On the Town

(pssst! - the videos are at the very bottom of the post. Having a little trouble editing the blog right now).

Both boys are learning about the way a community works right now, and we're trying to weave that into the other subjects they're studying. For Brennan, it's a simple task of learning about what police, firemen, teachers, librarians, store owners, and such do to help the community and one another. Rich is going a little deeper because we're discussing how a community can afford things like firetrucks, police equipment, all those books in the library, and so on - this has been a great way to teach him about percentages as it relates to taxes, the difference between "socialism" and social programs (like highway upkeep, electric co-ops, etc.), and the way money flows in a community - the role of consumers, workers, goods and services.

So today we struck out to meet some people in the community. Since the boys are already familiar with the library and post office, we went to the Vistor's Center in Fayetteville and got some info about our city. Here's where we went: (skip to the bottom for the videos)

Eureka Pizza. Pizzaman Shag was gracious enough to let the boys go back and assist him in making a pizza. They got to see the whole process, beginning to end, and then we had pizza for lunch. Shag explained that while Eureka provides a "good," - they are dependent on other service businesses to provide them with clean aprons and doorway rugs, but they also purchase goods from other businesses (ingredients, kitchen equipment, pizza boxes, etc.). Additionally, the delivery drivers provide a service, by delivering a good. I think it really helped Rich to grasp the difference between the two, and they both understand why pizza isn't free, no matter how nice that would be.

At the Fire Station on Crossover, Fireman Ryan gave us a small tour of the station living areas, then walked around the truck showing them the various equipment - tons of hoses, axes, tanks, suits, etc. They got to sit in the truck and run the lights. Rich asked, "How do you pay for all this stuff?" Great segue into a discussion about taxes! The firemen were extremely nice and excited to show them everything.

Officer Brandon at the Fayetteville Police Department took us through the desk area and let Brennan sit in the car (Rich wasn't with us yet), turn on the lights, run the siren, etc. He showed him how the back seat was enclosed for carrying bad guys, as well as the computer and camera in the front seat.

So, a good day all in all. Not much book work, but I bet they remember it longer than any book work they've done this week. It's also a great launching pad for Rich's unit on money flow in the community next week.


The Insect Festival was a big hit last week. The kids got to see hundreds of butterflies, dragonflies, a variety of spiders, millipedes, bees, and scorpions, make crafts, watch cockroach races, honeybees, and even handle a few of the hissing cockroaches. Dad forgot the camera, but I borrowed these from our friend Aly - that's her youngest daughter Sasha in the pictures with Brennan. She's the first real "buddy" he's ever had and they have lots of fun together. She also doesn't mind holding bugs, which is pretty cool for a girl (haha!).


The Imagination Village

We started our new homeschool co-op last Friday with some good friends from Treehouse (which was our co-op from last year). It's a brand new group and we're all excited about putting together unique learning opportunities for our kids. There's about 30 children in the group so far, and we meet at the Sager Arts Center in Siloam Springs - a great old building with tons of character and plenty of space.

Both Brennan and Rich are taking a Nature Study class, Rich is taking Art and Periods in History (this week was the Renaissance), and Brennan is taking Movement and Music, and a class that teaches rhyming through games and activities. The boys had a blast and got to hang out with friends all day, learn new things, and help start a community from the ground up.

If you're not familiar with the concepts of a co-op, it's simply a group of homeschool families that meet regularly (in our case, once a week) to offer a group learning setting for the kids. The great benefit of a co-op is that parents teach the classes, which means the kids tend to learn things that are outside of their own parent's ability to teach. For instance, the boy's nature class is taught by two parents with a strong background in botany and biology - something I know very little about. Conversely, I'm teaching a class for the older kids that demonstrates the effects of political and economic change on the music and entertainment industry (talk about a specialty class!). It's fun to start this adventure with friends and see where it takes us.


We're baaaaack!

