What's For Dinner?

I'm trying something new this week, and linking back to Menu Plan Monday, which is going to give you (if you click on the link) a list of a lot of people's plans for dinner this week. Like I need new recipe ideas!

Monday: Meatloaf, sweet potatoes, and green beans.

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie

Wednesday: Leftovers of the two previous nights

Thursday: Lasagna

Friday: crockpot Sloppy Joes, sides TBD by what shows up in the CSA box this week!

Saturday: Either out or spaghetti marinara

Sunday: French bread pizza


Prepping the Week

First, check out the work that's been done today on the blog by the spouse, sometimes known as Mitnin Ham. It is looking better!

Our routines change when we're actively doing school each week, and again once all activities have begun and autumn arrives. This year, we're going to have cooler weather within the first two weeks of autumn! That's a relative term, since we're in the southern United States. Accordingly, though, our routines are settling into their most common form.

Every week that school is being done, weekend prep involves getting ready for the following week of school. I try to do this on Friday evening or on Saturday. I mark in my master binder what has been completed, put an 'x' in the boxes on the attendance sheet, and write in EG's assignments in her book for the following week of school. I also print drill sheets for the week ahead, and usually, the next chapter of Latin. I hole-punch everything and review what she's going to be doing, tweaking assignments as necessary. When I'm really on top of things, I also review upcoming lessons for FB.

I also try to "prep" myself. I take a longer shower and attend to various annoying grooming tasks, as well as making sure everything is neat and clutter-free (more or less) for the upcoming week. I try to get in bed by 10, or if I'm watching television (as I will be tonight; Cold Case is showing at ten this week), by 11.

Now that autumn's here, we have soup for lunch most days, so I try to cook the soup on the weekend. This week: chili. I also start making quiche for EG's breakfast again once it's chillier.

Yes, I make multiple breakfasts. EG needs the protein of quiche and does so well with it; FB will rarely eat quiche and actually does best with granola and milk. I like oatmeal; what I would really like is steak and eggs every morning. If anyone has any good recipes for breakfast burrito fillings, though, I'd love to see them.

So today, I made a quiche, a pot of chili, and a meatloaf, which will be part of dinner tomorrow night. I boiled the sweet potatoes that will also be part of tomorrow night's dinner, and I kept all of the dishes from all of this cooking done. The dishes were a major undertaking themselves!

Finally, I make sure all pencils are sharpened, and I try to give myself at least fifteen minutes of pure pleasure reading on Sunday evenings.

What do you do to prepare for the week ahead, whether in the kitchen, the schoolroom, or for yourself?


Weekly Report: Week Seven, or Week of the Deluge

Monday started as the previous six days or so had - with lots of rain pouring out of the sky. If you've seen any sort of national news this week, though, you'll know that Monday's rain in the Atlanta area created unprecedented flooding. We're very thankful that we had no flooding damage, though FB is still impressed that the rushing waters managed to knock over the trash can! Still, the flooding did impact our week. On Monday afternoon, the kids came home from Master's Academy early; I got the call at 2 and we were home by 2:45. On Tuesday, we did not have co-op, and on Wednesday, no one batted an eye at EG being "out of school," since everyone else was, too. The ground still smells as if it had freshly rained, but we've had a string of bright sunny days since Tuesday.

FB was still easily tired this week, so we didn't do anything formal, though of course we read a few books. We're having difficulty finding Steven Kellogg books at our local bookstores, so he's excited that a new book, just for him, is arriving via UPS today. I should not have to order Paul Bunyan on amazon, not when I can buy the entire Walter the Farting Dog series at my local B&N. I need to find a way to make his schoolwork just as much of a priority as EG's is. I do remember this being an issue when she was this age, though. While they want schoolwork to do, I feel torn between challenging them and letting them just play. FB makes it even harder to gauge, as he shows little interest in reading, yet wants desperately to write and spell. I don't want to go on and on for too long, but I think he feels the math program is desperately easy. I thought it could be difficult at times to strike the right balance of interest and challenge with EG, but it's becoming increasingly clear to me - I ain't seen nothing yet.

EG has had a very productive week. We decided to take advantage of the time afforded to us on Monday afternoon and Tuesday. Consequently, she's both ahead of schedule and getting a lighter workload today. Definitely a win. She also started piano lessons this week. The opportunity essentially fell into our laps, and so far it seems like a good fit. She has proclaimed practicing to be "fun," so something must be right. On to the nitty-gritty details.

Math consisted of five chapters in Life of Fred (25-29) and a Bridge, which was passed on the first try. EG also completed several pages in Key to Measurement Book 2 and beat another drill level! I'm so glad we've had the flexibility to let her continue learning new concepts while her brain has slowly cemented her facts to memory. For someone so mathematically minded, she's had a difficult time with facts memorization, but it is thankfully clicking into place.

