It's the End of the Year As We Know It

101 in 1001 list, one year in.

I started on January 1, 2009, and my ending date is September 28, 2011. I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far: I have twenty-six items completed and another thirteen in progress. There are a total of nineteen that have specified times and hence there's no way they could currently be complete. When I look at it that way, I've made great progress. :) For the percentage oriented amongst you, I'm 36.5% of the way through the total time, and have completed 25.7% of my goals. If you combine those completed and in progress, 38.6% of my goals are either none or being currently pursued.

Three of my goals are "on hold" for the time being - the ones about filters for the water here. Depending on where we land after moving, it may be more cost-efficient to get just one water filter for the entire house (I'm particularly looking at removing chlorine from the bathing water and fluoride from the drinking water) than individual filters for showers, tubs, and the kitchen sink.

I tried to make sure this time (I've done the 101 in 1001 list previously, from 2006 to NYE last year) to not put too many items that required a large expenditure of money. Still, I notice the section with the least completed requires spending money, as does another sparsely-populated section.

So what am I specifically looking at for 2010? Continuing on the goals that require an ongoing commitment. Finishing all the goals under "Reading" that can be completed before 2011. Completing all the goals listed under "Health," excepting maintain weight loss for one year. I'd also like to finish up "Personal." I did really well for the first half of 2009 with a monthly to-do list, but lost momentum around June or July. I'll probably start that up again.

January Itch

It usually starts a bit before January, but it's easy to push it aside in the hustle of the holidays. In January, though, as grey, dreary, and routine replace lights, frivolity, and get-togethers, it returns, with a vengeance. I think it tends to continue onwards into February, as well. Even though planning for school never really stops, it seems like the desire to revamp, toss, discover, and plot reaches its zenith in January, and therefore its moniker - the January Itch.

For us, the end of the first semester represents the halfway mark for our year. It's a good time to assess what has worked and what has not. Since we've been using the materials for half a year, though, it's also easy to be a bit tired of some. It's easy to start wondering about the topics that will be covered in the next year.

This time around, it's not set in so badly with regards to history, because EG is deep in the throes of learning about the twentieth century, and I adore twentieth century history. It's no big deal for me to ignore the upcoming return to the ancients. There's still about eighty action-packed years to go until she reaches the present.

There's still plenty to discover and plan, though, especially as FB will officially be kindergarten age next year - plus I feel that I've neglected him shamefully so far this year. He is, thankfully, only four, so he will survive and prosper nonetheless, but it's a bit bad when the four year old is asking for more school. He's asked for a new, different approach to phonics, as well, which is definitely an area I will have to research.

What am I looking for, this January Itch? Finalizing science plans for next year, and possibly for a couple of years. Planning out a significant portion of the history syllabus. Starting a new approach to grammar and vocabulary for EG. Reworking our approach to Latin. Getting a good handle on Classical Writing: Homer as well as Poetry for Beginners.

And, of course, continuing to pack, followed by selling our house, buying our new house, and moving. Piece of cake, right? Just to be safe, I think I'll start a few hours early... GO!


A Year Is Just the Time Between One Christmas and Another

This past weekend, we had a Christmas get-together with my maternal relatives - my aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandmother. We have very strange family dynamics, but it can fairly easily summed by stating two facts. First, my mother and her sister are so very different that it's difficult to comprehend that they're sisters. Second, my grandmother has, since my mother can remember, favored my aunt. It was obvious by the time I was six or seven, so it's not just my mother taking things the wrong way.

We gave my cousin (who's ten, just a little over a year older than EG) four books: Eleven, Twelve, Just As Long As We're Together, and Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself. FB picked out a Hot Wheel for her (he's not past the idea of getting someone something they'd like for themselves) and EG got her a game tin with chess, checkers, and chinese checkers. My parents got her Spa Science and an Old Navy gift card. My grandmother gave all the kids a bag of fruit and candy with a gift card inside it - my cousin's was for Chick-Fil-A. Now, I get that some people must really love gift cards. (For the record, I hate them for the most part - it's getting an errand and yet another decision I have to make - though I do like iTunes gift cards. You know, in case any of you wanted to get me a pressie.) But it was really disheartening for my mother, EG, FB, and myself to see her greet her gifts with an unenthusiastic "Oh, wow," and a rote thank you, only for her to bounce excitedly about her gift cards.

Each of mine liked their gifts. FB was, as usual, over the top with his enthusiastic response. What can I say? He got food, a gift card "that will turn into broccoli cheddar soup!" (Panera), a gift card for books, and a t-shirt with Buzz & Woody on it. EG received similar presents, except her food gift card was to Friday's, and her shirt did not have Buzz & Woody on it. ;) PC got a cute (purple!) outfit instead of a shirt, and a gift card for Target instead of a food gift card. They all had a great time playing with their cousin.

I've had two big shockers in the past week. Today, one of my spousal unit's siblings sent me a Christmas present. ME. While we're not entirely estranged from this sibling, things are definitely strained due to our total estrangement from spousal unit's paternal gamete donor. Apparently, she's sending presents for everyone, but I'm assuming that mine arrived first since they came directly from amazon (off my wishlist, no less). Last week was the bigger one, though. Spousal unit's paternal grandmother sent her yearly Christmas card with enclosed check. The check was larger than usual (he's been good this year about calling her on holidays and such), but inside the card... she referred to me as her granddaughter. Not granddaughter-in-law. All I ever wanted from his family was to be at least partially accepted. Instead, I mostly got scorned. (Oh, the tales I could tell, starting in summer '97....) I was very pleasantly surprised.

That's Christmas so far, here. Tomorrow night we'll make Christmas cookies and have our traditional lasanga for dinner. We may or may not go to the church down the street for their candlelight service. Candlelight services, whatever their raison d'etre, speak to the spiritual part of me... even if I can't name which religious movement that spiritual part might best fit. ;) Then we'll scatter oats for the reindeer, pour milk for Santa, and set out cookies that might make it to Santa if the cat doesn't help herself first.

Happy Holidays, everyone!


Secular Thursday: End of the Semester Musings

We're wrapping up our semester; tomorrow is our 90th day of school for this year, and it will be a light day as far as work.

Our life is somewhat in a state of limbo; we're planning to put the house for sale, and then we'll try to buy the house we want. This has overshadowed most of our school year, and in recent weeks, has led to the relocation of the school area, as well as the beginning of packing.

We've done a few new things this year, too, and let a few things lapse that we probably shouldn't've. Here, then, are my favorite new things, as well as the things I most want to resume.

01. My iPhone. The first day I got it, I jokingly referred to it as my secondary brain. It's truly grown to be that. I keep menus, grocery lists, gift lists, book lists, and more, all easily accessible wherever I am (and while I'm on a telephone call!). I downloaded the Kindle app, too, and that has been equally fabulous. I'm always on the lookout for the next way to improve the iPhone for my use, but it's already excellent. I truly think every homeschooling parent should consider a smartphone of some type. I'm partial to Apple products and the iPhone, but I'm sure others would work well, too.

02. The color laser printer, with scanning, faxing, and copying capabilities. How wonderful this is! We still go through ink quickly, but its purchase enabled us to do Lively Latin via the download option, and there have been many fewer times that we've been stymied by a lack of ink.

03. New curricula. Lively Latin has been a great find. The visual layout is perfect and I like that it reinforces material in various ways. Classical Writing Homer will be a good investment, too, based on previewing the material. Already, on week three, it's forcing EG to become a better self-editor.

04. Goal setting. Each week, on Sunday, we set goals as a family. FB has two goals, one of which are determined by the adults, the other determined by him. EG has three goals per week, with two determined by her and one by us. The spousal unit and I select four goals individually, and we then have between five and eight goals for the two of us together or for the family as a whole. We have yet to experience a week where all of the goals are completed, but I think it's an important process for all of us.

05. Friday night musicals. This has been neglected for the past two months or so, but I'm eager to reinstate it. I hope to supplement it with local performances of musicals, such as at high schools.

06. Sunday night specials. We've watched all of Blue Planet and nearly all of Planet Earth. We have a set of Sister Wendy art DVDs, and I hope to have us watch various other educational-type shows. I have Earth: The Biography, How the Earth Was Made, The Universe seasons one, two, and three, Evolution, Cracking the Code of Life, and The Miracle of Life all on the homeschool-related wish list on amazon.

07. Keeping busy. I was nervous about the number of activities scheduled at the beginning of the year. I still remain somewhat nervous, but overall, I think it's been great for the kids. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday afternoons all have activities planned, Wednesday morning is FB's tumbling class, and Thursday is science lab and EG's piano lessons.

08. This blog. I've sort of had a homeschool blog before, and I've maintained a personal, protected blog for years, but having a public blog has actually helped me focus some of my thoughts. Writing things down for others to read requires a certain amount of organization! Doing regular Secular Thursday, Weekly Report, and Wordless Wednesday posts helps keep in the mode of posting. The Weekly Report alone has been extremely helpful in keeping a realistic picture of what's been accomplished.

