Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Day in the Life (with 14- and 15-year-old)

The folks at Simple Homeschool have invited us to post about a day in our homeschooling lives.  I have enjoyed writing these sorts of posts in the past.  It's fun to follow a day and document it.  It might be a typical day, or it might not.  It's also fun to read about other homeschooling families' days.  Well, OK, sometimes it can be a little distressing, if we start comparing (negatively) our day to some other family's day, so we should remember it's just one day out of many.  Maybe that Mom isn't always so creative, fun, organized...

Much of the past two years haven't been such fun for me to document.  My son (the 15-year-old) is chronically sick with, as far as we can tell, a non-life-threatening, nonspecific illness. In other words, tests don't show anything and none of the many doctors we've seen can figure it out.  And since no one can figure out what's wrong, no one can figure out how to make him feel better.  So we deal with nausea, coughing, sleep disturbances, fuzzy thinking, and other symptoms we'd rather not talk about, all day, every day, while trying to homeschool at a high school level. (By the way, my boy gave me permission to tell you about this.)

So let's get started and document this day.  I don't know what will happen!  It could be a good day, meaning we will get some things done.  Or, maybe not.   We are doing things a little differently today.  Usually our day starts slowly, and late, at least compared to most homeschool families I know.  But today my boy has a "playdate" at 2pm. Since he is a teenager, this is not what you're thinking. He and a friend want to play a new game together via X-Box Live, and that's the time the friend is available.  Since there is a general ban on X-Box after 9 am and before 4pm, this gets special consideration.  A promise was made to get up early and get started on his work right away. His usual practice is to get up anytime between 9 and 10, depending on how many times he woke up in the night.  Sometimes, despite the general ban, he does play a little X-Box in the morning to help himself wake up if he's had a bad night.  

And yes, he does get up early: 8:30.  Yes, that's early for him.  First off, he takes his meds, has a drink, then hits the exercise bike. Since sleep disturbances can be caused by a lack of physical tiredness, exercise is important, though it is usually not done first thing. 

While he is exercising, my girl, the 14-year-old - who just had an orthodontist appointment and is still in a little pain - gets up and starts puttering around the kitchen, talking to the dog and looking for sympathy and something soft to eat. (I gave up on a family breakfast a long time ago; it's every man for himself around here.) 

I take this chance to get my shower.  The Dad of the house is long gone to work.

Because we didn't follow our usual routine, I missed our morning Bible reading.  Bad Mom!  We'll do it tomorrow.

Usually the morning (after the Bible reading I forgot today) is the time for independent work. (Morning is a relative term.  Sometimes that means 11!)   I try to supervise as needed, bouncing from one child to the other while trying to clean the kitchen and do laundry in between.  In theory, we get together to do work together after lunch.  This is the rare day when that might work; we don't have anyplace to go!   The kids have a checklist to work off every day so they can't forget anything, though things do get skipped.   I'm working toward a weekly, then a monthly, then maybe a quarterly checklist, then - complete independence! 

After his exercise, my boy does some reading in The Middle Ages, a nice non-scholarly history book on the time period we're studying this year.  We are all reading it, together but separately; from time to time we talk about it and everyone has to write a short paragraph for each chapter.  I am behind everyone else in my reading.   When he's done with that, he goes to the computer to read a chapter in CK-12's Biology 1 course and watch the associated videos.  He's doing pretty well today; he hasn't gotten tired and he hasn't thrown up!  Maybe he's pushing himself because he wants to get a lot done before 2.  But it's pretty hard to hold back vomiting, so we'll just call it a good day.

My girl goes off to read Animal Farm; she's using a study guide from Glencoe Literature Library along with it.  After that, she does some grammar, some reading in our history text, and then practices piano.  When she's finished with that, she does a little math; she's working in Key To Percents and an 8th grade Spectrum math book.  She has to take standardized tests this year, so I need to be sure she is at least familiar with 8th grade math concepts.  No, this is not ideal - we don't like "teaching to the test" but, you know, we do what works at the time, right?  

One thing about having a sick kid:  the other kid(s) in the family are often affected.  If I'm at the Children's Hospital with him having some sort of test, she's not getting help with math.  So no one is really working at grade level in math right now.

Now it's about time for lunch.  We make some refried bean nachos (hey, it's pretty healthy) and use that time to listen to a history lecture (The Early Middle Ages from The Great Courses).  We look at some examples of Carolingian Miniscule print online and briefly peruse a web page about Alcuin of York.  Next, it's time for Latin.  We use Visual Latin, and we're going through it very slowly.  But we get part of a lesson done!  Then both kids check their homework for tomorrow's writing class to be sure it's all set to go. 

Now it's time for the playdate.  My girl finishes up her history reading, then goes outside to take some photos.  She's trying to find the perfect entry for an upcoming contest.  I notice she didn't do any science work, but I don't want to stop her photo shoot.  We'll get it done tomorrow.

I start making dinner and do some paperwork. I spend a minute worrying about high school transcripts and grades, then set it aside for another time. 

4pm, and the game is over. My boy thanks me for letting him do it and tells me he feels better today than he has in a while.  He goes to his room to ride the exercise bike again.  My girl gets ready for a babysitting job she has later, then downloads photos and studies them.  I don't think she got that perfect shot yet.

Dad blows in and we eat dinner.  Usually we talk about the day's history learning, and today is no exception. Then he runs out to a meeting.  My boy showers, then sits down to do his math.   This is new for us; I can't remember the last time anyone did work after dinner.  He's tired now, and would rather not do it, but that was part of the deal.  He's working his way through Mastering the Fundamentals of Math; he had been doing Algebra 1 but with his fuzzy thinking problem, math has gotten harder and some things have been lost.  So we're reviewing the basics.  Sometimes he needs me to sit with him and help him through some of the problems, but not today. He's determined to soldier on.  (When I checked it later, he got 75% of the problems right, so we have to go back tomorrow and work on those.)

While I take my girl to her babysitting job, he does some more history reading.  It sounds like we do a lot of history around here, doesn't it?  I have a post about history that's been in draft status for a long time; maybe I'll get that done soon!  After he finishes, we talk for a bit about the fate of Europe and thus the US if the Germanic tribes had not invaded the Roman Empire.  We have talks like that a lot.  He loves to speculate. 

Now, he's watching a creepy-sounding tv show, my girl is still babysitting, Dad is still at his meeting, and I'm here.  Our day is done.

This was not a typical day.  I don't know what a typical day is right now!  But it was a good day. It might not seem like much of a high school day.  We didn't really produce anything except some math work (which can be a bit problematic here in Pennsylvania where portfolios are required).  But we're doing what works for us right now, not unschooling (which hasn't worked for us), but sometimes close. Some days it is very unschoolish around here!   But they are learning, every day.

Thanks to Simple Homeschool for the opportunity to do this.  I hope this is helpful to others who have chronically-ill children or who otherwise have homeschools that don't look like everyone else's.

You can do your own A Day in the Life post and link up too, at Simple Homeschool.  If you don't have a blog, you can share your day in the comments there, so go ahead and do it!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Eve at the Schoolhouse

The kitchen is a mess. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes but the sink and counter are littered with dirty ones. There's a small table in the family room covered with coffee cups, a wine glass, and plates with pumpkin pie crumbs.  Pillows are scattered on the floor between the couch and the television.

The remains of a wild New Year's Eve party?

Yes!  My little family spent yesterday and evening watching two of the three movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  We'll watch the third movie today. 

If you knew us, you'd know how wild a party that was.

We like movies.  We'd like to watch more than we do.  But it's so hard to fit a movie in to our day or evening.  On a typical evening we're sitting down to relax about an hour before everyone should be getting ready for bed.   So we will content ourselves with watching a 40- or 50-minute tv show, or we'll plan to watch a movie over two nights.  For some reason, even though we can sit for two or more hours in a movie theater without getting up, when we watch a movie at home we rarely can go an hour without someone needing to get up: to get more water, coffee, or something to eat; to use the bathroom; to get the barking dog into the house.  

So when we started talking about watching the Lord of the Rings again after seeing The Hobbit, I wondered how long would it take us to watch 10+ (12?) hours of movie. At our rate, it could take over a week!  But the adults conferred and we decided to surprise and thrill the children by announcing the New Year's LotR Film Fest:  all three movies over two days.   We began about 1:00 Monday afternoon, and wrapped up our day just before midnight.

No, we didn't make it through all three films. We didn't even attempt that. We took breaks for a couple of dog walks, some room cleanup, a little laundry, and dinner after completing The Fellowship of the Ring.  We started The Two Towers around 7:30 and planned to watch half of it. (Some of us didn't feel the need or desire to stay up till midnight.)  But though that is not a movie I truly enjoy, even I had to admit it:  there's not a good place to stop.  If you've seen it, and disagree, tell me where you'd take an overnight intermission.  In the middle of Helm's Deep?  During the Ent walk?  I think not. 

This morning everyone is still sleeping.  As always, I'm the first one up. I'm tired, and feel a little sluggish from the lack of activity yesterday.  This morning we'll clean up the debris from last night, restart the dishwasher, take the dog for a good long walk, and sit back down again.  I hope to finish before dinner, so we can have a calm and early night. 

I'm glad it won't be such a long day of movie-watching.  I'm happy that we're doing this, but I wouldn't want to do it too often.  I hope my kids feel the same way.

Wild parties like this shouldn't happen too often.

How do you spend New Year's Eve and Day?