Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Spring Daybook {April 2015}

Outside my window . . . . .

It's cloudy this morning . . . . expecting rain.

This week . . . . .
Simple days (school, chores, free time, repeat). 

I went through the boys clothes to put away some of the winter stuff, get out more summer stuff, and pull out outgrown and unwanted clothes.

We were able to get out to the family farm for some nature study last Tuesday. Lucy and I walked around the lake, the boys went fishing, and I got to try out one of my birthday presents (portable hammock perfect for reading by the lake). We were greeted by lot of wildlife at the family farm: a Great blue heron, Pied-billed grebe, and a goose.

First catch of the day.

Boys fishing . . . . taking turns since we only brought one fishing pole.
Spring turkey season is in full swing. The boys have yet to get one but Scott got his first turkey of the season. We still have turkey meat from the fall season . . . . must plan some turkey meals.

I am thankful for . . . . 
Spring! Love the green. The birds are nonstop outside the windows. Nature is out and about at our favorite nature study spot. The school year is coming to an end, just a few more weeks until summer break. All things to be thankful for at the moment.

Phlox (wild sweet william) currently blooming out at the family farm.

Wildflower/weed called Yellow rocket (Winter cress) is currently blooming at the family farm.

Clicking around . . . . .
Some of my favorite things on the web that I read this week.
Why Voldemort Hates Homeschooling from Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas (goes along with the current struggle of the government trying to take away the rights of parents and just the fact we are reading this series right now)
Exploring with Small Boys from Erin @ Seven Little Australians & Counting (this is true with big boys too!)
The Use and Misuse of Charlotte Mason's First Principle  from Brandy @ Afterthoughts (I think I could talk Charlotte Mason all day!)

Around the house . . . . 
New doors were installed last Saturday. Just a little finishing touches are needed (like painting the front door and trim needs to be recut to fit). It was a little weird having holes in the house. Lucy was in heaven to go in and out as she pleased. The weather was good for the project.

Lucy wanted to help. Or was just thankful all the loud noises had come to an end.

Painting is next on the list.

A peak at my day . . . . 
Our days have been pretty much school, chores, free time, repeat. Simple days are fine with me, but I'm looking forward to a little change of pace this summer.

I am working on . . . .
getting ready for a garage sale for next week.

I'm hoping to get started on a meal planning project. I get bored with our meals. I need more variety. I'm thinking of a seasonal rotation. I also need to plan meals with turkey and deer leftover from the fall.

Lucy's introduction to a fish.

Planning ahead . . . . 
I sat down with the calendar on Friday and planned out the upcoming week. I love being able to do this. I don't handle stress well so doing this prevents stress and makes me happy. I also spent a long time on the phone rescheduling appointments to make the calender less stressful.

In the school room . . . .
Three more weeks until summer break! I'm ready to be done. The boys have been working hard to stay ahead. We are counting pages and days to make sure books get finished. I'm thinking ahead to summer planning, summer reading for the boys and myself, and summer education opportunities. All good stuff!

Still no goslings at the family farm.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekend Ramblings {April 17, 2015}

Cardinal in the river birch tree was chatting to Caleb.

Monday was quite the typically Monday. Everyone was grumpy, including the dog. At 10:30 am I was ready to call it a day and head out to the family farm for some nature study. It had stop raining at that point and it seemed like a perfect solution. No one else thought so. Once school was all done I said we were going out to the farm and I didn't want to hear any complaining. ; )  

Caleb searched for mushrooms and didn't find any. Tyler rode his bike around with his pop gun. Lucy ran constantly for about an hour between the two boys. I sat in the truck and read. I didn't bring a coat and the sun had disappeared and I got cold. But, it was a nice hour sitting in nature.

Ticks are already really thick around here. The boys went turkey hunting last weekend and were covered in them when they came home. I got one and was only out of the vehicle for a minute to check the weather when we got to the farm. Scott got a bunch at work this week too. I ran the sweeper an extra time because I was just grossed out from seeing one on the floor. I'm not sure what to do about it. Disease from ticks is common in our area, but chemical sprays could threaten your health, too. I'm not sure which is the worse evil.

We finished By the Great Horn Spoon on Monday. The boys loved it, especially Tyler. Next on our read aloud list is The Green Ember. The boys weren't too excited after the first chapter but when given a choice the next day, they wanted to read it. The only complaint after the second chapter was that the characters are rabbits.

Thursday evening marked a triumphant event! The last Cub Scout pack meeting for me! Scott will be attending one more but more likely will have to help a little longer and will have to attend some next fall.

Friday morning turned out beautiful. I went out to get the mail and I didn't want to go back inside. The crab apple tree was in full bloom and smelled delicious. The bees were enjoying the tree and their humming sounded magical. We enjoyed it a little but decided to hurry up and get school done for the day. The boys had a camp out this weekend so I wanted to be sure school was done, house cleaned, and boys packed by afternoon. Goal accomplished.

Our school week went well. I scheduled a partial make-up day for Friday and everyone was caught up on everything and got some new work done instead.

Scott's weekend project (along with my dad) is to install a new front door and dining room sliding door. I'm pretty excited about this. Now if I could just light a fire under the window project.

My weekend project is watching IEW Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (I'm not sure who got the winning card on weekend projects.) and maybe work on some scrapbooking.

Two geese are still hanging out at the family farm lake. We are patiently waiting to see goslings.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to Make Testing Your Servant and Not a Master

In Missouri, homeschoolers are not required to do standardized testing; however, we are required to evaluate the student's work. Because of my education philosophy I don't grade the boys work. I have yet to find a single piece of research that supports grading and standardized testing to be beneficial to a students learning. All my homeschooling followers will understand this.

Yet, I still test the boys. This is our third year doing so. Why? I use it to find gaps and areas I may have forgotten about teaching. It also covers the evaluating part of the Missouri homeschool laws.

Another reason for testing is that one of the boys has terrible test anxiety. If he wants to go to college he will have to take tests, so this is practice to help relieve that anxiety. It gets a little better each year for him.

I keep a list of things that the boys are struggling with during the test. We talk and discuss during the test. Shh! Don't tell.  ; ) By the end of the test I have a list of things we need to cover or review. Sometimes we ignore things that they don't know because it's not something worth learning. We even talk about agenda during the test because it's clear to see that the test has one.

I also go through the test and grade some of it myself before mailing it back. I want to see which ones they missed. My hope is to see that they are only missing things we haven't covered yet. If this is the case this means success in my opinion.

When the test results come, I compare them to my notes. I add and take off some items based on the percentage they got correct. It helps me to see what topics we need to cover in the future. I had planned physical science with a small amount of life science next year for Tyler. The test scores said he was lacking in life science and knew much about physical science. This helped me to change our science plans for next year.

I also compare the current years scores to the previous to make sure we are seeing growth.

This year we used the Iowa Test (from Seton Testing). The past two years we used the PASS Test. I changed test this year because the PASS only went up to 8th grade and I wanted to see what else was out there if we were to continue testing next year. 

There was less silliness in the questions for the PASS test (agenda). There were several questions on the Iowa test that I didn't know the answer because I couldn't make sense out of the question. There seemed to be only one of those each year with the PASS test. 

The PASS test was shorter, wasn't timed, and didn't cover all the topics the Iowa test did (these could be positives or negatives). 

With the PASS test I had to shred the test afterwards and only mailed back the answer sheets, but with the Iowa test I had to mail all of it back (which was expensive). 

I liked that the PASS test didn't compare by grade level but by skill level. We had to pre-test (which was easy) to determine which level to use for the test in each skill (meaning multiple tests). The Iowa test just went by grade level. This is actually a huge thing for the PASS test. The next year they send you the next level of the test. You don't pre-test again unless your student scored too high or too low on the last year's test. The PASS test would work well for a child who doesn't fit into typical school grades.  

The scoring for each of the test where very different but I liked both of them. I think I may have liked the scoring of the Iowa test more because it broke down the subjects into many areas and providing scores on each of those. I wrote down "punctuation" for one of the boys on our list of things that we needed to work on. When the test scores came I was able to see that he just needed to work on commas, apostrophes, and quotes. He did fine on correct end marks. This was helpful in narrowing down our gaps. This could have been done while I "graded" the test but the IOWA test was too long to go over all of it.

The Iowa test says the score will come in 10 days by email after the test is received back. I mailed it back on a Friday and got the scores the following Friday. The PASS test scores are mailed to you. They say "typically within two weeks" on their website. One year we got it back in under that time and one year it took 5 weeks.

One thing that the testing should not be used for is comparing children against their peers. It is fundamentally wrong to compare children by age and skill level. If you went to public school it is very hard to get this way of thinking out of your mind. This must be avoided so that testing can be a tool that is a servant and not a master.

This is how and why we use standardized testing. Also, a short review of the tests we have used. I'm happy to answer questions!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Ramblings

Happy Easter! We took an Easter break from school that started on Holy Thursday and ended on Easter Wednesday. I wasn't too keen on starting back as it seemed like we didn't get a break. We were busy most of those days and I didn't get to work on any extra projects, which is normally my goal while on break.

Even though I wasn't wanting to do school on Thursday and Friday, the boys didn't mind and it was a successful two days. After going through and planning out the remaining school year (twice) it was determined that May 16th will be the last day of school. (Plus a few extra math lessons to complete.)

There was a lot of rain and possible severe weather this past week so we didn't make it out to the family farm for nature study. It is on the calendar for this week. I'm sure Lucy is looking forward to this the most.

Did someone say we are going to the farm? You are taking me, right?

I spent a lot of time this week trying to finalize history plans for next school year. I think I've made some decisions. These were tough decision and as usual I don't feel to confident in my decisions. I had to remind myself that I was looking for books for the boys and not myself. ; )

To keep up online with Caleb, I now have an Instagram account. I now need to take some pictures with my phone which is a rare event for me.

I didn't get much reading done this week. I'm slowly moving along on the sixth book of Harry Potter. I could easily read this book every night, but I find the story exciting and then struggle to fall asleep. I'm still, moving slowly through Start Here: a journey through Charlotte Mason's 20 principles by Brandy Vencel. Which is a good kind of slow. Reading CM's works takes a lot of my brain power so I'm struggling to find a time to do the reading. Before bed is my ideal time, but the brain power is lacking.

I did get to listen to some wonderful podcast this week. Pam @ ed snapshots has a new one out and the Read Aloud Revival has a new one out with Julie Bogart. Another good one was Mystie Winckler and Brandy Vencel.

Plans for next week . . . . a regular school week with very few interruptions! Scout activities . . . . which reminds me I never shared pictures from the Blue & Gold Banquet back in early March when Tyler went from Cub Scout to Boy Scout. We are very happy to have both boys back together again in one scout group. Now to get Scott and I out of the cub pack group! ; )

I'm excited that Scott is on his way to purchase a new front door and sliding patio door. We have been meaning to do this for about two years now. They probably won't be installed until next weekend though. I really wanted a swing door to replace the sliding door, but now that there is a dog crate in front of this door, I decided the sliding glass would be more efficient. I really hate I had to give it up for the dog! I really dislike the slider . . . . Anyway . . . . we have our eye on two refrigerators and one of them is on-sale, so Scott is going to take a look at it while there (I've only looked at it online). The reviews all had the same negative comments so I think I would like the other one that isn't on sale (with slightly better reviews). May have to wait and pray the old one keeps on working a little longer.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easter {2015}

A photo journey of our Easter celebrations.

Cousins on Scott's side.

Cousins on my side minus the youngest cutie who is below.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Early Spring Nature Study {2015}

Our goal has been one afternoon per week at the family farm. We didn't make it out there last week, but we did on Tuesday afternoon. Some of us (really just Lucy) had a lot of energy to run off.

It felt really warm! I almost wished I had shorts on but that would have been rough on the hike since we ended up on a trail that hasn't been maintained.

We started our afternoon with a hike on a trail that we had been on recently. It looked completely different! Green was popping up. We intended it to be a short hike since the boys had other plans but we ended up making a trail change and got in a long hike. I've got allergies and sinus issues right now so it was exhausting for me since I was struggling to breath through my nose.

We found a few wild flowers in the woods. (unable to get pictures since I don't know how to work the camera and it wouldn't focus) We also had a goose round up around the lake. There were two hanging around the lake and since they stayed, even with us there making noise, we assume they have a nest somewhere.

After trying to wear out Lucy, with no luck, the boys got to the main reason for the visit, trying out the new kayak (Caleb's birthday gift). We brought out the old kayak too for Tyler to use.

Lucy wanted to pull the kayak and was trying to fight Tyler for the rope.

The reason for wearing out Lucy was to prevent her from trying to go with the boys out in the kayak. I had to keep her on lease since she wasn't about to let them go without her. We learned previously (when Scott took out his duck hunting boat to check for leaks) that she will swim out and try to get in (which is ok in the summer but not when the water temperature is cold). The boys enjoyed paddling around (I think Tyler would have packed a bag and stayed out in the kayak all day!), but it didn't last as long as they had hoped. Watching Lucy endure separation anxiety brought them to shore earlier than planned. She viciously tore up a stick and dug a hole which threw dirt all over me. I didn't get to enjoy my normal reading time by the lake.

We also got to say hello to my dad and uncle who came out to plant potatoes in the garden. I'm glad they were there to check to make sure Caleb got the kayaks tied down in the truck before heading back home. I was a little nervous about that.

If you take out the hyperactive dog, it was a good afternoon at the family farm for nature study and kayaking. We are looking forward to summer weather so that the boys won't care if Lucy want to jump in the kayak with them!  ; ) 

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