It's been a long, crazy summer, so I haven't had time to post. We've struggled with a health crisis (mine) and found that our idea of learning stands the test: EVERYTHING is a learning experience. You'd be amazed what technicians at hospitals will let kids watch if the kids are inquisitive enough. But I digress...

We're trying to add a bit more structure this year, at least with Maths and History, which seems to be working well so far. We're also still looking for real life opportunities to learn everywhere - from baking cakes and trips to the grocery store, to helping mom pay the bills and and clean the van out.

Rich is currently immersed in ancient Egypt, which involves making cuniform tablets and papryus scrolls and putting them through a number of tests to see which is more durable, building a living model of the Nile and pyramids in an aluminum baking dish, and reading about foods and holidays of ancient Egypt. He's also wildly enamored with the excellent and hysterical Franny K. Stein book series right now. Recommended if your kid likes mad science, sentient lunchmeat, and experiments involving brain transplantations.

Brennan is learning about Animal Habitats, which involves a lot of craft projects, studying animals in their natural surroundings, drawing pictures and making up stories about them. By way of this, he's learning about his immediate environment (the home) and his larger environment (the earth). His favorite thing so far is his construction paper/clothespin snapping turtle.

So all in all, we've had a good two weeks so far. Looking forward to getting outside some more now that it's not 275 degrees outside.


Treehouse Gala!

Treehouse is a homeschool co-op the boys have attended for the last two semesters. We meet with a large group of homeschoolers every Thursday for a wide variety of classes taught by parents and outside instructors. The boys love going and have made many friends there. This semester, Brennan took a Pre-school class (New Horizons), Music, and Playground Games. Rich took Prairie Primer (more below), Math, Space, Cooking, and Paper Crafts. The Spring Gala is a fundraiser and a chance for the students to perform skits, songs, and recite poetry they've learned over the course of 12 weeks.

Toe-Knee Knows

Rich's "Prairie Primer" class did projects based on the Little House books. They made Hogbladder balls and Corncob dolls, made their own butter, and learned how to square dance.

Brennan does the Finger Polka!



A few months ago, we hung a long piece of butcher paper across the wall to keep track of all the time periods and pre-dinosaur animals we've been learning about. Rich likes to know "which came first" so it's a nice visual way to remember. This summer, we'll have to start filling in some spaces much further down because we keep running across things like the building of the pyramids, Abe Lincoln, and WWII. I have a feeling we'll need a much longer sheet when we get to European history.


Rich's Journal

Rich wrote about his family earlier this year for his journal project. Here are the scans - click the individual pictures for a larger version.


What Are You Learning in Homeschool Right Now?

The boys (and mom and dad) get this perplexing question so often, but it's the hardest thing to answer. The more appropriate question might be, "What are you not learning right now?"

The boys are both starting to remember what they knew as toddlers: Learning happens all the time, everywhere, whether you like it or not. We learned about the different parts of plants that we eat while meandering through the produce section this afternoon. We learned about the muscles in the human leg when mom tore one a few weeks ago. We learned about brass instruments when we cleaned out a closet and found mom's old saxophone. We learned about death when we had to put down our dog of 15 years last month. Learning is life, life is learning.

I could tell you what we're purposefully learning, I guess. Short and long vowel sounds. Everything you never wanted to know about nouns and predicates. Multiplication. Early reptiles and fish like Dunkleosteus (the boy's favorite - Google it) that lived during the Devonian period. How green beans grow. What happens when you mix primary colors. The history of Carnivale! in Brazil, the Incan people, and the Yanomami hunters of the Venezuelan rain forest. Why The Phantom Tollbooth is one of the greatest books ever written (it is, trust me). Building volcanoes that erupt.

The problem with lists like that is it makes everything sound so segmented and clinical, when in fact, every one of those things are linked somehow, and we usually find ourselves wandering happily from one interest to the next. It's not that we don't use textbooks and worksheets, it's just that I never know where we're going to end up. But it's always enlightening, and never where I would have gone myself.