09. Smrt Mama. For a long time, I didn't make an effort to seek out fellow homeschoolers that lived nearby. Even once I did, I either connected with the mom, or the kids were at the same age/level as EG... not both. I was very careful not to push when she began to consider homeschooling last spring; homeschooling is never something about which someone should feel even a bit of pressure during the decision-making process. I won't lie, though, that I was thrilled with their decision.

10. iPod Touch. We got a free Touch with the purchase of the spousal unit's new computer over the summer. We decided to let EG use it, at least provisionally. We've had to make sure she doesn't spend too much time watching Tom & Jerry cartoons via the YouTube app, but she has been using it for a few school-related tasks, especially the timer feature. I'd like to get iFlipr for her over the Christmas break and spend time setting it up for use. In general, it's been a good supplemental tool.

11. Clarity and focus. Every year has seen an increase in this, with regards to our overall goals for the kids' educations. Still, I feel like this year has seen some productive discussions between us as parents. EG's started having some talks with us about her relative strengths and weaknesses, too, where we delve into prioritization. Finally, I feel like I myself have a better vision in my head of what I'd like the finish line to be.

12. Science experiment kits. I resisted buying these for years, because really. How hard could it be to just pick up the necessary items as needed? Apparently pretty difficult, because science experiments just weren't getting done. I splurged on full kits and voila! That plus having a regular appointment with friends for labs, and miraculously, science experiments are being completed.


Weekly Report: Weeks Fifteen, Sixteen, & Seventeen

Yes, I've missed a few weeks. Week fifteen ended with PC's birthday, followed by Thanksgiving, and last week... I have no idea what happened. Suffice it to say that the weekly report just didn't happen.

We've had productive weeks, though. EG has moved firmly into the 20th century in her history studies, which is a time period I just adore. She's read several books about World War I, the suffrage movement, and important figures of the first few decades of the 1900s. Most of her literature reading has been historical fiction about the same time periods. Memory work has gone well, too, and she added "In Flanders Field" to coincide with her study of World War I.

In science, the unit on light was finally completed, and we've proceeded onwards to water physics. At last! That will be finished before we break for Christmas. Math is going well - she's officially started algebra and is having a lot of fun with it! She's also finished all of the Key to Decimals books and all the Key to Measurement books.

Latin is still going well, though I think we're going to take it a little slower in the next semester. Because she still has issues with spelling in English, she uses her flashcards to help her spell the words in Latin. So there's definite value in her study of Latin, but I don't want to proceed too fast so that she becomes frustrated with her inability to put her correct answers in a readable form. Plus, I have to concede that we're not a Latin-centered homeschool, so a time investment of thirty minutes a day seems disproportionate.

EG also started her new writing curriculum - Classical Writing Homer A. So far, so good, though she's told me she thinks it's a little easy. I think it will start to crank up in the next few weeks. She's still proceeding through Junior Analytical Grammar. I love it. It's not seeming to help her retention any more than any other grammar she's used, though. It's strange. She can use proper grammar in writing, and she can complete any grammar text-specific exercise with flying colors. Ask her to extrapolate the knowledge to another context, though, and she just doesn't seem to make the connection. Since she's clearly able to do so in, well, every other subject, she clearly needs a different approach. We're looking at a couple of options.

We haven't done spelling in a few weeks. It was torturous for both of us and I decided it was better to take a break than to forge on hating every moment. We'll resume it after our break, in the new year. She has been able to start doing some work in cursive penmanship - hooray!

Co-op, band, and Master's Academy have all ended until January, but piano lessons will continue through next week.

FB insists that he doesn't need to learn how to read, but continues to work hard on his handwriting and wants a spelling book. Go figure.


Depersonalization, with a little help from the Beatles and R.E.M.

Every source I have found talks about the need to depersonalize your house before selling it. There is a good amount of talk about how to let go of your house, and view it as a home.

The thing is, I don't think most of these people have had babies at home, or taught their kids to read at home. My house is my office, my birthing center, and my home, all wrapped up in one package. I'm so very excited for us to move, especially assuming that we get the house we all want, but I'm also having a hard time with the thought of leaving, permanently.

Once we leave, there's no way I can stand in the sunroom and tell FB, "This is the spot where you were born." There's no way I can sit in the upstairs alcove with EG beside me the same way we sat as she learned to read. PC will not remember living here, much less the living room where she emerged. FB's memory of running in the backyard will fade with time. I would never want us to stay here indefinitely, just to stop these thoughts from cascading through my brain, but cascade they do, nevertheless.

We moved two months before EG was born, and again just before she turned two. Less than two years later, we bought this house. This house represented stability for her, in lots of ways. It will always be the first house that the mister and I bought together.

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all...
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them

And this limbo, it's ceased to be my house. The house works and we can live here, the way it currently is, but it's not mine. Each step we take leads us further and further away from it being ours, closer and closer to being just a commodity. A house. A piece of real estate. I know it has to be this way, and on most levels, I'm embracing that fact.

The first time we moved, I wasn't ready. It wasn't our plan to move when we did, and I had a hard time letting go. Luckily, though, we hadn't lived there long, and it was just a rental. The next two times we moved, they were still rentals, and I was definitely ready to see what was next. This time, though, I'm much more conflicted. Maybe there's something about ownership versus renting, but I think it's more how much of us has sunk into this place. As I said, babies born, children taught, every day - life, and how we live it.

Burn bright through the night, two pockets lead the way
Two doors to go between the wall was raised today
Two doors remain before your others and your own
Keep these books well stocked away and take your happy home...
Listen, listen to the holler,
If I write a book it will be called "Life and How To Live It."

So I may shed a few tears, and I'll wish for time to slow and speed simultaneously. One foot in front of another, we'll get there.


Yes, It's Only December

And yes, I'm trying to start putting together a plan for next year (fifth grade for EG, kindergarten for FB). It's easier to picture what level EG will be at than it is to even attempt to predict FB's trajectory. For all that EG can be scary smart, I see even more traits of giftedness in him. This is the part where I whisper "help!" in a great, faux-scared stage whisper. :)

Fifth Grade
Language Arts:
     Word Study - continued use of All About Spelling through Level Six, if not completed this year; Vocabulary from Classical Roots, continuing through the series at a steady pace.
     Grammar - Punctuation Puzzlers, Harvey's as a reference for CW, GrammarLand, possibly The Language Mechanic.
     Writing - Classical Writing Homer and Poetry for Beginners; either outside class or some other program as well -??
     Reading & Literature - Literature list pulled primarily from WTM recommendations for fifth grade, along with beginning to delve more into analysis. I'd love to find a resource for this - I have Deconstructing Penguins but I admit I need a little more handholding... mainly because I don't enjoy literary analysis.
Mathematics: Art of Problem Solving texts, Life of Fred Advanced Algebra... it's so hard to say. If she hasn't finished the Key to Metric Measurement and Key to Percents series this year, she'll finish those. She may or may not play with the Key to Geometry books. Ideally, practice for and competition in Math Olympiad.
Foreign Language:
     Latin - either Lively Latin 2 and then Latin Prep 1, or just the Latin Prep series.
     Modern Foreign Language - either Chinese or German, probably primarily through a local tutor, utilizing whatever materials chosen by said tutor
History: Year One of Three covering world history, so primarily ancients, moving into the Middle Ages. The plan is to use History: The Definitive Visual Guide as a spine, following most of the suggestions as laid out in WTM.
Science: Oh, goodness. EG really wants to accelerate in science, and I told her I'd help her figure out a way to do it. Tentatively, she'll cover at least life science and earth and space science next year. I'd really like to spend at least a few months doing a history of science course, using the Joy Hakim books and other resources.
The Arts:
     Visual Arts - I really, really want to find time for her to take drawing lessons. I think artistic ability is somewhat fixed, but I also think that almost anyone can learn to sketch passably well. Master's Academy does a nice job of providing projects in various media.
     Drama - I also want to step up the amount of live performances that EG attends. Master's Academy does at least include drama and the chance to be in an end-of-the-year production.
     Dance - See previous comments about live performances. While EG has never expressed regret about stopping ballet after two years, I have considered seeing about some kind of low-key jazz or modern classes for her; I think she'd enjoy them more.
     Music - Continuing piano lessons and involvement in band playing the trumpet. We're looking for a local instructor for her to take trumpet lessons, as well, since the band instruction (or lack thereof) is frustrating her. At some point, I'd love for her to do the occasional voice lesson with her piano teacher (who also does voice training). Of course, attending more live performances would be a positive as well. I wish there was some kind of calendar of performances that included schools, amateur groups, and professional groups as well.
Physical Education & Health: I hope she'll continue to swim, either on her own or with a group of some sort, one to three times a week. Not sure what other physical activity we'll incorporate. I'm working on a list of books I want her to read for an informal nutrition study.

Language Arts:
     Phonics - I have no idea if we're going to keep using OPGTR or something else; either way, we'll continue phonics. If he ever goes off phonics-strike.
     Spelling - As much as I've not enjoyed teaching spelling, I go back and forth. He wants, desperately, to learn to spell. A big part of me wants to try Spelling Workout with him, because it would be so easy. I have almost everything for All About Spelling, though, so... we'll see.
     Grammar - I use First Language Lessons for kindergarten and first, so we'll start grammar in that.
     Handwriting - He's already using the kindergarten book of Handwriting Without Tears, so I'll probably make my own practice pages at first, and then move on to the first grade book.
     Writing - We may or may not do Writing With Ease. I'm leaning more towards "may," just because it would a chance to write (and boy, does he love to write!) in a workbook (which he also, inexplicably, loves).
Mathematics: Assuming we finish Right Start A this year (which I think we will, if we ever just do it again, we'll move on to Right Start B. I'm considering purchasing the Miquon books just because I loved using them with EG, and I think they'd complement Right Start well. I also have in mind to use the Math Mammoth materials if he needs extra practice. I have to keep reminding myself that he's not EG, who was so obviously a mathematician even at an early age.
Content Subjects: Geography, history, literature, science, and so forth. I have a long list of books to read to FB, and we'll work off that list. I also have ideas of experiment kits to purchase and do with him, informally. One thing EG and I enjoyed when she was in kindergarten was getting those "Cooking the [insert country here] Way" books from the library, reading some of the information, and picking one recipe to try. I still make the lentil soup from one of them. I'd like to do that with FB, too, especially since he so loves to be a "cooker."
The Arts: His arts exposure will be covered well by Master's Academy. Depending on the time that it's offered, I might have him participate in the class for five year olds at band. He'll go to as many performances as we think he can sit through without being disruptive.
Physical Education: If EG is going to swim regularly, that should translate into FB taking lessons at least once a week. I'd also like to enroll him in a gymnastics class.

Now to figure out what all of this means in terms of purchases to be made, right?


Secular Thursday: Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Generation X is often defined as encompassing the birth years 1961 to 1981. I can guarantee, though, that I am not Generation X.

Generation Y or the Millenials are sometimes defined as the mid to late 1970s through the late 1990s. I can equally guarantee, though, that I am not Generation Y.

I think there's a middle generation, or mini-generation. Ranging from approximately 1974 through 1982, we're stuck in the middle. We're neither fully Generation X nor anywhere near Generation Y. I've had this theory for a long time. The first time I remember being aware of the difference that would become my theory was in my late teens. I read things that told me I was part of Generation X, but I didn't agree with any of the characteristics I was supposed to have. None of my peers seemed to match, either. At first, I assumed I was actually part of the next generation, which was then unnamed. Two things changed my mind, though.

There were people at my high school, when I graduated, who didn't remember the Challenger exploding. It was always such a vivid memory for myself and others that I talked to that were my age. For the next age up, it didn't seem to have the same effect, but for us, it did. Then, the summer after my freshman year of college, I worked as a counselor for a summer enrichment program. The kids were 12, 13, and 14; surely they were part of my generation if my speculations a few years previous were correct. Except... there was a fundamental gap between us. I couldn't put a finger on it, and I still don't have a good grasp on it, but one day there was another stark reminder. "You know," I said, continuing a conversation, "Before Windows."

"Before Windows?" Their faces turned to me, incredulous. "I don't remember computers not have Windows!" There was a lot of agreement there. I was a strange Old Person who remembered before Modern Technology.

And I knew I wasn't part of that generation, either.

I've refined my theory through the years. How old were various people when Reagan was elected? George H.W. Bush? Clinton? What events of the world do they remember, and what do they not? Eventually, I decided on my 1974 to 1982 span. Over time, I noticed a trend. Even though I knew many people who did not fall into that span, thanks especially to having EG at an early age, there seemed to be some kind of gravitational pull at work. The Gen X'ers clustered together. The young whippersnappers clustered together. And then, there we were. Stuck in the middle.

Afraid that I was presuming too much about my own little slice of time - after all, don't we all want to be special? - I started asking others about my theory. I made sure to ask people who fell outside my time span, both older and younger, back into the Boomers, too. And over time, yes. A consensus emerged. On the cusp of a generational switch = an unique experience, neither one generation nor the other.

We don't have anything particularly defining, and it's not particularly important. But still, here I am - stuck in the middle (probably with you).


If I Were A Better Homeschooler...

I know you do it. All those niggling doubts, when you listen to other people's homeschool experiences. It doesn't matter that some of them contradict the others completely. It's the list. The "if I managed these things, life and homeschooling would be perfect" list. Or maybe not perfect. Just. If I were a better homeschooler...

If I were a better homeschooler, my kids would voluntarily learn every second of every day.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would drop everything to play a board game with my kids, no matter what else I might have wanted to do.
If I were a better homeschooler, I'd grind my own wheat to bake my own bread.
I'd also have a garden that supplied well over half of our produce needs.
If I were a better homeschooler, my laundry would always be done.
It would also be folded and put away.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would do more projects for history.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would use various free sites to do crafts relating to whatever we're studying.
If I were a better homeschooler, we'd be at the library at least once a week.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would be less rigid.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would be more rigid.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would cover fewer subjects.
If I were a better homeschooler, I would cover more subjects.
If I were a better homeschooler, my children would never, ever dawdle.
If I were a better homeschooler, my children would never watch television or play games online.
If I were a better homeschooler, my children would learn important things from online games and television shows.
If I were a better homeschooler, I'd take my kids to park days and other trips during the day all week.
If I were a better homeschooler, I'd commit to keeping my kids at home doing schoolwork during the day all week.

What's on your list?


Once More Into the Breach...

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. I succeeded, even if I did so with a lame two or three sentence post from the iPhone on PC's birthday.

In the month of November...

... we decided for sure to sell the house, even without any sort of offer on the table for the new house.
... my baby turned one.
... my aunt, uncle, and cousin refused to come to Thanksgiving dinner with us for the first time.
... we removed the wallpaper in the kitchen and repainted it.
... the china cabinet was moved to the dining room.
... EG finally got her new bed.
... EG finished Writing Tales 2.
... EG started algebra.
... EG started Classical Writing Homer.
... FB renewed his desire to write.
... the cat lost more fur on the back of her hind legs.
... most of the leaves fell from the trees.
... the exterior of the house got painted.
... I missed greatly Dollhouse Fridays.
... I was upset that Dollhouse was canceled.
... I was disappointed that the CSI crossover involved Ray going everywhere.
... I discovered I was still bitter about the fiasco last year with regards to Girl Scouts.
... co-op session ended.
... EG had her first band concert.
... I finished the cord that will go between FB's (unknitted as of yet) mittens.
... I fell madly in love with the Kindle app for iPhone.
... I posted to this blog, every day.


Tomorrow Is A New Day. And A New Writing Program.

Just before our Thanksgiving break, EG finished Writing Tales 2. She's zoomed through both it and Writing Tales 1 since the beginning of this calendar year. Therefore, it's time to plod ever onward.

Into Classical Writing: Homer.

In an attempt to be prepared, I had bought all of the materials over the summer. I spent several days reading through the materials and felt that I had a good grasp on the program. I then put the materials away, and went about the rest of our homeschooling year.

The last two weeks have been... hectic, to say the least. As I referenced in a previous post, I've been feeling mentally down this past week, and between Wednesday night and Friday afternoon, several more things were added to the weight on my mind. Somewhere in between the summer and now, combined with the possibility of moving and every day life, I forgot that there was a need to, well, prepare for Homer. That there was something called a "Preparation Week."


Luckily, it doesn't look like it's really an entire week of work, so we should be okay to move cautiously forward. I like how thorough the program is and honestly, I'm eager for EG to get started.

That said, I've been thinking over the past several months about the possible value of two writing programs. Many people use multiple approaches to math; since math and writing are, in my opinion, the two most important areas, why not two writing programs? Yes, it could lead to a high volume of required output, especially as a student grows older, but...


Homeschoolers talk the talk about wanting to produce excellent writers, but there's also a lot of talk about not requiring too much too soon. No, it's not a good plan to turn a six year old from writing with ridiculous expectations. EG's not a six year old, though.

In practice, she was pursuing two different writing programs this autumn, since one of her co-op classes was creative writing. The two different aspects of writing were different enough in focus that she didn't seem to have a problem with doing "writing" twice. Actually, some weeks, she was doing it more like thrice, as we attempted to use IEW's Geography-Based Lessons.

I don't know what I might have her use in partnership with Classical Writing, or if I will continue to let a more creative writing be the secondary focus, but it's a thought that keeps persisting.


Where do we go from here? When does the end appear? When do the trumpets cheer?

Some days I'm not sure what we're doing, or why we're doing it, at least with regard to attempting to sell our current house and buy the one we like. Today is definitely one of those days.

To finish everything that we feel is necessary, we need just slightly more money than we currently have available. Part of it is, of course, that it's the wrong time of the year. We had Thanksgiving groceries to purchase, and have Christmas gifts still to buy. There's never a lot of extra money around the holidays. Of course, there's also a certain amount of reluctance to spend too terribly much money on a house that we'll be leaving. We're trying to focus our purchases on things that can leave with us, now, but there are still a few things that must be done to the physical house.

We met with a realtor about selling our house (our other realtor is a buyers' agent only) on Tuesday. He had brought some comparables but after seeing the house decided to pull new comparables. We got those listings this morning. Based on those listings, I don't think any of them are exactly comparable, but he seems to feel that they are. Worse, he thinks we should list it at a price that's about $20K less than what we hoped to get for the house. Now, I know that I don't have a lot of experience in real estate, but even looking at the same houses that he feels are comparable, I expected a suggestion about $10K more than what he did suggest.

And buying the new house is dependent in large part on the selling price for this house. We'll be using what we have after closing costs and paying the mortgage to make what we hoped would be a substantial down payment, thereby reducing our monthly mortgage. If we list at his suggested price, even if we sell quickly, we won't make enough to buy the new house and still live month to month. This is obviously not a good option.

I can't help but feel like it's my fault. If I had been less impatient, we could have finished staging the house before a realtor ever saw it, just like one of my staging books suggested. If I had just been feeling less down this past week, I could have started on the prepacking, and it would have looked less cluttered. If I had just done something different, I could change what price he suggests for listing.

Of course, it's not a binding suggestion. There are smaller homes in the vicinity listed for more, and frankly, that would be a red flag to me as a buyer. Why, I'd wonder, is the larger house listed for less than the smaller one? I'd suspect there's something that's being hidden, or that the owners were really desperate to sell, and would accept really low offers. Neither of these things are the image I want to project.

So today's a day to ponder, I suppose. I already felt mentally assaulted this week for various reasons - this is just one more! I feel so overwhelmed and I don't know where to start, so instead I just watch television and read the internet. Not the best coping skills, I know, but I feel so overwhelmed and so out at sea that I don't know where to go.


Irony: It's the Spice of Life

I went through the first twenty-five years or so of my life thinking that I was a pessimist. I doubted whether things that I wanted would actually occur. If something didn't occur, I told myself that I wasn't disappointed, as I hadn't really expected it to happen. I frequently would spout the idea that if you didn't expect much, you were either not disappointed or pleasantly surprised.

Imagine my surprise when I realized I'd been lying to myself.

I'm not a pessimist. Rather, I think I'm a pretty huge optimist. No, in the day to day of life, I might not think that the small things will all arrange themselves perfectly. On a macro scale, though, it's pretty clear from my actions that I'm actually an optimist. Not sure how things will happen? Turns out my actual belief is more along the lines of "it will work out perfectly, and if not perfectly, at least good enough." I have no good explanation for my years of thinking I was a pessimist. I suspect it has something to do with environment and a deep-seated need to protect myself from extreme disappointment. I suffered disappointment or hurt in a tiny thousand ways, and really, I think I just was trying to protect myself. If I could convince myself that I hadn't really thought something would happen, there wasn't a need to be disappointed when it didn't... right? And so perhaps my swing into optimism was brought about after my world really did align in such a way that things in general worked out.

The truth is, though, that this optimism and faith in the universe is probably what has kept me sane. If everything will work out in the end, there's no need to freak out right now. I find myself able to manifest things in a way that I never would have expected. The downside, of course, is that there is disappointment. It was there before, though; I just didn't allow myself to label it as such. I think perhaps it's better this way; I see it and label it, and actually work through it, instead of burying it, insisting that it doesn't matter. Too many things that "didn't matter" in my past find a way to resurge now, and decades-old disappointment is, unsurprisingly, even more difficult to handle.

In November, it feels like everything is about giving thanks. Being grateful. it's come to feel almost trite, in some regards. I am thankful, though, that I actually acknowledge my optimism now. Rose-colored glasses can occasionally fog up, and that's not fun; it's much harder to get light through the very dark glasses.


Harvest & Abundance

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's not because of the food, though I do enjoy it. It feels the most connected to me, the theme of a harvest celebration running across years and cultures. It feels like the one time of the year when the country as a whole pauses, and remembers exactly what the season is. The richness of the colors, the crisp bite in the wind - it's the ultimate expression of autumn for me, and autumn is my favorite season.

EG observed today that she liked Thanksgiving, but it seemed like a holiday "where the adult girls have to do a lot of work, but the boys don't do any." She was mostly right, of course, but she said this before the spousal object's mother arrived. MIL does not work. She brings one dish, tells my mother and I how long it needs to be warmed, and does nothing else except eat.

Oh, and heckle my father about not wanting to eat broccoli cheese casserole (my dad doesn't eat broccoli!), take pictures after being asked not to, and call FB "a mess," and not really in a nice way.

We shed some of our usual attendees this year, though not by design. They decided they'd had a better offer, it seems. I'm trying hard not to be bitter and be thankful for what we do have and with whom we did share the day. I'll get there eventually.

Thanksgiving is a reminder each year to listen to the rhythm of the seasons. I actually prefer to do my resolutions and reevaluating in the autumn (rather than the New Year or even the spring). I'm looking forward to FB & EG going to spend the weekend with my parents tomorrow, and a nice slow weekend with PC and the spousal unit. I think I'll spend some time doing my reevaluating and resolving. It's the perfect time to curl up with hot apple cider and do so. :)



Hooray! Thanksgiving Break! Five glorious days before any more schoolwork has to be done. I'm not sure who is more excited - EG or I. :)

Between now and Monday, though, we're going to be relocating our school materials. Yes, part of the staging process. I'm feeling a little uncertain about it, but hoping that it will be extremely temporary. I'm not naive enough to think we'll sell the house, buy the new house, and move before January fourth or so, but by the end of January certainly seems like a reasonable goal... right?

EG will be starting a new writing program after Thanksgiving. She started Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra last week. She's in a good groove with the remaining subjects and materials (with, of course, our usual exception of spelling). Every year, between mid-November and the end of January, she makes a big leap. It surprises me still, because I keep thinking How can she leap still higher, but she does. I'm eager to see where her leap this year takes her.


Easy Button for Homeschoolers

"Nothing worth doing is easy."

I'm working on a sekrit project, which I'll eventually (in 2010) reveal, but as I was taking the first steps towards completion of it, I had to remind myself frequently of the above statement. Nothing worth doing is easy. Nothing worth doing is easy.

It's applicable to homeschooling, as well. Let's assume that if a person decides to homeschool their children, they also feel it is worth doing. Let's further assume that they feel it's worth doing well.

That's not going to be easy.

What's difficult about it will vary for different people. For some, it's giving up a large amount of their "me time." For others, it will be focusing on multiple subjects at multiple levels for multiple children - every day. The guarantee, however, is this: it won't be easy.

Some homeschoolers, though, seem to think that Staples sells a Homeschoolers Version of their Easy Button. Don't get me wrong; there may be days, subjects, weeks, whole months that will seem easy. The journey is long, however; it will not always be smooth sailing. So many of the posts that can be found on message boards and mailing lists, however, are essentially a well-cloaked version of "I need the Easy Button for this!"

There's nothing wrong with lamenting the lack of Easy Button, but trouble can start if someone attempts to fashion one. Putting a high school age student and a third grader together for history? There's at least one person who will tell you that sure, that can work! Teach the same exact science material to all four of your children (and, no, none of them are the product of multiple births)? I guarantee a respondent will tell you that they've done just that. In most cases, though, you're sacrificing a component of at least one child's education.

Similarly, the time advantage of homeschooling will begin to wane at some point. This will be either because your child doesn't have homework, or because your child is doing more than he or she would in a traditional school - a second foreign language, religious studies, extra science, two math programs, or in-depth arts study, perhaps. Yes, that makes it harder. More of your time has to be devoted to supervising, guiding, and teaching, even if the actual face-to-face teaching time has decreased.

We wish it were easy. I certainly do. It would be nice to press the Easy Button for some aspect of homeschooling - just one! But I can't.

No, it's not easy.

But nothing worth doing is.



One of the pitfalls of homeschooling, I think, is the possibility for the primary homeschooling parent to have his or her identity swamped. Swamped? Yes. Under the lists of living books, the catalogs of curriculum, and the detritus of daily work, I think a homeschooling parent's identity can start to be defined ever more narrowly.

Being aware of this danger, I do try to mitigate it. I can feel myself slipping under the pile at times, and then I know it's time to reenergize and renew. Sometimes it's simple, but other times, it feels like the pile is taller. Heavier.

I mention this because this week I've been having fun with a book called Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design. The idea is that, through the exercises in the book, you eventually discover your own two-word style statement, following the 80/20 principle. The first word is your 80%, your foundation. The second word is your 20%, your creative edge.

I don't particularly want to share my style statement (some people might, there's no right or wrong way to go about it), but oh, the process has been fun. Once I found my statement, I then personalized the definitions and words associated with it. The result is a one-page description that really beautiful defines me, in the best possible way.

The best part, though, is that the book doesn't end with discovering your style statement. It has suggestions of how to use your style statement, going forward. There are suggestions of actions to take, journaling prompts, and specific ideas of what you could do on a weekly basis.

The appeal of it, though, from a homeschooling parent's perspective, is that it's simple. Once you have your style statement, you have it. It's done. Two words that you can use as a touchstone, no matter what else you may be doing. That, I think, is powerful.


Staging a House of Homeschoolers

Like any good homeschooler, FB has been paying attention to various aspects of life, even if they aren't related to school. Since I've been researching staging the house in preparation for selling it, I've watched some related shows on television. FB has offered me staging advice since then ("I think we should move this furniture around in order to sell this house!); he's also asked me to buy Sunsweet Ones, showing that advertising works.

In order to stage the house most effectively, though, we're going to be moving furniture, as FB suggested. Our current homeschool room is going to be repurposed, and our homeschooling space will be shared with the playroom space. We're repainting and buying a few accessories and the like. We're also learning how to improvise.

Today's finds: a round table with four chairs, a piece of art for the living room, and a small rug to define a 'foyer.' The table was a big deal; we really needed to stage the dining room with a round table, but we can't really use a round table because we need a bigger one, not a smaller one. Yay Goodwill!


Busy busy day

Trying an experiment... Blogging from the iPhone! We're waiting for food at Steak N Shake, after birthday fun and EG's fall concert for band. Yay!



Purple Child turns one tomorrow. Today, however, is a Thursday, and she was decidedly born on a Thursday, one week before Thanksgiving, so I can't help but feel like today is an anniversary of sorts, even though it's not her birthday.

I'll post her birth story tomorrow (publicly! omg!). Some impressions and reflections though...

And if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free resonated with me before the birth. It would become a mantra after the birth.

Thursday nights. Girl Scout nights. I was having contractions, avoiding seeing too many people anyway. My mom took EG to the meeting. I was the leader. I had planned meetings for the rest of the year with my co-leaders. My 02s.

(Plans they threw out.)

My mom went to get EG early. Somehow, she had known. Feverishly working on her project, "in case she had to leave early."

(That was the first time they were rude to EG. They hadn't dared before that night, because I was usually there.)

The space shuttle was supposed to be visible. I posted online about Al Gore coming to my city. I was riding the post-election euphoria still. I had thought she was waiting just for the election, but she waited a little longer than that.

(It was the beginning of the end for me, but they had already castigated me and turned me out. I just didn't know it yet. I tried, I tried so hard, for the girls.)

And if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free

Someone told me that Purple Child would bring me clarity and continue to teach me things. She did. She let me hang on to that mantra. As I had shut out the world on a chilly November night and brought her into the world, I could shut out the people that would hamper me from flying.

I tried to insert myself, to protect people, and they tried so hard to bring me down. I had to walk away, in the end, five months later. I had to be free. But I knew they couldn't bring me down. It's all so tied up in PC's birth, the process she initiated, the things I learned.

It hurt. A lot.

It feels good to be free.



I wish I could bottle four, and save it forever.

There's a simple joy in a four year old. A love of life, and every experience is cherished. Treasured. Emotions run high - a moment after laughing, there could be tears. Intensity, yes, but a growing ability to listen. A smidgen of reasoning. A delight in accumulating new knowledge.

I love the paradigms that four constructs, both the nonsensical and the more logical.

Today FB was watching me make meatloaf. "Is that ground beef from our cow?"

(We bought a quarter of a local, grass-fed cow back in June.)

After I affirmed, that yes, it was from our cow, he asked me how I had made meatloaf before we bought the cow. In his mind, he can't remember the paradigm before, where we bought it at the grocery store.

We didn't get a digital camera until just as EG turned five, so all of my pictures of her at four are on film, not digitized. One of my favorites of her, ever, though, was taken that year. Standing on the beach, bathed in the waning sunlight, her grin both innocent and impish. Sometimes I'd like to have that four year old back - and I know I can't.

I know I can't stop FB at four, either. I won't be able to keep PC from turning five in her time. I just have to try to store the days up in my head and remember them. All 1,095 of them.


The History Files

Despite my insistence that we are not a history-centered homeschool, I do find we spend a good portion of money on biographies and supplemental histories. Part of it is the nature of the subject; it's very easy to be, for example, math-centered and diversify without needing to spend a large amount of money. Another part of it is availability; there are far more books written for children and young adults about various parts of history than there are about different parts of math, Latin, writing, or even science.

Preparing to cover history from 1850 to the present was a lot of fun, for me. When I was prepping this week's assignment sheet for EG, I told her, "We've made it to the 20th century in history! Yay!" She wasn't quite sure why I was so excited. It's a time period I've always enjoyed, though, and that made it particularly difficult to pare down the number of extra books planned.

As a result, the following list is pretty long. And, yes, we already owned a lot of these before I started planning this year's history lessons.

Abraham Lincoln's World, Foster
If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad
Ghosts of the Civil War, Harness.
If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War
Lee and Grant at Appomattox
Paddle to the Sea, Holling.
Tree in the Trail, Holling.
Minn of the Mississippi, Holling.
Seabird, Holling.
If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island
Shutting Out the Sky
Usborne True Stories: The First World War
The World Wars
The Yanks Are Coming
The Woman's Rights Movement
Stalin: Russia's Man of Steel
Six Days in October
Children of the Great Depression
The Sinking of the Bismarck
Air Raid Pearl Harbor!
Battle in the Arctic Seas
The Great Escape: Tunnel to Freedom
Invasion: The Story of D-Day
Victory in the Pacific
The Good Fight
America & Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger
Team Moon
There Comes A Time
If You Lived At the Time of Martin Luther King, Jr.
10,000 Days of Thunder
Ain't Gonna Study War No More
Gay America
33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History
They Led the Way
Madam President
A Nation Challenged


The Perils of a Warm Climate

We live in an area with a relatively warm climate. Yes, we have four (or three and a half, maybe) seasons, but overall, we trend towards warmer. Still, it's been unseasonably warm the past couple of days. It's been appreciated since our entire HVAC unit stopped working - it won't even run the fan.

However, it's not appreciated since I went for a walk this afternoon early, and within minutes of said walk, I started sneezing. And sniffling. And pressure began to build, making my head hurt.

I'm trying hard not to resent it. I essentially lost most of my day to a headache, since I spent more time in the shower or in bed after that than anything else. I lost my appetite, which I suppose is one way to eat less.

I've said before that illness is a sign to slow down and take care of yourself. Normally, I wouldn't classify an allergic reaction in this category, but since I reacted so strongly, I admit it has me wondering. At the very least, it's accomplished something big - it's getting me to bed early.


Goals, And The Setting Thereof

Lately, goal-setting has been on my mind. It's come to my attention in various settings and in various ways, marching seemingly inexorably towards my conclusions. I read about a program for preschool and kindergarten students that involves, amongst other things, having the students make a plan for their main play activity each day. In essence, the students are setting goals for what they'll do while they play. There have been a few thoughtful threads lately on the WTM boards about goal-setting and inspiring excellence.

I have a lot of goals for my kids, and I want them to have goals for themselves, as well. I don't know what the best way to achieve those goals is, and I don't know the best way to inspire the kids to set their own goals. Here's what we've attempted and will be attempting, though.

01. Weekly Goals. Most weeks on Sunday afternoon or evening, we take a legal pad and titled it "Goals for the Week." FB has two lines, EG has three, and the mister and I each have four lines, plus a varying number of lines for combined goals. In general, we suggest one goal for each of the kids, and they come up with their other goal(s). At first, we had to give them more guidance, but they do relatively well at making them. A goal cannot be something that is already expected. I.e., EG can make her goal to finish all her schoolwork by a certain (earlier than usual) time or date, but she can't just make it her goal to finish all her schoolwork. That's required already. We adults try to model a combination of goals in various areas - focused leisure activities, learning activities, reading, and extra projects to improve household life.

02. Evaluation Meetings. We've been pretty slack about doing these formally, despite our best intentions, but we do them informally from time to time. The evaluation meetings were something we devised as a way to keep the away from home parent in the know about goings-on related to school. In practice, it serves as a handy way to assess progress in a variety of areas. Progress assessment is a vital component of goal-setting.

03. What's On Your Transcript? I have set out a sample of what might be on a transcript or college application - courses, testing, extracurricular activities, awards and recognitions, and so on. From that, I've completed it, the ideal that I would like to be completing for my kids to send to colleges several years from now. I've also talked about various components of it with EG. Between now and the end of next summer, we're going to talk about each component, what she's interested in it saying when she's finished with grade twelve, and what steps are required to make that happen. Do I think the finished product will look anything like what either of us currently thinks is the ideal? No, probably not. Do I think that it's still a valuable exercise? Absolutely.

04. Short Term and Long Term Goals. One of the strengths of the Girl Scout program, in my opinion, is that there are opportunities for scaffolding in terms of goals. EG has set some goals for her time in the Junior level program. She's stalled somewhat in the completion of those goals, but that's a multifaceted issue. More specifically, though, she wants to earn the Bronze Award, which is a terrific example of setting short term goals that lead towards a longer term goal. There are multiple steps that must be completed prior to beginning a larger project. Still, the long term goal is not as distant as some, and there is a concrete reward at the end, apart from the more abstract ones.

That's the core of my thoughts. We also try to encourage goal-setting when it comes to money and where to allocate it, but we're not too consistent on distributing allowance! There's a goal for us to work on. :)


Weekly Report: Week Fourteen

Brrr. I'm so glad that our house is actually on three different furnaces. Even though the main one is inexplicably not working (filter is suspected), the one for our schoolroom is.

EG had a good week. She finished steps fourteen and fifteen in AAS L5, and completed unit 3 in JAG. She also finished her rewrite of "The Silent Couple," and began the final story in Writing Tales 2. She also read The Red Fairy Book and did ten minutes of penmanship practice daily.

No new drill levels were beaten this week, but EG did complete twelve pages in Key to Measurement Book 4, eight pages in Key to Decimals Book 4, and all the lessons of Hands-On Equations. She's started working on the final level of problems in the Verbal Problems book from Hands-On Equations.

In history this week, EG read about the Boxer Rebellion and "other stuff about China," to quote. :) She wrote her summary about the Boxer Rebellion, and I couldn't help but think about Angel and Spike. She read another biography of Teddy Roosevelt, Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt!, and we're going to talk about how different biographers choose different incidents and approaches to the same subject.

I've decided I'm not overly impressed with our kit for color and light. Nevertheless, I think EG's getting a decent enough introduction to the subject. They did activities seven through eleven, then skipped twelve because we didn't have... something odd. I can't remember. They did thirteen, instead. EG also read the pages about light in the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science.

Continuing in Latin meant more chapter twelve. It seems like the amount of history information is increasing chapter by chapter. I'm viewing it as non-essential but a nice way to allow for more time to master the vocabulary. I am trying to decide where we'll go after finished Lively Latin. I know there is a Lively Latin 2, but I've also heard complaints about errata, plus the possibility of it not being completed, if EG continues at her breakneck pace. I know I'll put her in Latin Prep 1 afterwards, either way, so I'll probably go ahead and purchase that, then decide.

EG has added another poem to her memory work, and she did three pages of logic this week, as well as reviewed the two words that have given her difficulty from VfCR 4. I'm not sure that the words give her difficulty so much as the context in which they're presented, but I'm still making her review them once more before going forward.

FB has been caught reciting parts of EG's memory work, in disjointed order. It's hilarious. It is interesting how much he's picked up just from listening in, though.

We're painting the kitchen and dining room, after having a stager come on Monday and give us various recommendations. We haven't painted the trim in the kitchen and dining room. I just don't think we have time - we have guests coming tomorrow afternoon - but it sure would be nice to be done with all the painting in the room and not worry about going back to do a little more.


Secular Thursday: Missing Out

On Wednesdays, FB takes a tumbling class at the local YMCA. The mothers generally stand outside the room and talk; EG goes to swim, and I chase PC around the hall. There's one woman who likes to talk to me about homeschooling. She doesn't exactly ask questions; she presents whatever she's thought of as a problem with homeschooling, and I have to respond. I have stock responses by now to a lot of questions, so that helps. It's especially fun when someone questions your ability to teach higher level math and science, and you get to reply with "My husband and I both attended Georgia Tech." It tends to shut them up, fast.

Her most recent concern dealt with high school activities. "What about high school," she began. "Not the courses, but all the extra activities. What about marching band, and debate, and things like that?" I fobbed her off with my stock answer, but on the way home, I thought about what she'd said.

And I laughed.

I went to a private day school for girls that had, at the time I attended, grades 7-12 (now it also has a sixth grade class). The two specific examples that she had chosen were activities that I didn't have at my high school. In other words, I wasn't homeschooled, yet I had no opportunity to participate in matching band or debate. It gets even more amusing when you consider that in our area, there is a homeschool marching band. As far as I know, there isn't a non-Christian homeschool debate team, but I'd really love to change that in a few years.

Her examples were poorly chosen. She did have a very real point: the high school experience will be very different for a homeschooled student versus a public school student (and, as I experienced firsthand, versus a private school student). I typically answer in a way that suggests that "it's okay, we can do most things that public school kids do!" However, that's not really how I feel about the matter at all. No, EG, FB, and PC won't experience the same things as their public-schooled counterparts. Their peers won't have the experiences that they will gain, either, though. There are numerous disadvantages and advantages to all types of educational paths for homeschooling, and while public school may be the norm, it doesn't negate the potential value in other paths.

Finally, can I just say how weird it is for someone to even bother quizzing me about high school when my oldest kid is nine? Sure, I think about the future and like to plan ahead, but I don't even know this woman's name. When I think about it, that's pretty weird.

Maybe my kid and hers will compete in debate in ten years. Or marching band. ;)

And Leap

"Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap."

Throughout each of my pregnancies, I've had certain songs that resonated with me during that time. When I was pregnant with Brigid, one of the songs that I listened to repeatedly was "Defying Gravity," from the show Wicked. There were a couple of lines that particularly stood out. One of them is above, particular the second sentence.

November 11, 2008, was my official due date. I hoped I'd have Brigid before that date, but the morning November 11 dawned with me still pregnant, and no sign of impending labor. In fact, it would be nine days later, on November 20, 2008, before Brigid would make her appearance at last, but on November 11, I was still hopeful that I'd be holding her ex utero within just a day or two.

Choosing an unassisted pregnancy and an unassisted birth had been the easy part. The best way to describe an unassisted pregnancy for me is blissful. No, I didn't have formal prenatal care from an outside source, but I took excellent care of myself. I monitored myself for issues, in more or less the same manner that a care provider would have monitored me. For many reasons, I approached my due date feeling good (with the exception of the SPD, but I have yet to find a care provider who can do much more than offer sympathy or a chiropractor recommendation for that!).

Really, going "past my due date" was the hard part. Not the birth (which was quick, but you have to wait until next Friday to hear about it), but the nine days that stretched in front of me. Many times when you read of women who have gone past their due dates, they are readying to be defiant in the face of pressure to induce or submit to testing they feel is unnecessary. There's a feeling of empowerment, I suspect, that comes from that defiance.

When you're the only care provider you have, there's nothing to defy. There's no reason to be empowered in the face of adversity, because there is no adversity. There's just you, and there's just waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Instead of defiance, there is surrender.

When I had gotten pregnant, I had known what I wanted to do for my pregnancy and birth. It was "too late" for me to change my mind, even at the beginning of the pregnancy. I had trusted my instincts, and I had even closed my eyes to the outside pressures and naysayers.

It wasn't Brigid's birthday. In retrospect, though, I can say that November 11, 2008 was the day that I leapt.


Our Physics, Let Me Show You It

I pulled together our physics study for the year from various resources. Originally, I planned to use the physics experiment book recommended in The Well-Trained Mind. After receiving it, however, and being honest with myself, I knew that experiments were much more likely to get done if we had all the supplies already. So I took the list of topics, and set about finding a kit for each topic. Here's what I ended up purchasing.

TOPS Electricity and the accompanying starter kit of materials.
TOPS Magnetism and the accompanying starter kit of materials.
Adventures in Science Color and Light
Science in a Nutshell: Flight! Gliders to Jets
Science in a Nutshell: Sound Vibrations
Science in a Nutshell: Water Physics
Physics Workshop, Thames & Kosmos

I didn't find a kit initially for heat. I have found the TOPS Heat unit, which is recommended for grades 8 through 12. It does look sort of fun, though, and I like the format of the TOPS units. Otherwise, I'll pull together my own supplies for heat. Gasp!

Then I went searching for supplementary books. This was much harder than I had anticipated. Many supplemental science books are written for a lower reading level than EG is capable of. There aren't a lot of mid-range books; it jumped quickly to books written for adult audience. Here's what I compiled, though:

The New Way Things Work
Cool Stuff
Cool Stuff 2.0
The Story of Inventions, Claybourne.
Electricity and Magnetism, Adamczyk.
Jets, Hewish.
Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science.
The Cartoon Guide to Physics, Gonick.
Touch This! Conceptual Physics for Everyone, Hewitt.
The Thermodynamics of Pizza, Morowitz.
The Physics of Christmas, Roger Highfield.
Waves, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, Objects in Motion, Matter and Energy, and Liquids and Gases, all by Paul Fleisher.

Each week, I've pulled out some related reading to the topic from that week's lab activities.

What we're not doing that I wish we were? More science-based writing. However, EG already writes summaries for history; I don't want to just add more summaries with slightly different content. I'm hoping to start, after Christmas, requiring different portions of a lab report. I don't expect a full report from her, yet, but she could start by writing up formally the materials and procedure sections, for example.


Choosing a Modern Foreign Language

While I see a lot of value in Latin, and will certainly have EG continue her Latin study to whatever level she desires, I also feel that she should study a modern foreign language. I have several reasons for requiring from my child what wasn't required out of me. Yes, my foreign language requirements in high school were fulfilled by taking three years of Latin, and no, I wasn't required to take foreign language at all in college.

The most important reason is that I feel it's vital in today's society to speak at least one other language. While that's a strong enough reason on its own, I also have been planning with the end in mind. Most colleges and universities primarily want to know how homeschoolers have handled two things - competency in laboratory science, and fluency in a foreign language. While Latin was an acceptable entry on a transcript from a institutional school, I do feel that there is a chance of a non-spoken foreign language being looked upon as an "easy way out," and I want to avoid that appearance.

Many people recommend Spanish for study, and for years I assumed we'd study Spanish. At some point, though, I started thinking. Yes, it would be handy to have conversational Spanish in our society, but conversational Spanish that would allow EG to speak with Spanish speakers around us, most of which speak South American or Mexican dialects, is not going to be the focus of a formal Spanish program, per se. I also began to question the wisdom of taking all languages from the Romance family. The biggest concern I had and have, however, concerns EG's difficulty with spelling.

Spelling is very difficult for EG. I believe it's one of the primary reasons she didn't progress as well in Latin until this year. I have concerns about her attempting to learn three different spellings of Latinate words - big concerns. I read a bit about recommended foreign languages for people with spelling difficulties. Many recommendations mentioned learning a language that doesn't use the same alphabet at all.

Aha! That made sense. It was taking the language in a truly new context.

Finally, I went to the College Board website. I wanted to see what was available at an AP level as well as what was offered as a SAT Subject Test with Listening. The "with Listening" was important; it's standardized verification for colleges and scholarships.

AP exams are available in Chinese Language and Culture, French Language, German Language, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin: Vergil, Spanish Language, and Spanish Literature. I included all of them for the sake of completeness. SAT Subject Tests cover a broader range of languages, but only Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean are available with the Listening Test.

When I cross-reference what's available, and discard the Romance languages, three languages are left: Chinese, German, and Japanese. No, German doesn't quite fit my earlier criteria, but I have left it in because it meets one final criteria: the local university, which has a large number of homeschoolers that do dual enrollment, offers classes in both German and Chinese.

Sold! It's down to German or Chinese.

I have a potential lead for a Chinese tutor for EG, if we go that route. If we go with German, I'll likely call the university, ask to speak to the coordinator for the German program, and explain that I'm a homeschooler who would like to find a tutor, and can s/he recommend any students or professors who might be interested.

I'm tempted by German primarily because it seems like so many mathematicians were German for so long, and math is such a strong area for EG. While it doesn't escape our alphabet, it's not a Romance language. Chinese, on the other hand, is a completely new system, and will likely grow in importance as the century progresses.

Luckily, a decision can wait for a few more months, even if EG starts next year, but I feel like I have a direction and a focus, now.


Science, Revisited

Science should be the easy thing. My educational background is in science, and I have a strong idea of what I want EG to cover. There doesn't seem to be a curriculum that's structured in a way that even approaches what I want, though. It needs to be at least somewhat homeschool-friendly, it needs to be totally secular, and it needs to be rigorous. It doesn't need to have unnecessary busywork; EG would definitely like to accelerate her science, and plodding through a long textbook doesn't appeal to either of us.

I entertained the faint hope of pulling together resources from experiment kits and living books, as I generally have for past years. Already this year, though, I was having trouble finding books at the appropriate level. Most science books written at the adult level assume a working knowledge of high school level science; they aren't seeking to impart it. Most children's or young adult books are below the correct level. I had discarded the idea of Prentice Hall's Science Explorer series (at least as a main text), based on the fact that it's really not written for homeschoolers at all, plus the fact that it would be difficult to accelerate through a textbook. I may still purchased used copies to have available as additional reference material.

When I first found the CTY online courses, I thought that was the answer, until I discovered the price. Then I discovered that CTY uses the PLATO courses... which are available for a far more reasonable price through the homeschoolbuyerscoop. Now we're talking!

I also wanted to take the time to do a history of science course... and a general science overview using The Joy of Science and the Teaching Company lecture series by the same name. I couldn't see exactly how we'd manage to fit in both a history of science and a general science, and still hit high school science in seventh grade, but it seemed like maybe I'd manage to figure it out, somehow.

So, my tentative plans for EG, as of today. Subject to change at any moment. :)

Fifth grade: Evolution & Genetic class (taught by me) at co-op [hopefully this will happen, anyway], PLATO Life Science, PLATO Earth & Space Science, and limited experiments as applicable for life, earth, and space science.

Late fifth grade/Sixth grade: The Joy & History of Science. I'm going to have to combine these, I decided. I'll start working on my syllabus sometime soon. Resources that I plan to use: The Joy of Science, The Joy of Science TTC lecture series, Science: The Definitive Visual Guide, Joy Hakim's Story of Science books, and one or two science kits. I'm looking at Thames and Kosmos' Milestones in Science (which would dovetail nicely with the historical approach), as well as Core Science MS-1 and Elements of Science. The last two appear to have significant overlap, so we'd definitely only use one of those two, but I have no idea what selection or combination to use. I will probably email Thames & Kosmos and ask if I can preview the experiment lists or something.

I could just ask which kit has the fewest number of experiments involving balloons.

I hate balloons.

Seventh grade: PLATO high school biology and/or PLATO high school chemistry. These are the courses used by CTY's online course, which says it usually takes six months to complete a course. Now, EG could always change her mind, but when we've talked about it previously, she said she liked the idea of accelerating and doing both in one year. Oi! I don't know what labs we'd do. A limited number, for sure, and I might decide she should use something like this book instead of a preset kit.

Eighth grade: Physics, most likely using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics.

Ninth-twelfth grade: APs. Either all four AP sciences, or three AP sciences and one year dual enrollment (if she wants to do even more in one area, for instance, or take geology or astronomy).

The only thing that really bothers me is using so much computer-based learning, so I'll have to be careful to flesh it out with appropriate books. The other potential issue is getting my "Joy & History of Science" syllabus done before it's actually time to start. Likely, though, I should get the history one for fifth grade done first. Details, details!


While the merry bells keep ringing...

Confession: The kids watched a Christmas movie this afternoon (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), and we listened to Christmas music in the car this evening. We started with The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas, which is a perennial favorite. It doesn't really 'match' my musical tastes in general, but we've played it every Christmas that I can remember. Christmas wouldn't seem like Christmas without "Christmas Carol" and the rest of the songs. Then I put the iPod on shuffle and clicked over to the Christmas playlist, all 280 songs of it. Needless to say, we didn't listen to all of those songs, but we certainly did start.

I love Christmas. I love all the trappings of it. I'm not a big shopper, at Christmas or at any time, but I do like to go to a mall once or twice during the Christmas season, just to walk amongst the crowds and hear the Christmas music playing in the background. I have to resist the temptation to go completely overboard with regards to gifts. Not just to the kids, but to pretty much anyone to whom I choose to give presents. The money supply is only finite, however, and in the end, I don't think it's teaching a very good lesson to the kids to get piles and piles of presents.

We're trying this year to limit it thusly: one fun toy, one more educational toy, one 'media' item (a CD, book, or, this year, magazine subscription), a book from Mommy (as opposed to both Mommy & Daddy, a tradition that started when I gave my oldest She Is Born), and a calendar for the new year. We'll see how this works. I've also heard "something to read, something to wear, something you want, and something you need" as a rule of thumb. FB would love to get something to wear, but EG would still crinkle her nose and getting something to wear as a present!

I don't know if I buy into the "love languages" thing wholeheartedly, but I do know that gifts are generally my love language. I do get limited monetarily from time to time. When I'm receiving, it's not about the size of the gift or the expense, but rather, the amount of thought that went into the gift. I think that's why I had such trouble getting nothing but gift cards from my extended family, the last few years that the adults exchanged gifts.

So, Christmas. Here we go again! :)


Weekly Report: Week Thirteen

Thirteen?! I can't believe we've already hit week thirteen. Things went relatively smoothly this week. PC is throwing ever more impressive temper tantrums. FB has been playing with pattern tiles and the gear clock from our Right Start materials, as well as practicing his handwriting. Onto the big girl.

Language Arts: EG finished steps 11, 12, and 13 in AAS Level 5. She worked on the rewrite for "The Silent Couple" in WT2, and did Unit 2 in JAG. She continues to do 10 minutes of penmanship practice each morning. I'm going to have her begin to transition to cursive during some of her other schoolwork. She had a relatively easy week as far as literature, reading through the Peter Rabbit books in order. It fits with the time period, and she's always read them in fits and starts.

Latin: Steaming through, EG wrapped up Chapter 11 and began Chapter 12, which starts diagramming Latin sentences. I think that's pretty cool. New vocabulary with Chapter 12, so some vocabulary game practice online, and I'll probably insist she do it over the weekend as well.

Math: EG beat drill level 29 (yay!), and completed pages 12-18 in Key to Measurement Book 4. In Key to Decimals Book 4, she finished pages 9-19. We also worked on Hands-On Equations, finishing lessons 18-23. She wants to do the work in her head and not with the manipulatives. I had to sit her down and insist that if she doesn't use the manipulatives, she has to write all the work on the paper. She didn't seem to like that idea, but she'll have to get used it.

History: EG read about the "settling" of the American West, as well as stocks, stockbrokers, and philanthropists, in SOTW 4. She wrote her summary about the West, and I made sure she understood the nature of the conflicts. She had read about Geronimo and Sitting Bull previously in her biographies. She read Shutting Out the Sky, which is a very well-done book about immigration and tenement living, as well as If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island, and Teddy Roosevelt: American Rough Rider. While she was still reading the latter, she asked me who had won the presidential election - Cleveland or [insert name I had never heard, and don't remember]. I laughed and said Cleveland, because I had never even heard of the other guy! She also did the Native American Names activity from the SOTW 4 activity guide.

Physics: EG started on Light this week. She reviewed chapter one in Waves, and then did activities one through four from the Color and Light kit. Later today will be activities five and six. I'm not sure how long it will take to do this unit, because it seems like the activities aren't taking as long as I anticipated.

Miscellaneous: EG added another poem to the memory work line-up. We reviewed the words she had missed on previous vocabulary tests and retested. She mastered three of the six this time around, so it looks like another few days of reviewing. I'm not sure if she doesn't get the meanings or if the examples are just confusing for her. She did two pages in Logic Liftoff. Master's Academy and co-op went well, and she made it back to swimming both days this week. Unfortunately, they seem to have decided not to offer stroke clinic on T/Th for the next session, just M/W. Wednesdays would be fine, but Mondays are definitely more problematic - we don't get home from Master's Academy until 5:15 - she'd have just thirty minutes to change clothes AND eat. Piano lessons are going well, and we're going to look for someone to teach her trumpet lessons, at least for a few months.

The house is hermetically sealed, or at least it feels that way. We're having the exterior painted, so all of the windows are covered in plastic sheeting. It's a hazy view of the world.


Secular Thursday: If Mama Ain't Happy

Sometimes the hardest thing about homeschooling is the simple fact that Mama sets the tone for everything.

This is, of course, true for all homeschooling mothers (and the few, the proud, the homeschooling fathers). I have noticed over the years, however, that extremely religious homeschoolers have a fallback position. They are homeschooling because of a religious conviction, and amongst their peers (other religious homeschooling mothers), they are likely to find that their reasons for homeschooling, as a whole, are relatively homogenous.

Not so with the non-religious, secular homeschoolers. Let's say we have x number of homeschooling parents at our co-op on Tuesday. If you compiled a list of their primary reasons for homeschooling, you would have x reasons - or possibly x+1. Your very well-meaning friend may attempt to encourage you by naming some of the benefits she most appreciates from homeschooling... only they may not be yours. Worse, they could even be opposite your own.

Many of us that do the primary teaching also are the ones that research, decide upon, and purchase curriculum. We're often the ones who are in charge of developing a plan for meals, and since we're home all day, that means three meals. Every day. Some of us are lucky enough to share grocery shopping duty, but not all of us are. There's a good chance we shoulder more than half the burden of the household chores.

In short, we aren't just the teacher, we're the parent, too, and we've got to keep things moving ever forward. How can we do it?

In an ideal world, every homeschool mom would be the recipient of massage weekly, or at least monthly. Since few of us live in such a wonderful world, we'll have to make do as best we can with other thoughts.

01. Delegate. If you have more disposable income, this might mean having a cleaning service, a lawn service, taking your laundry elsewhere, or other services. It may mean talking to your spouse and agreeing on a more equitable division of both labor and responsibility. Don't forget that even though "planning meals" doesn't look laborious, it requires more mental effort and responsibility. Make sure those components are balanced. Delegating should definitely involve having your kids do things. My four year old is often in charge of setting the table. Both he and the nine year old are expected to get their dishes rinsed and in the dishwasher.

02. Get enough sleep. Even if it means that something is left undone, you're going to get so much more accomplished on a full night's rest. I need to take this advice myself. While you're at it, especially if you're pregnant or nursing, stick a water bottle on your nightstand. If you wake up, have a sip. Drink what's left when you get up in the morning.

03. Write it down. Do this before you get overwhelmed. Do it on one of those homeschooling days, the days you want to save and just replicate, when the work is done quickly with smiles, the sun is shining, and everyone is both well-fed and clean. Write down your reasons for homeschooling. Write down what you hope to have accomplished by the time your kids complete high school. Even if you intend to stop homeschooling before that time, you still have to work backwards.

04. Go back and read the two documents as needed.

05. Keep a hidden supply of b, where b is your feel-good vice. Some like wine, others prefer chocolate. I actually want a Custardista Tiffany to prepare me caramel apple ice Mistos at my whim, but since they don't sell those, I've had to settle. Whatever your vice, make sure it is hidden. This is imperative. This is not to be shared. It is for you, in those low moments.

There you have it: delegate, get sleep, write it down, and have a hidden secret vice. Oh, and give your significant other a copy of this chart.


Wordless Wednesday: 4 November 2009.

From Whence My Internet Moniker Came


Television & Teaching, Sort Of

I like television.

I don't watch a great deal of it, just four shows that are currently still in production: CSI, CSI: NY, Glee, and Dollhouse. Occasionally I'll watch Cold Case, because I love how they use the appropriate music.

If I have a choice, though, between watching a movie or two episodes of a favorite television show on DVD, I'm going to pick the television show. I like watching shows I didn't catch the first time on DVD, too.

As EG is getting older, though, I'm starting to wonder about when to introduce her to some of my favorites. They're part of our cultural heritage now, like it or not, and the ones I like, I like quite a bit.

I want her to get to know Buffy & the Scoobies; Fraser & Ray (both of 'em) from Due South; Sam, Al, and Ziggy; Captain Tightpants, Kaylee, and River; Kotter and Horshack; Starbuck, Adama, and Apollo; Echo and Sierra-and-Victor; Rachel, Will, Emma, and Finn. I've kept her so carefully sheltered from commercial television, because of the commercials and the inane content, but it's also sheltered her in other ways. How do I know when it's time? How do I make sure I don't miss the window? I don't know.

I don't know, except that I've already pre-ordered the first half of season one of Glee, and I think that I'll be letting her watch it with me. We'll talk about the lies, the problems of pregnancy in high school, and some of those topics to which she's not really been exposed. She'll probably ignore a lot of it anyway, in favor of the musical numbers. I already have been forced to keep certain songs in a loop in the car, and our CD just arrived today.


What's On YOUR iPod?

Today, I achieved something close to podcast nirvana. I have no back episodes waiting for me. When I've been close to having this happen previously, I've inevitably heard about some wonderful new podcast to which I simply had to begin listening. I think I'm done searching out new podcasts, though. I like the (extensive) line up as it is now. I'm leaving out podcasts that aren't updated regularly or haven't been updated for more than a year, even they were updated regularly up until that point.

60 Second Civics & 60 Second Science are both great daily podcasts. The latter is only released on weekdays, but the first one has an episode every day.

Classics for Kids is released every Saturday. Each month takes a different composer as the main focus. Past episodes are also available on the show's website. At six minutes, it's a good length for the kids. We like to listen to it on weekend drives or on the way to Master's Academy.

From the Quick and Dirty Tips group of podcasts, I like to listen to Get-It-Done Guy and Grammar Girl. Get-It-Done Guy isn't always relevant to not working in a corporate office, but plenty of it is. They're both weekly podcasts.

My favorite podcast at which to poke fun is How to Homeschool. It's a homeschool graduate and his mother, and they say completely inane things each and every episode. I only include it for the sake of completeness, really. That, and as a cautionary tale. If you want to do a podcast, don't sound like Scott & Becky.

The Princeton Review has a couple of great podcasts - LSAT Logic in Everyday Life, and The Vocab Minute. The kids love the songs for vocabulary. EG sometimes listens to the logic with me; it's not all that LSAT specific, but does do a good job at covering informal logic.

If you're a geek, don't miss Math Mutation. It's funny and interesting. I blame Math Mutation for FB's obsession with the concept of infinity.

In Our Time, from the BBC, is a new favorite. It covers a variety of topics once a week. EG and I listen to it on the way to and from her piano lesson each Thursday.

I love several podcasts from NPR. Weekly, they compile the education stories and environmental stories into two respective podcasts. I also like the It's All Politics and Science Friday podcasts.

While we're on the subject of politics, my other political indulgences are P3: Post Politics Program, a 25 minute weekly review of the nation's politics, and President Obama's Weekly Address, available in convenient podcast format. I feel more informed by my three weekly political podcasts than I do after days of trying to find real news on mainstream media websites.

Finally, I've recently added Scientific American to the mix. The most recent podcast discussed human evolution, and there was a special episode about the new Nobel laureates.

EG & FB don't listen to all of these, especially not FB. When they do, though, we often have great conversations about them. Since I'm in the car so much, I like not constantly scanning the radio stations for decent music or hearing part of an NPR story only to miss the conclusion when I reach my destination.

What are some of your favorite podcasts?
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson