Dressing down and dressing up

Note: If this seems a little disjointed, it’s because I’ve challenged myself to write and post before my computer runs out of charge – about 30 minutes from now. It might not be pretty or make much sense, but it will be done!

One back-to-school ritual I didn’t miss was the rush to buy new clothes for the fall. While we don’t spend the day in our pajamas, we are more concerned with comfort than looking polished or fashionable.

Aw, who am I kidding? I’ve always been that way. As least as far as my own clothes are concerned.

But I do usually visit the back-to-school sales with everyone else to look for a few outfits that are kind of current and are flexible enough to mix and match. I have never been a sharp dresser and spent a lot of my childhood coveting the clothes (and fashion sense) of my classmates. As a result, I compensate by overbuying clothes for my own kids, especially my daughter (boys – peh! Shirts, pants, shoes and you’re all done).

This year, in an effort to save money, I decided to avoid the clothes stores altogether during the big rush. She still fit into last year’s clothes (barely, but enough to wear them), and we weren’t going anywhere fancy. Besides, she has a TON of T-shirts from school, dance, vacations and other places that she still fits into. Jeans and T-shirts – we don’t need anything else. And I think I did save money.

But now Kiki wants to get into cosplay – basically wearing costumes that go beyond your typical Halloween efforts. She’s hoping to dress up as a character from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. While she does want to learn to sew and make her own costumes, I pointed out if she wants something in time for trick-or-treat (or other related events), she might want to try putting together an outfit from off-the-rack clothes for a first effort. I am all for her learning to sew, of course, and I want to learn along with her. But maybe we should start with pillowcases or curtains or things that don’t involve cutting curves.

This cosplay interest ties into some other things Kiki has pursued – manga (basically Japanese style comics) and learning Japanese. This is an area where we are trying to give her some space to follow her own interests. She has joined a local group for fans of manga/anime and is taking lessons in Japanese from tutor. Those lessons are a lot of work, so we’ve adjusted our daily schedule to include time to work on that (and I’m learning some, as a result), but I feel like she’s more motivated to do this than almost anything else. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a heck of a language to pick for a first foreign language, a contrast from my more typical French classes.

We’ve made some other adjustments based on her preferences, as well. I’ve found her a curriculum that is largely based online, especially in math. My plan is to let her go through the lessons and test her with the worksheets as she gets through topics, just to make sure she’s truly understanding them. What’s nice is that she can test out of topics I know she has already covered well in the past. This is also true for the language arts topics, which include a good dose of grammar. We will continue with our original writing curriculum. The program also include science and social studies (including ancient history, government and U.S. history). I’ve been freewheeling those areas, so it’s nice to have a little structure to fall back on. I plan to emphasize the ancient history more than the rest for this year, and I have plenty of supplemental materials and activities.


Get out!

In my last post, I think I mentioned how relaxing our mornings have become since we started homeschooling, with the ability to sleep past 6 and enjoy a breakfast that’s not rushed before easing our way into the work with a little couch reading.

Well, today didn’t exactly go that way. It’s Tuesday, and ever since Kiki was a baby, we have tried to spend a least part of each Tuesday with Grandma. I really want to try to keep this up, even though The Boo’s afternoon school schedule complicates things. Also, Kiki had TWO activities on the docket for today – a monthly Nerf Club session about 40 minutes away and a theater class downtown. Of course, there was also actual school work to be done.

I’m not yet so well-planned that I can just pull out a folder with the day’s assignments all set up, but I took about 10 minutes to get enough stuff together to take to Grandma’s house. Some of it was online, so we just packed up a laptop and The Boo and headed over. Once Kiki found a quiet place to focus on her work (and a math program she particularly enjoyed), she was happy on her own. She was actually so enthusiastic about that math program that I’m considering adding it to our curriculum to break up the workbook tedium.

The best part about going to Grandma’s house, of course, is that she insists on feeding us lunch while we’re there. And today she actually sent home some food for our dinner, too. Thanks, Mom!

I also envisioned Kiki doing some of her work during the trip to and from Nerf Club, but she wasn’t into that idea, preferring instead to play Minecraft. Whatever (or as Kiki has been saying lately, “Whatevs.”). I just reminded her that she still had to finish whatever work was left before getting to watch TV at night. She was OK with that.

Nerf Club was quite an operation. The lady who runs it is in her fourth year (and she runs some other big homeschool groups, as well), so she has this down to a science. Between 40 and 50 kids ages 8 to 18 play organized games, such as Capture the Flag or Last Man Standing, with their assorted foam dart guns. And there was a huge assortment – of kids and their toys. There were strict rules about which brands you can use (all the darts need to match, since the club operates from a single pool) and there could be no modifications other than purely cosmetic ones. While watching from the observation room, I worried a little that Kiki would feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of kids, but she seemed to do just fine, even talking to a couple kids that I saw.

I like that it was such a varied group age-wise and it was a good boy-girl ratio – more even than one might predict. There were times when the gameplay seemed chaotic, but the organizer had them all listening when she rang her cowbell and everyone did a great job helping clean up the gym afterward.

The best part to watch was just before cleanup, when a small group of kids was called into the center – kids with September birthdays (including Kiki) – for a small recognition. They got candy necklaces with a foam dart charm, and then everyone sang them the happy birthday song … just before opening fire on them with every available dart. The kids loved it. It was a nice little thing, and I think it helped Kiki feel like a real part of this huge group.

