Monday, September 30, 2013

Learning How to Get Better

Little Man's fall baseball team has been stomping their competition.  They have won every game and the feeling of victory has been sweet.  Especially to five of the boys from our spring team.  Those five boys had endure so much and knew how it felt to be on the losing end.  Three of the boys on our fall team were on the winning end during the spring.  They had yet to experience that loss of being out powered.

This all changed over the weekend.  A tournament the boys were scheduled to play was cancelled.  One of our coaches knew of a AA tournament that we could play.  Our little team is a single A rec ball team.  We did not hand pick our boys.  AA teams hold try-outs and hand pick their teams.  Some of these teams have been playing together for years and move up each division together.  Our boys were in for a challenge!

Now, we were coming into another world of ball playing.  Most of our parents did not understand the world of tournament ball.  The stakes are higher and the playing more serious.  We felt that our little team needed a challenge and this would be it.  Their batting was hot, but work in the defense was needed.  We were definitely better defensively than other teams we had played in rec ball.  However, we needed to get better.  Our boys didn't understand this.  They had won their games and were satisfied.  The tournament would be our answer.

The team we played first was a newly formed AA team.  We figured we had a chance.  The boys played a good defensive game.  They made a few costly errors, but overall it was a good game.  The pitching machine was awful!  The spring needed to be replaced and it caused the ball to arc.  The pitches were all over the place and the ball speed was slow.  Our boys had a hard time adjusting.  We lost the game.  Our first ever loss this season.

We didn't have time to focus on a loss.  We played another game right after it.  The team we played was seasoned.  They had played all last year together and worked well with each other.  Their boys could hit and defend.  Our boys tried their best, but became frustrated and made errors.  They tried their hardest to win.  At the end of the game, the reality of two losses set in.

The coaches talked to the boys.  They praised them for their hard work and talked to them about what they needed to work on.  We would get to play the two teams again the next day.  The five boys from our spring team took the losing in stride.  For the three that had yet to experience a loss, they were a bit devastated that it happened.

The next day, we started out playing the team that had been all other teams.  Our boys were not as excited to play today.  They liked playing baseball, but they didn't like playing against the one that beat them.  Needless to say we loss that game.

I told Little Man and the team that the only way you ever get better at playing is to play someone better than you.  If you only want to win and only play teams that are not as good as you, then you are not getting better.  This weekend showed the boys what they are lacking.  It gives them a good foundation to build upon to get to the next level of play.

I think the boys learned a valuable lesson in the art of losing and will strive to improve their game.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

FENCE Field Trip

We went on a field trip excursion with our field trip friends group to FENCE (Foothills Equestrian Nature Center).  Egee wasn't too sure she would enjoy a nature hike.  (She is a lot like her daddy!)  Little Man, of course, was eager to go.  I have been wanting to take the children to FENCE, but it just hasn't worked out.  So, I was excited to take them.

We met our group around 10am and waited for our tour guide Hannah.  As we waited, a bug began to crawl up my arm.  I hadn't seen this particular type of insect before and we inspected it.  Many in the group believed it to be a stink bug.   However, I wasn't really sure it was a stink bug.  It had similarities to one, but not everything seemed to indicate a stink bug.  Several of the children were curious about the bug.  We spent several minutes examining it.

Once we got back home, I looked up the bug on the internet.  It is not a stink bug.  It is a wheel bug.  Of course, it is a cousin to the stink bug.  We were definitely lucky it did not release its stench.

Hannah came out and introduced herself to our group.  She explained the rules and we began the hike.  It was a perfect day for a hike.  The temperatures were in the low sixties.  We walked through hardwood forest.  The dappled light and ample shade dropped the temperature a few more degrees.  The children tried to spy woodland creatures and insects along the hike.  Colored construction paper pieces were given to the children.  They were to try and spot things in the forest with the particular color given to them.  Egee received a pink card and Little Man a yellow card.  His was an easy color to find during the hike.  Egee really had to hunt for items.  She finally spotted pink flowers!

We made our way down the trail and stopped at a nurse log.  It was covered in beautiful 'turkey tail' fungus.  Hannah explained to the children the importance of decomposers in the forest ecosystem.

We continued a bit further, when one of the children discovered a little brown toad.  Spotting animals in the forest proves difficult with the camouflage they posses.  A few minutes later, a deer was spotted.

We crossed a stream along the hike and then walked along a larger creek.  Children are naturally drawn to water!  Soon we were in a wetland area.

The children were given fish food pellets and made their way along the boardwalk spanning across a large pond.  They happily threw the food into the water and watched turtles and sun perch eat the pellets. Young and old delighted in watching the fish and turtles.

