Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Week in the Life of Our Homeschool

 I decided it might be kind of fun to capture a "typical week" in our homeschool.

MONDAY:  This week was a bit unusual in that normally Mondays are one of our "stay home and hit the books hard" days.  However, this past Monday, both Connor, Mikaela and their Future Problem Solvers (FPS) teammates had to complete their qualifying problems for the Virginia State Championship.   FPS is an international academic program which is designed to improve critical and creative thinking skills.  Both kids participated last year and Connor's team actually wound up winning the Virginia State Championship.  As a result, they got to go to Indiana University this past June to compete in the International Championship.  It was an absolutely amazing experience for the kids.

Connor's 2012 FPS Team at the World Championship

So on Monday morning, I dropped the kids off at their coach's house, where they spent the next 2 hours trying to solve problems confronting Megacities 40 years into the future.  We won't find out for a couple of weeks whether or not either team qualified to go to the State Championship.  However, even if they didn't, the kids have learned so many "real life" skills from this program, that it is well with the time and effort it takes.

Mikaela's Team

Connor's Team

After FPS, the kids came home and did about 2 hours of school work before calling it a day.  I work on Monday evenings, so I left for work and later that evening, Mikaela played in her weekly volleyball league.

TUESDAY:  Tuesday morning we once again got up relatively early and then headed downtown to do what is quickly becoming one of our favorite homeschool activities.  Several months ago, we volunteered with our local PBS affiliate station to distribute books and read aloud to kids at an elementary school in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Richmond.  Connor, Mikaela and I really enjoyed the experience and found it very rewarding.  We went back a second time and while there, Mrs. M, one of the kindergarten teachers asked us if we would be interested in volunteering to help in her class on a regular basis.  Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity and so every other week, we head to the inner city to volunteer at Woodville Elementary School.

I love these self portraits that hang in the school's lobby.

While we were there this past Tuesday, Connor helped the kids write a book they are going to publish, entitled The Woodville ABCs, while Mikaela and I worked one-on-one helping the students learn to read.  I just love these kids--they are so eager and enthusiastic and they're absolutely adorable!

 After spending two hours at the school, we headed to Paneras where we grabbed a bite to eat and spent the next hour working.  Mikaela finished her Spanish homework; Connor read The Diary of Ann Frank on his Kindle for his history class; and I graded my students' papers.

Paneras--one of our classrooms away from home

After we left Paneras, we dropped Mikaela off at her weekly Spanish class.  She is taking Spanish I with 5 other kids and so far, she is really enjoying the class.  I'm impressed with just how much progress they are making, considering they only meet once a week.

Los estudiantes de espanol

While Mikaela was at Spanish, I took Connor to the library.  Both Connor and Mikaela are voracious readers, so we usually hit the library at least once, if not twice a week.

This is what Connor read the past week--3 Ursula LeGuin books, 4 graphic novels and the first 1/2 of the Diary of Ann Frank.

After we picked Mikaela up from Spanish, we then headed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit before it left town.  We feel very lucky to have the VMFA as a local resource--it's a gorgeous art museum and it gets some really great exhibits.  For those who may not know, Dale Chihuly is a glass artist and his work is absolutely stunning.  Here are just a few of the pics I took:

The kids really enjoyed this one--it was called the "Neon Tumbleweed"

There was a "room" in which the entire ceiling was made of glass objects that looked like they were from the ocean.

Chihuly is fascinated with Native Americans.  He has an extensive Pendleton Wool Blanket Collection with dozens of colorful blankets.

Additionally, he has even tried to replicate Native American woven baskets using glass.

The VMFA has installed some of Chihuly's glass spires in their outdoor fishpond.

Connor needed to burn some energy after his "culture fix."

After the museum, we headed home whereupon I made dinner and we all ate together once Bob got home from work.  After dinner, I took Connor to karate.  He really enjoys it and he hopes to earn his black belt sometime within the next 2 years.

I took this picture about 3 months ago. 

WEDNESDAY:  We began Wednesday morning how we usually begin most of our homeschool days--snuggled on the couch reading aloud together.  This is our favorite way to start the day and we've been doing it for over six years now.  Even though the kids can read much faster on their own, there's just something special about spending 15 -30 minutes snuggled close to each other reading good books.  This past Wednesday morning, we finished War Horse (one of our history books) and then started reading Do Hard Things:  A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.  (I heard it's a great read and I'm hoping it'll spark some good discussions.)

Please ignore the fact that I am wearing my Target $1.00 reading glasses and that I haven't showered yet.

Afterwards, Connor and Mikaela started in on their school work (I'll do a separate post later summarizing the curriculum we're using this year).  They both completed a math lesson and then finished up their Co-op homework.  Here is Mikaela hard at work at the kitchen table (our classroom)--and by the looks of it, most likely doing Math:

At noon, we headed into town to take Connor to his weekly art lesson with Robert Caldwell.  I feel incredibly lucky that Connor has been able to take lessons with Robert, who is a nationally renowned wildlife artist.

Connor's drawing skills (as well as his fine motor skills) have increased exponentially since he began taking lessons with him.  Here are his two most recent sketches:

After I dropped off Connor, I then took Mikaela to her weekly voice lesson.  (Music is one of her biggest passions--she sings as well as plays the piano and guitar).

I then went back and picked up Connor, turned around and picked up Mikaela and hurried home to get ready for work (I also work on Wednesday nights).  While I'm at work, the kids go to their weekly choir practice at our church.

THURSDAY:  We spent all day on Thursday at our weekly homeschool Co-op.  We have 10 families who are members of the Co-op and each week, the kids take classes in Life Science, American History, Creative Writing as well as an elective (which is currently personal finance).  I cannot say enough good things about our Co-op, nor about the group of kids and moms who are members.  Suffice it to say that it is an essential part of our homeschooling life and hands down, it is our favorite homeschool activity.

I forgot to bring my camera on Thursday, but here is a pic I took back in September.

Normally, on Thursday nights our family is together, but this week, Cade, one of Connor and Mikaela's Co-op friends had a birthday, so all of the kids went to his house for a party.  Connor, Mikaela and their friend Nick (who was sleeping over), didn't get home until almost 10:00 p.m..  (Nick spent the night because he was going skiing with us the next day.) 

FRIDAY:  I awoke Mikaela early on Friday so she could go to her weekly piano lesson.  She's been playing the piano for 3+ years now and enjoys it.  She also started playing the guitar about 18 months ago and is quasi-obsessed with it.  She practices the piano about 15 minutes a day, but practices the guitar for at least an hour, sometimes two each day.

Mikaela takes her piano lessons with a homesteader who lives in a log cabin and grows almost everything she eats.  Of course, I forgot to bring my camera, so here is a picture of her playing the piano in a talent show.

After piano lessons, it was time to "hit the slopes."  We have long designated Fridays as "Adventure Fridays" and just about every week, we either do something outdoorsy (hiking, biking, camping or exploring) or we go on a field trip.  This past week was no exception.  In January, I organized a fantastic group ski/snowboard deal at Massanutten Resort, which is located about 2 hours away.  The package deal included 4 ski lessons, 7 lift tickets and equipment rental (all for $175 p/p).  Needless to say, we've been spending our Fridays in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Fortunately, Connor and Mikaela are absolutely LOVING our ski outings and I'm thrilled that I am able to share this hobby of mine with my children!  To be honest, I am amazed at just how quickly they've picked it up--believe it or not, Connor was trying to do the smaller jumps at the terrain park after his second lesson and Mikaela, my daughter who doesn't like speed nor heights, is now (albeit cautiously) making her way down the blue slopes.  

Kerby, Connor, Joelle, Mikaela and Nick

It's not everyday you can ski towards a rainbow!

Here's a wipe-out with a smile.

We had another great day on the slopes and didn't get home until almost 9:30 p.m. (and had their friends Kerby and Joelle spend the night).  All in all, it was a great way to end the week.

As you can probably tell, we're a homeschooling family that spends a lot of time out of the home.  Perhaps we should call ourselves the OUTand ABOUTschooling family!

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed a peak into our week.


  1. Maureen, first of all you are amazing. This maybe what your week looks like for your kids, but I want to commend you for all the incredible planning and work you have put into making this experience the ideal to reach for you. I cannot imagine how you manage your time between teaching a full academic load at VCU and providing such a splendid and enriching experience for your kids. Congratulations for the faith and belief you and Bob have put into each other, Connor and Mikaela! I am in awe! Such richness!

  2. Maureen - how beautiful learning looks when you create the curriculum :-) Grateful to be a part of so much of it!

  3. What an amazing week! Very impressive. I love the volunteer work you're doing and all the pictures are just beautiful.