Category Archives: Homeschooling

Our Big Field Trip to San Francisco

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We got back last evening from our biggest field trip of the year–San Francisco!  The trip was a huge success.  Here are some highlights.

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Yikes!  The BART train not only jerks you around, it makes extremely loud noises!

We arrived without any trouble or fuss at the San Francisco airport and then rode the BART train to Union Square, where our hotel was.  My sister was attending a conference at Union Square, so chose a hotel across the square from where her conference was held.  We did not rent a car, but instead, rode public transportation the entire time.  That, in itself, was a big adventure for us. Where we live, most people I know drive everywhere, all the time.  We loaded an app on each phone, and then purchased tickets for unlimited rides on the MUNI system.  It included the cable cars, but not the BART.  Whenever we rode, we just showed our phone.  No paper tickets involved at all and we could hop on and off all we wanted.

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They left their hearts….in San Francisco.  This heart is in Union Square.

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We walked into Chinatown for dinner.  Our concierge gave us a bum steer to a Chinese restaurant that was supposedly gluten-free.  It wasn’t.  We were HUNGRY, so just took off down the street until we found another restaurant that my sister had found on a gluten-free app.  It ended up being a Spanish tapas restaurant, and we ate delicious tapas.  We walked and walked and finally ended up riding a MUNI bus back to the hotel.  We had a great walk through Chinatown, with no rain, and got full!

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Friday morning, my sister went off to her conference, and the girls and I went sightseeing. After eating breakfast, armed with many destinations on my phone, we tried to catch a cable car toward the wharf.  Unfortunately, by this time of the day (late morning), the cable cars were full and kept whizzing past us with the conductors waving their hands at us and saying “catch the next one, this one’s full.”  So, we would walk another block or two, hoping for better luck at the next stop.  We walked for miles, straight up steep hills and down again.  Literally.  Each time, hoping that we would find a better place to get on.  Finally, I realized that the Cable Car Museum was only a few blocks away, so we walked the rest of the way there and went in.

It was wonderful and very informative.  It told history of the area, cable cars, and how they work.  It was also free.

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Michaela loved this museum.   She did not love walking as much as we did that day.  So, after enjoying the museum, a friendly cable car operator sent us to the right place, and we were able to hop onto a car.  We rode the rest of the way to the wharf, to our specific goal, Ghiridelli Square.

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They proceeded to have ice cream for lunch and to buy chocolate!  It began to rain quite heavily, but we had no trouble at all catching a cable car back to our hotel.  We had dinner near our hotel with my sister, who was done with her conference for the day.  The restaurant was in a several-story Macy’s store, which the girls went wild over!

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On Saturday, we had a plan that worked much better.  We got on the cable cars much closer to the beginning of the line, and had no trouble getting a seat.  It did take 2 tries, but we got one.  We rode down to Fisherman’s Wharf again, and continued where we left off on Friday.  Alissa and Michaela enjoyed eating bread at the Boudin sourdough factory.  Ja’Ana wanted an In-and-Out burger, because we don’t have them in our part of Oregon.  We went through the museum there.  Here’s a tip:  If you eat downstairs, you have to pay for the museum.  If we would have eaten upstairs, the museum would have been free.  As far as I can tell, the bread was the same bread either place, but there were more entrees upstairs.  Thankfully, the cost of admission was not expensive.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon on Fisherman’s Wharf.  In the late afternoon, my sister joined us and we walked around some more, and then ate dinner at Rainforest Cafe.  What I love about that place is that they will cook food that I need.  My sister and I are both gluten-free.  So, I asked for plain rice, plain chicken, and plain vegetables.  That’s exactly what I got.  Phew!   My tummy was the happiest it had been all trip.  By the time we exited the restaurant, it was pouring rain and quite dark.

We decided to ride the train to the ferry, then transfer to the MUNI subway train.  Things were not running quite normally, due to a protest march, we were told, but that was a good, easy way to get back.  In reality, it was a little harder than that.  We got to the ferry easily.  Upon leaving the train, we were told to walk 1 block up to the station, go down the stairs, and ride the subway train to Union Square.  So, in the pouring rain, with our umbrellas turning inside out at times, we shoved and pushed our way through the edge of a huge crowd of protesters, waving signs and chanting–some quite angry, but most peaceful, surrounded by a multitude of policemen.  We put the girls between us, and tried to stay together as we threaded our way through the huge mass of people.  Crowds are especially difficult for Michaela, but she was a trooper.  We reached the subway station and waited on the platform for the appropriate train.  The march was ending and the station filled with people.  We crowded onto the train, which became so full that they could not close the doors, there were so many people.  Once we reached our stop, we almost could not get out, but my sister shoved her way through, pulling Michaela.  Ja’Ana followed, then Alissa, then myself.  At one point, tiny little Alissa wasn’t making any headway and I gave her a huge push through a little crack in the people and popped her through like a watermelon seed going through someone’s fingers.  She told me later, she felt she would have never got out of there without that push!  I was able to shove through behind her, and we were free.  We climbed up the stairs, and exited into a deluge of rain.  After walking several blocks, we were delighted to wrap up in blankets and get all cozy and warm in our hotel room.  The girls were still keyed up, so they went to the exercise room, exercised, and then went and got some french fries from the restaurant.  Oh, to be young!!

 

Sunday was the tour my sister had booked for us.  We had a wonderful driver, and we saw many sights, despite the rain that developed.  He took us to the bridge while it was still sunny.img_3975

We had studied some San Francisco history before we went, and the museums and this tour helped solidify some of those facts for the girls.

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We saw the Muir Woods.  There were redwood trees there, and hiking trails.  The trail we tried to hike down was blocked by flooding–it’s been raining a lot there lately.  We still enjoyed ourselves.

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He also drove us around the city, showing us neighborhoods, city hall, and more.  He told us about the hippie movement, and other historic aspects of the city.

On Monday, it was time to come home.  We had a blast, but missed the rest of our families we left behind.  Today, it was back to the grindstone!  Vacations can only last so long, but trust me, the field trip queen (my sister, Gail) is already formulating a plan for the next, great field trip!

 

Snow Day

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Last Thursday, a few lazy flakes began to fall.

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They turned into a few more.

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I was so proud of Michaela–she conquered her fears and went outside!  Snow is hard for her, but she went out twice and had a great time swinging on her swing set in the snow.

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Patsy and Alissa sledded down the driveway as the snow continued to fall and accumulated almost an inch!

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Jake is the cutest snowflake on the block!  He would have liked to take his entire fleet of vehicles out, but we limited him to just a few toys.

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Really early in the morning, we all realized that, although not one flake had fallen, school was cancelled due to the expected storm, and my sister and her husband both still had to work.  Thankfully, my aunt was able to take the earliest shift and headed over to the house.  I joined her a little after 8.  Let’s just say–it took both of us.

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4 of the kids played outside for a few hours.  1 kid sat on the couch for a few hours, not wanting to get cold and wet.  Projects were made, including a batch of fudge, Perler beads, those little kits where you melt the plastic crystals into metal frames, a sewing project cut out, lunch, and some tv.  By mid-afternoon, it was melting, the kids’ Dad was back home (he’s a professor and finals had to be given, but did not last all day), and my aunt and I headed to our respective homes, leaving a huge pile of wet and soggy clothing and coats.   It was a great day with the perfect amount of snow–enough to have fun in, but not enough to be dangerous.  I was glad to get home safely, as it cooked off again and froze to the branches and made icicles on the wires.  Where we live, freezing rain is a very dangerous weather event.  All evening activities were cancelled, so we enjoyed a rare evening at home.  I think everyone had a great snow day!

International Field Trip Near Home

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Last year, I promised Ja’Ana that her homeschool year would be filled with many field trips.  I was not able to deliver on that promise, due to all that happened with Rob’s job, moving, etc.  This year, I am determined to make that happen for her and Alissa.  So, I am calling for ideas from the whole family.  The response has been terrific.

My sister, Rosalie, has a friend who came from Eritrea, a country on the NE part of Africa.  She arranged for us to go with her to visit last Wednesday.  Ja’Ana and Alissa Googled Eritrea, a country we really had never studied before and Ja’Ana read interesting facts to us all the way up I-V.  We had been warned by Rosalie that her friend was going to cook for us, and that we should bring some food as well.  So, the girls decided to make peach crisp and cut up veggies with ranch dressing.

They were served huge plates full of Eritrean food that Harnet had made!  There was flatbread made from teff and barley flour, a spicy red sauce with chicken and hard-boiled eggs in it, and some greens cooked with bits of meat.  The spicy sauce was very SPICY!  I was EXTREMELY proud of both girls.  They were very polite and ate as much as they could.  Ja’Ana actually enjoyed almost all of it, and Alissa liked some of it, but they never blinked an eye.  I love the spicy chicken, so it was no hardship for me to eat it, and I enjoyed it very much.  The greens were good, too.

Later, Harnet made us coffee.  I though she was making a pot, and told her not to make me any, I didn’t like coffee.  OOPS!  That’s not what she meant.  I quickly changed my tune.

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She set up this coffee-making station in the living room and proceeded to roast coffee beans, grind them, and make coffee!  It was very strong, highly sweetened, and I drank my little cup-full.  I was touched by the trouble she went to for the girls and myself.

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Harriet’s little girl, Dinuite, loves Wo-Wah (Rosalie).  She calls her something like that.  The girls took her a little doll and a couple of balloons, and by the end of the visit, she was warming up to them as well.  But she LOVES Wo-Wah.  Of course, Wo-Wah loves her too, and they played for quite a while together.

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After eating all that food, the girls helped sort out some clothing that had been given to the little girl.  They helped pick out the things that were the right size and would be useful to her.  As you can see, she decided to wear some of it on the spot!  Then, she put on the coat and boots Wo-Wah brought her.  She wore them for the rest of the time.

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All-in-all, it was a great day.  The girls got an insight into a country they had never studied before, and a little glimpse into the food and hospitality of the people who live there. They learned that in some places conditions are not as nice as they are here.  They learned about a place where the army can draft you, keep you for how ever long they want to, and not pay you.  They learned about people who wanted to come to America because they could have a better life for themselves and their children, and that it takes amazing courage and incredible perseverance to do that.

I had a wonderful time getting to know Harnet a bit–I’d only met her one other time before.  It ended up being a long day, because we got back in time for church so went directly there, and then I took both girls home afterwards.  I got a lot of mileage out of that tiny cup of super strong coffee–although I told Rosalie that I was going to have no problem sleeping, it took me until 1 a.m. to go to sleep.  Hmmmm.  Guess I won’t be taking up Eritrean coffee as a habit!!!

I am very thankful to Rosalie for arranging this interesting, informative day, and to Harnet for her hospitality.  It was an authentic experience that no amount of money could ever buy–and we felt very special to have been able to enjoy it.

Cousins by Love

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These two have been fast friends since they came into each other’s lives.  Alissa came to live with her mom and dad when she was a very tiny baby.  Rob and I got the privilege of spending many, many days and nights with her as she grew up.  When she was about 14-15 months old, I agreed to watch her and her 2 older sisters while their parents went to Mexico for a week.  Little did I know……

We had applied to adopt again and had  been waiting about a year for our new child/children.  We were open to a single child, or a sibling group.  Since they are supposed to choose 3 appropriate people for each child or group, we had been to “committee” a couple of times already, and someone else was chosen to be their parents, not us.  Ouch.  But, that’s how it works.  We got another chance to possibly be selected for Lovana, who happened to have a younger sister who may or may not be freed for adoption soon, and were asked if we wanted to take the risk.  Of course, we said yes, and our file was presented.  We were denied on the basis that we were not black and the children were.  Our caseworker was livid!  That was not only unfair, it is illegal.  It is a federal mandate that no child could be denied a home based on race.  Because it was so wrong, they took it back to committee and to the top of the state.  We were successful the second time.  Guess what week was chosen for transition week?  You got it!  The same week I had agreed to watch the 3 nieces.

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It was a long, exciting week.  I was extremely busy, to put it mildly, with 2 toddlers (one of whom did not know me at all), a very shy 5 year old who turned 6 the day after we got her moved in, my 2 special needs boys, my autistic niece, my other niece, and my other, older children.  (Probably 2 out of the 3 as I believe the oldest was away at college by then-  I can’t remember)  It is a blur, but there were 9 or 10.  There were lots of visits going back and forth to get the girls acquainted with our family, and had been for a week before, but this was the week to do an over nighter, then have them stay a couple of nights, then have them move in.  It was Easter week, and we were hosting, and Lovana’s birthday was on Easter that year.  We had no control over the timing.  I was not sure I was going to survive, and certainly relied on the Lord’s strength.  I have rarely felt such relief as I did that Easter Sunday morning when I had them all lined up on the back pew, dressed in their finest new Easter clothes, on time for church to start!  I bought an ice cream cake (so rare most of my kids had never had one), and the family all pitched in with the dinner.  It turned out great, even though you are never supposed to overwhelm the new child with a lot of family too soon.   Or move them when it’s right around their birthday, or some other huge anniversary.

In the end, something beautiful came out of that chaos.  Something happened I could have never foretold.   Ja’Ana and Alissa took ahold of each other’s hands and held on.  At an age where children don’t usually play together, they were inseparable.  They became best buds and have gone camping, to plays, parks, amusement parks, Disneyland, the Redwoods, the beach, and mission trips together. Through the years, they’ve hit a few growing bumps in their relationship, but through it all, have remained bonded for life.  Years ago, they dubbed themselves “the twins separated at birth” even though they were 6 months apart and really didn’t resemble each other very much:)

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Now they are forging a new path together.  No, it’s not golf with their science experiment, although they did seem to be trying that today, too.  They are embarking on a grand adventure of learning together.  The homeschool class at my house doubled this week, as we gladly welcomed Alissa to our party.  Because, when those 2 get together, it often turns into a party.  Alissa’s mom and I have some really fun stuff lined out for them this year, and I’m here to say we are off to an excellent start.  Today was very fun and educational.  Their Auntie Rosalie surprised them with gift cards to McDonald’s, which were burning a hole in their pockets.  So we went there on the way to the pond.  They gathered pond water for an upcoming experiment, and that is just the beginning.

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May they always stay so close.

 

 

How To Help When Schoolwork Is Hard

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We homeschool Ja’Ana.  She is in 10th grade.   There are a lot of things that are easy for her, like cooking, sewing, music, and dance.  There are some things that are hard, like math.  The sad thing is that math is hard for me, too.  So, what’s a mom to do?  Especially when the time has come for Algebra?

Because all of the home-making areas, and music, and language arts are my strong points, we can sometimes get into trouble when it comes to math, when you add up my weakness with her extreme reluctance, due to how difficult it is for her.  I’ve taken some steps to make the process less painful for us both.

First, I bought a math curriculum that has cd’s with explanations for every single problem–Teaching Text Algebra.  I am aware that it is less difficult than Saxon, for instance, but it is just right for us.  In the past, I went through other Algebra curriculums with other children, and had to start from page one and do the entire book to be able to help them do the problems when we got farther into it.  I was hoping to not have to do that this time, and so far, so good.  This is especially important because no one has reached the Algebra level for quite a few years, so I am super rusty on the concepts.

I have actually used this brand of curriculum for a few years with her, and love the fact that the Algebra is now self-correcting.  So, if she punches an answer into the computer, it tells her if it is right or wrong.  Then, it will show how to do it, if necessary.  I use that feature at times.  I also am willing to look back at the explanations in the book, and carefully study the examples, and use them to figure out how to do the problems.  I have a brother-in-law who is a math professor, and have asked him if I get really stuck on something.  The fact is–you can’t teach something with any kind of confidence if you don’t understand it yourself.  So, the first step is to make sure I understand the problem.

The most successful method I use with her is to sit side-by-side with her, with each of us having our own pad of paper.  I have her read over the first problem and see if she knows the answer.  They are usually true or false.  Sometimes the wording is tricky and we need to discuss what it means.  After she is confident on what it means, it is usually easy for her to decide if it is true or false.  I would love it if she would listen to the explanation on the cd., or even read the explanations in the lessons, but she is usually in a big hurry and doesn’t really do that very often on her own.  When I am sitting there, I make sure she has done that.  I often need to re-word things into a way that she can understand more clearly.

Then, we both work each and every problem.  When we are done, we see if we agree on the answer.  If we do, she punches it into the computer.  Hopefully, we are right.  If not, we re-do it, using more of the examples in the book, or the explanation given.  One of the problems we have is that she was having so much trouble getting the right answer when she was doing it on her own, that she seemed actually afraid of punching the answer into the computer, for fear of getting it wrong.  I’m trying to get her to see that  learning how to do the problems is what matters, not the final score.  I’m also working with her on the fact that everyone makes mistakes, including me, and that’s ok.

On the story problems, I draw pictures to try to illustrate them.  That seems to help most of the time.  When it doesn’t, and all else fails, there is the explanation on the cd–our lifesaver.

After a chapter is done, I give her a test, with no help from me, except making sure she understands the questions.  If she cannot do the problems, we re-do the chapter, with me correcting it with the answer key because the computer grade book is already full.  I don’t care if we have to do it 3 times, I want understanding more than speedy completion of a book. After all, the reward for finishing a book is a harder book, and if you don’t understand the easier book, you have no hope of doing the harder one.  I also don’t care if one book takes 2 years.  With my children, my goal is slow, steady progress, coupled with understanding.

When she works hard, I heap her with praise, letting her know how proud I am of her.  When she get a problems right, and I don’t, I point that out and praise her.  She clearly can see for herself when she’s wrong, so I matter-of-factly say “let’s try again, boy that one is hard” etc.  I try to remember that doing a school subject that is very difficult for her, or any child, is the same as asking me to do something very hard and foreign to me, such as re-build a car engine.   I’m just glad she is attempting Algebra, even though it’s hard.  This method is working for now, and we both feel less like screaming with frustration:) Even better, she is understanding things she was not sure she could accomplish, and that’s got to feel good to her.