We continued across the boardwalk and entered the swampy areas of the wetlands.  I always enjoy walking through wetlands.  The children were having a marvelous time on the hike.

After an hour and a half, we had finished our three mile hike.  Egee told me she was glad we came.  Although, the trek back up the hill to the picnic pavilion was not the favorite part.

Once the all the members of the group made it back to the pavilion, Hannah took the children to the Nature Center.  She allowed them to pet Spike (the bearded lizard) and Maze (the corn snake).  This was a great way to end our field trip.  We will definitely be back!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Music Sandwiched In - Daniel Z

We attended our first Music Sandwiched In performance for the school year, this week.  We delighted that our friends joined us for the jazz performance.  The children ate lunch and anxiously waited for the program to begin.

The musician was Daniel Z of Jazz Vibes.  The children were intrigued by the vibraphone he had on stage to play.  Typically, when we heard it was a jazz performance, we expected the trumpets and saxophones.  This was not the case.  It was just Daniel Z and his vibraphone.  He had the other instruments recorded to accompany him.  (The other musicians could not make it to the program.)  That was okay.  The children were able to focus solely on the one instrument.

Daniel played many different tunes during the gig.  He went from the slow melodic jazz to upbeat sambas.  Little Man couldn't help moving his feet and drumming on the arms of the chairs to the beat.  He totally got lost in the music.  I love seeing him embrace music.  Egee was focused on the mallets hitting the vibraphone.

Daniel told the audience a bit about the history of the vibraphone.  We learned it is a fairly modern invention (early 1900s).  It is an American instrument that is similar to the xylophone.  It can be played with mallets or oddly enough, a violin bow!

Daniel Z played a tune using the bow.  It gave the instrument an eerie sound at times.  It reminded me of the sound produced by playing glasses filled with water.

We enjoyed listening to Daniel Z of Jazz Vibes!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


We attended the Headquarters' Library Program on spyology.  As we entered the room, Mrs. Jane had the 'Mission Impossible' song playing.  She had found a copy that the (Clemson) Tiger Band had recorded.  The children took a seat on the floor and listened to music as class began.  Little Man was excited to learn about spies.  He loves to play ninja, so spies fit into the element of secrecy.

Mrs. Jane started the class by explaining what spies are.  She showed them various books and gave them background information about spy programs.  She told them about early spies in history and asked the children if they knew of any spies in ancient times.  She informed the children that women have also been spies.  Some of the boys couldn't believe that a woman would be a spy.  The picture of Mati Hari looked more like a gypsy than a spy to them.  Mrs. Jane also showed the children modern spy gadgets from a book. The boys really enjoyed that!


One, of the children, was asked to dress up as various spies.  He would give the others clues to try and figure out what spy he was representing.  The class enjoyed guessing the spy.

Mrs. Jane had set up several stations for the children to make disguises and crack secret codes.  They readily cut out mustaches, eyebrows, beards, and glasses to conceal their identity.  They tried on hats, wigs, scarves and ties.  They fluttered from one station to the next.

Cutting out their mustaches.

Little Man was a master of disguises!

 They worked together to crack the secret codes on a worksheet.

Everyone enjoyed their morning at spy school!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

House Cleaning

One fact of life being home 24/7 with children is the constant mess they make.  Little messes here and there, often turn into one huge mess if they are not taken care of in a timely manner.  Now, I am no OCD housekeeper.  I would rather be outdoors working in the garden or enjoying the pool.  However, the house must be cleaned.  And yes, I know, that one day I will miss seeing all of the messes, but that day often seems very far off.

Mondays and Thursdays are designated laundry days in our home.  Thursdays are also house cleaning days. Although, I vacuum our floors on an every other day schedule, it is amazing how much gunk is drug into the home from children and pets!  Especially from the boy factor!

How does one really keep a house clean?  I read the organizing posts and magazine articles, but do these people really live in reality?  After I mop the floors, it never fails that a child or animal will make a mess.  Last week it was a full glass of sweet tea spilled on a freshly mopped floor.  The time before that, the dog had a major accident.  Now if I don't mop, nothing major takes place.  Must be karma.

How many of you have just folded all the laundry and then another basket full of dirty laundry appears?  Egee is horrible about this.  Therefor, she has been shown how to use the washer and dryer. Little Man is next on the list!

The children's rooms are there domain.  However, I do insist at a certain point the room be cleaned.  It is usually when I can no longer walk into the room without stepping on items all over the floor.  Egee is getting better at cleaning her room without me suggesting it.  Little Man could care less about a clean room.  Although, he is very proud of a clean room once it does get cleaned.  

