Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Fuss Over Common Core (Part IV)

Everyone is still up in arms over Common Core Standards.  I know I am not a fan of them and I will not pursue the path of Common Core in our schooling.  With that said, many homeschoolers are diving off the deep end when it comes to Common Core.  They want to know which curriculum have adopted CC, which are aligned, and which are not.  People are in a frenzy!

It doesn't take a genius to know that if one uses a public school based textbook company, it will be CC based.  However, companies that cater to homeschooling may or may not be CC based.  The hunt is on to find curriculum without the influence of CC.

A few homeschooling curriculum are said to be aligned with CC standards.  Now this does not necessarily mean is CC curriculum.  To be aligned may simply mean that what is in the text for the grade level is similar to what CC states for that level.  For example, first graders learning addition facts to twenty.  CC wants a certain methodology taught, but the curriculum does not include that methodology.  The homeschooling curriculum was not changed at all from previous years when CC was not around, but now some homeschoolers are going to shun it because it is aligned.

I saw a post the other day about the Magic Tree House series being aligned with CC.  Some were ranting that they will never use this series again because of the alignment.  What?  Did they go out and rewrite the books?  Why were the books fine last year, but next year they are taboo?  Common sense is being thrown out the window in some cases.

I had mentioned before that I have purchased the "What Every __ Grader Needs To Know" series.  Just because I purchased it, does not mean I support common core.  I liked some of the material in the books and use it as a reference.  That is the beauty of homeschooling.  You can take bits and pieces from a variety of sources and meld them into a self made curriculum for your child.

If we go by what is aligned with Common Core, we can pretty much stop going to the library.  All the books could technically be aligned.  Let us use common sense and not go on a witch hunt against authors and publishers.  Being aligned does not mean teaching to CC.

If books are written directly for CC standards and deliver the material in the CC methodology, then I can see being concerned.  I would not use such books.  The main textbook companies that sell their wares to public schools will be written for CC standards.  Some of these companies offer home school textbooks and will change the home school textbooks into the same format as public school texts.  Others will not alter their home school texts.  This is where the consumer must remain diligent and be sure the curriculum meets their family's standard.

So, let us not throw our hands up in despair over the term alignment.  Look at the materials available to you and decide if they suit your child's needs.  Use common sense and think about your choices.  Did you use the Magic Tree House books three years ago with your oldest child, preCommon Core?  Did you find them taboo then?  If not, why are they suddenly taboo being aligned with Common Core?  They have not been rewritten.  What about the math program you used five years ago with your first child?  Has it been rewritten for Common Core?  If the answer is yes, then find another one. 

We as homeschoolers must unite and do what is best for our own children.  The majority of us do not like Common Core.  But going on a Common Core witch hunt over alignment is taking things a bit far.  Let us stick to outing those companies that are Common Core driven.

Stop and Smell the Roses

We took a day trip to Biltmore Estate with the kids and my parents on Saturday.  I had been meaning to go before then, but the weather has not been cooperative and baseball has been very time consuming.  Saturday was the perfect day (sunny with a breeze and temps in the low seventies).

I wanted to take my parents to the rose gardens and greenhouse on the estate.  My great-grandparents grew roses and I knew my mother would enjoy smelling the lovely rose perfume.  My father likes to grow vegetables, but has recently taken a liking to rose gardening.  The children tend to like plants and do not become bored in such places.  Hubby even found the gardens interesting.  A perfect outing!

The drive into Biltmore is always breathtaking.  The long winding driveway with the natural landscaping never gets old.  A few mountain laurel were still in bloom.  I can only imagine the grandeur they held a few weeks ago.  The stream that runs across the property was full and running rapid from the spring rains.  Canadian geese waddled along the open expanse eating insects and a hawk flew overhead.

The gardens were full of color.  The irises, peonies and roses were spectacular.  When we exited the vehicle,  we were treated to the scent of spring.  No matter how the air freshener companies try to recreate the delicate scent of a rose, they cannot.

We walked through the greenhouses and admired the different tropical plants.  We discussed how the plant may have been given its name like Dragon tail.  Little Man rushed around to see what other names of plants he could find.  My father was busy taking pictures of the different flora.

Greenhouse at Biltmore

We made our way to the rose garden.  Reds, pinks, yellows, and a variety of other colors greeted us.  The heirloom roses gave the sweetest scent.  Some of the roses had small delicate blooms.  Others were large and showy.  Climbing roses created shaded areas and a perfect spot for a rose framed picture.

The children enjoyed walking the brick pathway in maze like fashion.  Little Man darted to and fro.  He came bearing news of a rose bush he particularly liked and needed everyone to see.

My father educated Hubby on rose propagation.  How different varieties are developed and why the roses didn't themselves hybridize being in close proximity to one another.

We made our way to Antler Hill village after spending an hour in the gardens.  This is the favorite stop for the children.  We had lunch at Cedric's and then the children along with Grandad went down to the barn.  Little Man loves the barnyard animals.  Egee loves to pet the horses.

Hubby, Mom and I went to The Vanderbilts.  The 'museum' houses many different artifacts that are no longer or never were on display inside the house.  Hubby found the Japanese collection of George Vanderbilt intriguing.

I find it heart warming that the great-grandchildren of George Vanderbilt have taken his dream and kept it alive for all the visitors to see.  I hope that the next generation will do the same.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What A Way To End The Season!

The boys may have started the season off slow.  They looked more like the Bad News Bears than anything.  They were basically a team of misfits that had potential.  They needed a guiding hand.  They needed confidence.  They needed patience.  They needed encouragement.  They needed to become a team.

Over the course of two months, twelve boys, along with their coaches and parents, kept believing in themselves.  They practiced on and off the field.  They never gave up.  They showed sportsmanship throughout every loss.  Then the hard work was rewarded.

The first win of the season came during their ninth game.  The victory was celebrated with ice cream.  For it was a sweet victory.

The second win came during their tenth game.  Everyone was astonished.  They had become the little team that could!

They went into a post season tournament with dreams of just playing one more game.  One more game, they played.  They played hard with the bats blazing and runs scored.  They emerged victorious!

Off they went to play in the quarter finals.  No one had expected the little team to get that far.  Again, bats blazed, runs scored, and balls were stopped.  They just experienced win number four!  They were headed to the semifinals.

The semifinal game was tough!  The little team that could tried its best.  The bats were hot, but the fielding was not.  They never gave up.  They turned it on in the last inning, but it was too late.  They gave it their all, however it wasn't enough.

The little team that could may have lost the semifinal game, but the boys only saw a victory.  They overcame the lack of skill from the start of the season.  They became more confident in their skills.  They learned that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but the game should always be fun.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pool Time

The weather is really starting to heat up around here.  The children have been asking when they can go swim, so I gave in and let them jump in the pool.  The pool temperature was seventy four degrees and the outside temperature was eighty five degrees.

I needed the kids to get into the pool and stir up the water.  I was hoping that it would help clear the cloudy conditions.  (I have never had a cloudy pool until this year.)

The pool was still cloudy the next morning.  I checked the chlorine, alkalinity, and pH.  Everything was fine.  I have ran the filter and still the pool remained cloudy.  So, off I ventured to the pool supply store.

Cloudy pool water

I bought a bottle of Super Floc and applied it to the pool.  If this doesn't work, I don't know what else to do.  The children aren't thrilled about no pool for two days.   The afternoons are getting hotter and they really want to swim.  I want a clear pool.

You can barely see the first step!  The picture shows the water looking green, but it is really a blue hue in person.

This morning I went to check on the progress and although the pool is still cloudy, it is getting clearer.

When I went out this afternoon, the pool pump was going.  I forgot to turn it off the timer and it was circulating the water again.  A big no-no!  I quickly turned it off and assessed the damage.  The settled materials were definitely stirred up, but I think I caught it in time.

You can see the steps now! 

About thirty minutes later, the stuff had settled to the bottom.  I am hoping to awake to a much clearer pool tomorrow.

By tomorrow afternoon the pool should be ready to swim in again.  Everyone will be happy and cool!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Random Garden Pics

I just love my gardens!  It has taken many years to develop the yard into different gardens and I am not done.  I have added two additional flower beds this year and a large vegetable garden plot is still a work in progress.  I don't know if I will ever be done.  It is an enjoyable hobby, that I hope rubs off on my children.

I am still in the process of killing the grass for a large vegetable garden.  I want to plant corn and okra.  The kids want a pumpkin patch and a sunflower playhouse.

My bell peppers in their new bed.

The cucumbers have been planted under a jute rope trellis.  We are hoping to have a bumper crop of cukes to turn into homemade pickles.  My asparagus bed is in the background.  It is year two for the bed and I can't wait to harvest asparagus next spring.

The peas are growing and blooming.  

My knockout roses were in full bloom on Mother's Day.  This bush has really grown since the children bought if for my last Mother's Day.

These are Egee's Clemson flowers.  She likes the bright orange flowers that bloom in the front flower bed.

I just love these delicate wildflowers.  They bloom in full crimson, crimson ringed in white and white ringed in pink.  

The Lambs Ear is almost ready to flower.  The silvery foliage really stands out among the blue cone flowers and lemon balm plants.

The view from my hammock after a hard day working in the gardens.

Lazy, Rainy Day

Overcast sky and light drizzling rain makes for a lazy day.  We had a baseball tournament scheduled for Saturday morning, but it was delayed then cancelled.  The rain would come down in sheets and then taper to a mist.  A perfect day to lounge and listen to the pitter-patter of droplets hitting the ground.

After the rain subsided, I ventured out to weed vegetable beds and plant seeds.  The weeds came up easier in the damp beds.  The sky was still overcast and the temperatures pleasant.  Weeding is a never ending chore!  I really need to get some straw to cover up the beds.  It is on my to-do list.

As I weeded and pulled up a dandelion, I noticed a long light brown thing come up with it.  A snake!  My heart skipped a beat for a second, and then I noticed it was Brownie.  The Carolina brown snake that I haven't seen since the fall.  Unlike the garter snake, Brownie is very timid and does not try to strike.  She is more interested in blending into her surroundings.  I left her alone for a few minutes and she made her way back into her spot under the mulch.  She will continue to feed on the slugs and snails around my garden.

I continued to pull weeds and plant seeds.  My wildflower seeds are starting to germinate.  I can't wait for them to grow and flower.  I decided to plant a back drop of Mammoth sunflowers in my wildflower beds.  The children and neighbors like looking at the sunflowers.  I like the visual height they add.

I then planted my pole beans.  I planted them around the base of the fenced garden.  The fence provides the wonderful support they need and allows me to easily pick the beans.  I grow them behind the potatoes and the arrangement works out perfectly.

Finally, I transplanted my bell peppers.  These poor plants have been neglected.  I kept meaning to get them planted, but hadn't fixed their bed.  Now, they are in their home and hopefully will be happy.

I still need to transplant my tomato plants, that I had started from seed.  I guess that will be done today or tomorrow.  I have so much to still do!  Of course, a garden is never done.  But, I must wait again today for the rain to subside.  Mother Nature creates these days for rest and reflection.  The soothing sound of rain, the chirping of birds, the gray sky, and a light breeze just beckons the body slow down and enjoy a peaceful day. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Compass 101

Mr. Jack introduced compasses to the children at library class.  He began the class with how to read the compass and why it was important.   He asked the children about directions of North, South, East and West.  He had them point to southwest, northeast, due west, etc.

He then had the children estimate the distance between two lines on the floor.  They looked at him puzzled.  What did this have to do with a compass?

Mr. Jack told them that it was important to be able to measure distance without a tape measure.  They should know roughly how many steps it takes to walk a certain distance.  He had each child walk the distance counting their footsteps.  Most of the children had to take 11 to 12 steps (heal to toe) to walk ten feet.

Next, Mr. Jack explained how walking in the woods even with a compass can get confusing.  Trees, bushes, ect. may be in their path and they have to veer off course.  He explained how to use a fixed point to help with direction.  When you have a partner, send the partner so far ahead and adjust his position to the that on the compass.  The partner is not to move.  Now walk to your partner and repeat.  This should keep you on track.

Now that the children had the basics, Mr. Jack took them outside.  They were about to put their newly learned skills into action.

Outside the children were given instructions.  Using the start point, they were to follow the directions on their papers.

The paper told them which way to head (N, S, W, E) and how many feet to walk.  They used the partner method and found the correct destination.  Some paths were more challenging than others.  Each group had to work together.  

The children had a wonderful time.  They have learned a vital skill that we will have to expand upon.  I believe Mr. Jack has plans to use the compasses again in the fall.  We can't wait!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let's Play Ball - Inman Library Program

Yesterday, Ms. Terri invited the Chapman Baseball Team to the library to put on a mini baseball clinic.  Little Man was so excited to attend.  He has been thinking about attending the summer baseball camp, at the high school, and this gives him a chance to meet the players and coach.

Coach Fusaro was wonderful!  He introduced all the players that came to help.  He told us a bit about each player and had nothing but praise for them.  The players seemed to enjoy their coach and were very attentive.

Coach Fusaro related baseball to the children in simple terms and used many familiar examples.  He had his players demonstrate a technique and then had the children model the technique.  He was very patient and made sure the children understood how to correct the position.

Each child had one on one attention with the players.  One player would throw a ball and another player would help and give pointers for fielding the ball.  Each player was very supportive of the children.  All the children felt at ease working with the players.  You can tell the players have received much positive reinforcement from their coach.  They would cheer on the children and celebrate with high fives.

Coach Fusaro would work down the line and offer encouragement and tips to the children.  He gently reminded them how to place their feet or glove.  Little Man was really getting the hang of throwing more accurate.  Egee was having a blast!

A lady came out with her toddler to watch the clinic.  Her little boy loves baseball.  Coach Fusaro gave the little guy a whiffle ball and made a fuss over him.  He played catch with the boy and even found him a bat.  The little one had a smile ear to ear and his mother was very appreciative of the coach making time for her son.

At the end of the clinic, they had a hit off.  Coach Fusaro pitched ten balls to each child and had a point system in place to score hits.  Little Man won the contest and Egee came in second.

Little Man can't wait to spend a week with Coach Fusaro and his team!

We would like to say thank you again to Chapman High School Baseball Team and Coach Fusaro.  We enjoyed our afternoon learning how to be better ball players.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Last Regular Season Game

Last night was the final game of regular season.  The boys were still riding high from the win last week.  They were ready to play ball.

We took the field first.  We had a couple of bobbles and allowed two runs to score.  Nerves began to calm and they got the third out.

Our bats weren't blazing last night.  We had a couple hits, but no runs.  We took the field again.

The boys looked like a ball team and not a bunch of rag-tag kids.  They held the other team and didn't allow any runs.  We rallied the boys as they came in from the field.  You can do this!

Bats were still cold.  No runs.  We took the field again.

The boys again held the other team and the score was 0-2.  Was this how the game would end?  Neither team was hot with a bat.

Then our boys came up to bat.  Something changed.  One hit, then another and another.  Bases loaded.  Then a strike out and another.  Here we go.  Then a hit and runner scored!  Then our third out came.  1-2 was the score.

We took the field with the cheers of hold them.  Don't let them score!  You can do this!  The boys did.

We came back to the dug out and the coach gathered the boys around.  We can do this.  Let's bat!  The boys came alive again and scored another run.  2-2 a tie!

The ump told the coaches we would play one more inning to settle the tie.  Each team would have a final bat.  Nerves ran high in the coaches and parents.  Our boys tend to shut down in the end and give up.

The other team batted first.  Two outs and then the top of their line up.  One, two, three hits and two runs scored.  Would this be it for us?  Would they continue to hit and score and that third out not happen?  Please, let us get an out!  The next batter hit the ball and we got him out!

Now the question became can we answer with three runs?  Could our boys do it?  Our bats haven't been hot tonight.

Our first boy came up to bat.  He hit it and was thrown out at first.  The coach said the first baseman dropped the ball.  The first baseman told the truth and said he dropped it.  Our boy was sent back to first!

Next, batter struck out.  Then a hit.  Almost had an out at second, just missed it by one foot!  We had two on base!  Another hit and a run scored!  3-4 was the score.  Could we do it?

Another hit!  Three on base.  Please let us get another!  We did!  Two runs scored and WE WON 5-4!

We couldn't believe it.  They had just beat the third best team in our division!  The other team was in disbelief.  They had written us off.  Before the game, a couple of their boys made the comment "Oh we are playing that team.  They are the worst team and never win."  We proved them wrong.

They may have started out as an awkward little team of inexperienced boys, but they have gained experience and confidence.  They have learned some basics of ball playing.  They haven't given up.  Our coaches have been gentle and encouraged each player to do his best.  They have taught the boys integrity and sportsmanship.  They have embraced the each player's uniqueness and guided him.  Even though each of us wanted the boys to win every game, winning was not stressed.  Winning has been achieved through hard work and it has paid off!

Go Bulldogs!