School’s Out! (Almost)

I probably should post an update about school, since we are wrapping up for the year. Let's see… this is where we are:

Grammar— Finished FLL4 with both Peeps, while Peep #1 supplemented with a grade-level grammar workbook.

Math— completed Saxon 5/4 and 7/6.

SOTW— finished through chapter 40.  Still have two more to go.

Spelling/Vocabulary— Peep #1 is finishing up Vocabulary from Classical Roots; Peep #2 is working on Spelling Workout E, but probably won't finish the book by the time we wrap up the first week of June.

Latin— both peeps continue to do Latin with my Dad.  They are almost finished with Minimus (Peep #2) and Learning Latin Through Mythology (Peep #1– he's completed Minimus and Secundus)

Science— we didn't do a formal curriculum this year.  We finished up a semester-long unit study on the human body in the fall/winter, and concentrated on life sciences the second part of the year.

All this in addition to piano lessons, book clubs, karate, tennis, art lessons, and various monthly homeschool programs offered locally over the year.  I feel really good about what we've accomplished.  The Peeps worked really hard, and it is so worth it to be able to finish up a bit early and enjoy the nice weather.  We're doing real world math activities now, as well as math based games; science is mostly nature journaling/plant and insect identification as well as some kits; grammar is journaling, letter writing, and history reports from SOTW.  It's a great way to wind down the year! 

I'm planning on doing something really different next year… I'm a little nervous about it but think it's time:  we are going to try a year of unstructured learning ((gasp!!))  (I hesitate to use the term "unschooling" because it won't exactly be that.  For example, I do plan to do some workbook type activities and will expect some written reports on what they're doing, lots of outside classes/activities.)  But generally, I'm going to let the Peeps choose the subject matter and the pace for the year.  When else in their lives are they going to get the opportunity to take a year and study what they're passionate about?  I'm really so excited about it.  I feel like the time is right;  we've covered all four blocks of history with SOTW, the major branches of science as outlined in WTM,  and have achieved a solid foundation in grammar and mathematics.  Now I want them to apply what they've learned… write about it, use it in everyday life (in the case of math).  For instance, we haven't done a lot of writing.  At all.  Well, this will be the year.  Writing writing writing… whatever they want– stories, poems, letters, essays, letters to the editor, etc etc etc. but WRITING.  The math acumen they've acquired… they will USE it.  Budget for groceries, balance a check book, figure out how much oil we use in a year, travel schedules and so forth.  They are also interested in taking our soon-to-be plethora of excess eggs and having their own little egg business.  They would be responsible for operating it, including factoring costs/labor and that kind of thing.  Along those same lines, we will be covering a lot life skills areas.

I can't wait!  I've always wanted to do this, and have admired unschooling/unschooling-type learning from afar, but didn't have the confidence to try it.  I was so afraid of them getting behind.  Well, a couple of friends went back to school this past year, and I have seen clearly that that simply is not an issue.  The kids catch up–quickly! 

Additionally, we struggled a bit with motivation in terms of school work this year.  Maybe it's the age– but I've been hearing similar stories of dissent
from their friends' parents (homeschoolers).  For instance Peep #2, who previously loved math, began to complain about doing it.  I got moans and groans about the length of the history reports, that writing wasn't "fun" anymore… that kind of thing.  RED FLAG!!  The whole point for me in doing this homeschool gig is to raise people that love to learn.  That never stop questioning and critically thinking about things, that never stop wondering why things work or happen the way they do.  With that in mind, I'm hoping to rekindle a little bit of what I fear we've lost this year.   

Now, Peep #2 is going to THRIVE with this style of learning.  She is my little butterfly, flitting around constantly finding things to discover and learn about.  Curiosity is one of her greatest assets.  However, Peep #1… he is much more like me in personality **cough** Type A ** cough**.    He loves his little check lists, finishing workbooks, making corrections, getting grades, and most of all — knowing exactly what needs to be done.  (And not only with school… this is the kid who has been asking me every single night since he could talk:  "What are we doing tomorrow?"  He wants to know the what, the when, the how– everything to be lined up for him.)  He is going to find it challenging to fill his own time and being in charge of his own scheduling.  This will be a real opportunity for growth for him! 

We'll see… we're going to run with it for a year and see how it flies.  We may go back to the more structured style next year.  Or, if it's working for Peep #2 and not Peep #1, I may let just her continue to do her own thing and go back to our usual MO with Peep #1.  I don't know… I don't know what to expect or what the next year will bring–only time will tell!

The Birds and the Bees… and Garden Things

Our chicks arrived on Mother's Day.  I am so excited about our new arrivals!  I ordered a couple of Rhode Island Reds to replace the ones we've lost over the years.  They are just the best winter layers; we have never had a winter without eggs, and I don't use an artificial heat source.  This winter we were down to one Red ("Mrs. Cluck", as she was named by a 7 year old Peep #2) and felt the pinch.  We never had to actually purchase store-bought eggs (gasp–the horror!) But there was a time there, especially around the holiday baking rush, where I felt a little panicky. LOL

So anyway, I also ordered a few Buff Orpingtons, because they are supposed to be sweet, friendly, and good brooders.  It would be nice if in the future I could just get some fertilized eggs and let a hen do the work of chick-rearing for me.  I also got, at loooooong last, my blue egg layers!  I've been wanting these for so long and it just never worked out. (Once the hatchery was out of stock, and another time a lady was giving some away and then changed her mind.)  These Ameraucanas are beautiful and it's going to be an exciting moment the first time I find a blue egg in one of the nesting boxes!  (These are good times on the homestead, people.  You know, we don't have any cows to tip over.) 

Meanwhile, all of my seed starting is done.  I have flats in various stages set around the property.  Out in the garden and ready for planting this week are my tomatoes, peppers, calendula, and sage.  In the hardening off stage outside the greenhouse are the nasturtium, beets, and radishes.  Under the lights inside the greenhouse, just to give them a head start, are pumpkins, squash (acorn and butternut), cucumbers, and zucchini.  I also am starting a few more nasturtium and trying some Chinese lantern flowers this year.  The last bit to do will be to direct sow the corn and sunflowers, which I hope to get to this weekend.

Transplants to be.

I was so excited to see little fruit on my fruit trees this year!  I've had a terrible time getting my fledgling orchard started up.  Fortunately I have the established apple trees to fall back on, but I really want the ones I've planted to get going!  This year my fig, nectarine, pears, and dwarf apples all have little fruit!  If they only survive the June drop I will be ecstatic.  And, the blueberry bushes just get bigger and better every year.  I long for the day when I pick a big colander full … but I am still a ways off from that.  Finally, the strawberries are taking over my vegetable garden.  I hate to move them though, because they are really thriving there.  The trick is to keep the chickens, birds, and chipmunks away so that the humans can actually enjoy a decent crop.  I'll have to rig some sort of MacGyver-esque contraption to suit that purpose.

This week I split my hive and re-queened.  I had mixed feelings about that.  Most beekeepers re-queen every other year.  Mine is in her third year and I didn't want to get rid of her.   You know, there just is something wrong about getting rid of an old queen to replace her with a new young one, KWIM??  And, of all the hives that my mentor manages, mine was the only to survive this year's winter.  They are just going gangbusters and the population had exploded.  So, reluctantly, I split the hive and gave the existing queen to a friend to start their own hive. (At least it wasn't, off with her head!!)  My "old" queen and a small band of her subjects have been exiled to the Fair Lands of the North where hopefully they will prosper with a new colony.  A few days later my "new" queen was introduced and so far all is well.  And that is that.  Like the bees we are busy busy this time of year, and are really looking forward to being able to put the books down for a while so we can be outside!  (Just a few more weeks left!)  More on school in my next post…