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