Just realized that I have not really talked much about what we have been up to lately. This is mostly for family who might be interested, so feel free to skip if you want!

This Fall wound up being really quite busy and I am almost looking forward to things slowing down a little bit.

Kyle had been asking to take gymnastics for awhile now, so I finally was able to find a class through the county rec center that fit our schedule (on Mondays). Jason decided that it looked like fun, so he has just started this session.

Tuesdays were NoVaUnschoolers park days which were pretty much an all day thing…these were a lot of fun (it has been cold lately, so we have not been for the past couple of weeks). The boys have several friends who come and they have a great time playing tag or wading in the creek (until it dried up due to the drought this fall!) This is also a great time for me as it is as much a play date for me as it is for them. We have well over 20 families that come on a regular basis.

Jason also took a Pottery II class on Tuesday afternoons which he really enjoyed. We had to leave park day at 3:30, but luckily a friend (thanks Dena!) kept Kyle and I picked him up after Jason's class. Jason learned a few new techniques and continues to enjoy experiment and creating with clay.

Wednesdays were free up until this past month when Kyle started taking swim lessons with his friend Sean. He is loving it and Jason likes the free swim time.

Thursdays have been our field trip/homeschool class day…we have done stream monitoring (will post pictures later), Mt. Vernon, the Luray Caverns trip, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, letter boxing at Burke Lake Park and hiking at Huntley Meadows. The boys are currently taking a nature center class on invertebrates which they are enjoying.

We ended up dropping Taekwondo this year. They discontinued the homeschool class during the day and we tried to make it to the evening classes, but found that they really did not work in our schedule. Most of the times we were so busy during the day, the last thing the boys wanted to do was to head out to class at 5:00. They may give it another shot at another time if we can find a better way to work it into our schedule.

We are also really lucky in this area to have a wealth of opportunities for quality live theater performances. The Kennedy Center has a great program for schools (and homeschoolers) where tickets are only $5…we have tickets to The Phantom Tollbooth, The National Symphony Orchestra: Connections: More Math and Music, Step Afrika, Chasing George Washington: A White House Adventure, and Kite on the Wind: A Tale of Pakistan. George Mason University also offers the Theatreworks series where for $5 we get to see: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, The Mystery of Tut, and Aesop's Fables. And the Smithsonian Discovery Theater has Nego Gato: Jogo Capoeria! and That's Not Magic, It's Science. Don't worry…these shows are scheduled throughout the rest of the year, not all this month!

When we are home, Jason has been using Hands On Equations, which is a really neat introduction to algebraic thinking for elementary school aged kids. They use a game-type format…using pawns to represent variables along with a laminated scale to help model the equation. I have found that Jason enjoys this type of complex math much more than straight worksheets and the lessons have helped him work out many of the algebra rules (he figured out on his own how you can simplify the equations). I can see the wheels turning when he works on this. And it also gives him a chance to use his math facts which, for him, is a better way for him to learn them. We are also doing a lot of "math through literature", reading Mathematicians are People Too (which focuses on the lives of mathematicians) as well as lots of great "living math" books. Jason has also been doing Daily Grams to help with grammar, punctuation, and the like. They are just worksheets that can be done in a relatively short amount of time…not the most exciting things, but it gets the job done with little pain.

With the holidays coming up, I have decided that we are going to keep it pretty simple and just do these two things on a regular basis and then supplement with a lot of educational videos. There will just be too much going on for me to really sit down and plan anything out. The great thing is that there are tons of great videos to watch. We watched "Science of the Samurai Sword" (a Nova show) that was fascinating. It used current science to explain why the samurai sword and the ancient methods of making it created such a quality sword. The science was actually very interesting and I always like it when traditional methods are shown to have a reason behind them. And equally fascinating that they were able to figure these things out without the help of modern science!

I am still working with Kyle on his reading. It is coming along, but has not quite "clicked" yet. He knows all his letter sounds and his short vowels and can sound out a lot of words and recognize a few. But he is has not made the jump to recognizing words without sounding them out (pretty interesting that he is the exact opposite of Jason…when Jason started reading he could only see the whole word and had trouble breaking it down…whereas Kyle only seems to see the individual letters and has trouble seeing the whole word. Go figure!) We are using the Bob Book series which Kyle seems to like. We are on Set 2, Book 3. We usually do a lesson in the evening before I read to him. For math we are currently doing a lot of math games…I got the Right Start Math Card Game set which has lots of games that cover a wide range of topics. And as always Kyle loves to play board games and card games.

Kyle cracks me up sometimes…just this morning he came in to tell me that he had figured out what 55+55 was. 110. He was so proud of figuring it out and he told me how he did it step by step (he knew that 50+50 was 100 and so he subtracted 5 from 55 to get 50 and then 5+5=10). I asked him if there was a reason why he needed to know this and he said no, he had just been thinking about it. Sounds good to me!

We also read tons…Kyle and I are almost finished with The Spiderwick Chronicles (the movie is scheduled to come out in February). Jason and I have been reading a really good fantasy book called Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog by Ysabeau Wilce. Hard to summarize and a bit different, but really, really good. A publisher on the Child Lit list was giving away copies so I grabbed one and read it this summer to check it out. I was completely drawn in and did not even mind re-reading it with Jason. We'll have to post a review soon. I can't wait for the next one (given the ending, I am pretty sure that there will be a next one).

In the car we are listening to The Capture by Kathryn Lasky which looks like it will be our new series (I think there are 3 so far). The boys are really liking it. Before that we listened to The Phantom Tollbooth (in preparation for the Kennedy Center performance that was this week) and The Secret of Castle Cant by K.P. Bath. Hmmm…just noticed that there is a second in the series, so I think we will have to check it out.

Oh and the boys go through quite a few audio books on their own as well, especially Jason. I am very lucky that the Fairfax County Library has such an extensive selection! Well, that is it for now, I think. I will have to get back to talking more about what we are doing…if I can find the time. Right now I am starting to enter "survive December mode"…between Jason's birthday (next week!) and the holidays and the fact that there is still a lot of VaHomeschoolers stuff on my plate, I am already feeling behind. And the month has not even started yet…

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