Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Drum Roll - part 2

As my regular readers know, last month my children participated in the local fair as part of their 4H group.  At that time, we found out how they did on the individual projects they submitted (to see the details, click here) as well as a contest they participated in.

Last night was an awards ceremony where they awarded trophies and ribbons for the contests as well as the superior exhibitor in the various categories.

My daughter received a trophy for best in show for a short story she wrote (I've included the story below).  She also received a 3rd place ribbon in her age group for participation in the consumer choices contest.

I am not one of those Mom's who pushes their agenda on their children, but with my daughter's love of reading and writing, I'm going to make sure I keep this trophy just in case we get to say, "I remember how you got your first award for writing when you were 8 at the local county fair."

Here's her story for those interested:

The Magic Forest

My name is Grace Clemens. I am 14 years old and in two months I'll be turning 15. I live in a two story house on Forest Drive in Hillsboro, West Virginia.
One week ago I was walking home from the store and I wasn't looking at the ground. I peacefully walked by a lamp post and then I took one more step forward and I went face forward down somewhere. Into some kind of hole. “AHHHHH!” Then in an instant I hit the ground with a thump.
I must have gotten knocked out because when I woke up I guessed it was 4:30 because of where the sun was in the sky. And I wasn't on my street anymore either! I stood at the edge of a dense forest. I heard nothing but the chirping of crickets and the buzzing of mosquitoes. Suddenly I heard the sound of singing. I made my way over to the sound of the music and found myself walking toward two trees singing in harmony! “Maybe I hit my head harder than I thought,” I said. The trees sang this song:

We have magical, magical, magical leaves,
Yes, us trees!
Our leaves are magical, yes they are,
Eat one and you will go far.
To a magical realm called Camelot.

I hid behind a tree. 'A talking tree! How is this possible? I must be dreaming,' I thought. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. 'Oh no!' I thought. 'I wasn't dreaming after all!'
“AHHHHHHH!” I screamed.
“What seems to be the matter?” said the tree I was hiding behind.
“AHHHHHHH!” I said again as I jumped away from the tree.
“What is causing you to be so scared?” said the tree.
“Um, you,” I said.
“Why?” said the tree.
“I've never seen a talking tree before. Are you nice?” I asked.
“Of course,” said the tree.
I was so scarred I was shivering.
“Do not worry,” said one of the trees that had been singing. “We are nice trees and we can take you to Camelot if you’d like.”
“No thanks,” I said, “But can you, umm, take me to the real world?”
“Not us,” said the tree I hid behind, “But there is one tree who can. To get to that tree, you must go further into the wood and you will find a maze. You have to find your way to the center where you will find the tree. Eat one of it's leaves and think about the place you love most and you will go there.”
“Thanks!” I said. I started walking into the forest expecting it to be dark and treacherous, but instead there were more talking trees who said, “Hello!” when I passed. As I got deeper, leaves of the trees covered any light from getting through and these trees didn't talk or say hello.
I emerged from the trees and into the light, and saw the maze standing before me. It was 8 feet tall and made of neatly trimmed holly bushes. I was really good at mazes, so it was really easy for me to get to the center. When I got to the center I stopped dead in my tracks. Two black growling wolves stood in my path. I ran back the way I came from as fast as I could, expecting the wolves to be right behind me, but they weren't. That didn't keep me from being scarred.
'Ok, you have to do this if you ever want to get home,' I told myself. So I headed back to the center of the maze and walked up to the wolves shivering with fear.
“What are you doing here?” a wolf said.
“I need one of this trees leaves to get home. I don't mean any harm,” I said.
“Fine,” said the wolf, “but remember, if you hurt that tree, you will be my dinner.”
“OK,” I said walking over to the tree. As gently as possible, I picked one of the leaves. I put it into my mouth and it tasted like peppermint. I thought of home and in a flash of light I was home!

My son, won 1st place in consumer choices (so he got a trophy as opposed to the ribbon my daughter received).  At the ceremony we found out that their age group (the youngest) was accidentally given the hardest choices to make.  I was proud before, but I'm even more proud now (and so are they).

In addition to the trophy for consumer choices, my son also got a trophy for best in show in general crafts for a whip he made.  He also got a trophy (and money) for being a superior exhibitor in both food and photography.  Can you tell how happy he was by this picture?

I love it when my children get to experience first hand that hard work can pay off. It was also nice watching them cheer on some of their friends as they also won awards.

So, we are already planning on what we will be doing next year.  The sooner we start, the more they can enter, and the more chances they have of winning.  My kids may not be athletic like I was at their age, but they do have a competitive streak, so they got that little part of me.  And next year they won't be competing against each other because my son is moving up an age group (and this Mama is just fine with that).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New School Year Preparations

My regular readers know that we homeschool our two children.  What some may not know is that doesn't mean we stay home and fill out workbooks all day.  In fact, I try to have at least one "fun" learning day a week.  I've found my kids learn better by doing and seeing things, so we try to fit in lots of field trips and hands on experiences.  We also try to get together with another family once a week for science and history.  This allows us to do some things that really only work well in larger groups. 

And right now, I'm also preparing for next year.  Already, you ask?  Yep.  You see, next year my oldest will be in 6th grade.  In my book, that's a big deal.  That means he only has 3 years to figure things out (studying habits, test taking skills, etc) before everything he does will be under a microscope by college admissions employees.

Yes, my son is 7 years away from college, but something I've learned recently is that you need to start planning when they are in middle school.  Say, what?!?  I was surprised when I heard that too, but I can say that I've begun to live it, and it's SO true.  And for those of you that don't homeschool, this applies to you too.

I realize that not all kids will know what they "want to be when they grow up" by 6th grade.  But by 6th grade, I'm sure you know some things your child will NOT be.  For example, I know neither of my children will be athletes.  I played sports through high school and LOVED it.  My kids could care less.

So what is a parent to do with the information you have?  Help them start figuring out what they DO want to be.  That means giving them opportunities to try different things they say they are interested in.  That doesn't mean letting them try a class and then give up.  It may be they went on the one day a substitute was teaching.  I've found you need to go at least twice but maybe even a month.  When my kids asked to take karate, I told them they had to commit to a full quarter before they could decide.  At the end of the quarter they both decided the were no longer interested, but I was happy because at least they'd given it a good try.

My friends, Jenni & Jody came out with an eBook a few months ago titled 7 Easy Steps to Writing a High School Transcript.  It is full of a treasure trove of information.  To see more information or to purchase click here.  To get a summary and see the part I've done, click on this link to their blog. 

Luckily for me, I have a pretty good idea of what my son would like to pursue.  He's been telling me for years that he wants to build robots.  We don't know exactly what type of robot but we know he enjoys the mechanical, electrical, as well as programming involved in robotics.  That means I have a rough idea of what degree he will need to obtain (some form of engineering is a safe bet).

So what I've done is called 6 different colleges that offer the type of program he would be likely to pursue.  My goal with calling them was to find out what their minimum requirements were (specifically science and math since he's going into such a heavy science / math field).  And it's a good thing I called 6 of them too, because for the most part they all told me the same thing: physics and chemistry as lab sciences.  Where things differed was the math.  The first couple told me pre-calculus but a few said calculus.  So next year (6th grade), my son is going to be taking pre-algebra.  That will put him one year ahead of the schedule he needs, but that way he has an extra year if he encounters a class that he has trouble with.

I also learned that grades are important, but so are extra curriculars.  And not in the way I thought.  I've been hearing quite a few high school parents mentioning the phrase "volunteer hours for college" lately.  I learned that some colleges like to see that kids are willing to help others, but the schools I talked to were more interested in seeing that my son participated in a few (or even one) extra curricular(s) as long as he kept doing it.  They want to see a passion that he's pursuing.  That doesn't mean he can't stop something and pick up something new.  They just want a way to prove he's found what he wants to pursue because someone that really enjoys what they are doing, tends to work hard and do well.

Next year is going to be a bit of a tough one for my son.  He's going to be attending a co-op (a group class) so that he gets used to the idea of someone else being his teacher.  He's also going to be required to take on more responsibilities when it comes to making sure he gets his work done.  After all, I'd rather he fall on his face in middle school than in high school when it matters so much more.

What do I think this will accomplish?  My prayer is that it will prepare him to pursue and excel at the dream he's had for years... to build robots.

And I'll admit it, the selfish part of me wants him to build me a modern day Rosie.