Week  In Review : 14 October 2016

Wow.  It’s been just about FOREVER since I’ve posted a Week in Review!! I needed a blog break,  but I miss writing and I miss getting to look back on what we’ve accomplished,  so I hope to stay consistent. 
Last Week:

We took a sweet field trip last week to…Germany.  It was awesome. We traveled Tuesday,  and returned home Sunday.  We visited Frankfurt,  Heidelberg,  and Mainz. Big is taking German 1 this year so we rationalized that it really was educational! 

School this Week: 

This week was a SERIOUS buckle down week. We started tired,  but we had to press on. With robotics,  travel,  more travel,  and a huge move upcoming the next 4 weeks are critical . 

This week both kids (a little grudgingly)  did full math lessons each day.  With that we rocked out  9 school days of math this week.  Since both kids are in upper level math (algebra 2, and trig) the pace isn’t a big deal.  We mostly go half speed for pacing and to not make our days last forever.  Both kids killed their tests,  so we’ll keep this up until the week of November 13.

Online classes (Big – German 1 and filmmaking on Landry Academy; BJU distance learning Chemistry,   Coursera Academic Writing; Little – English,  programming on Landry  Academy )  went well this week,  too.  The kids were well prepared before we left,  so it was mostly attending.  I’m super pleased with how the classes are going this semester. They’re well paced (chemistry is easily AP level,  so that one’s tough), and the kids are learning a ton. 

I think we’re making it with other classes.  We may have a little home work over the weekend, but such is life. I feel like homeschooling high school is a little like whack a mole – and keeping the moles at bay is tough!

Other Stuff:

Little’s birthday was Tuesday.  With our need to buckle down we didn’t take the day off.  Tomorrow he and his buds are having a video game binge day.  I think they’ll have a blast. I’ve purchased a load of requested junk for them…

Tonight the kids have robotics.  Our team made it through the state competition with an overall second  place so they need to prepare for the regional cometition.  Big is preparing for the team videos,  and Little is a spotter and strategy guy.  They’re thrilled and excited about the next level. 

The Move:

Countdown for Big Box Week (when we move the junk to the rental)… 4 weeks from Monday. That’s move (and school in the car) week.  Yikes.  

Praises:

* Amazing trip to Germany.  Great travel.  Fun memories. 

* Time with bible study ladies before we move.  I can’t think on it or I’ll cry. 

* Great school week. 

* Progress on the garage clean out.  Yikes. That’s huge. 

* Amazing fall weather in the Deep South.  Sweatshirts in the morning,  80 for a high temp. 
How was your week?

Online Classes – Communicating with Teachers

My kids have taken, and are taking, some online classes. We love Landry Academy, Coursera, and other providers. 

One skill I wanted my kids to learn with the online class is how to appropriately communicate with an instructor/teacher. I know this will come up on college, so I want them to practice now. So far my kids have needed to ask for help on assignments, clarify assignment requirements, ask about grades and much more. In these emails I wanted them to be clear, polite, respectful, and purposeful. I was happy to help them at the beginning of their online careers, but after a few emails I wanted them to handle it themselves. 

Thankfully, as my kids were in the throes of learning these skills a friend sent me a link to a GREAT article. The article, from a college professor, is entitled How to Email Your Professor to Get a Response. It’s a must read for any student, but most definitely for online students. We’ve actually printed out the graphic and the kids use it as a guide for every email to their teachers. Now I can be nearly hands-off and know the kids are communicating clearly and respectfully on their own. I hope you and your kids find it as helpful as we have!

Homeschooling High School – Coursera and Other Options

As I start planning Big’s second year of high school, I am starting to think outside of the box more. There are some areas where we need some reinforcement, and others where she needs a jet pack and a maybe a parachute. One area I really want to shore up is writing. We’ve done a couple levels of IEW, an online course through Landry Academy, and other bits of instruction, but I want her to be STRONG. Math is easy for me to implement and grade, but writing is not. For that reason writing will be our major emphasis this upcoming year.

One short course she is taking toward this goal is the Adventures in Writing course through Stanford. It’s free, fun, and short. Big thinks it would be more effective for a younger crowd, but she is enjoying it. Unfortunately, it’s about writing, but doesn’t actually HAVE any writing assignments. It’s about a week long course and a good way to break up some early spring blahs. Reviewing the basics is almost always a good thing, and this course did it quickly and in a fun way.

I am also planning on signing Big up for the Coursera Academic English: Writing Specialization courses. This specialization is a set of  4 courses and capstone project. I’m not super sure what it all means, but I think it’ll be more rigorous than anything I can do locally. I am planning on having her work through the summer (you know, spring optimism and all), and then using any unfinished portions for her fall writing course. I think it should take about 6 months to complete. There is a fee for this series, though I am a little confused about how it works. I thought I read online it was $10/month or $50 total, but today I was reading $50/month. Honestly, $50 a month is pretty steep, so I am enrolling Big in the first course (for free – not an “enrolled” course) to get a feel for it, and then decide if we’re going to use it as a full course and pay the full enrollment fee. I have no idea if they run sales, but it might be worth watching over the summer.

 

For an art credit Big wanted to take the Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR specialization series. Again, with this being our first go at Coursera, (she’ll start this one Monday after the ACT), we decided to enroll in the first class ($79) and see how it goes. If it’s a good fit, we’ll continue on with the 4 fill courses and capstone. She really wants to improve her photography for the fall robotics season, so I think this will be a great series for her.

I know there are lots of other courses out there: Edx, MIT OpenCourseware, etc. and I am hoping to explore those throughout the summer and see how they might fit into our school planning.

How about you? Have you or your kids used Coursera or any other cool online platform?

5 Things

I’ve been reading all these blogs where people are sharing five things that they’re loving this week so I decided I would join in!

1.Alexa

image

I received this is a birthday gift and when I’m able to pry it out of the hands of the two teenagers in the house, it’s absolutely amazing! You can talk to it and have it give sports updates, play Pandora, adjust my calendar, set alarms… It’s just absolutely fabulous, and the sound quality is awesome.

2. Spring Weather.

image

Low 80s. Low humidity. Low pollen. It’s rare those collide here so we’re soaking in as much as humanly possible!

3. Summer Jobs

image

I’ll wrote more about this in a whole post, but I’m LOVING the kids running their lawn service. It’s great. So many lessons. So much good about it.

4. Surprises.

image

This morning I came home from my walk to this. It was so delicious and we were so stuffed we ate lunch at 2. Another surprise? A dear friend came by unexpectedly with her toddler. Another friend received good news and we got to celebrate. It’s a good day!!!

image

5. Tony Chocoloney.

I love you. Salted caramel. Real chocolate. Amsterdam I miss you.

How about you? What’s blessing you this week?

Landry Academy Biology Lab Intensive – Review

This spring my two kids, 8th and 9th graders, attended a Landry Academy Two Day Biology Intensive. I have seen online where a lot of people have questions about these events, so I figured I’d share our experience. I wasn’t paid or compensated for my review, and every opinion is mine (or my kids).

 

A while back I jumped on one of the Landry sales and it included two intensives as “free” add ons. I was intrigued by the idea of knocking out all the labs in a couple of days, stretching my kids a little, and providing some social time with other homeschoolers. So I plunged in and registered Big. She would be taking Biology online with BJU this year so it seemed like a great idea.

 

Then I shared it with her. Well, she wasn’t thrilled. It wasn’t the idea of the intensive, but the idea that she wouldn’t be doing biology labs until the spring. Science nerd drama ensued. I relented. I bought the BJU Bio kit ($246…. and the microscope from last year). Now, I don’t begrudge spending the money and I am a HUGE proponent of labs – real live, gross, dissecting labs – but I had a plan. Wah. My plan was foiled. The Intensive became an add on for Big.

As the time drew closer to attend I decided, nearly last minute, that Little should also attend. I figured he would take Bio next year and we could pre-lab with him. He’s less finicky about science, and apparently Big shared with him what she learned this year – that Bio labs can be a hassle, and watching them on dvd with an intensive on the side would have been a descent plan after all. I also realized that if he attended I would have 2 DAYS of alone time. Seriously. A few emails, some money sent, and he was registered.

 

Now, the city with the Intensive was, for us, about a 2 and a half hour drive. We would have to hotel it – so with Hotwire at the ready we booked  a place fairly nearby and with a free breakfast. (In hindsight the free breakfast needn’t be mandatory – the kids fast for a lab on the morning if day 2.) We arrived the night before the first class since the kids had to be there at 8:45 am.

Upon arriving at the lab location the kids received a lab notebook and some lab gear. They needed to carry a sack lunch, but otherwise everything was included. Really – for the two days my only job was to make sure they had food, get them there, and pick them up. (I see the appeal of a traditional school now….really….wow.). This was new to me. I enjoyed it. LOL!!

OK, so, the set up was great, everything was well organized, and the amount of pre-check in material and communication was great – but what about the labs?

 

image

Well, both of my kids really enjoyed themselves. They both say they learned a lot, and it was a great experience. Big, Science Nerd, loved the hands on and thought the teacher was fabulous. Little, less science-y but more social, enjoyed the other kids in the class, the material, and a couple of days of “fun” school. Both kids learned a lot about having lab partners – a rite of passage for high school IMHO – and both really liked the other kids in the class. It was a great group. One thing that surprised me was that ALL the kids in the class commuted from at least a couple of hours away. I was a little concerned it would be a pack of kids from a local group and my kids would be outsiders – but that was not the case at all. ALL of them were at hotels for the class.

image

Will we do it again?

Yes, we will be attending another Landry Intensive in the future. It was a great way to break up the spring blahs, to meet some new people, and to knock out some labs that are harder to do at home. The quality was great, the teaching excellent, and overall the whole experience was one I would HIGHLY recommend.

So, have your kids attended an Intensive? Have

Mardi Gras – New Orleans – 2016

Last year I took Big to the Mardi Gras parades in Mobile AL with a friend. We had a blast. The weather was great, the crowds weren’t insane, and we got tons of swag.

This year we decided we’d up our game…NOLA.

Before y’all think I’m a wretched parent for taking my teen daughter to New Orleans, please know that NOLA and I have history. I lived there from 1995 to 2000. I met and married DH there (who, incidentally, grew up in a suburb of NOLA). I have been back at least annually, and took the kids last year (among other trips there).

I love New Orleans. Love it. It’s a part of my heart, really. Which may seem like a lot coming from a Jesus loving, non drinking, evangelical Christian.

So, I don’t think it was a stretch to go to a couple of parades in less icky parts of the city and enjoy the atmosphere.

We, of course, started at Cafe du Monde. Beignets. Frozen cafe au lait. Swoon.

image

We got there EARLY expecting a crowd. No crowds at 7, yet. But sunrise reflecting on the cathedral, quiet, street sweepers, and locals… It felt like my old NOLA. I remembered my love for the city as we ate breakfast and walked Royal Street. Really, New Orleans is an gem.

image

Rousses. There are a few in the city. Go. Buy local things. Like iced coffee concentrate. It’s amazing.

image

Jackson Square… before the crowds. It’s beautiful.

image

We needed some place to sit after the early wake up, cold temps, and walking so we headed to Starbucks on Canal Street to chill. It was a great pick with hot tea and comfortable chairs.

I decided to head out and look for our parade spot and decided on the neutral ground on Canal. I took a seat about 10:15 for the 11 am parade start.

In terms of parade swag, we had a great spot. We were right after a turn and right on the corner. We met really nice people on our corner, though closer to parade time we did need to defend our front row status a little. It was a hard balance, being kind and defending the spot we stood there for 3 hours to secure.

image

image

The parade was great. Unfortunately, it started late and that coupled with colds, no sleep, and a few other factors, we only made it through one parade. We had planned on Tucks and Iris, but only made it through Iris.

Having been to both Mobile and New Orleans parades, two of three voted for a return to Mobile over New Orleans. I might vote for New Orleans, but with some major changes. The Mobile voters preferred the smaller crowds, the family friendly atmosphere, and the casual feel of the scenes. New Orleans definitely had better swag, but the trade off was some seriously drunk people nearby, some inappropriate crowd wear (really), crowds, expense (parking was insane), and traffic. Seriously  – insane traffic (which honestly, was partly my fault and planning because if we had stayed for Tucks it would have been better).

My revised New Orleans plan…

  1. Get there early afternoon on Friday. Sleep well.
  2. Skip Cafe Du Monde, sleep in, hit PJs for coffee enroute, and set up for the parade around 11.
  3. Park in Audobon Park or somewhere west of Napoleon.
  4. Watch the parade in the Garden District. Anywhere west of Lee Circle would work. Don’t forget chairs and swag bags. A cooler or thermos wouldn’t be wasted!
  5. Suck up the tired and hit all the parades available for one day. Push it. Wear it out.
  6. Sleep over Saturday night. Sleep in late Sunday.
  7. Travel home Sunday.

Big’s Plan:

  1. Do Mardi Gras in Mobile. Stay Friday night, hit a parade or two Saturday, and go home.
  2. Then, go to New Orleans in around April when the weather is perfect. Spend a few days. Walk around. Ride the street cars, eat at all your favorite places, tour the WW2 Museum. Go to other museums. Take a cooking class. Relax. Don’t rush. Avoid crowds.

 

I think Big has a great idea there! Sadly, New Orleans didn’t show well this weekend. All that people who love New Orleans defend against (“Why would I go there? It’s loud/smelly/drunk people are everywhere/there are falling down drunks everywhere/people are rude/traffic is awful….”) was out in full force. It’s a shame because New Orleans is a beautiful city with a great heart, and in the past I don’t remember Mardi Gras being so glaringly negative. Maybe it was and I didn’t see it until I was looking through the lens of having a 14 year old with me. Either way, I still love the city, and I would do Mardi Gras again – but I would likely use Big’s plan. I think it’s a great one.