Fishing on Friday

The boys have really been having fun going fishing with their friends up the street, but they were not having very good luck. Mostly a problem with poor planning, we helped them today by having them slow down, remember to bring good bait (hotdog), and we also went with them to make sure they were doing okay with their fishing poles. As you can see, they had sweet fishy success. Hopefully they’ll do as well, if not better, when they go again alone, or with their friends.

Another thing to note about today is my mother-in-law, “Cici”. It’s her birthday today. We’ve been keeping our distance, but today we went over to visit, more than 6 feet away, on their patio and enjoyed cake and ice cream. The best part of all was that some of the choir spread out on her front lawn and sang “Happy Birthday” and a hymn of praise. It was terrific. My mother-in-law gives so much of her time and musical talent to our church family. She also has sewn 300 masks with the materials that she had in her sewing room. (More elastic is on the way, so more masks will be sewn soon!) It was fitting to have a serenade like this for such a giving person. Happy birthday, Cici! We love you!

A Successful Week for FCPS!

Fairfax County Public Schools. They cancelled school for the rest of the year on March 13th. It took until April 20th to get their act together. The boys finally had 4 days in a row of online teacher instruction this week. Fridays are reserved for teachers’ meetings, so no online learning tomorrow. I’m thankful that the fiasco really didn’t interrupt the boys’ learning because I had jumped into teaching them on Monday, March 16th, with my own plan.

Also, last week the boys’ teachers were posting assignments for them to complete. It kind of seems like the synchronous learning time is just a bonus. It’s nice for them to be able to stay connected with their teachers and classmates.

So, what have they been up to this week?

Caleb: Monday was the second time that he was able to have synchronous learning. Total. But, his teachers have given him assignments to be working on, so he has stayed quite busy. He’s also a pretty slow worker, so he pretty much takes the whole school day (with long snack/Lizzie breaks) to get his work done. The picture at the top is of an art challenge. It turned out pretty cute, but it’s tough to pose a dog!

Isaac: He had some online assignments and continues to do a great job with IEW, but he spends as much time as he can playing his baritone and submitting Flipgrid videos to his band teacher as well as reading the second Harry Potter book. (Thanks, Cici!)

Nathan: Online learning for Nathan requires some help from Mom. He’s able to do the synchronous learning by himself, but it seems like everyday there’s a fun assignment that requires a photo to be uploaded and a bit of typing. For example, we took the picture on the left when we went on a shape walk. I’ve actually seen squirrels coming in and out of this hole! Cute! For Pet Day, I took a picture of Nathan and Lizzie and also helped him write a poem about her.

Since Nathan finished Little House in the Big Woods, we started Farmer Boy. I love reading this book with Nathan because, for years, he’s wanted to be a farmer. And I think he’d be the cutest little farmer! I also love reading this with Nathan because in this book, Almanzo is about the same age as Nathan, and he has a lot of responsibilities and a tremendous work ethic.

Everyone, including Daniel, finished their work by Thursday evening, so we have a three day weekend ahead of us. I think that we’ll be running, fishing, and biking. We’ve settled into this Stay at Home order pretty easily. We’re homebodies.

Will it be Third Time’s a Charm for FCPS???

This is the 7th week of the Stay at Home order and no school in the school buildings. It’s also the 3rd week of attempted synchronous learning. If you’re a reader of my blog, or better yet, if you’re living this out as a parent of a FCPS student, you’re very familiar with the botched attempts by the upper leadership. Today the teachers tried it again! And we’ll see by the end of the day if everything was successful, or if they need to throw in the towel again. Cross your fingers!

Yesterday (Sunday) I was back at cutting hair. This time Nathan and Caleb were under the scissors and buzzer. They both got a similar style: short on the back and sides and long on top. With Nathan’s straight hair, it looks like a bowl-cut. He’s had this style for years, but for the last couple of years, he’s had a cut like Isaac’s. He just looks more Nathan-like with a bowl-cut!

I have alerted my little students that the 6 most important days of their little lives are approaching. Do a good job, boys!

I hate to be too optimistic, but I think that I’ve settled into a groove of school/work/exercise. I was able to write a couple of important documents for work and I have a couple of work-related Zoom meetings this week. It’s nice to have something other than educating my boys on my mind! I’ve also been consistent about running and doing Piyo. I set a couple of personal goals after “Spring Break” to keep me motivated about something.

Fishing and a Rainy Afternoon

Every other Tuesday when I go grocery shopping, I also shop for our beloved neighbors, Edd and Irma. Often after I do them a favor, the 87 year old husband says that if there’s anything that he can do for me, let him know. One time, maybe 5 years ago, when he was a young 82, he returned the shoveling favor by walking his snowblower over to our house to clear our sidewalk. I was so embarrassed that an octogenarian was shoveling for us. I guess I know how he and Irma feel, because they always yell at me when I shovel them out.

Well, I thought of something that Edd could do for us on Tuesday!

Edd loves fishing. Until recently, he went quite often. Because of the stay at home order, the boys have had lots of free time in the afternoons. They have taken up fishing at our neighborhood lake, Lake Accotink. (We WON’T be eating the fish!)

The boys only had 1 fishing pole. I figured that Edd might have at least one to spare. Well, when I asked, he told me that he had 15 in his basement! Later that day, not only did he give my boys 4 fishing poles, but also hooks, lures, weights, a filet board, and a net! The boys were sooooooooo excited! They took off on their bikes to fish as soon as they could.

This morning they made thank you notes:

It was forecasted to rain in the afternoon, so I had them play outside in the morning, until lunch. For one of my boys, that was a mistake. He had to do writing today. He chose to skip it yesterday, so today he had to double up. This writing assignment isn’t difficult. He already had the outline written. He just needed to turn it into 3 paragraphs with the “dress-ups”. It’s probably 30 minutes of work, at the most. He fussed, moaned, carried on, screamed, cried, wouldn’t take my advice of lining up 3 Hershey’s Kisses and eating one after he completed a paragraph. He just wanted to spend 2 hours dreading and moaning. He was a disaster. Playing in the morning and working in the afternoon obviously doesn’t sit well with him. And you know what doesn’t sit well with me? Hearing him carry on for 2 hours.

Tomorrow’s a new day, although it’ll be a rainy one!

Fairfax County Public Schools Threw in the Towel, but I Won’t!

Today was Nathan’s 3rd and final day with online teaching. The teachers went through so much training to prepare and did so much work, and now they’re having to switch gears. Thankfully, it’s back to a more familiar platform. Before they closed the schools, I talked with Nathan’s teacher about the possibility of distance learning, and she was hoping that she and her students would be able to use Google Classroom, because that’s what they were all used to. Well, she got her wish, after 2 failed attempts by FCPS to use Blackboard and a lot of wasted time and effort. Nathan doesn’t seemed bothered by it, but I was tearing up as I overheard the teachers saying how much they miss their students.

After Nathan left the chat session with the teachers, he wanted to see if he had enough money to buy something. Math!

Nathan’s spelling is atrocious. I’ve been teaching him phonics through a workbook, and this week we’re doing a review. He had a 21 word pretest on Monday, of which he spelled 10 correctly. So, I cut up little squares of paper and put letters on them. The letters in red are letter combinations with a silent letter. I think tomorrow I’ll give him a quiz and he’ll have to spell them with these squares.

Reading and Writing: We started Farmer Boy yesterday. I love Almanzo. His work ethic is amazing. He’ll do a summary of one of the chapters this week as well.

Everyday Nathan will log on to see what (optional) assignments his teacher has assigned. We’ll pick and choose.

Isaac actually had math through online teaching today. I wonder if his teachers are going to be rebels and continue to teach until someone finds out and shuts it down. Go 5th Grade!

He also worked on his assignments from me (writing, typing, WSCH) and he played the baritone for quite some time. His band director is terrific. There’s a thing called “Flipbook” where he can record himself playing, he submits it, and he can also see others from the class performing. She has already given him feedback and that’s the kind of thing that really motivates him. He loves instant praise.

CALEB’s teachers have put a whole week’s worth of assignments up on the website, so he started working on those. I’m going to have to set a timer for him, because he’s a bit of a slow worker. I can imagine him taking all day on something that should only take an hour. He also worked on WSCH and played the tuba.

So is this our new normal??? I have no idea. I just know that the spectacular schedule that I made probably needs to be adjusted yet again.

Two out of Three Ain’t Bad…

Caleb and many of the 6th Graders logged on today and then their teacher told them all that class was cancelled. I can’t imagine how frustrated the teachers must be.

9:00 – Isaac and Nathan logged on successfully and had one hour of online school. They worked on their packets that get mailed home every week, and they also had work that I have been assigning since the beginning of the shutdown.

12:30 – Caleb logged on successfully, but I didn’t realize that FCPS sent out an email saying that many people were having technical difficulties, so they were cancelling school for the rest of the day. Thankfully Caleb was able to see assignments that were posted by his teachers so he could work on those, as well as his packet, and writing for WSCH.

10:00pm – FCPS sent out a very confusing email. I think it said that we won’t be using Blackboard anymore? So school will be cancelled for the rest of the week? I don’t really understand what it said. It was really confusing. I’m sure that I’ll find out tomorrow when we get an email from the beyond frustrated teachers. They have spent so much time learning and preparing. Every time they think that the new system will work, they have to turn around, scrap their plans, and tell the parents and students that there will be yet another change.

What I DO know is that I’m super glad that I already have my plan in place, and that it involves very little technology. Take that, FCPS!

Fishing and Haircuts on Friday

The boys were encouraged to work hard during the week so that they could have extra free time on Friday. So, when their friends up the street knocked on our door at 11:30, they were ready to ride bikes around the neighborhood and go fishing. Except for a lunch break, they played outside with them for 5 hours.

Our neighborhood connects to Lake Accotink, which is, as Daniel says, “Deceivingly beautiful”. However, it has a 4 mile trail around it which I take advantage of just about everyday by either walking or running. Since the “Stay at Home” order, our boys have been riding their bikes to different spots to do tricks on their bikes, fish, throw rocks, etc… It’s been great.

Like I said, they went fishing with their buddies today. It’s great to let them have these times of independence. Today they cut up one of the fish that they caught with a pocket knife and used it to catch other fish. If lame old mom was there, I bet I would have put a damper their adventurous fish cutting spirit.

Since I wasn’t there, I don’t have any pictures to show you.

In the afternoon, I did something that I’ve never done before: Cut Daniel’s hair. I’ve cut the boys’ hair ever since their first haircut, so I wasn’t too nervous about it. He and Isaac have identical hair:

He looks a little nervous!
Lookin’ good!
Woolly Mammoth!
All cleaned up!

And since I was at it, I cut Isaac’s hair too:

Daniel’s little twin!
He got away from me too soon. I needed a few more minutes to finish, but he was too itchy!

And to end the night, we played “Take 2”. If you’ve never played it before, it’s way more fun than Scrabble. Can you guess which one is mine and which one is Daniel’s?

Fairfax County Public Schools: 0 Bad Kids: 3

Thank you, FCPS, for thinking that all children in Fairfax County Public Schools would be scholarly and kind online. They act that way all the time, so of course, when you tell them that nothing will be graded, everything is optional, and school will be closed for the rest of the year, they will enter the online classroom ready to learn. As you might tell by my sarcasm, that’s the opposite of what happened. Kids (especially lovely teenagers) logged on to their sessions with inappropriate false names, screamed obscenities during the class, and you can imagine the other issues that happened. (One of my high school teacher friends shared a bit of what happened when she tried to teach on Tuesday.) Thankfully, my kids are still in elementary school, so they didn’t have to experience any of that.

On Tuesday night we got a text from FCPS that there would be a 2 hour delay on Wednesday. At 10:46, I got an email from Nathan’s teacher saying that they couldn’t access Blackboard, so there would be no class at 11am. I prepared Caleb for the same news. About midday, FCPS said that classes were canceled for the day. And tonight, a text was sent out saying that school was canceled for the rest of the week. Tomorrow is Thursday, April 16th. The last day my kids were in school was Thursday, March 12th. Get your act together, FCPS. You’re supposed to be the best school system in the country.

County update over. Now onto Schuttinga School!

Nathan and I have been reading Little House in the Big Woods together. We’re almost done! Today we read about what happened to a naughty little boy, so I thought that it would be a great chapter for him to summarize on paper. We did a key word outline to organize his thoughts, and then he wrote 8 sentences because he’s 8 years old. He’ll finish the rest tomorrow.

Caleb worked solely on WSCH. He’s a slow worker.

Isaac continued to work on his writing through Institutes for Excellence in Writing (boy, am I glad that I bought that before schools closed!) and he also did a little writing for WSCH.

I feel like they didn’t really accomplish that much, probably because they were expecting to have online school and that threw them off. Anyway, I encouraged them to work extra hard tomorrow so they’ll have less work on Friday.

I really hope that they will be able to have online school next week. They were really happy to connect with their teachers and friends.

A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices… FCPS Online Learning Day 1

I might be exaggerating greatly, but that’s the song that popped in my head when my 2nd and 5th Graders were successfully online with their teachers and classmates this morning.

It’s Tuesday, so that means that I went to the grocery store early in the morning. I wiped off all of the groceries, gave the produce a bath, and Caleb helped me put everything away. Isaac and Nathan made their own breakfasts and were ready for their online school, which started at 9am. Nathan was ready so early that the teachers had to tell him to go away until 8:55. They were still trying to get ready.

Why in the world did Isaac and Nathan get on their computers at 8:30, if their online learning didn’t begin until 9? Well, yesterday, the site crashed because of the thousands (185,000 students) of children and teachers online. It still crashed today, but it was up and running during my kids’ learning time (9am, 12:30pm).

So, with this new plan in place, comes a new and more independent schedule for the boys:

  • 8am wake up
  • 9am Isaac and Nathan do online school/Caleb writes for WSCH
  • 10am Packets sent home from FCPS
  • 11am Snack and play in the backyard with Lizzie
  • 12pm Music
  • 12:30 Caleb’s online school/Isaac: Writing, Nathan: Phonics, Reading, sometimes Writing
  • 1:30 Lunch
  • 2:30 Film WSCH
  • 3pm Unfinished schoolwork/Conference with Mom
  • 3:30pm School day ends

I love a schedule…

Now! I need to tell you about the differences in online learning for a 2nd Grader and a 5th Grader, and that will lead you to pray for the 2nd Grade teachers! Nathan’s teachers are team teaching. There are 50 kids with 2 teachers and an assistant. When they started, it was very casual. The kids were talking and saying hi to each other. It was cute. However, the system became so overwhelmed that it somehow kicked the teachers out of it and they had to log on and reboot. They muted all of the kids, turned off their videos, etc… and then they taught the kids how to raise their hands, turn on their microphone when it was their turn to speak, etc… There was always a few kids that the teachers had to constantly tell them to turn off their microphones. So seriously, pray for the teachers of young kids.

The 5th Graders, who are that much older and computer savvy, started their math lesson at 9:08. They had an assignment posted on Google Classroom, which Isaac completed right away. (Isaac’s teachers are teaching solo. Only 25 kids.)

And the 6th Graders? Caleb’s teachers are also team teaching, which makes a class of 101 students! Yikes! However, I’m sure that Caleb will be able to make the best of it.

New things are always exciting and fresh. Hopefully I’ll still be singing about a weary world rejoicing in June.

And what will I be doing with all of my “free” (7am-12pm) time now??? My first order of business is to rewrite the Child Protection Policy for church. Woo hoo!

Back to Coronavirus Homeschool

Today was supposed to be the last day of spring break for Fairfax County Public Schools. Isaac and Nathan had an Open House for their classes. It was… interesting. They will have one hour of online learning each day. FCPS will be mailing optional learning packets to supplement their learning. Nothing will be graded. Can you imagine what the average high school student will be doing?

I made up a daily/weekly report to keep the kids accountable and give them some sort of goals. They’re going to be earning money for good effort. ($3 a week maximum)

Isaac has learned that I will not accept work that isn’t his best. I think that this is the first time in his whole school career that this has happened. And he’s not a fan of it. He doesn’t have a teachable heart.

Nathan, also, is learning that being a slouch isn’t going to fly.

It’s going to be a rough 9 weeks.