The children are in charge of cleaning their bathroom.  (Although, I must point out the need for them to clean it.)  Egee will unload the dishwasher. (Her new job!)  Little Man will load the dishwasher. (His new job!) They are old enough to take on more responsibility around the house.

So, here is to another day of cleaning!  Maybe the house will stay clean a bit longer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Making Rope

Mr. Jack had the children busy with another hands on science lesson.  He is great at taking everyday items and turning them into so much more.  The lesson was to make rope.

Mr. Jack explaining how friction plays a role in making rope strong.

He explained to the children how friction is an important factor in making the rope strong.  He started the lesson by taking two books and intertwining their pages.  He then had the books 'threaded' together and asked the children, if they thought the books could easily be pulled apart.  The younger children believed it would be easy to pull apart.  He asked for a volunteer to pull the books apart.  To the children's surprise the books were very hard to pull apart.  He had them hooked.

Mr. Jack showed the children the materials that they would use to make rope.  He demonstrated making rope with toilet paper.  He had them pull apart the toilet paper and it easily tore.  Next, he showed them how twist the ends and how it made the paper stronger.  He then told them to let the paper curl upon itself creating the braid they see in rope.  Next, he told them to twist the paper again.  The more they could twist and allow the paper to fold upon itself, the stronger it would become.

He also provided polyfiber, cotton balls, and newspaper strips.  The children got into groups and began making their 'rope'.  Excitement filled the room as 'rope' was being made.  They tried pulling it apart.  Sometimes it broke easily and they started over.  It was trial and error.  The children experimented for forty minutes.  I believe they would have continued for an hour or more! 

The Season Has Begun

Fall baseball season has officially started.  Practices began a month ago and now the games have started.  Five of the boys from the spring team are on the fall team.  We have picked up six more boys.

Surprisingly the boys are playing great together.  Little Man is in left field this season and occasionally in center.  He has a great arm and when he pulls it all together is quite accurate.  He really wants to be able to pitch in another year.  I have told him he has to pay attention and have great aim.  He is really putting in the effort to get there.

Last year, he wasn't really hot at bat.  It was hit and miss.  This season he is hitting!  He is starting to hit the ball consistently shallow into the outfield.  He has made it on base and scored a few times.  His confidence is growing with every game.

Every boy on the team is hitting and we are winning.  That is a big step from the spring.  Our little spring team went 2-8 for the regular season.  The fall team is 2-0!

They still need to work on defense.  It will come.

I believe they are going to do great as long as they keep trying their best and don't lose focus.  The coaches are great at driving in sportsmanship and correcting their mistakes.  They are keeping the boys from getting a big head.

Here is to a great season of Little League Baseball!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Plugging Away

We finished our sixth week of school!  The children have been great about getting their work done and not complaining.  Oh, Little Man questions every morning if he must do school work.  However, once he is told yes, he accepts the fact it must be done.

I have been reading several unschooling blogs.  I admire those that can completely unschool.  I tread closer to the philosophy every year we home school.  I am hesitant to jump all the way into unschooling.  So many fears creep upon me. 

Would my children really take a lead in their educational efforts?  Would Little Man just play Minecraft and other video games all day?  Would Egee ever take interest in other things besides hair, knitting, and bracelet making?  How do you go about adhering to the state mandates? 

Working on lessons.

I feel it is my job as their parent/teacher to introduce them to all sorts of things.  We complete history lessons together.  I read a lesson and we discuss it.  I ask them questions and relate the lesson to things we have learned previously.  We spend time listening to each other relate the story to other examples they think correlate.  I pick out books from our library to expand the lessons.  We watch videos.  We have taken field trips to see things we learn about.  Some of the history they like, others they don't.  I'm not sure they would natural gravitate to history, if I left it entirely up to them.

English grammar is a subject that I truly hated in school.  I found it boring and pointless.  I memorized what would be tested and then went about my way.  I have yet to be asked how to diagram a sentence, as an adult.  Do my children really need this knowledge?  I would have to go look it up to teach them.  If I give them the necessary skills to look it up, doesn't that do the same for them?  Some may say, the internet or Google may not be there when they need to look it up.  That is okay, we have reference books at the house and they know how to use them.  You know Einstein said "Never memorize what you can look up."  I have introduced Egee to grammar basics (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc.)  She can write paragraphs and short stories.  Little Man is just now starting to write.  Like most boys his age, fine motor skills are still developing for handwriting. 

