Knitting News

Friday, April 30, 2010

There's news on the knitting front.

I've started a community knitting group. Today I got the good-news go-ahead. The first Kniterary Night is planned to begin the second Tuesday in May.

Gah! There, I said it; so now it is real.

I had the idea flitting around in my head for months. Then I shared the idea with my mom. Then my mom brought it up when my sister was listening. Mom and Sister shared my thoughts with some people they know. See how it's snowballing? I don't know how comfortable I am with the whole idea. It's been a long time since I was a confident leader of anything.

So, under a little bit of duress, I approached the community outreach coordinator at the local library. Living in a small town has many benefits. It also has a few gaps. One of the local deficiencies is that we don't have a community center of any sort. The last year or so though, the local library has really started to step up and fill that gap. Armed with a brilliant plan for the perfect community knitting group I pitched my idea and volunteered my leadership to the nice lady at the library. (Can I call her a 'lady' if she's younger than me? This whole mid-30s thing is taking some getting used to.)

I'm kind of proud of myself for venturing forth to make a program that fills a need for ME. One of the reasons I did this was to be a good example for the kids. I think it's important for them to see that Mom is more than Chief Chef and Leader of the Laundry. That I have interests and activities that are just as important as theirs are.

I even used programming and management skills I learned in college a past life. It was a careful balance putting a proposal together. I didn't want to have to pay for meeting space. I wanted to have a hand in the purpose and direction of the group. I wanted an easy out just in case the relationship between the library and the knitting group wasn't working out very well. After some thought and discussion with Sister, we came up a really great proposal that was ideal for what we wanted. We just hoped that the community-minded library would feel the same way.

And it seems they do!

With most of the leg work already done, the details hammered out and control in my hands, there is little to do but wait for the 11th. I should spend the time knitting up various things as a planned portion of Knitterary Night is the Show & Tell. Since only I know the structure and schedule of the evening, I may want to be prepared to avoid awkward, empty silences. Now, that's a motivating thought....

Off to knit!

Mrs. A.


I Love Me A Seminar

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I love seminars. Or sessions. Or whatever you call those things you choose to attend when you get yourself to a conference. I love that I get a choice. I guess that's a good thing about being a grown-up (or a homeschooler...). You get to choose which classes you'd like to attend. And if the choices aren't' making your skirt fly up, then you just go shopping at the vendor fair.

Every time I go to a conference and attend the seminars, I take notes. I suppose this means I intend to go home and review my notes. Upon review, I intend to implement the points I noted as relevant. But we all know how that goes with me...meh. So I have this file folder on my shelf full of important conference notes. All those good intentions, those secrets to a perfect homeschool, those perfectly outlined subjects to teach with all the little tricks to make your kids love it. Just sitting on my shelf with the accompanying handout.

Handouts are a funny thing. I'm a little picky about handouts. I figure, if you're going to go to the trouble of preparing a seminar, why give it all away in the handout?! I think handouts should be a guide - a menu, if you will. Then, as you sit through the seminar, you're served the meat and potatoes of the meal. At the conference I attended last weekend, one of the presenters read through her handout for the duration of the seminar. She read each and every point that was printed on the paper. 2/3 of the way through her talk, people had caught on and were starting to leave. I think most people who come to a conference are looking to spend their time as efficiently as possible. Listening to someone read through a handout just doesn't fit the bill.

Of course, getting to choose your seminar usually means that you've got a vested interest in the subject matter. Chances are, you're going to enjoy yourself. It's likely that the topic is going to speak to you and you're going to want to implement the new method/material. At the very least, you'll find yourself motivated.

The last seminar I attended that I really enjoyed was called "Organizing Your Homeschool". The handout was nice. It was an outline of what the presenter would cover. It's got contact information and web addresses for reference. So now, a week later, I look at the handout and I'm reminded of all the interesting things the presenter had to say. I love a good handout. The presenter herself is an experienced speaker. That's always a plus. Experience means time for questions at the end of the seminar. It means getting all the material covered. It usually means not a lot of um's and ah's.

I thought I would tuck in my seminar notes here at Zehn+. I waffle back and forth as to if I should or not. After all, I don't want to be accused of spreading 'trade secrets' that usually cost something to hear and generally put dinner on someone's table. On the other hand, blogging my notes will get them off my shelf where they are just taking up space. They'll be easier for me to reference, too. My notes are not going to win any awards and they're definitely not going to overshadow someone's hard work nor will they reiterate a seminar word for word. They're going to speak to me. So without further ado, here's what I scribbled during my "Organizing Your Homeschool" seminar last weekend:

Organizing Your Homeschool
April 17, 2010

(Reference Sheila's book To Love, Honour and Vacuum. There is an appendix just for homeschooling moms.)

Part A:Why Homeschooling Becomes Hectic

When you're home all the time, the issues any family has become magnified. If homeschooling fails, it usually has more to do with these issues than with academics:

managing housework
occupying small children
getting children to work
organizing time

- Do you find yourself busy every day but do you feel like you're not accomplishing anything? It's like things are spinning out of control. How do you stop the spinning? Pick a point and move steadily toward it. The point you pick should be your goal, the reason you're homeschooling.

- Look to your goal. Focus on your family relationship; your relationship with your kids. Get rid of the things that are causing you to feel unorganized/hectic. (For those who like to, check out Hebrews 12: 1-3: Look to Jesus. Focus on Relationship. Throw off the weights that hinder you.)

Part B: Change What You Do

- respect + order = a more peaceful home
- plan for a comfortable home, not a perfect home
- plan for a flexible homeschool, not a perfect homeschool
- have room for kids to explore and learn; they need space to spread out (use bookcases and have table space avail)

Declutter - one room a week until you can maintain; 15minutes at a time if it's overwhelming; everything needs a place esp in kids' rooms

Homeschool Decluttering - take photos and get rid of the projects; save favourite artwork and have it bound; save important work in a portfolio and get rid of the rest; go back and make school year portfolios to reduce storage bins; keep special work, tests and essays

Daily Housework - tidy time is separate from cleaning time; have regular tidy times with the kids

Plan - have a daily plan; prioritize schoolwork

Meal Plan - menus save a whole lot of stress and time

Consistency - when kids know what to expect, they do it without complaining; mom must model the expectations (eg. if schoolwork starts at 9, mom has to be ready at 9!!)

Inconsistency = a level of stress in the house (this is totally loud and clear in our house at dinner time. I never know what to make or when it will land on the table!); kids will push boundaries to see what the limit is; this leaves no room for creative exploration

Schedule - do you want a regimented schedule or something more flexible? Decide.

Forms and suggestions : or (click on Free Stuff)

Part C: Change Our Relationship Dynamic

Although we want some structure and accomplishment in our day, we also want fun and spontaneity; that won't happen on its own

1. Sheila says kids need to clean
- give kids an area to be responsible for during cleaning or tidy time
- everyone needs to feel productive; start the day with chores; mom feels resentful if she has to do it all

2. Sheila says to plan downtime/creative time
- have rules during 'school time' so kids don't run off and watch tv (no screens, no phone)
(- this makes schoolwork a priority)
- RULES APPLY TO MOM AS WELL (although Sheila says running off to do laundry is ok)
- have interesting things available to do (colouring/activity books, novels, puzzles, games)
- mom can set up things (like a science exploration or demo) to inspire; rotate these
- mom needs to be disciplined if the kids are expected to be

3. Sheila says to get outside
- burn energy doing errands, playing games, getting exercise, exploring
- garden, nature study, whatever gets the kids outside

4. Sheila says to protect your time
- try to consolidate errands/lessons/appointments on one day
- try to consolidate making/taking calls to an hour a day; leave the rest 'till tomorrow
- stay away from email and Facebook during school/family/organizing time

Sheila's last word: Attitude Shift: You are at work. Your children are at work. For this time, you will be present.


My Surprise Treasure

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This is the surprise treasure I found at the conference this past weekend. It is a basic novel study guide put together by Sheila Wray Gregoire. (If you click though, beware the Pink!)

I have often lamented the fact that novel studies cost $10 - $25 and can only be used once if the kids write in them. My most recent forays into novel study with the kids have ended in disaster. I'll spare you the messy details.

I was so excited when Sheila mentioned her new resource during her seminar at the conference. Mr. A is convinced that it was a barely disguised sales tactic (always the skeptic!), but I still say it was a timely answer to a question from the audience.

Before the end of the day, I popped back into Sheila's seminar room and bought a copy for myself. I'm excited to have a guide to help us through a novel study but I'm also excited that I have a flexible resource aimed at older homeschooling kids.

At first glance, the 'Any Novel' Novel Study guide looks simple, straightforward and easy to use. It's laid out neatly without a lot of fluff and filler.

The section for students takes off from the starting line. The reader is to map out the work into a manageable schedule. There are even check boxes for those who like such thing.

The Guide then flows through the major components of any good study guide: understanding character, plot, theme and setting.

There are different kinds of projects and exercises for the student to choose from throughout. There are vocabulary exercises, writing prompts, art projects and craft suggestions. Lots of choice allowing the Guide to be used over and over again.

The parent guide is written to keep you in the loop. It lets you know what your student is working on thereby reducing the over-the-shoulder-itis that we parents sometimes succumb to.
When I use this novel study, I am going to remove the parent guide and give the rest of it to the kids. They are at an age where I can expect more independent work from them but they still need some guidance to stay on track. I think this resource has just enough coaching to get the job done.

We're not big on marking and grades. However, as the kids are noticing their friends getting marked and graded on everything, the conversation does come up. We probably won't mark a novel study, but the marking scheme is there. I know the Girl Child will go over it and quietly consider her her work against the marking scheme. The Boy, if he finds the chart, will pester me until I assign him a mark.

And there you have it: a straightforward novel study master. Just plug in your own novel. I bought my hard copy for $20. A download purchase costs $14.95 ($15.65 CAD). The link is here. Just for the record, that's quite a page of advertisement. The link to buy is down at the bottom. I'll be sure to chronicle our first foray into novel study land. Messy details and all.

Mrs. A


Thoughts On A Conference

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mr. A and I are back from a local-ish homeschooling conference. I have all sorts of thoughts and ideas swirling around my head. Before I tackle those, though, I thought I would debrief the conference experience itself.

Normally I look forward to a yearly homeschooling conference. I find them encouraging and motivating. I like being surrounded by like-minded people...even if I don't know any of them.

I like attending seminars given by authors of materials we use. It's insightful to hear the reasoning and intention behind a particular curriculum. The authors are full of great ideas and tidbits that really help you to use their material to your greatest advantage.

I especially enjoy the vendor fair. I comparison shop. I'm a touchy-feely shopper so I need to flip pages. I need to check page layout. I need to weigh the book in my hands. If I know what I want, I have no problem ordering from a catalogue. But if I'm looking for something new, I have to browse with my hands and see what else is on the shelf nearby.

This year, my conference experience was going to be very different. Mr. A decided to come with me. This would be his first conference. I never pegged Mr. A as the HSing conference type. I was worried that he might not enjoy the day or be engaged by the speakers. But, the lure of the conference was strong. It overshadowed my trepidation and we made a date of attending together. I decided the day called for an open minded attitude on my part. After all, Mr. A would at least enjoy spending the day with me.

Being a (mostly) confident and (fairly) experienced HSing mom, I knew to get the most out of the conference I had to take what I wanted and leave the rest. I left the keynote address and snapped up a seminar given by someone I've waited two years to hear speak. (<--more on that later!) I made the call to skip the last seminar in order to spend time in the vendor hall when it wasn't so crowded. One of my main goals of the day was to browse for new grammar and science resources. Mr. A and I decided to only buy what I can't order from my favourite HS supplier instead of buying all our supplies. It was hard not to buy everything up right then, but I was able to persevere since Mr. A was Keeper of the Currency. I also like to buy direct if I can. I was able to get our French workbooks directly from the author as well as a surprise treasure directly from the source. (<--more on that later, too!)

Mr. A stuck by my side the whole day. I thought Mr. A represented the supportive homeschooling dad very well. He was a little amused to be the only guy in the room a couple of times throughout the day. In the first seminar (titled: Organizing Your Homeschool) he listened intently and seemed to be impressed that I was taking notes. A couple of times he leaned over and waggled his eyebrows at me while nodding toward the presenter suggestively. That was my cue to take a note. I choose not to analyze his motives too closely. I was trying to be open minded, after all.

The end of the day involved a detour to a nearby MEC store. I'm not too sure what it has to do with helping me feel encouraged and motivated about homeschooling, but Mr. A insisted I needed a new kayaking PFD. That would be the yellow and black bits alongside my new collection of catalogues in the photo above. I decided this open minded attitude thing definitely made for a successful day.

Feeling jazzed about the remainder of the school year,

Mrs. A.


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