Science was conducted this week without EG's usual lab partner, who was having a day of rest after breaking his arm. EG did the more superfluous terminal activities from TOPS Magnetism, and earlier in the week, she read the sections on magnetism in The Cartoon Guide to Physics.

We shifted focus in history somewhat this week. While EG will continue reading in SOTW 4, doing the relevant mapwork, and reading biographies, the next several weeks will also see her reading Holling C. Holling's books, and working through some of the IEW Geography-Based Writing Lessons that incorporate the Holling books. Over the summer, I had thought this would be a good way to utilize more than one writing program and approach without overwhelming EG; we'd simply substitute the IEW program for writing history summaries for several weeks. I'm underwhelmed by the program so far, though to be fair we've only covered Units I & II. Still, we've covered what was designed, I think, to be several weeks' worth of work in just four days. At least that means my idea of working on it for just several weeks will allow us to complete most of the curriculum, I suppose. Aside from SOTW 4, then, EG read Paddle to the Sea and Alexander Graham Bell.

Language arts is going well. EG practices penmanship for ten minutes each morning, before breakfast. This week, she completed Level 4 of All About Spelling! She also did three activities from Editor in Chief A1, and completed a rewrite of "The Tortoise and the Hare" for WT2. Her book this week was The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, which she says she's enjoyed. Her father started reading The Hobbit during read-aloud time this week.

EG is still speeding through Latin. She's up to Chapter 6 now! She seems to be grasping it easily. She's also doing well with her memory work, and used "The Charge of the Light Brigade" for a talent show at her Girl Scout meeting this past Sunday. She's mastered "O Captain! My Captain!" and is making steady progress on The Gettysburg Address, in addition to continuing to review all other poems learned earlier this year. She's done several pages in her logic workbook (Logic Liftoff), too. Finally, she met her goal for practice minutes - 75 - for her trumpet. Band is this afternoon, and later we'll have Smrt Mama and her crew over for dinner & Dollhouse. Well, the adults will watch Dushku & Co.; the kids will be otherwise occupied.


Chasing The Dream: The Secular Logic Stage Science Sequence

It must be nice to be a religious homeschooler, or to feel comfortable using religion-based homeschool curricula in the field of science. There are two to three "rigorous" middle and high school sequences, designed for homeschoolers, that will give children a thorough grounding in pseudoscience.

Not so for the intrepid secular homeschooler. It's up to us to cobble together resources, attempt to appropriately increase the rigor, and decide just what should be taught when. If you are teaching a child or children who could safely accelerate in science by taking one or two high school level courses before leaving middle school, the job just got much harder.

(Ask me how I know.)

The Well-Trained Mind does lay out a suggested course of science study for the logic stages (grades five through eight). The third edition marks a considerable improvement in the rigor of their recommendations, but it's clear to me from reading the pages (make that poring over the pages and possibly wearing out the binding in that section), their recommendations will still fall short of both the breadth and depth that my students will desire.

Deep breath. Deep breath.

I thought I had found a solution. Get Eclectic Girl and Smrt Mama's Captain Science (henceforth referred to as CS) qualified for the Johns Hopkins CTY programs, and have them take their online middle school science sequence. Three courses, each estimated to take approximately three months. I could plan labs to reinforce the materials, when possible, and they'd still have a peer in each other with whom to discuss the material. This solution, like many others, was too good to be true.

You see, if they did take the middle school science sequence available online, it would free me to teach them a general science overview, utilizing Science Matters as a base text (with possible supplementary readings from various sources, including Unscientific America), and either the Elements of Science kit or the Core Science MS-1 kit for labs.

Further, we could take a leisurely stroll through the history of science, reading in Joy Hakim's Story of Science series, and doing the experiments in Milestones in Science.

I even fancied using the CTY online courses for a high school level chemistry course in the second half of seventh grade, and then deciding between the CTY course of high school physics or a "homemade" high school physics course (using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics) in the eighth grade.

The stumbling block, as you might have guessed, is cost. No, their admission to the program is not a done deal, but when the three month courses cost over $600 each, you know that something has got to give, as they say. Yes, there is financial aid for which a student can apply, but the awards are limited to one class per fiscal year, which begins July 1 of each year. Applying for financial aid does not guarantee its receipt, and even if it were available, there would still be lab kits to purchase to complement the written work.

In short, I am once more a bit flummoxed.

I feel deeply that a course in general science and a course in the history of science would both be extremely beneficial for EG and CS. I also think they would benefit from a focus on biology, astronomy, and geology/earth science during the logic stage, especially since the latter two are generally not covered in most high school science sequences. I think they could absolutely do high school level chemistry in seventh grade without the aid of the course online, and the same holds for physics.

What I don't know is how CTY compresses middle school science so nicely into a three month course. I think they can do it, but I don't know how to design that course, in lieu of paying for it.

I find myself once again wishing that I liked textbooks, and there was a rigorous secular science sequence available, one that I could feel confident would prepare my students for high school and college level science.

