Welcome to TwoCowgirls, the blog about our crazy life in Downtown Saint Paul!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

4-H In Our Homeschool

"Isn't 4-H just for people that live on farms?"  

That's a question I get asked a lot!  It's definitely not just for people that live on farms.

We live in a high rise condo in Downtown, and Millie is quite involved in 4-H.  There is a club in our county, which is very urban, but we chose to go out to the next county over so she could get a different kind of experience.

Here's why we love it so much:

A Great Group of Friends

The kids in our 4-H are amazing.  The group is so inclusive of everyone, welcoming, and supportive.  Seriously.  They give me faith in humanity.

Experiences I Can't Provide

Throughout  the year, our county offers amazing classes and camps, taught by experts in their field.  I wouldn't be able to teach Millie how to make a solar car or paint Ukrainian eggs, but she was able to have the experience of learning about those things because of 4-H.

Overnight Camp

It has been proven that sending your kids to overnight camp in the summer is a great way for kids to build confidence, try things outside their comfort level, make new friends, strengthen bonds with old friends, and learn ridiculous camp songs that they'll continue to sing for weeks after camp :)  The 4-H camp that Millie went to was very affordable.  We were able to send her to an overnight camp experience that she otherwise wouldn't be able to participate in.

Public Speaking

So much public speaking!  It's not just limited to giving demonstrations in front of our 4-H group, but also giving demonstrations in front of a judge at fair time and participating in plays.  Millie has never been a shy kid, but getting these opportunities brings her out of her shell a bit more.  

Friendly Competition

Enter fair time!  The kids compete against other kids in the county for ribbons, and a chance to go to the State Fair.  The kids are driven to do their best work, put together their best presentations, and speak in front of a judge.  The encouragement that the kids get from their fellow competitors is very sportsmanlike!

Record Keeping

What if Lewis and Clark hadn't kept detailed records of their journey?  So much history would be lost!  I'm not saying 4-H is of Lewis and Clark proportion, or anything, but it is a good example of why keeping records to look back on in the future, is important.  In 4-H, kids are encouraged to keep records of the activities they do through the entire year.  At the end of the 4-H year, the kids can turn in their records to be judged, and can win a ribbon for it.  Ribbon or not, it's fun to look back on.  I'm sure Millie will like to remember her first year as an official 4-H'er.  She had quite a year!

Skill Building

There are so many groups the kids can be in!  No matter what they're interested in, there is something fun for kids to participate in.  Shooting sports, clothing project, food project, wildlife, various animals, etc.

This is why 4-H is the single most important activity in Millie's world.  She even chooses this over dance!  Wow.

Of course, it's not just for big kids.  The have Cloverbuds (which Elise participates in), that is for kids K-2.  They don't get judged, but they get to participate in the county fair, plays, camps, cloverbud day camps, and other special cloverbud activities.  Elise has made great friends, too.

We love 4-H!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Not Back To School Blog Hop 2014-2015 - School Room Week

When I first started thinking about homeschooling, I thought I couldn't possibly do it right without a school room.  Having a separate space for school work isn't an option for us because our condo is sooo small, but as it turns out, it doesn't really matter.

Here's where we do most of our book work:

If the subject we're working on doesn't involve the computer or writing, the kids are usually somewhere else working.  For example, we do all of our reading on the couch, All About Spelling is done on the floor in front of a magnetic board, NaNoWriMo is done in Millie's bed, and art and nature study could be done anywhere.

The big red cabinet you see in the picture is where I keep all the books we need on a regular basis.

It also houses my "holy grail of homeschooling."   Here's a peek inside:

"Ooooooooooo..."  That's me using my best opera voice.  Use your imagination ;)

A detailed plan for our 3 book work days

I have 39 week worth of detailed plans.  

Millie's spelling plan

"Special Interest Days" are something new for this year.  It'll allow the girls to explore subjects they want to learn about, that I didn't plan for.

So, there you have it!  A table, a cabinet, and a plan!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Not Back To School Blog Hop 2014-2015 - Curriculum Week

My curriculum and detailed plan for the 2014-2015 school year are set in stone, and ready to be implemented!  Our official start date is September 2nd, the day after Labor Day.

This year I'll be homeschooling 1st and 5th grade.  We're going to do book-work 3 days per week, and have 2 days free for outside classes, parties, and playdates.  Each book-work day will begin at 9 AM, and will hopefully end around lunch time.  The afternoon will be spent working on a "fun subject" such as geography, art, science, DIY (working on their DIY.org project), or pursuing special interests (this could be working on 4-H projects, writing letters to grandparents, playing board games, working on Collectors Corner projects, doing craft projects, playing Lego, etc)   Here's what we've got lined up!

I love the smell of new textbooks!

1st Grade:

Reading - All About Reading
Math - Saxon Math
Literature - I'll read classics to her, and then we'll do projects, copy work, dictation, and/or sequencing based on the story.

5th Grade:

Math - We're trying something new this year.  She'll be using Life of Fred exclusively.  She does really well in math, but dislikes it.  When we tried Life of Fred last year, she really liked it, so we're going forward with it this year.  I'll update on her progress later in the year ;)
English - She'll be using Bob Jones 5 for English this year.  She used it in 2nd grade, and I liked it, but she didn't.  We've been using less rigorous programs since, but now that she's older, we're going to try it again.  This time we'll take it a little slower.  I think the reason she didn't like it in 2nd grade, was because I was pushing her too fast.
Piano - She'll continue piano with her current teacher.  She was making a lot of progress last year, but I fear that she's fallen behind since she's only practiced, oh, 3 times this summer.  :/
Typing - She'll continue using www.TypingWeb.com
Spelling - I'm going to use a technique that I learned about at a homeschool convention last spring.  At the end of each day, I'm going to have both girls journal about something they did or learned that day.  I'll then check for misspelled words, and use those as her spelling list.  She'll do weekly projects with her spelling list.
Literature - She's going to read some great literature this year!  I'm making guidebooks for each book, and she'll complete them as she reads.  Among the books she's going to read are; Where the Red Fern Grows, Little Women, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Eight Cousins, and several others.
Math Drills - She'll use www.XtraMath.com to continue working on her math drills.

Together they'll work on the fun subjects.  Here's what we're using:

Geography - I made up my own plan for this (with a lot of help from Wee Folk Art).  We're going to study maps, the USA, and focus on several countries from the different continents.  At Christmas time, we'll do a "Christmas Around the World" lesson.  Fun!
Art - I made this up, as well.  They'll be learning about different art concepts, such as color, texture, geometric/organic shapes, principle, lines, etc.  We'll have a lesson, and do a fun art project (most of which I found on Pinterest) to go along with it.
Science - Millie will be doing SciGirls this year.  At home, we'll do chemistry and various experiments I found on Pinterest.
Read Alouds - I'll read to them every evening before bed.  Among the books I'll read are; The BFG, Around the World in 80 Days, The Hundred Dresses, Island of the Blue Dolphins, James and the Giant Peach, and Frankenstein.

And I'd also like to thank my mommy for her support (especially when I feel like giving up on homeschooling), and for buying my Rainbow Resources wish list.  Thanks Mommy!  I know you're reading this ;)

Find out what other homeschoolers are using for curriculum this year, here!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm Starting To Think About Fall

I'm not wishing away Summer.  I'm not.  After the long, cold (oh, so cold!) winter, I swore I wouldn't complain about any of our summer weather.  I'm fully enjoying every outdoor escapade, driving without worrying about slipping off the road, having warm wind on my skin, bare feet, green leaves...

Speaking of leaves, I saw some red leaves on a tree yesterday.

That brings me to my next topic.  Fall!  My favorite season of the year is right around the corner.  But, before it hits, we get to do all of our back to school prep and planning.  I really love that stuff.  In a few weeks I'm going to post about our curriculum choices for 2014-2015, our school room and organization, school photos, and a day in the life.

Stay tuned!

Oh, and I have to bring up the best part about homeschooling in Minnesota.  The fourth month of summer.  Kids will be back in school on September 2nd this year.  September in Minnesota is still really hot, another full month of summer, really.  The best part about September, is having all the museums, playgrounds, stores, and parks ALL. TO. OURSELVES.  It's a great month to spend outside with friends before hunkering down for the winter.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day - A Week In Review

What a beautiful week!  A week to play with friends, visit with family, and celebrate the 4th of July!

Here's what we did this week:

At the MN History Center, waiting for friends to show up.

Both girls learned to hula hoop.  Look at her go!

Checking out the Toys of the 50's, 60's, & 70's exhibit.  So fun!

Waiting for the parade to start.  Happy 4th of July!

This parade is the epitome of classic Americana.  We love it!

We spent our first night in a tent on the 4th of July.  Everyone did great!


Cousins, getting ready to play with fireworks :)

Going for a ride in the Model T.  They love the rumble seat!

There they go!

Elise could spend all day on this swing.  

We love this kitty!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

How To Start A DIY.org Club

Have you heard of DIY.org yet?  

I found out about this website recently when the Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance posted a link to it on their Facebook page.  I'll be honest.  I have spend over 5 hours browsing the website.  I'm like a homeschool mom, obsessed!  It's already been written into my plan for next year.

Here's how it works:

  1. Students log on to DIY.org, and set up an account.  You child will choose an avatar and username, and then they're ready to get started!
  2. Have your child read about DIY.org's guidelines
  3. DIY.org has 111 (yes, one hundred eleven!!) skills that your student can choose from.  There is truly something for everyone.  If my child chose "Clothing Maker," as their topic, they might choose to do the "sew in a zipper" challenge.  When she clicks on it, there is a video that teaches all about it.  It's a great way for your child to learn about things that you might not know much about (Backend Dev, or Urban Designer, for example.  Huh?)
  4. Once they choose a topic that they're interested in, they complete challenges to learn all about it.  When they've completed 3 challenges, they earn a badge (either virtual, or you can purchase an actual physical badge for $4).  When they've completed 6 challenges, they achieve Master Skill Level.  To prove that they've completed each of the challenges, they post a picture of their accomplishment to the website.  
See, easy as 1, 2, 3, 4!

How do you turn all this awesomeness into a club?  It's very easy.  In fact, DIY.org has a guide for doing this!  

Here's what you do:

  1. Register your club
  2. Invite your friends!  Who will want to join?  Neighborhood friends, homeschool groups, groups of friends, 4-H groups, the possibilities are endless, really.  
  3. Pick meeting dates and locations.
  4. Plan lots of fun activities!  Adventures, workshops, gatherings are all fun things to incorporate into your DIY year.  Get ideas for your club by viewing the handbook.  Seriously, read it.  It has more information than I could possibly put here.
A Sample Club Plan:

This is the plan for a club that I'm starting for some of our homeschool friends.  We're going to meet every two months (contrary to the suggestion in the handbook, which suggests meeting weekly or monthly).  This will give the kids time to work independently at home during their school day, then meet up for activities.  This is what we're going to do:

All meetings will start with the kids sitting together and showing off what they've been working on, either by bringing in a physical object, demonstration, or photos.  

1st Meeting - September 3rd: All of the kids have probably been geocaching before.  We're going to take it a step further, and actually make a cache, hide it, and log it.  It'll be a fun challenge in cooperation.

2nd Meeting - November 5th: This will be our adventure month!  As it says in the manual, if the kids aren't a little uncomfortable, it's not a proper adventure ;)  For this one, the kids will arrive at our house downtown, where they'll receive the challenge to take the light rail to a specific destination.  This means budgeting, map reading, keeping track of everyone in the group, and getting from point A to point B, all while collaborating together.  The parents will tag along, but we'll be in the background as the kids do their thing!  Exciting!

3rd Meeting - January 7th:  Badge-a-palooza!  This month we'll meet up to work on the Yeti badge.  The kids will complete three challenges (make fire starters, cook stew, invent a snowball launcher), and receive the badge at the end of the day.  It's going to be so much fun!!

4th Meeting - March 4th:  Makers workshop!  The kids will dig deep into their imaginations, and utilize the tools in a "makers lab" to create anything they can dream up.  They'll have access to batteries, battery holders, wires, art supplies, gears, and so much more.  If they can dream it, they can make it!

5th Meeting - May 6th - The final meeting!  This is the month where we'll honor the kids that have reached "Master Skill" level in any topic(s) throughout the year.  They'll show off their work, we'll have a party, etc.  

The cost for these meetings will add up to about $35 per child over the course of the year.  

That sums it up!  Now to start recruiting... 

Do you DIY?  I'd love to hear all about it!

The Final Days of June

It's hard to believe that summer is 1/3 over!  Oh my goodness!

It's been so fun and relaxing so far.  Here's what we've been up to:

Train ride!  It was a double decker, and we rode on top!

Bud took the girls to Lowe's Build and Grow to make dragons.  Elise takes hers everywhere.

Working on their fairy island.  An ever changing project!

This means the girl is having fun!

Aunt Leslie's Daycamp.  We went to Fort Snelling state park.

A rainy day can't ruin their summer fun!

Taking a break from the Back to the 50's car show to enter a coloring contest

She's on a boat!

She's not on a boat

Taking the bus to her first sleep away camp!

Elise got her cousins all to herself while Millie was at camp.

Training wheels...but only for a couple more days.  

Craft camp at Michaels.  Not a good experience.  

Back from camp!  The girl hasn't stopped talking about camp yet!

Fun at the library

They made fairy gardens while I was sleeping.  

Millie's gone AGAIN.  Elise invited this one over for dinner.

Find out what other homeschoolers were up to last week, by clicking here!