We got home just in time to get The Boo off his bus. There was just enough time for a quick break (Kiki squeezed in today’s copy work) before we took off again for theater class. Kiki has been wanting to take a class like this for a long time, so she was very excited about it. And I enjoy the fact that it’s a very short walk away from the library. I got in some steps on my pedometer and some chapters in my book club book. Kiki was extremely bouncy when she got out of class, which means she had a good time. She said they did some improv today and get to be animals from Disney movies next week. She chattered all the way home about what she’d like to be (some kind of cat – duh).

After dinner, she finished up today’s work – except for history, which we’ll do tomorrow – in enough time to enjoy a nice TV session with her great-grandmother before bed.

Right now I’m enjoying how flexible we can be. I wonder if I’ll feel a little insecure about not getting stuff done later on. If I get that way, I’ll just have to come back and read this post to remind myself that we’re not competing with anyone. With five weekly activities and at least three monthly homeschool groups (for now), we’re building up plenty of XP – and raising our fun score while we’re at it.

Week One – Done!

We made it through our first (four-day, thanks to Labor Day) week of homeschooling. Our work this week touched on language arts, math, science, history, geography, music and art. When I say “touched on,” I do mean very lightly. There was math and language work every day; each of the other things we just worked on once this week and with purely introductory material. This will increase in coming weeks as I further develop the plans and as we find our rhythm.

Some of my thoughts so far:

  • The mornings are the most changed time of day for us. With no 7:40 a.m. bus to catch, things are a heck of a lot more relaxed – almost to the point where I feel guilty. OK, not *that* guilty. The Boo is still going to preschool, but he is in the afternoon session. I think Kiki’s favorite part of homeschooling so far is getting to sleep until 8 – probably good for her, considering how late she tends to stay up reading.
  • Kiki likes to take LOTS of fresh air breaks. I’m not sure if she needs them or if she’s testing the waters. We’ve had very temperate weather this week, so I’ve been inclined to let her hang out on the swing when she asks. In fact, we did a lot of her work outside on the patio. The Boo enjoyed sitting outside with us, too.
  • In addition to our regular work, we had our first homeschool book club meeting this week. The time flew for both of us; Kiki has happy to meet and play with other kids with similar interests (Monster High, My Little Pony, Minecraft), and I was happy for mom time with a former fellow dance mom and some new acquaintances. Now Kiki and I are both a little reserved when it comes to meeting new people, so one of our challenges in homeschooling will be to put ourselves out there a little more from the get-go. So far, though, homeschoolers (parents and kids) seem to be more receptive to new people, even when a bunch of them have known one another for awhile. Or at least we’ve managed to find some very warm, very welcoming people who are good at putting us at ease. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this later.
  • I was correct about The Boo being the biggest challenge … but that’s also because he decided this would be a good week to try potty training. It was also his first week back at preschool, and we had some confusion about the bus that is supposed to drop him off afterward. Working with him around in the mornings can be trying, too, as he likes to have his say in any conversation – usually by butting in with, “Mama! Mama! Let’s build a diamond house in Minecraft!”
  • Kiki got off a little easy this week, as far as chores go. I haven’t gotten around to making her a chart yet, but I think that’s the only way she’s going to remember that she needs to do these things.
  • Flexibility is going to be good. I’ve already switched up lessons on the fly and pulled stuff out that I wasn’t planning to do until later. I’ve also pushed back other plans. And speaking of plans, I need to set aside time to make more specific ones. I’m not good at improvising talking points. Kiki is also already asking for more computer learning, which is fine but will require more set-up time for me. And this weekend is chock full of plans, so she’s going to have a wait a little longer.

All in all, it’s been a good week with a few ups and downs for both of us. We made a good choice here, and it’s feeling more right every day.

Ready or not

If we have to declare an official first day of school, it would be tomorrow.

Am I ready? I don’t know. I have a fairly detailed set of plans for this week, as well as rough sketches of what we’ll be doing in the coming weeks. Our former scrapbooking/exercise/office/junk room is now mostly converted into a functioning study and teaching room – one that happens to have an exercise bike in tucked in one corner. That might be good for those fidgety times – when she needs a little extra sensory input. We even set up our electronic keyboard for music lessons.

Kiki is ready. Just before going to bed, she asked, “So what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” I gave her a quick rundown. Then she asked if we could go play with other homeschoolers … tomorrow. Well, that wasn’t exactly in our plans. You see, The Boo starts preschool tomorrow afternoon, and he’s going to be riding a school bus for the first time, so we need to be home to put him on the bus and take him off when he comes back. Preschool is only a couple of hours, so that doesn’t give us much time to go out in between.

I actually think that The Boo is what will make this year most tricky. We have to work around his school schedule (with some help from his dad and grandmother, we can still go to activities), and when he’s home in the morning, we have to include him in our school – either that or distract him. This is where most of our flexibility will need to happen.

I wonder if Kiki is already feeling lonely and left out, now that her friends have all gone back to school. Also, we were isolated for much of the week because of illness. Well, we won’t be by ourselves for long. This week’s schedule does include a homeschool book club meeting, as well as a homeschool gathering at a park. And then we have a family wedding reception and a theater/fondue date with friends over the weekend. With all these activities and both kids’ birthdays, our September calendar is just as packed as any other year.

Let the adventure begin!