Science is the biggest divide between religious and secular homeschoolers, I often think. Even so-called secular curricula ignore issues of origins (the not-taking-a-stand stance), and as Susan Wise Bauer wrote, to not take a side is to take a side. Neutrality doesn't abide here. There are no curricula designed explicitly for homeschoolers that teach evolutionary theory. None.

Never fear, I'm working on a course to teach at the co-op next fall. I'm thinking I'll title it something like "Evolution: From Darwin to Gould." It won't be perfect, but it will be a perfect excuse for this secular homeschooling mom to curl up with her favorite scientific theory.


In Defense of Purchasing

We are homeschoolers that don't regularly utilize the library. We are readers, bibliophiles, and none of us have been inside our county library in at least a year.

This was not always the case. As a child, I love the opportunities to go to the "big library" downtown and roam its shelves. I loved using the card catalog (remember those?) and browsing the stacks, full of hope that at last, I might've remembered how to find things using the Dewey Decimal System. In school, I cheered when we were finally deemed old enough to go to the school's library in the mornings unattended, to return books and find new ones. When I went to college, I quickly established myself as a patron of my new county library, and struck up a friendship with two of the librarians there. Today, however, it is a different story.

I love the library in theory. In practice, however, I don't. Our county system is long on popular titles and subjects, but short on specific titles and the type of books I prefer to read. Our county system also has so many branches that the chance of the book I want being at a branch near me is slim. Our county is big! Yes, I can request books and they'll transport them to my local branch, but it adds yet another level to the process. Between those things, and the late fees we acquired because I found the book depository difficult to use and our branch difficult to turn into and out of, I found trying to use the library was simply frustrating me.

Other issues surfaced. I would go through resources (The Story of the World Activity Guides, R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey booklists), painstakingly entering each title, writing a careful L (in pencil, naturally) next to those I could find on the internet-based catalog. (How times had changed, in the blink of an eye.) Then, when it was time to study a particular chapter, I could easily request the available books. As I said, our library can be short on specific titles, but due to the number of books listed in things like the Activity Guides, there could be a large number of books available for a chapter. Then we'd have two, three, four, or more supplemental books about a given chapter. It didn't matter, somehow, if I had deemed the topic important and worth further study. The books were there and available, and we should, therefore, read them all. Better yet, let's not move forward in our book until we have read all of the available supplemental books - even if we are second or third in the hold line for one or more of the listed books.

I think you can see where this is going. The right books weren't always available, but there could also be plenty of the not-wrong books. Remember, I said we were bibliophiles. Reading more books couldn't be wrong, could it?

At some point on this merry-go-round of internet searches, Ikea bags of library books, and massive fines, I read The Latin-Centered Curriculum. For various reasons, we have not adopted a LCC-style classical curriculum, sticking with a WTM-inspired neo-classical approach, but part of Andrew Campbell's writing stuck with me. Not many, but much. I wasn't reading to cut our reading list to the sparse levels he advocated, but reading LCC (repeatedly) did help me to at last loosen the reins. We didn't have to read every book on a topic, or even any book on a topic. We could pick and choose the best.

With that, the final piece fell into place, and we began to quit using the library.

How did I do it? Many people can't imagine homeschooling without the library, its friendly librarians, the weekly storytimes and activities.

For starters, the librarians in our branch weren't particularly friendly, and most of them were not librarians, but library clerks. Further, our multi-branch system was and is fond of near-constant shuffling of staff. The clerk here this week will likely be gone in four to eight months. Additionally, my oldest daughter grew old enough that even the storytime activities geared to "school-age" children were below her interest level.

But what about the books, I hear you asking.

To begin with, I had the advantage of years of preparation for homeschooling. Any visit to McKay's (a local used bookstore near my parents' house, and the best used bookstore I've ever seen) was not complete without my scanning the children's section for titles I recognized. For many years, before the advent of Amazon Prime, I would bring my total over the magic $25 for Super Saver Shipping by adding a Roger Lancelyn Green book or something similar. Before I even made the decision to cut the cord between the library and me, I was well on my way to a decent collection at home.

I started being more serious about my visits to the used bookstore, though, and branched out beyond the familiar McKay's Books. In the midst of a large decluttering, I started using paperbackswap. The books going out had belonged to me and occasionally my husband; the books arriving were all for homeschooling. I added even more books to the kids' wishlists for birthdays and holidays. My comparison shopping of amazon versus chain bookstores with educator discounts reached new mathematical heights. Once a week, after my oldest two children are safely ensconced at Master's Academy, I visit either Barnes & Noble or Borders and buy one book (biography, history, literature, or occasionally science) that we'll use in the upcoming year of school. I don't miss $7 a week from the grocery money, and neither does my waistline, but I would not be able to spend nearly $400 a single time, once a year, on top of the other curriculum purchases that must be made. To paraphrase Les Miserables, science kits are expensive, monsieur.