I wrestle with the thoughts of what an education really is.  I look around at children going off to school daily for seven hours and being 'taught'.  The passive activity that is suppose to convert into learning is driven by high stakes testing.  The new methodology is constantly being churned out (to teachers) to make learning an active pursuit.  But, how does it compensate for those children that are just not ready to learn the material in the time frame presented?  What happens to those children?  I've been in that world and I've seen those children.  The ones that have been left behind.  The ones that have been labeled slow and have behavior issues.  The ones that hate school because they feel dumb compared to their peers.  By the time they got to me in high school, they were so full of despair.  They wanted something other than traditional studies.  They wanted to go to the career centers and learn a trade, but they didn't have the grades to go.  They were in limbo. 

I look at our homeschool.  The children spend one to two hours on lessons.  We interact and have those ah-ha moments.  We are always learning.  I get the eye rolls when I say, "remember when we studied X and ...".  But, they do remember!  It may not click for several weeks, or months, or a year.  However, it doesn't matter to us.  We can afford this luxury of waiting.

Little Man working on a logic problem.

Case in point of waiting for it to click, teaching Little Man to read.  I posted an article about it the other day.  He is doing great in his reading now.  Yes, he is seven and a half years old.  His reading level in just six weeks is comparable to any other average second grader.  However, most other second graders have been reading since kindergarten!

I want to tailor my children's education to their needs and wants, but I also want them well versed in history and sciences.  I struggle with finding the right balance.  I would rather them know sequence of historical events and broad time periods instead precise dates and spout off the typical 'players' in history.  I want them to understand history.  What happened and why.  The same applies for sciences.  They need to know about the world around them and understand what human impact on the world. We live our science lessons through gardening, playing in the surf, observing nature around us, camping, star gazing, cooking, etc.  I have the children read about animals and play computer simulations.  Little Man loves watching documentaries about sharks at the moment.  Mr. Jack at the Chesnee Library has been wonderful introducing homeschoolers to various physics/engineering aspects of science.  I have heard so many scientist tell parents to just let their kids 'discover' their scientific pursuits.  I am trying do just that.

I believe they need to know the basics of math.  Is Pre-Cal and Calculus really necessary, if they aren't going into a career that needs higher math?  Shouldn't they instead learn about accounting and bookkeeping, if they plan on running our business?  I will give them the foundation they need.  If they desire to continue on to higher math, they will be able to pursue it.

Egee working on math.

Literature is another subject I struggle with the validity.  I believe reading should be enjoyed.  I want my children to sit down with a book and get lost in it.  There are so many books and everyone has an opinion about which book should be read and why.  I do think that books considered to be classics offer more than modern books.  I try steer Egee towards classical books, but right now I am really just trying to get her to read any book.  Today's children do read, just not books!  Egee is constantly looking up information on the internet that interests her and reads it.  She learns how to do different crafts and hairstyles.  She reads what interests her.  Books are not her interest.  However, I still make her read two chapters from a book of her choosing daily.

So, I guess we can be considered eclectic homeschoolers.  We are leaning more to unschooling every year.  As we plug away, we continue to evolve.  As the children mature, they will take on more and more of the lead for the education.  That is the beauty of our journey!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning to Read

When I decided I wanted to home school, I knew it would be easier if Little Man knew how to read.  He was four and I knew a four year-old could read.  I researched the best book to buy to teach reading.  I asked others about teaching a four year-old how to read.  I had everything lined up for success.  Well, that is except for Little Man!

You see, I was ready for him to read.  We had reading lessons everyday.  I followed the script from the reading book.  He didn't.  I became frustrated.  He became frustrated.  I put the book away. He was not ready to read.

Six months later, we began homeschooling kindergarten.  Surely, he would be ready now.  He would pick up on the process.  The kindergarten phonics program was entertaining.  He answered the questions correctly.  He was heading in the right direction.  I was excited!  I got books from the library.  We sat down to read.  He didn't read!  Why, not?  He knew his phonics, he read the words on the computer.  What was up with a book?

My mother (a teacher) was becoming concerned that he was not reading.  She wanted to buy resources to help him.  Deep down, I knew these would not help.  He just wasn't ready.

By now, I was getting discouraged.  I began to scour the internet.  I read articles about children who did not read until they were eight, nine, ten, years old or older.  I read about how in homeschool families it was okay to not read until a child was older.  The parent could read to the child and the child could still learn about all things.  Some relief came to me.  The main thing was not to worry.  I needed to follow Little Man's lead. 

Putting trust into a six year-old child is hard.  Especially, when you have a mother that is doubting your philosophy on allowing your child to take his own time.  I read to him.  I still had him working on phonics.  When he needed something read to him, I asked him if he could read any of the words.  I made a big deal of him reading a word here or there.  I cringed when someone would ask him to read something.  When he couldn't read it, they would say aren't you in first grade?  I would tell the person he is learning.  Little Man would just shrug it off.

What if he had been in public school?  Would he have shrugged it off?  Would other peers make fun of him?  Would he be behind?  Thank goodness, we didn't have to find out!

We finished first grade with him only reading a few words.  He wasn't bothered by it.  It didn't affect his learning.  He had me and his sister to ask, "What does this say?"  He knew we would help him.  The neighbor boy would chide him for asking.  Little Man would tell the boy, "I can read, just not the big stuff." 

My mother was becoming more worried, I was becoming more confident.  I finally asked her when did she start school.  She said in the first grade.  They didn't have kindergarten back then.  I asked how old she was when she started.  She told me six years-old.  (Her birthday is in March.)  I asked when did she learn to read?  She told me they started learning to read primarily in the second grade.  I then saw her eyes light up and she made a connection.  We expect five year-old children to read.  Little Man was not behind.  He was only behind in today's public school world! 

Children use to be sent to school around age seven or eight prior to the early 1900s.  They learned to read and write at this time.  Today, we send children to school and preschool at four and five and expect them to write and read.  The majority are not ready.  There have been studies showing that a child learning to read at age four is no better reader at age twelve than a child that learned to read at age eight.  Why do we insist on making children learn things they are not ready for?  These children then start to feel dumb and lose their confidence in the learning process. 

Before, we officially started school this year, I noticed that he was starting to read more signs. He announced to me that he was going to read.  He wanted to get an X-box for reading.  (Our library had a contest last year for the summer reading program and the prize was an X-box.)  I made him a deal. (I knew he was ready to read.  I would not have made the deal, if he was not.)  If he did not fight me about reading his McGuffey primer, we would see about getting him an X-box for his birthday in December.  We are twenty-nine lessons into the primer and he is reading!  He is reading everything!  As we drive, he reads the billboards and street signs.  When we are in stores, he reads the tags and labels.  It has finally clicked!

I am so grateful that I listened to my inner self and did not push him.  I am happy that I allowed him to take the lead.  I cringe to think about what it would have been like if we did not home school.  I thank God, we are able to learn on Little Man's schedule and not the school system's. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Things Are Getting Busy

September is finally upon us.  School is in full swing.  Baseball practice started.  Tumbling kicked off.  Library classes will begin tomorrow.  Music Sandwiched In programs will begin.  Field trips are planned.  Aikido classes are here.  Fall chores are begging to be completed.  Saturdays are now football days.   A new season has arrived.

I love the turning of seasons, especially autumn.  The air outside just feels different.  The temperature may still linger in the upper eighties for us, but it isn't the same as the summer heat.  A breeze is constantly blowing at our house.  Leaves on the ornamental cherry tree are turning yellow and dropping.  The oaks are not far behind.  A freshness is in the air.

Our evenings are filled with Aikido, tumbling and baseball.  Trying to plan a night for a bonfire is proving difficult.  I will continue to cut branches and ready the trees for their slumber.  We will definitely have plenty to burn.

Garden beds are in need of attention.  I am still trying to decide how I want to plan the garden for next spring.  It is a never ending process. 

I have several volunteer trees that need to be transplanted.   Deciding upon their new spots has been difficult and I'm still not sure.

I want to put in a living fence to enclose our yard.  I have started with a small sixteen foot section of blackberries, but have over three hundred more feet to go!  Finding time to work on this will have to wait until other fall chores have been accomplished.

The lazy days of summer and pool use have dwindled.  I must think about closing the pool or keep it going throughout the winter.  I've done both in the past.  I thought last winter was going to be harsh and closed the pool.  Wandering if I should take a chance for this winter.

Oh, there are other things on my never ending list:  a fall party, redoing the rv roof, camping trips, baseball tournaments, fall festivals, etc.  The season will fly by and hopefully my list will be completed.  So, now I am off to start chipping away at it. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!  I hope you are having a relaxing three day holiday.  Ours has been busy, already.  Life just doesn't like to slow down during the holiday times. 

The kids had a slumber party on Friday. Then a birthday-swim party to attend on Saturday.  Little Man had baseball practice on Saturday morning, too.  We attending church this morning.  Then the kids were off to stay with the grandparents this afternoon.  Monday, Little Man, Hubby, and Grandad are headed out to the shooting range or dove hunting (depending on weather).  I'm not sure what the female half are going to do.  Maybe just enjoy a bit of quiet time.

So, have a safe remainder of the holiday weekend.  I'm going to try and relax for at least a bit!