other animals Sarah’s worked with.
- As Sarah’s other project (besides animal-showing) to enter in the August 4-H Fair, she’s needle-felting the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and has needle-felted a minotaur. I’m pretty sure it’ll give the judges a laugh; they’re used to seeing about a dozen felted bunnies, alpacas and pumpkins.
- ALSO in 4-H fair prep (you can see where we’re spending our time this month!) Sarah did her oral presentations on her terrarium and her felted projects during a recent club meeting. Giving this presentation earns the kids an extra 5 points on their project, and is the only way they can earn a gold ribbon at our fair.
- In her free time, Sarah’s been writing a story about a zombie-fighting Monster Army in Britain, told in epistolary style; not coincidentally, she learned what epistolary style means!
- Another fun 4-H thing: the Wildlife Watchers club was invited to join our local garden club on a tour of the gardens of a Master Gardener in our community, who spent a couple hours giving the kids a tour focused on raised beds and container gardening, hobby farming, organic methods of pest control and a bunch more.
- We got our cats a cat tree. I can’t even.
- We walked/hiked several times at the former golf course turned park-ish place near our house.
- Forensic science camp was the absolute highlight of Sarah’s month. I’ll be talking about this in detail when I talk about our learning plans for the coming year, which feature forensics in huge ways. This was part of the Summer Academy program for gifted students in our area, and for four days, Sarah immersed herself in the world of blood types, fingerprinting, dental analysis, evidence processing, hardwriting analysis, observation skills and more. They ended their week with a skit depicting what they learned, and then Sarah came home and gave our extended family an impromptu lecture on all she learned for, like, 45 minutes straight!
Odds and ends of stuff we’ve talked about
- Whether it’s possible that we’re living in the Matrix (and all about the philosophical questions that surround “What is reality?”)
- Why people want to kill tomato hornworm caterpillars, which Sarah finds amazing.
- What to do when an alpaca gets loose and runs like crazy. (Not our alpaca, thankfully, but the chase was quite an adventure.)
- A long, rambling conversation that Sarah actually got quite tired of about optimism, innate nature, soul, belief in an infallible god, yet belief in free will, with a side note about how people are happier when their choices match up with their true self as they were created. That was one crazy 2 a.m. riff.
So what’s new with your family this month? Drop me a comment! I miss hearing from all my “blog friends,” which is a big reason why I’m so motivated to post more regularly!