Yes, it is not a trifling amount of money. I do have three kids that will use these books, and SmrtMama's Captain Science has benefited from my rudimentary collection, too, so at least four kids will use these titles! I see that as a sound investment, in many ways.

Beyond that, though, my kids can read a book about knights or chemistry at any given time. My daughter can revisit her favorite part of history (ancient Egypt) at her leisure, and if I want my children to see me re-reading a childhood favorite, I know that The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, and The Westing Game are all nearby.

As a adult, I'm so grateful for the books my parents bought me. My copies of the stories of Anne of Green Gables are the ones through which my children will meet Anne, just as my daughter met Laura Ingalls in my mother's copies of her books.

Still, I don't want to be down on the library. It serves an important function. I do want to return to using it, judiciously. I don't want it to be the source for our main, required books. I want to use it in the way that I did as a child - as a supplement to the books read in school, and to the books already owned. I would never have discovered so many favorite books without the library, and I recognize that. Still, when it comes to the ones that really stuck with me, I don't want to go and get them from the library once more. No, I want to own a copy, to curl up on my couch as an adult and pore over them once more.

That's why I'll continue to buy most of my children's books, and why I'm so excited that I had the foresight seven or eight years ago to write down the title, author, and ISBN of one of my favorite library books from childhood. Christmas Crafts and I are going to be reunited at last - for good.


Holy Missing Menu Plan, Batman!

I think I managed to follow my menu plan once this past week. Eeek! In hopes of a better seven days ahead, here's my hopes for the coming week:

Monday: Asian-Style Beef Short Ribs, albeit with slightly different seasonings; rice; applesauce or green beans.
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes (also a crock pot recipe), baked acorn squash
Wednesday: Black beans and rice, cornbread, fresh CSA apples (I hope!)
Thursday: Santa Fe Chicken casserole
Friday: Spaghetti

Sides for Thursday and Friday are to be determined, based on what goodies I get on Wednesday in the CSA. Saturday is going to be a celebratory dinner for my other half's birthday, and he hasn't yet finalized his ideal menu. Sunday, we're going out to eat - my birthday falls just two weeks later, so we go out once in between them, in theory, but this weekend works best this year.

Emergency back up meal(s)? I have the stuff for corned beef hash pinwheels, frozen corn, and frozen fish from Trader Joe's, plus a ton more black beans, salsa, and frozen tortillas.


Weekly Report: Six Week Slump?

It's rained here. Not just today, or yesterday, or even just a few days this week. No, it's rained all week long. My driveway has a coating of green on it. Everything has a dreary grey pallor. Lest you think I exaggerate... no. I don't exaggerate. It really feels this way, at least in my head.

To add to that, Fabulous Boy acquired a low-grade fever on Sunday. It came and went, off and on, all week, just enough to have me opt out of taking him to Master's Academy on Monday, or tumbling on Wednesday. Wednesday night I checked on him around 9 pm and he felt cool. At 11 pm, he woke up, glassy-eyed, and he was hot. Low-grade fever had spiked. 102.4°F. Fun times!

We went with cool cloths and sleep Wednesday night. Thursday during the day we added homeopathics to the arsenal. Fever didn't really budge. He tossed and turned near bedtime, so we pulled out the big guns - Children's Tylenol.

I should say here that I generally don't agree with fever reduction. I think fever plays an important role in immune response, and whenever possible, I'd rather my kids have a fever for 12 to 24 hours and get their illness gone. Since he'd cycled between fever and not for days, though, and we were approaching the 24 hour mark, and he couldn't sleep, we went with the Tylenol.

He drank it after 30 minutes, and went to sleep. An hour later, I checked on him and he was dripping sweat, but cool. By this morning, the fever had returned (holding steady at 102.1°F), so back to the Tylenol we went. He still has a fever, at 100°F, but the difference in his mood is staggering.

So that's FB's report for the week - he was sick. We read books and watched movies. That's it!

Purple Child, luckily, has not contracted whatever sickness ails her brother. I attribute this primarily to the antibodies that I am sure my milk must be transmitting to her. Later today, she's getting her picture made. In theory, we were going to get her picture made around nine months, but in practice, it's become nearly ten months. How did August and most of September go so fast?

Eclectic Girl's week has probably been the best of everyone's. Since I felt rather unmotivated when I wasn't taking care of a sick FB, spelling hasn't gotten done this week. I feel certain that she appreciates this greatly.

In Latin, she's firmly into Chapter 5 and mastering the three sets of vocabulary introduced so far. She's essentially doing Latin six days a week - five days of work and one of vocabulary games online. I think most of the grammar is a review from previous programs, but she has had some new words introduced.

Grammar is still going well. EG is getting better at finding all of the errors in the day's selection without needing hints. Writing Tales 2 is going extremely well. She's finishing up her work with "The Boy and the Nuts" (I think that's the name of it) today, with the grammar review. Her rewrite changed the boy to a girl named Hanna and the nuts to a jar of Skittles!

No drills beaten this week - she's still doing Levels 11 and 27. She's doing well with her work in Key to Measurement but she's having trouble fitting in drill, Life of Fred, and Key to Measurement all within her alloted time period. I'm thinking about doing measurement with her on the weekends or in the evenings, just once or twice a week. It's important, but rushing through it isn't going to help her - she knows the mathematical operations being used, but not the units. Life of Fred is going well, though she did require two or three tries to the Bridge on Monday. I think she was picking up on the overall chaos of last weekend, as her work on the preceding chapters had all been excellent.

History this week covered France, Prussia, Canada, and South America. She chose to write her summary about France and its various governments in the nineteenth century. She read a biography of Geronimo and finished up her look at the Civil War with Lee and Grant at Appomattox. She's also making steady progress on her Civil War memorization projects - "O Captain My Captain" and the Gettysburg Address.

This week kicked off magnetism in physics. EG completed activities 1-5 in the TOPS Magnetism module. I love these TOPS modules! I wish they had had more that fit with our physics study. After these, though, we have some Science in a Nutshell kits to complete.

Finally, in literature, EG and her father continue racing through Where The Red Fern Grows. EG is reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes this week.

So it wasn't the most stellar week, but at least we kept swimming, to paraphrase Dory.


Secular Thursday

Something you won't often hear from me, but here it is, nonetheless.

Thanks for modern medicine, and by modern, I guess I mean the last half or so of the 20th century.

Because FB's fever finally broke tonight. Low-grade off and on since Sunday, over 101 since last night. Now he's finally, finally cool again. So thanks, biomedical research and the resultant products.

And that's all she wrote.


The Best Laid Plans

Even Organized Mom has days that, well, you just want to rewind and redo. As we said in elementary school, I want a do-over!

This is a busy week here; every extracurricular activity with which the kids are involved meets this week. At the end of the week, on Saturday, I'll be at a BOLD event most of the day. Even this coming Sunday holds no respite; there's a two hour Girl Scout meeting for EG followed by a talent show and Court of Awards for all of us to witness. All of this to preface that in my head, yesterday was to be my day of rest before the onslaught. It didn't happen that way, for reasons both good (celebrating my mentee Girl Scout's Gold Award) and bad (attending visitation for a friend's husband, killed in an accident at age 39).

EG is a particularly sensitive, perceptive child, and accordingly she's been affected by my agitation since Friday afternoon. This friend is active in the local birth and breastfeeding community, homeschools, is (was?) the primary organizer for the BOLD event listed above, and is an all around sweet person. She has six kids, ranging in age from 21 to 2. To find out that she's been left a widow at such a young age was and is hard to take in. She and her husband clearly adored each other, and today, she had to bury him. I didn't hide the fact that I was upset from EG (I couldn't have!), but even had I managed, I know she would have felt it.

All of that said, it's unsurprising that her work today has lacked focus. She's at Master's Academy now, and this afternoon later she has a Girl Scout meeting. If it were any other activities, I would have made her stay at home to complete some work, but I don't feel it's an option today, for various reasons. It can't be that bad, you say? There's nothing she's actually completed enough to use a check mark beside it in her assignment book. Nothing! This after getting up at her usual time, and working straight through (aside from breakfast and getting dressed) until 11:30. Usual time, by the way, is 6:45 am... not exactly late.

Meanwhile, FB is running a low grade fever and is extremely lethargic. He's not at Master's Academy today. Yesterday he ran a fever early, then seemed fine the rest of the day, so I ascribed it to a different cause. Last night, though, he cycled between warm and that clammy coolness of sweating a fever. Today, he's practically devoid of energy.

Purple Child had an appointment to have her picture made while the older two were at Master's Academy, but we've had to postpone that. I forgot to put our crockpot meal together in time for it to be ready for this evening. My daugher's new Girl Scout leader requires they wear their uniform at every meeting, so after I pick her up (early) at Master's Academy, she'll have to change clothes in the van. The math club I facilitate may have to be canceled for lack of participants. I need a new cartridge or whatever it is called for my printer - the laser printer that was brand-new just two months ago. I have a really neat new book and I've not read any of it since Thursday.

Stop the ride, I want to get off.


Magnetism Videos

Bill Nye the Science Guy: Magnetism

from NeoK12.com: Magnetism videos.

Electricity Videos

Of course, you can't do electricity videos without Schoolhouse Rock!

from Newton's Apple: Electricity

Bill Nye the Science Guy, Electricity (in three parts)

And a variety from NeoK12: Electricity videos, including circuits, voltage, and current.

Weekly Report: Week Five (sort of)

We had a shortened week this week! Between this week and the week of Thanksgiving, we needed to accomplish five days of school, so EG did work on Sunday, Thursday, and Friday this week. Monday through Wednesday we were at the beach in Destin, FL! Since we host Thanksgiving, we thought it was better to do three days of school this week and two that week.

As a result of the shortened week, FB's schoolwork was entirely informal. We played the alphabet game several times on our trek south and again back northwards, counted the various vehicles, talked about the tides, time zones, and various animals and signs thereof on the beach. He did insist on doing a page in handwriting yesterday and today, and he's set himself a goal of "doing four cuttings a day" in the Kumon cutting workbook. I bought a book about telling time for him yesterday, as well as one about the brain. His selections are so varied. I hope to find our "Yellow is the Sun" CD over the weekend, and get back on track with both math and phonics this coming week.

PC is improving her walking on a daily basis, which of course strikes fear into this mother's heart. ;) She's also eating more solid foods (at last!), but nursing as much as ever. Still, I can feel the difference in my body now that I'm not her sole source of nourishment. It's been eighteen months since I wasn't her only provider!

EG accomplished a lot despite our shortened week. The biggest accomplishment was probably that she and SmrtMama's Captain Science finished their unit on electricity. We used the TOPS Electricity module to great success, and over the coming week, they'll watch a few videos online about electricity.

EG read A House Divided and The Second Battle of Manassas. She finished Gettysburg and is working on Old Yeller. Her memorization work is continuing, though we've put a hold on further poetry in the IEW poetry memorization program until she's memorized her history work - The Gettysburg Address and "O Captain, My Captain." She and her dad are continuing to read in Where the Red Fern Grows. I'm not sure at what point they are, but I know it's ahead of where I thought they'd be.

Language arts activities: three activities in Editor in Chief A1, steps 24 and 25 in All About Spelling Level Four, ten minutes practice with penmanship each day, completion of Lesson 14 in Writing Tales 2, and the beginning of Lesson 15 in WT2.

In Latin, EG finished Chapter 3 of Lively Latin and began Chapter 4.

Mathematics included three drills, chapters 18-20 in LoF: Decimals & Percents, and pages 7-11 in Key To Measurement Book 2. EG also did a few pages in Key to Decimals Book 1 to reinforce a few areas.

No Master's Academy or co-op this week because of Labor Day; EG missed stroke clinic Tuesday evening and FB missed tumbling on Wednesday morning due to our vacation. Extracurriculars resumed Thursday evening, though, with EG's stroke clinic, and FB & PC will have their respective swim lessons tomorrow morning. Finally, EG's first day of band and chorus is this afternoon! We've managed to arrange it so that FB and PC can stay home this first day with one parent, and the other will escort EG.


Secular Thursdays: Supports, or the Lack Thereof

Almost every publication about homeschooling will tell you, the homeschooling parent, that one of the most important things is to have support. If the publication is older (think a copyright date of 2000 or before), the emphasis will be on local support groups; as the internet has gained prominence, the emphasis has shifted somewhat to also include internet-based groups and media, including message boards and podcasts.

The number of homeschoolers is growing rapidly, and proportionally, non-religious homeschoolers are making up a larger percentage of overall homeschoolers, secular homeschoolers are still a small fraction of the overall homeschooling population. More than that, even if a family does not list religion or faith as a primary reason for homeschooling, many who begin homeschooling for other reasons are perfectly willing to use religious curricula or join religious support networks. Religion may not be a primary reason, but it doesn't mean that wouldn't feel comfortable in a group of religious homeschoolers.

There are networks that are growing. There are increasing numbers of co-ops and message boards geared directly towards the secular homeschooler. Nevertheless, they still tend to be smaller, less well-organized, and less frequently visited. Post counts are smaller; the variety of classes offered is less. And in some areas, there is nothing adequate.

Podcasts. I enjoy podcasts on a variety of subjects. I've searched for a homeschooling podcast, and so far, all but one have been either very religious, or one-episode wonders that haven't been updated in at least a year and a half. I did find one, however, and while I thought it sounded a bit simplistic, I decided I would try listening to "How to Homeschool."

It's the "official podcast" of Homestead Homeschool, which provides "video lessons" so that your children can learn "unattended." It's presented by "Scott, [who] was homeschooled, and Becky, [who] did homeschool." Further listening suggests that Scott may be Becky's grown son. It's a folksy, aww-shucks podcast, full of exaggerations and ridiculous comparisons to public schools. Here's a hint, Scott and Becky: if you have to elevate homeschooling solely through putting other educational options down, you might want to consider why you're feeling so insecure about the efficacy of homeschooling.

SmrtMama and I are talking about doing a podcast of our own. Possible names have been discussed, including "Secularious Homeschooling." There's clearly a niche that is unfilled, just as there remains with regards to secular curricula in various subject areas. But that's a subject for another Thursday. In the meantime, what would you, the generic secular homeschooler, want to see in a podcast? Or you, the theoretical secular homeschooler? For that matter, homeschoolers of all stripes. The intent would not be exclude, though presumably a creationist homeschooler would want to ignore discussion of evolution. The intent would instead be to include, to broaden the audience, providing a resource for an underserved niche of homeschoolers.


Four Weeks In Evaluation - What's Working, What Isn't

What's Working
Lively Latin is a big hit here. The visual layout of the material is wonderful, it contains clear explanations, and I'm actually loving the printing-as-we-go feature. Eclectic Girl has a great attitude about studying Latin and most days finishes her assigned work faster than the given amount of time. Awesome!

Spencerian Penmanship. EG is truly enjoying this, and volunteers to practice each day. I'm loving that I don't have to supervise this subject at all, due to her intense motivation. Spencerian cursive is, above all, pretty, and EG does love pretty.

Writing Tales 2. EG is being stretched to add more detail to her rewrites and to apply grammar. I also love the dictionary work, key word outlines, and work with synonyms. I've already started looking through the next step (Classical Writing: Homer), and I can tell EG will be well-prepared for it.

Life of Fred. This is the most amazing math series and I credit it with returning to EG her love of math. The style is perfect for her, as she loves to read and has an intuitive grasp of mathematical concepts. She's flying through Decimals and Percents, and she'll start Beginning Algebra in mid-November.

TOPS Science modules. EG has almost completed the entirety of the Electricity module. I love it! We're set to tackle Magnetism next. These modules are letting her use her intuitive sense to "get" physics concepts. I wish I'd started using these sooner!

Right Start Level A. This is perfect for FB. He has a great time with all the manipulatives and games, and it's helping him develop his own math intuition. I need to be more consistent with it (and find our Yellow Is The Sun CD), but I do love the program.

The Logic Countdown series from Prufrock Press. EG has sped through the first book and a half of this three book series. I love the variety of problems presented.

What's Working: Things Kash Pulled Together
The MOTH-inspired daily schedules. I anticipated some balking, but instead EG and FB both adore them. I love them, too, because it's not Mom saying what to do, it's the Schedule. It's hard to argue with a piece of paper encased in a sheet protector. :)

Our history pages. Each week, there's a new page, listing reading in her spine (Story of the World Volume 4), reading in supplemental resources, assigned living books (histories and biographies), the week's mapwork, and any writing and/or memorization assignments. I'm so glad I invested the time to prepare these. I'll definitely be doing them in future years, as well as going back to lay out a similar schedule for Story of the World volumes 1-3 for FB and PC.

Memory work. We're finally getting this done consistently. We are using Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization from IEW for poetry, and it's the only source of memory work for FB at this point, but for EG, I'm adding in history work, additional poetry, daily Latin review (vocabulary as well as various chants), grammar definitions, and starting in a few weeks, some terms for physics. Once I put it on the schedule and decided to make it a priority, it finally started coming together.

What's Not Working
Our literature list is so far overwhelming EG. While she's certainly capable of reading everything that's been assigned, she started the year with one of the longest works she'll read all year (Little Women), and then followed that, two weeks later, with a week in which multiple books were to be read. I hope that once we hit week six (week five is a shortened week), she'll have found her 'stride,' so to speak.

Similarly, literature analysis and discussion is not happening. I need to make more of an effort to use the various resources we have - Deconstructing Penguins and various free literature guides online.


Weekly Report: Week Four

Twenty days completed means just one hundred sixty to go... a ninth of the way there.

Let's start with Eclectic Girl this week. We're all anticipating our upcoming trip, but she's managed to stay on task, a big difference from in years past. Math continues to go well - she passed the Bridge to Chapter 16 this week on the first try. Her daily work is usually completely correct as well. She didn't complete any new levels of drill this week, but since both were relatively new, that's not surprising. She also began working through Key to Measurement Book 2. Measurement is an area with which we haven't spent as much time, directly. It's been covered indirectly through numerous word problems, but I want her spent some time with it, so we're using the Key to... series over the course of this year.

Latin is going extremely well. We're so pleased with Lively Latin. Because we've attempted Latin previously, much of what she's doing so far is review of one type or another, but the amount of writing and layout of the materials makes it so much nicer to use. She finished Chapter 3 this week and will start Chapter 4 next week!

EG is nearly done with her electricity unit for physics. There are three remaining activities from the TOPS Electricity unit that she'll do next week. She read in the "Electricity" section of The New Way Things Work as well. I love our physics books this year!

History is the Civil War, which she'll continue to study next week. She read through chapter five in SOTW 4, as well as parts of THe American Story, The Children's Encyclopedia of American History, The Young Perpon's History of the United States, and one page from The Usborne Book of World History. Her biography is Sitting Bull, and she's reading through Gettysburg as well as a National Park Service publication about Manassas. Instead of writing a summary this week, she's working on adding to her memorization repetoire - the Gettyburg address and "O Captain! My Captain!" She's continuing to review "The Charge of the Light Brigade" daily.

In literature, EG read a "Great Illustrated Classics" adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. While well below her reading level, I wanted her to have some familiarity with the iconic stories from it before we tackle the real thing in eighth grade. She also read Gentle Annie, and she's started on A House Divided. The current read-aloud is Where the Red Fern Grows, and they've completed through chapter nine, well ahead of plans.

Language arts is the final area, and EG is doing well there, too. She's steadily working at cursive penmanship in the mornings when she first wakes. Spelling is proceeding as it generally does, in fits and starts. While both EG and I acknowledge the need to study spelling, neither of us particularly enjoys the actual study of it. I know that All About Spelling works for her, but it can be immensely annoying to both of us! She's still doing editing activities to cover grammar - later in the year, we'll tackle Junior Analytical Grammar. Finally, in writing, she's working with "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" as her model and studying adverbs. She'll finish her final draft at the beginning of next week.

EG is also working on logic as the spirit moves her, so to speak. She sped through Logic Countdown as well as several Mind Benders books over the summer and throughout the first three weeks of school. She's now finished book B3 of Mind Benders and has completed half of Logic Liftoff. My original thoughts were for her to finish at least the B level Mind Benders and half of Orbiting with Logic by the end of this school year. I think I'll have to figure something else out, or start rationing them!

Fabulous Boy is showing a little more attentiveness to his phonics, and is still speeding through handwriting. Math has taken somewhat of a backseat since it can be hard to find a time to complete the work when Purple Child won't interfere! I've also managed to lose FB's math CD somewhere between the living room and the dining room - ugh. I'm hoping it'll turn up soon.

Purple Child is working on improving her walking, and on dropping down to just one nap a day. Of course I'm glad she's growing bigger and stronger, but neither of these developments thrill me one itty bitty bit.

No pictures this week, the house and I are in a state of chaos. I may do a four weeks in - what's worked, what hasn't - post later today or over the weekend.


Secular Thursdays: The Bible As Literature

Wednesday is Wordless Wednesday, Sunday is What's For Dinner?, and Friday is the Weekly Report, but I thought I'd take a cue from my friend Smrt Mama over at Smrt Lernins, and start doing Secular Thursdays, too. Just to begin with a bang, today I'm going to tackle studying the Bible as literature (versus a literal history, or a document of a person's personal faith).

Despite being decidedly secular in our approach to school, I also feel strongly that a well-educated person must have at least passing familiarity with the Bible and the stories it contains. Like the myths of Greek and Rome, the stories catalogued in the religious books of Judeo-Christian faiths figure frequently in literary allusions throughout the ages. While I do not wish to teach my children that any of these stories are literal truth, I do want them to understand what basic stories are referenced when there is mention of the tower of Babel, being swallowed by a whale, or the meek inheriting the earth.

Truthfully, though, this approach to the Bible as literature is not a common one. Most secular homeschoolers would prefer to ignore the Bible altogether, and the Bible curriculums that do exist for homeschoolers are usually aimed at Christians. Not just Christians, either, but a particular type of fundamentalist, evangelical Christian that subscribes to a specific set of limited beliefs, and partakes in a particular Christian culture. This means that quite apart from those that identify with a non Judeo-Christian faith, many who do will find little to nothing for their faith in these curriculums, much less value in teaching the Bible as literature.

Despite the lack of complete curriculum, though, I've managed to identify a few resources that I hope to use over the years with my children, over grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages all.

With regards to grammar stage, I feel that I chose poorly for my eldest. In my effort to avoid indoctrination in the philosophy which views the Bible as literal truth, I went too far the other way, and failed to expose her to the Judeo-Christian tradition as I would have any culture's founding mythology. I do plan to rectify that mistake with my remaining children. When we study the time period of the ancients (from the beginning of record history through approximately 400 C.E.), we'll read appropriate retellings of Bible stories alongside our retellings of Homer, Virgil, Greek mythology, and the epic of Gilgamesh. I own two Bible story books, remnants of my own childhood, and will use a combination of these two - an older version of The Golden Childen's Bible, and an old hardbook maroon copy of Egermeier's Bible Story Book. Both are relatively free of specific doctrine, though I will have to add my own explanation that these are stories, not literal histories.

The resources I will use in the logic and rhetoric stages will overlap somewhat. While I plan to primarily use The Old Testament for Teens during our logic stage study of the ancients, we will keep it as a reference for the rhetoric stage. Similarly, while I expect we will look at Asimov's Guide to the Bible more during the rhetoric stage, we will utilize it as a reference from time to time during the logic stage. During both these stages, we will use a translation of the Bible, not a retelling of it, though what translation we use may change. I have not yet made any systematic study of the various translations and versions available. Finally, in the rhetoric stage, I expect to reference The Bible and Its Influence, though we will likely not study it in an in-depth manner.

Whatever choices are made in terms of faith, the need for all well-educated people to be familiar with various mythologies of the world's religions remains. Understanding the basic precepts of all the world's major religions should be a hallmark of a well-educated citizen, which includes familiarity with major stories. Another Thursday we'll talk about other religions and their holy books, as well.


Wordless Wednesday, 2 September 2009

(The house we have hope of purchasing)
This website was designed by Sam Rushing

"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson