Goals and The Dread Flu

In addition to Christmas, we were invaded last week by a vicious flu. A vicious, vicious flu that slowly made the rounds through us all; myself, EG, and the Spousal Unit were first and hardest hit, but FB had a milder case that left him in bed all of Thursday and part of Christmas Eve, and PC had a middlin’ case that really only served to make her both more energetic than the rest of us combined and whiny. This, by the way, is not recommended – having the youngest member of the household feeling the best.

Now that I’m finally emerging from the haze, I’ve been working on finalizing my goals for 2011. I started working on them fairly early in the month of December, which has given me appropriate time to tweak and modify. In the end, I have goals in fifteen distinct categories. Granted, I break things down considerably, and others would likely group some of my categories into a single category, so it’s not quite as gruesome as it sounds. My categories, though, are the following: health; weight; exercise; running; knitting; food (as it relates to money); food (as it relates to nutrition); spending & budgeting; moving; homeschooling; parenting; birthdays; holidays; online life; and books. Some of the goals aren’t really the type that I would share online, but there are a few for which accountability is a positive thing, so I thought I’d share them here.

Running: My goal here is to complete twelve races (5K) in the year, for an average of one per month.

Knitting: My main goal is to finish at least two projects per month. I have a lot of subgoals, mostly related to specific projects. That may become a separate post.

Food (as it relates to nutrition): A late, dark horse entry made itself known for this category just over a week ago. I think we’re going to have to do a trial of gluten-free, at least for the girls. This is going to be a significant hardship, and one to which I am not looking forward.

Books: One of my main goals here is to read any unread books in the house, or to take them to the happy place in Chattanooga, McKay’s. Additionally, I want to maintain a backlog of no more than 4 unread books at a time. As it stands now, I have one book I’m reading, two books that are waiting, one book I’ve decided not to read (McKay’s for it), and a couple of books that I have borrowed. I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

I’m pleased with the way my goals look; I’ve been able to break a number of them down into easily measurable monthly and weekly goals. I’ve also convinced Spousal Unit to join me in working towards some of them. Now the new year just has to show up so I can get started. That, and I have to get rid of this cough that’s still lingering.


A Book Gushing

I wish I could remember where I saw The House of Intellect recommended. I thought perhaps it was on the WTM boards, but a search has not yielded a result when I enclose “House of Intellect” in the necessary quotation marks. So, then, maybe it was on a blog that I follow. If it was one of you reading this, I must say – thank you.

I needed to read this book. It was written in 1959, and yet so much of what Barzun has to say is still topical. In fact, there were times I felt it was eerily prescient.

I appreciated many things about this book, and I felt it gave me much with which to grapple. I want to pick it up and reread it. For those of you who read the recent threads about traditional grammar and structural grammar on the WTM boards, there are a few pages where he takes up the cause of traditional grammar for students in face of linguistic objections. He mentions several times the importance of what he terms the “traditional” curriculum – Latin, of course, and logic, as well as mathematics, memorization, and ancient Greek.

I don’t feel quite adequate of giving the book a proper review, so instead I’ll include a few of the quotes I noted for myself.

“To effect these changes is not a superhuman task if the firmness and rigor that are being preached to the schools exist also in our individual souls. The discipline of hard work in reading, writing, and counting must be matched at home by attention to speech, manners, and thought.” (p253)

“Meanwhile, the simple but difficult arts of paying attention, copying accurately, following an argument, detecting an ambiguity or a false inference, testing guesses by summoning up contrary instances, organizing one’s time and one’s thoughts for study – all these arts, which cannot be taught in the air but only through the difficulties of a defined subject, which cannot be taught in one course or one year, but must be acquired gradually, in dozens of connections. . . ” (p113-114)

"This is the corruption of the pedagogic advice of Montaigne and Rousseau. 'Teach the very young with aid of real things,' they said (like Aristotle earlier), 'let children learn by doing.' They thought of the curriculum and Latin declensions and figures of logic, and wanted a little open-air life and bodily activity to relieve it." (p106)

And, finally, perhaps my favorite quote, especially in light of the post I wrote last week.

“All private and public affairs, moreover, must have unremittingly applied to them to criterion of work. The business of learning must above all others be represented in its true guise as difficult, as demanding effort.” (p254)

The House of Intellect, Jacques Barzun. Still alive today, I would love to sit down and discuss the world with this author.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-One (days 098-102)

I liked my big/small weekly report this week, so let's try it again!

• EG took a video of herself performing an "ad" for her critical thinking class. Her father vetoed posting it on youtube, so you won't be able to watch her performance, but it was pretty funny. She created a "product" – a ever-tied hair ribbon.

• The best discussion we had all week was probably about the nature of conclusions and their importance in writing a paper. We talked about how, with a good outline, you may want to do your rough draft of your conclusion before you write your body sentences/paragraphs.

• FB has been zooming through the McGuffey Primer, now that I know he can read. :P It's really the perfect practice for him right now. Once we get to where it's more difficult, we'll do fewer sections per day. This is in addition to OPGTR, btw.

• FB is gobbling up Miquon at the moment. We're going to start on Right Start B after our holiday break, but continue doing Miquon as well.

• PC had her belated two year old well visit. She's a tiny peanut, weighing just 22.8 lbs, which is the 5th percentile. She's a full 34" tall, though, putting her at the 50th percentile. It's a big discrepancy, especially given that she's fallen several percentiles since she started eating solid foods. Since she eats plenty, it's either that she's burning it all off, or there's an absorption issue. I think this is where the stagehands gives me the card that says "Stay Tuned."

• PC went to run errands with me after her well visit, just her and I, no siblings. She's hilarious when she doesn't have her siblings to entertain and gets to be the sole focus of parental attention. It doesn't happen often for her!

• I made sausage balls. And cheese ball. And cookie bar. And then more sausage balls. Really, who could ask for anything more?

• I finished all of my Christmas knitting! I made a hat each for PC and FB, but the piece de resistance was EG's scarf.

The scarf pattern shares a name with EG's first name, written by the same company that dyed the yarn. The colorway on the yarn shares a name with EG's middle name. This scarf is literally her name.


Secular Thursday: A Little Hard Work

I think too many homeschooling parents are afraid of hard work, with regards to what they require of their children. I see it in several areas. It seems at time like many are afraid of requiring "too much" work for a child. Others are afraid of being seen as "too rigid." Still others are afraid of accusations of being "elitist."

Let's address the question of being "elitist" first. I'll quote Aaron Sorkin's piece about if Obama met Bartlet: "And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence."

Who wants to argue with President Bartlet? I certainly don't. I'll accept him as the final word on being elite. Let's be well above average. Let's be excellent.

When it comes to "too much" work, the oft-cited schedules and guidelines in The Well-Trained Mind come under fire. For first grade, for example, daily work is suggested that should, according to the guidelines, take between one hour forty-five minutes and two hours thirty minutes. Additionally, thirty minutes should be spent on fun reading during another portion of the day. Non-daily subjects add up to 7 to 8 hours per week, or an additional 84 to 96 minutes per day. Please keep in mind that this non-daily work includes art projects, picture study, and an hour of listening to classical music. Not all work that we as adults categorize as school is considered onerous, work, or "school" by our children.

Still, then. Our minimum total for first grade work, as laid out in WTM, is three hours nine minutes, and the maximum total is four hours six minutes.

In practice, the suggested approach does not take, for many homeschoolers, as long as the guidelines say!

On average, children between the ages of five and twelve years are suggested to get ten to eleven hours of sleep. This leaves thirteen hours in a day. The suggested schoolwork, at maximum, would compromise 30% of a child's waking hours. This is hardly onerous. (By comparison, a child in my school district in first grade would be officially in school for six and a half hours per day, not including time spent there before the official start of day and time after dismissal, and travel time, which is 50% of a child's waking hours.)

For fifth grade, schoolwork does become an increasingly large portion of the child's day, taking (according to those pesky guidelines) between six hours and six hours forty minutes. Notice that this just now reaches that 50% mark that kids in elementary school have had since first grade!

In WTM: "It's still hard work. We don't deny it. We'll give you a clear view of the demands and requirements of this academic project. But a classical education is worth every drop of sweat – I can testify to that. I am constantly grateful to my mother for my education. It gave me an immeasurable head start, the independence to innovate and work on my own, confidence in my ability to compete in the job market, and the mental tools to build a satisfying career."

I think a large part of the objection to "too much work" has come from an interesting source. Millions, it seems, has been made in the last decade by writers and others decrying American children's overscheduled lives. Kids need time to play, to be outdoors, and time to simply be with themselves. I don't argue with that. I do argue with the idea that a preschooler with two or three outside the house activities is fundamentally the same as an eleven year old with two or three outside the house activities. In the rush not to overschedule children, anecdotes about four and six year olds that do four sports a year, that go from class to playdates to swim lessons to art – these stories are rampant.

I have a confession, here. According to the definition of overscheduling given in many resources, I was an overscheduled child. For example, when I was in third grade, I took piano lessons, I played softball, and I did ballet. I also participated in Girl Scouts. These are the activities that stand out from that year in retrospect; there may have been others. I don't remember feeling rushed or hurried. I had plenty of time to run around outside, to make up stories, to read for pleasure, and to spend time with my family. I even lived twenty-five minutes from my elementary school!

I think the overscheduling hype might just be exactly that – hype. I especially want to question its applicability to homeschooling families. I made a list of my daughter's obligations and what I would like for her to have time to do, including music practice, time with her siblings, time to read, and down time. I included a good amount of sleep, and an adequate amount of time for meals. In a twenty-four day, after all of those? There was a surplus of five hours. Granted, travel time to activities needs to be considered in that five hours, but travel time does not have to be wasted time. In the car, we do memory work, we listen to music for music appreciation, we sing, we talk, and, when the car sickness isn't too bad, reading takes place. It's not wasted time, and could be argued to substitute nicely for some of the other time involved.

Is it possible to do too much, or to overschedule, even as a homeschooler? Yes. Absolutely. What I am arguing, however, is that the saturation point is much higher than most assume it to be.

Finally, there’s the objection of being “too rigid.” I’m sure there are better defenses of rigidity, not to mention better refutations of the charge of being rigid. What comes to my mind, though, is a quote from Bones. The titular character is explaining why she likes free form jazz. “No, I love it. The artist has to live within a set tonal structure and trust his own instincts to find his way out of a infinite maze of musical possibilities, and the great ones do.” Sometimes, the rigidity of a system can set us free. By learning the basic facts and laws of math, a mathematician can create brilliant proofs; by learning grammar, the writer has a framework for creative output. This is true across disciplines.

Ultimately, the objections to hard work can be answered and shown not to be the problems they are thought to be. The perception remains with homeschooling, though, as it does in many institutional school settings, that learning should be fun. Edutainment, not education. Others mistake industry for work, and while appropriately shunning empty showings of industry, forget the value inherent in work. Whatever the reason, the homeschool community has begun to embrace the view that requiring hard academic work is not a positive thing – and I think it’s a foolishly negative turn of events.


The Constant Challenge: Challenge

The most common, most recurring challenge in our homeschool is challenge itself. There’s a sweet spot in which I want my kids to be working. Neither too easy, nor too hard, ideally they’d be always working just on the edge of their zone of competence, to borrow a term from a book I read recently.

If I err towards something that is easy, I risk boredom. In our house, boredom with schoolwork often results in dawdling, a poor attitude, and, somewhat paradoxically, taking too much time to complete assigned work.

If, on the other hand, I err towards something that is too challenging, I risk frustration. I risk tears, exclamations of an inability to complete the work, and possibly a cessation of all effort.

To complicate matters further, a tired, hungry, or thirsty child often looks similar to a child who is being asked to do something too challenging. On occasion, the tired child will look like the bored child.

I admit, even after all this time, I sometimes miss the signs of something being too easy. This time of year, it’s all too frequent that my kids are tired or working their immune systems hard to keep illness at bay. I know that EG usually takes a cognitive leap between mid-December and the end of February, and things that were just right only weeks previous become far too easy in a matter of days. I know this, and still I can miss it.

Of course, there is a time and a place for “boring” work. We must review math facts. We must continue to analyze the grammar of a sentence, no matter how many sentences we’ve analyzed previously. We must recite the poetry we’ve already memorized, lest we forget it. Books that seem easy need to be read, to increase speed and fluency. The problem comes when nearly everything begins to fall under the category of “easy” and “boring.”

I would argue there is even a place for the thing that is just slightly “too” challenging. To work at a problem or text, to grapple with it, and to emerge victorious – this, of course, is the stuff from which self-esteem is truly made. Still, that’s the place for a challenge problem at the end of a chapter of math, for instance. The bulk of a day’s work needs to hit that sweet spot, even as a small fraction of it is spent grappling, and another small fraction is spent on the “boring” and the review.

Hitting the sweet spot, of course, is not exactly easy. Even in one subject, it can be difficult, but multiply the problem across multiple children and multiple subject, and it’s no wonder I occasionally have dreams about magical new curricula, and more diligent children.

What do you do to hit the sweet spot with your child or children? How do you balance the need for all three types of material, albeit in varying proportions? And, let’s admit it – how often do you think “I coulda had a V8!” because you’ve been ignoring the evidence staring you in the face (again)?


Weekly Report: Week Twenty (days 093-097)

I am, frankly, too tired to write a full weekly report. Therefore, we have one BIG thing and one little thing for everyone.

• One of my good friends had her baby on Tuesday night, which happened to be her actual due date. She had a quick, intense homebirth-turned-unplanned-UC. Mama & baby are healthy, happy, and gorgeous!

• I updated my Ravelry account with actual pictures of my stashed yarn and my projects.

• PC has added several words to her vocabulary lately. This week, however, we have added the all-important "Why?"

• PC also moves ever closer to be potty trained. We had to resort to getting her the non-preferred Publix training pants. Target's have a kitty on them and therefore she likes them too much.

• I had suspected for a bit that perhaps FB could read more than he was letting on. Over the weekend, he exposed the depths of his knowledge. The little stinker can read! When queried about hiding it, he said, "I didn't want you to realize until I was eight or ten." Thanks, kid.

• FB finds the whole compost process fascinating to observe. We also finally finished reading a couple of the Greek myths books that we'd been slowly working through with him.

• EG has been working diligently to wrap up the computer portion of PLATO Earth & Space Science before we break for Christmas. She's got just four mastery tests, three applications, and two lessons left!

• EG had her piano recital on Monday! She performed two pieces. Her pubic speaking class also performed a short skit.

Monday was their "Colonial Feast" at Master's Academy, as you can see…


The Other Planning

Okay, the easy planning.

For language arts next year, FB will continue in his curriculum from this year, for the most part. He'll use Printing Power for penmanship, and Spelling Workout for spelling – probably Level B, but he could get into Level C before the end of 2011-2012. He'll also keep using First Language Lessons, and we'll continue his writing with Writing With Ease Level 2. Literature will continue to be a mix of him listening to great picture books and history-related fiction and reading books on his level.

Mathematics will be what he has left of Right Start B after this year, followed by Right Start C. He'll also keep working in Miquon – I anticipate him working in the Red book and possibly the Blue. Drill will continue, using Calculadders, and we'll throw in some other resources as well: MathStart picture books, the Kitchen Table Math books, and possibly Primary Challenge Math.

For history, FB will be continuing with The Story of the World, moving into Volume Two, which covers the time period from 400 CE through 1600 CE. We'll use the Activity Guide again, and add supplemental non-fiction, which I anticipate pulling primarily from the You Wouldn't Want To Be… series.

Science next year will be biology. We'll probably start that a little early, doing some botany in late spring and throughout the summer, using Incredible Plants and perhaps Green Thumbs. I'm going to use The Natural World as a primary spine, alongside the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and the DK First Animal Encyclopedia. The Natural World does touch on cells and evolution, which otherwise would go neglected. Supplemental books will be pulled heavily from National Geographic, Let's Read and Find Out, and Rookie Read-About Science.

German… I want to start all the kids on German. As with EG, this may involve tutoring, or Saturday school, or who knows.

FB will continue attending Master's Academy, which does a good deal of art and music appreciation. We're doing those very informally at home this year, which I'll probably continue next year. We have the Classical Kids series, The Story of Classical Music, and we do listen to Classics for Kids as well. I'd like to get more of the Venezia books on composers. I'd also like to get the Venezia books on artists. We have a few books on art and artists. Again, we'll keep this informal for the most part, though I do have Art in Story that we'll use periodically, correlated to history. I'd like FB to attend a ballet performance, a theatre performance, and a musical performance next year.

In terms of skills in fine arts, FB has expressed interest in starting piano next year. I think we'll use something like Music for Little Mozarts at home. They use the classroom program at Master's Academy and he's always talking about it. We may even start this by mid-spring of this year. He also is learning recorder at Master's Academy, and they do art projects there as well. In either first or second grade, I'll have him work through Drawing With Children.

This is really all even easier than it looks. I'm fine with music appreciation being decided as we go, as well as most art. Art in Story takes a little bit of prep, but no more than an hour or two total. I do have to finalize supplemental books for history and science, as well as create a schedule, and make literature selections. That's it, though, for FB. Easy peasy! All the major decisions are already made.


After December Comes 2011.

And, of course, 2011 means that after 2010-2011 is over, there will be 2011-2012. How'd that happen, again?

When it comes to next year and my two students, there's one for whom it's easy to list what we'll be doing. Then there's my darling EG.

Thank goodness for Michael Clay Thompson's language arts. We'll be using the entirety of the level four package - grammar, poetics, vocabulary, and composition. We'll also be continuing to use All About Spelling through the planned seventh level (no, we haven't started the sixth level; that will happen after Christmas, hopefully).

Everything else? Is vague.

Literature… I am taking a serious look at Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings, possibly done through the onlineg3 class. That would cover September, October, November, December, and January, leaving me with a month at the beginning of our school year, as well as the remainder of the school year after January. I need to look at what we're going to do in history through the end of this school year, and restructure that literature accordingly. Then, I'll have a better sense of what other works I want her to read next year.

Mathematics… EG loves Fred, so I won't take her from her beloved Life of Fred for Geometry, even though I think the idea of putting "algebra" in a proof for any algebraic property is bunk. I've looked through the text, though, and anticipate it taking only 108 days, leaving plenty of room in the schedule for her to work through the proofs and end of chapter problems, if not the entire book, from Art of Problem Solving's Introduction to Geometry. All of that said, if next year is like every other year with math, she'll accomplish more than I suspect possible at the outset, so I'd better buy up Life of Fred Trigonometry. (I half-think she'll start Geometry before the end of 2010/2011.)

Social Sciences… I have to reconfigure my expectations for this year. Once I make sure she can finish the middle ages and the Renaissance, then I can begin to move forward. Tentatively, though, I'm looking at Ellen McHenry's Excavating English, as well as her Mapping the World with Art. I also have plans to pull together an economics study, and United States government, plus a world history course focused through the lens of food. All of this is for sixth and seventh grade (and possibly part of the remainder of fifth grade, to be honest), so here's another area where things are totally up in the air.

Science… I'm seriously considering having her tackle chemistry next year, as opposed to biology. Why? For starters, this year, we've spent and will spend a lot of time on biological topics. PLATO Life Science, yes, but also a human body study, a prehistoric life study, and a focused study of evolution and genetics. I love biology, but I do not want to burn her out on biology! Chemistry also fits more neatly into my Hogwarts school plans. We'll probably supplement science in other areas, thanks to Hogwarts, but I can find a chemistry program designed for homeschooling so much more easily. I'm actually seriously considering Spectrum Chemistry, even though I've sworn for years that I wouldn't buy any science materials from an obviously sectarian or creationist company. As far as I can tell, though, from all my reading and investigating, there's nothing in it to which I would object. It seems to be a 32 week course, with only three days of work expected in a week. Since we do core subjects four days a week, that gives us the flexibility to add enrichment (Caveman Chemistry, anyone?) as well as the other Hogwarts sciences (astronomy and herbology/botany).

German… I am considering enrolling the kids in a German Saturday school. I'm also making doe eyes at a friend who knows German to teach the kids. We may do both. Who knows? Not me!

Fine Arts, Skills… EG will continue with trumpet instruction and participation in band. She will audition for the "Advanced Band" and may apply to join Beginning Jazz (admission based on qualifying for Advanced). I think she'd like to continue piano lessons, even though my requirement of two years piano instruction will be met at that time. If she doesn't do any formal drawing instruction this year, it will definitely be on the list for next year. I'm going to outsource it, though, either by getting my mother to do it (with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain) or by paying for outside instruction.

Fine Arts, Appreciation… Performances will continue to be important. I'd like her to attend two ballet performances, at least one musical performance in addition to the band concerts, and one to three theatre performances. I really would like to take her to an opera if there's an accessible one being performed nearby. She'll continue working through The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music History for, well, music history and world music appreciation, and Art for art history. I hope to renew our membership to the art museum, as well.

Logic… Unless something drastically changes, EG will be using The Snake and The Fox. I anticipate it taking one-half to two-thirds of the year. I also have Nonsense about fallacies, and a list of possibilities saved on amazon, to round out the year. Thanks to onlineg3, she'll have done both Critical Thinking 1 & Critical Thinking 2 this year, which should be a good basis for all of this. I also have some books on mathematical logic by Suppes, though I have no answer key for either. I think that's the point where I outsource, right?

Computers & Technology… I want EG to take some of the free classes and workshops offered at the Apple store. Ideally, I'd like her to take Art of Problem Solving's introduction to Python in seventh grade, so our main goals for sixth grade are to improve typing speed and to get comfortable with basic software usage.

I really want to have everything finalized by March, which means I will have a busy two or three months ahead of me. Why March? We're going to Greenville! (I'm so excited. Susan Wise Bauer, Jessie Wise, Jim Weiss, Michael Clay Thompson, Ed Zaccaro, plus Tim Hawkins. Yay!)


Weekly Report: Week Nineteen (days 088-092)

As much as I appreciate that the kids have extracurricular activities, I admit to enjoying this time of the year, when they slowly drop away for a nice holiday break. Band finished before Thanksgiving, and Monday will mark the last day of Master's Academy until 2011!

Even better news is that we passed our halfway point for the year!

EG moved into studying ancient Rome this week. She did not write an essay but did work on a biography paragraph for Julius Caesar. She also read Coolidge's Caesar's Gallic War. She completed four sentences in Practice Voyage and a lesson in Caesar's English II. Together we read through chapter seven, on quotations, in Essay Voyage.

Math & science both continue apace. She beat one level of drill (hooray!) and worked in both Life of Fred Advanced Algebra and Real World Algebra. I had a minor freak-out over where to go next with her with regards to math. She did three worksheets from PLATO Earth & Space Science, as well as finishing up the Atmosphere unit.

Logic, typing, music appreciation, and art appreciation continue to go well. We found out from her trumpet instructor that we need to plan to buy a new trumpet in the next six months or so. She has a performance on piano on Monday, as well as a skit with the other members of her public speaking course. Finally, we went to see The Nutcracker. EG enjoys watching ballet, which is something I hope she'll continue to enjoy as she gets older.

FB is voluntarily reading a few things to us outside of school time. Hooray! He learned about alternate spellings of the long a sound in OPGTR, and is almost finished with ETC 2. He's finished up week twenty in WWE 1, lesson 9 in SWO A, and lesson 62 in FLL. Yay! For literature, he's been listening to various retellings of Greek myths and Homer. History, as you may have guessed, continues to be about ancient Greek. This week's chapter focused on life in Sparta as well as in Athens. FB did four pages in Miquon and played with the rods extensively. I really need to get Right Start B out and get it going.

Over Thanksgiving, FB set up an experiment on composting from his MSB "Go Green" experiment kit, so he's been observing that periodically this week. He also listened to Sounds All Around. His music appreciation is temporarily superseded by listening to vast amounts of Christmas music, including the new Glee Christmas CD.

Speaking of Glee, that segues nicely into my update. I'm so thrilled with Glee. I can't wait to see next week's episode. I am trying to finish knitting a scarf for EG (which I have to do only while she's asleep) as well as a hat for PC (which, luckily, I can do while she's awake). I need to go buy one more skein of yarn to make into a hat for FB before Christmas. Other than a calendar for PC, I am nearly done with Christmas shopping!


Weekly Report: Week Eighteen-Ish (days 086-087)

We did a two and a half day week for Thanksgiving, more or less.

FB completed two lessons in OPGTR, six pages in ETC 2, and reviewed his last lesson from SWO A. We did two lessons from FLL together and finished WWE 1 Week 19. He also worked on writing lower-case 'j.' We continued reading Greek myths; Usborne Book of Greek Myths, King Midas and the Golden Touch, and Black Ships Before Troy were his primary read-aloud titles.

History covered the Persians; we may manage to play the Conquer Mesopotamia game at some point today. FB did two experiments from his Magic School Bus "Go Green" science kit, including the start of a composting experiment.

In math, FB did two pages in Miquon and did drill two days. For fine arts this week, we merely listened to Christmas music; there was no Master's Academy. There was also a lack of oceanography class and gymnastics, but there was Thanksgiving to somewhat lessen that blow for FB.

EG did a bit more work than FB; she did complete a lesson in Caesar's English II, and worked on assignments for Essay Voyage. She also read The Aeneid for Boys and Girls. History, however, was skipped this week, as I work on refiguring how I want to approach the subject with her. She did complete three pages in her Outlining workbook.

For math, she completed three lessons and two days of drill; science was more work in PLATO Earth & Space Science. She also watched several lectures from The Joy of Science course.

EG also did music & art appreciation this week, and watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade including the ads, searching for propaganda techniques she could identify and post about in her logic class forum.

We have three and a half weeks until we break for Christmas (I want to end our number of days so that it's divisible by five – oh, obsessive-complusive tendencies), but already extracurriculars are lighter. Band is over until 2011! Just two more weeks of Master's Academy, as well, and three weeks of Wednesday classes & gymnastics. This also means I only have about three and a half weeks to finish up the last bits of shopping, but we won't talk about that. :)



I was conflicted over how much work we’d do for school this week. On the one hand, no matter how many days we do, we wouldn’t get a full five days completed, so we’d be uneven (I like my number of days at the end of each week to be divisible by five). On the other hand, I was planning to complete five days between this week & the week of December 20, so the more days we finish now, the fewer we do that week.

While I was dithering over this issue, I also realized that we’re going to finish 105 days by the end of 2010! That’s well over halfway, and we’ll hit the two-thirds mark before the end of January. This in turn inspired a moment of panic about planning for next year.

I started planning this year very early last year. Most of this was because I thought we’d be moving in the late spring or early summer, and I wanted to have things planned and purchased before that time. Well, we didn’t move yet, so in theory I should be concerned about the same scenario. Add to that attending the Southeast Homeschool Convention in March, where in theory I could purchase a good amount of next year’s materials, and I realized that at the very least, I should have some things decided, if not planned.


I don’t. Not really. I can rattle off a list of things that are decided, but they’re decided because they are the next book(s) or item(s) in a series or curriculum that is already working for us. There’s no actual decision to be made. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extraordinarily thankful that I know those, at least, and that the majority of those require no advance planning (the best, shining example? Writing With Ease. “Oh look, it’s the first week and the third day. Here, the paper is labeled for us!”). However, that means that while on paper it may look like I’m a good way towards complete, almost all of the real work is still ahead of me.


I have mid-year course corrections to puzzle out, as well – I’m reworking EG’s history, and plan to add a course or two from Duke’s TIP Independent Learning offerings. We’ve shelved Latin for now, have added some computer skills, and may be adding a modern foreign language as early as January.


It’s time, then, for this year’s iteration of the by 1 July list. Call it v2.0. Subject to editing as I remember more things.

By 1 July 2011
01. Decide on supplemental titles for Story of the World Volume Two. (FB)
02. Plan out life science/biology with spines, supplemental books, and projects and activities. (FB)
03. Work through the next sections of Art in Story for art appreciation. (FB)
04. Make a better plan for grammar stage art projects. (FB)
05. Make a tentative literature list. (FB)
06. Decide whether or not to enroll the kids in a Saturday language school. (FB & EG)
07. Decide what to do about literature for EG for next year. (EG)
08. Work on Hogwarts-ian plans. (EG)
09. Decide on online classes. (EG)
10. Figure out social sciences/history. (EG)
11. Plan social sciences/history once decided. (EG)
12. Make a final decision on science and plan out if necessary. (EG)
13. Decide on what technology/computer skills to emphasize. (EG)
14. Plan art history for the year. (EG)
15. Plan music history/appreciation for the year. (EG)
16. Make a list of various math resources, since she’ll probably tear through them. (EG)
17. Make a shopping list of everything, to take to Greenville.


Purple Child's Birth Story

[Two years ago, I was holding my newborn baby girl and eating cinnamon rolls. Here's her story.]

PC's story begins, I think, the first time that the possibility of her existence became known to me. Close to nine years before she was born, I was pregnant with my oldest child when I had a dream about my children. I saw three of them in my dream - the oldest a girl, the middle child the only boy, and the youngest a second daughter.

I didn't think about her beyond that dream for several more years. It was soon after my second child was born (a boy) that I began to be more consciously aware of "one more" child that was coming at some point. For approximately two years, I was regularly reminded, by myself or outside events, that I was to be doing this parenting journey "one more time," and that it was for a specific presence. It was during this time period that I knew her name was going to be [PC.]

It was also during this time that I had more dreams about her. There were only a few, and all of them involved her birth. Now that I have birthed her, I can point to something that each and every dream taught or told me about her birth. She appeared to me at first to be even smaller than her birth weight would have suggested. She was born while I was standing. I went into active labor while only Sam and Jacob were present. She was born with her eyes closed. I felt her head emerge from my body with my hand - something I had never done nor even wanted to do. All of these things featured in my dreams, and there was nothing significant in any of my dreams that was not born out in her actual birth. In retrospect, I think this was absolutely the neatest thing. I loved having the dreams, I loved having them play out, and I love thinking about it now, too.

Finally, I am a planner. Naturally, then, I had this pregnancy and even the birth all planned out, whether in my head or on paper. My cycles are x days long, so I should ovulate on day y, and my due date would then be z. You get the idea. While PC by no means thwarted me at every turn, she did just enough to remind me: you can't plan everything.

I really should have known when, the cycle before the one we planned to start trying to conceive, my body acted weird. Instead of my typical ovulation and cycle length, my body kept putting off ovulation, so that my careful calculations would end up 'off' by more than a week. To add to the fun, I had actual symptoms of early pregnancy, signs I normally would not have had as part of PMS or the lead-in to my period, throughout the luteal phase of that cycle. Eventually, though, my period arrived (not quite on schedule) and we could proceed with trying for our November baby.

Like each of my other children, I knew without taking a test that I had conceived. Still, for various reasons, it was important to me to have the external confirmation and definitive answers. Accordingly, I decided I would test before my period was actually due. The first test was... amusing. I don't do well at peeing on a stick. The control line did not show up immediately, or in the first minute; it did finally make an appearance after eight minutes. The second line did appear within five minutes of the control line, but not within the required ten minutes after starting the test. Ambiguity! The next day, I peed into a cup before dipping the test. The results appeared much quicker and confirmed what I already knew - she was on her way Earthside.

My pregnancy proceeded in much the way I had envisioned and planned, but there were a few exceptions. While I had expected an unassisted pregnancy and birth to mean delving into myself and finding my own resources, to some extent I had unconsciously planned on more emotional support from my husband than he was either able or willing to give. For a time I was resentful of this, but as the time for birth approached, I decided to just accept it as what was, and move forward. Part of this pregnancy and birth was about letting go of plans; part of it was truly relying on myself and only myself. While I intellectually knew that no one could "do it for me," I had to come to accept that on every level.

At one point I considered having a midwife as a back-up. I went so far as to contact one local midwife, speaking with her on the telephone. The details aren't important; what is important is that in that act, I realized I didn't want or need a back-up. I didn't want to deal with anyone, really; I was just willing to make a few exceptions. Like my husband. ;)

Given everything I had already learned during the conception process and pregnancy, I don't know why I persisted in thinking that I could somehow anticipate when PC would decide to "pop out," as FB put it. Sure, my mother had predicted EG's birth to within 15 minutes, and had had the closest guess (two days) with FB, but there was no reason to think that either she or I would manage to get that close in predicting PC's arrival. It was a nice thought, though, that perhaps I would be one of those people who had a baby at thirty-seven or thirty-eight weeks, and that at the very least, I should surely have her near my due date... right?

In retrospect, I can see that for many reasons, PC came at the best possible time. There were some issues with our car that had to be resolved, that couldn't be resolved until mid-November. There were things that needed to be done with EG and FB. One fear I had about labor and birth was that FB's last memory of "before PC" would be going to bed one night. Since he often fought going to bed, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of my own (why sleep when there may be exciting things happening?), if I were to go into labor at night (as I had previously) and birth relatively quickly (as I had previously), then his memory would be likely of being upset about having to go to sleep! All of these potential issues were avoided or resolved by the actual timing of labor and birth.

So as forty weeks approached and then receded into the past, I was unhappy. By the time forty-one weeks approached, though, I was both more and less irritated and impatient. Irritated because I was in mild to moderate pain most of the time, from SPD. Impatient because I had had no intentions of being more than forty weeks pregnant when I gave birth. Yet, I was starting to reflect on the pregnancy and I began to think that PC had at least one more thing to teach me before she was fully Earthside. The attention I got when I was out in public made me distinctly unhappy, but staying at home didn't sound appealing, either!

Right at forty-one weeks, I had a tiny amount of bloody show. Nothing else happened for over a day. Finally, just as I started to go to bed on Wednesday, November 19 (41+1, if we're keeping track), I had what I considered a significant amount of bloody mucus. I went to bed, buoyed by the fact that it seemed something was happening.

Throughout the night, I woke often, as I had for several weeks, both to use the restroom and to change positions in bed - my SPD made it near impossible to roll over without wakening fully. Each time I woke, I had more bloody show. I had contractions that were noticeable throughout the night, but they were short in duration, as well as infrequent and irregular. When the morning came, I had a light breakfast, took a shower (I was feeling the contractions in my back, despite her anterior positioning), and then decided to rest. Until noon, I stayed in bed. I dozed, helped EG with her schoolwork, listened to the Hypnobabies track "Come OUT, Baby!" as well as the "Birthing Day Affirmations," and waited for something to happen, one way or another. My answer was the contractions spacing out so much that I essentially would think they had stopped altogether, and would then have a short one, just enough that I could not totally discount the idea that this was some form of early labor. In a three hour time span, I had only three or four contractions.

Around noon, I got out of bed, took another shower (my back was sore, even if it wasn't actively hurting), and ate a bit of lunch. Again, it was light, and I didn't feel like eating much. The contractions were still quite spaced out, though perhaps a bit closer together again, going back to the 15 to 30 minute intervals they had been before I rested. Later in the afternoon, we went to pick up milk; being in the car during a contraction, short as these were, was not fun, and I was once again glad that I was staying home for the birth.

Everything continued as it had been throughout the afternoon. By now, both my mother and my husband expressed surprise at how this was unfolding. After all, with both of my others, I hadn't had any sort of early labor; I had just jumped into active labor, with contractions immediately close together. With my both of my other two, I had had some cramping leading up to active labor (five hours' worth with my first, and two and a half days' worth with my second), yet this time I had had no cramping, just these short, irregular contractions. I wouldn't necessarily remember the lesson later, but during this time, I did remember - PC had already 'upset the apple cart' a few times; why should labor be any different? I felt amazingly calm and at peace; I wasn't sure if this was early labor or merely some "false" labor that would stop for a time before "the real thing," but in those moments, it wasn't a huge concern to me.

As evening approached, my husband arrived home from work, and my mother prepared to take my oldest to both swimming lessons and Girl Scouts. All of the coming and going took place around 5 pm, and my husband spent twenty or thirty minutes hanging out with FB before the two of them came into the bedroom and joined me. We spent the next forty minutes on the bed, just talking, and this - this was indeed the type of memory I wanted him to have as a last "pre-PC" memory. I was having the contractions much more regularly, beginning at this point, though they were still short in duration (only 30 seconds or so). I didn't really time them, per se, but I think they were between three and ten minutes apart, the time between them still varying. We moved into the sunroom and I checked various websites, including posting something totally not about labor; there was a part of me that wanted to put out there on the internet that I was around, but I didn't want to announce what was potentially happening. I read that the space shuttle was either just still visible or had just been visible; we all trekked outside to look for it, and I had a longer stretch at that point between the contractions. My mom arrived back from dropping EG at Girl Scouts as we went back in the house. Within seconds, I had another contraction. That was the last time I had a significant break between contractions. The longest I went after that was five minutes. It was approximately 6:20 pm.

I had wanted to wait until my mother arrived to try taking yet another shower for my sore back. As soon as she arrived, I went straight for it. She timed some of my contractions during that time. Just after seven, she and Jacob went to pick up EG from Girl Scouts, and she asked if she should call my dad (who was FB's 'support person') to start driving to Marietta from Chattanooga. By this point, I was enough in the throes of labor to be completely indecisive. "I don't know. Just wait. I don't want him to drive down for something that's not real." Luckily, my mother recognized this for what it was and went ahead and called him as she went to get EG.

During this time, I was going back and forth between consciously using my Hypnobabies and not concentrating fully on it. Even when I was consciously using it, the pain in my back did not abate. In retrospect, I spent much of my Hypnobabies time focused on contractions and labor as something that only happened in the ventral portion of the body. It was a bit ridiculous for someone who typically feels everything in her back (like gallbladder pain), but there it was. As a result, I felt nothing but pressure in the front, but actual pain in my back.

After I abandoned the shower, I spent time sitting on the edge of my bed. I alternated loosely between rocking during the contractions, and standing and swaying during the contractions. I had the heating pad on my sore, aching back throughout this time period. My mom and the kids arrived back around 7:45, and she immediately set them up in the sunroom with some Christmas videos.

Then she and Spousal Unit got busy. I don't recall all the details here, but while the bed had been transformed during my shower, now it was time for preparing the foldout couch in the living room, blowing up the birth pool, brewing tea, and other things of which I was essentially unaware. I moved to the living room (with my good friend the heating pad) and spent time laboring both on hands and knees and then sitting on a folding chair. I was essentially unaware of time passing at that point. I knew the contractions were even closer together, every two or three minutes, and I knew they still weren't very long, just forty-five seconds or so.

At some point, the birth pool started calling to me, and I asked if it were full. It wasn't completely full, but it was near the fill line, so in I went. In a scene eerily reminiscent of FB's birth, I was in the tub for just a few contractions before transition was upon me. At some point, I checked myself, and decided I still had four or five centimeters left to go. I announced that there was too much cervix left, and I didn't like it. I made a lot of noise about Demerol, told Spousal Unit and my mother that it was too much trouble to go to the hospital just for Demerol, and then asked if they thought some EMTs would just bring me some Demerol and then leave. They assured me that, no, the EMTs did not carry Demerol. This was vaguely upsetting to me, and I remember moaning about it not really being fair.

It was just moments after I had checked myself that I felt an irresistable urge to stand. Considering how difficult I found moving up until that point, even in that moment I wondered how it was that I had stood so easily and fluidly. I labored through just one more contraction before I felt her moving down and felt increased pressure on my tailbone.

Here is where knowledge could have gotten me into trouble, but further knowledge helped make sure it didn't. It had been no more than five or ten minutes since I had felt a considerable amount of cervix remaining between my hand and PC's head, but I had a distinct urge to push. If I had merely listened to dictums about not pushing until "complete," I might have tried to resist that urge. Luckily, I had read enough and heard enough about laboring down, in addition to simply believing in the wisdom of my body, that I didn't resist it. I pushed. One contraction. Another.

"I can feel her moving down."

"Do you need to push?"

"I am pushing."

A third contraction, then a fourth, and a fifth, still pushing, still standing. During the fifth, my dad arrived, fresh from his drive south. My mom called out to him, letting him know the kids were in the sunroom. After the fifth, I decided to check our progress again. PC's head was an inch or two inside me. It was a far cry from the behind five cm of cervix I had found just minutes earlier!

When the next contraction hit, I started pushing. I don't know if I decided it was time for her to be born, or if it was entirely my body, but she moved down, fast. I had my hand on her head and felt it come down, then start the crowning process. At some point, I managed to communicate this, as well as the fact that I wasn't going to be able to catch her myself. Spousal Unit moved so that he could do so. I didn't really feel a "ring of fire;" I did feel the tissues stretching prior to her actually crowning. Even as she was crowning, I both would not and could not stop pushing. Her head slid most of the way out, and then I had a moment of panic. I could not get my body to cooperate to push suddenly. My mom calmly suggested I wrap both arms around her neck, just letting myself hang, and try again. I did that, and PC quickly slid into her dad's hands. I immediately turned, lifted my leg over the cord, and pulled her into my arms. Then we moved onto the fold-out couch, and my dad and the kids came into the living room to meet PC.

She was very peaceful; her eyes were closed for some time after the birth. Her color was good, but she was definitely a little 'gurgly;' she coughed up mucus several times in her first twenty four hours. I think this probably had a little to do with just how fast she came down and out - less time for the fetal heimlich to have any effect.

PC was born at 9:15 pm on Thursday, November 20, 2008. She weighed approximately seven pounds eight ounces, and was about twenty-one inches long. Her height was exactly in between the heights of my older children; her weight was closer to her big sister than her big brother. Both of my older children arrived in the morning hours, as the sun was rising, but PC arrived after sunset, as the day was ending. In many ways, her birth, from the onset of active labor, was similar to my other two births, but in other ways, it was different. In the end, PC's pregnancy and birth indeed taught me that I really cannot plan everything, and that I truly had not needed anyone else. Just myself, and my own resources. I thought I knew that during the process of planning an unassisted pregnancy and unassisted birth, but the difference between intellectually knowing it and knowing it fully was immense and a road that had to be traversed.

One of the motivations I had for having an unassisted birth was so that I would be truly unhindered, so that my body would not react to the presence of a stranger or strangers. I wasn't sure what that would mean exactly for the birth. What did happen in those last moments is exactly what Michel Odent says should happen in all births - that when the mother feels truly safe, the birth is ended by the "fetal ejection reflex." Sarah Buckley explained it thusly in a Mothering magazine article: "After an undisturbed labor, however, when the moment of birth is imminent, these hormones act in a different way. There is a sudden increase in CA levels, especially noradrenaline, which actives the fetal ejection reflex. The mother experiences a sudden rush of energy; she will be upright and alert, with a dry mouth and shallow breathing and perhaps the urge to grasp something. She may express fear, anger, or excitement, and the CA rush will cause several very strong contractions, which will birth the baby quickly and easily."

At some point during my pregnancy, I read some book or another that suggested an exercise for preparing for birth. I don't know the exact exercise, but looking at what I wrote, I can guess that it was to write a letter to your baby about your plans for the birth. I do remember that after writing the letter, the instructions stated to put the pencil into the non-dominant hand, attempt to clear the mind, and write your baby's "response." The last sentence of my letter was "I want them to leave us alone - we know what to do." The response that came, written messily by my left hand, was simple. Yes. We know how to do it all perfectly.

And we did.

Weekly Report: Week Seventeen (days 081-085)

Busy week, busy people.

Let's start with ME, because the mama is the most important thing, right? In addition to everything else I usually do, I knitted a shrug for PC. Cast it on Monday; cast it off Friday afternoon. Then I promptly wrapped it, because…

Today was PC's second birthday! She had a chocolate Mickey Mouse cake that she enjoyed thoroughly. I gave her the aforementioned shrug plus a coat; she also got a turtleneck & tights, bristle blocks, a Wiggles DVD, a pounding bench, two outfits, a name puzzle, $10, and this music keyboard-cat thing. I think that was everything. My aunt, uncle, and cousin came for a family get-together, as well as MIL and my parents. PC finally made up a name for my dad (the other two call him by his given name, for reasons we've never quite ascertained).

FB had a good week of school. He continues to progress through Miquon and I started him on the first level of Caluladder drill, which is great practice in not reversing numbers for him. FB actually asked for phonics lessons this week! He has almost finished ETC 2, and finished another lesson in Spelling Workout. He also finished Week 18 in WWE 1 and three lessons in FLL.

History for FB this week was about the Greeks, including the stories of Homer. We've all been reading Greek myths and Black Ships Before Troy to him this week.

EG had a good week as well. She did five lessons of Fred, started the chapter on "Content" in Essay Voyage, did lesson eleven in CEII, and worked in Practice Voyage. She finished up studying the Greeks for history (just as FB begins them!), and worked further in PLATO this week.

Her critical thinking course moved into discussing propaganda this week, and she's continuing to enjoy art & music history. Trumpet & piano lessons went well this week.

EG's big news this week was her band concert yesterday evening! They did a terrific job.


Welcome to Hogwarts

My first internet love was not parenting communities, though I’ve dabbled in them sporadically over the years. Nor was it blogging, per se, or homeschooling communities. No, my first home online was the Harry Potter fandom. I was heavily involved for several years, and still pop in and check on it from time to time. I made friends in those years with which I still keep in touch on a regular basis. In short, I’m a great big old Harry Potter dork.

Which is why, naturally, I want The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, and own this gem: Charmed Knits.

I was perusing my knitting books last night (looking for a hat pattern I could knit up quickly for FB, as his old hat is getting small), and as I looked through the section featuring House-themed mittens, scarves, socks, hats, and jumpers (sweaters, to us non-Brits), I had a horrible, but wonderful idea.

EG is turning eleven in August. Wouldn’t it be fun to knit her a bunch of things in her “House colors” for her birthday and/or the start of school next year? Even better, what if I made next year a Hogwarts-themed year?

The first task, of course, is to determine EG’s house. I don’t think she would go anywhere but Ravenclaw, though of course she is brave enough to tackle all those roller coasters she loves. I’ll have to (subtly) make sure she agrees with Ravenclaw enough before I commit too much time and yarn to the project.

A Hogwarts-themed year, though. Some classes have analogues that immediately spring to mind.

Potions: Chemistry
Herbology: Botany
Care of Magical Creatures: Zoology
Astronomy: Astronomy
Arithmancy: Mathematics
Ancient Runes: Foreign Language
History of Magic: History

Like Professor McGonagall, I see little to no need for Divination.

Other subjects get a little murkier. I don’t necessarily want to have such a science-heavy year, and of course some of the classes are electives in third year at Hogwarts, but I’m not leaving out mathematics or foreign language.

The remaining Hogwarts classes are Muggle Studies, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Transfiguration.

The remaining mundane/Muggle classes I’d want to be sure to cover are literature, language arts, fine arts, logic, and possibly some kind of computer class.

Muggle Studies would map well to computers, and possibly logic; most wizarding-raised witches and wizards seem pretty illogical in JKR’s portrayal (which, admittedly, does seem biased at times). Alternatively, logic could be termed Defense Against the Dark Arts! Obviously, literature & language arts can be combined into one class. My first thought is to make Transfiguration for English as a class; Minerva seems like a strict teacher requiring a good deal of reading and writing, so while it’s a stretch, I can make it work in my mind. That leaves Charms for fine arts, which doesn’t really match at all, except that it’s somewhat amusing. I mean, fine arts can be charming, right?

Flying & Quidditch obviously would cover physical education.

Obviously, I think this could be a fun conceit, not to mention give me some direction in terms of birthday presents for this coming year. I could even introduce cooking and knitting under the guise of training her up like Hermione, to avoid oppression of the house elves. I mean, me. ;)


Thankfulness, Days Nineteen, Twenty, & Twenty-One

• Is it horrible to say I'm thankful for Fridays? November seems so dreary at times, and I'm trying very hard to remember to be thankful for the turn of the seasons and the variety of types of weather. Still, this past week was very draggy, and I was happy to reach Friday.

• Order. We spent a great deal of time doing some deep decluttering and cleaning on Saturday, but the end result is priceless: a kitchen, dining room, and living room that are relaxing to spend time in, instead of being rooms that make your blood pressure rise when you enter. It really is amazing what a difference it makes, and I'm really grateful that we got it done, that EG & FB helped out, and that EG & FB helped keep an eye on PC, since she is decidedly not helpful when it comes to tasks involving tidying.

• Hobbies. I consider myself to have three distinct hobbies at this point in my life, and one latent one. The latent one is horseback riding. The other three are baking (somewhat generic cooking, but more baking), knitting, and reading. I think the latter is self-explanatory. I don't always have time to create the way I'd like, in terms of cooking/baking and knitting, but I can nearly always find time to read. The other two are wonderful, in that I enjoy the process, and at the end of the process, I have a tangible product.


Weekly Report: Week Sixteen (days 076-080)

It's November. Weary, dreary November, which means this week's weekly report is a "highlights" version.

• FB did a great job with his narration about the Mycenaeans.
• EG made her final decision about which pieces to perform at her 'recital' in December; her teacher's piano and voice students are going to visit an assisted living home one Monday morning in lieu of an official recital.

• Both EG & FB had a great time at homeschool ice skating day!
• EG continues to motor through Life of Fred Advanced Algebra. She started Chapter Seven, on functions.
• FB was focused during school despite ice skating day & lunch with friends – such an awesome difference from last month's ice skating day.

• How can I compete with oceanography class, in which FB made an iceberg? It's true; I cannot. No matter how many pages we read in the Usborne Book of World History.
• EG continues to take science by storm, working through the rocks and minerals unit of PLATO, plus reading Basher's Rocks and Minerals and Eyewitness Earth.

• FB managed to answer most of the questions about the day's WWE passage from The Reluctant Dragon. I mention this specifically because as I was reading it, I was thinking, "Goodness, they expect kids to remember this level of detail?" Yes, and he could!
• EG seems to be wearying a bit of ancient Greece, but is still producing good outlines, amongst other things.

• FB aced his spelling 'test' again!
• EG had a great time doing her mock trial in her online critical thinking class.


Duh! Not Just History (A Follow-Up of Sorts)

The category says “social sciences,” not just “history.”

In general, colleges want to see a year of American history/government. Yes, that’s how I keep seeing it listed. Government is not, strictly speaking, the province of history, but rather political science.

Social sciences, however, encapsulates a range of disciplines. Wikipedia lists the branches of social science as “anthropology, economics, education, geography, history, law, linguistics, political science, psychology, [and] sociology.”

One of the advantages of homeschooling is customizing education to a student’s strengths. Beyond that, I can see many more opportunities for linking cause and effect explicitly within such fields as economics and geography.

I don’t have an answer for where I want to go with this. The short answer is that at the very least, I want to integrate the social sciences into EG’s other courses of study. It would require ‘dialing back’ a bit with regards to history expectations, and adding material alongside.

What kinds of materials am I looking at?
• creating an economics course using a multitude of resources, including the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 2: Economics book, and possibly The Literary Book of Economics
• studying United States government and politics, using some of the Complete Idiot’s series: U.S. Government & Politics and The American Presidency
• cultural anthropology, using The Teaching Company’s People and Cultures of the World, or biological anthropology, using Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective
• psychology, for which there are numerous resources
• similarly, philosophy
• geography, starting perhaps with Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the World With Art (again, another possibility in Geography)
• linguistics and the history of the English language, using Excavating English
• perhaps an introduction to Constitutional law? There’s a Complete Idiot’s Guide to the US Constitution that might provide a good starting point for a middle school or early high school course, along with The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers.
• Mark Kurlansky’s books could provide a different avenue for studying aspects of history.
• Both history and music, I fully intend to put together a “History of Rock N Roll” course for my kids when they are each in high school. I’ll use something like this, and add reading and further listening for a nice 0.5 credit course. Maybe we’ll culminate it with a vacation that includes a swing by Cleveland, OH for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.

What are some not-quite-as-typical ideas that you have for social sciences (or another area, for that matter)? Resources you’ve spotted that look like a great deal of fun? Bonus points if you can steer me towards some resources for sustainable agriculture, whether from an economic or scientific perspective.

Thankfulness, Days Seventeen & Eighteen

Day Seventeen
• After I posted on Tuesday, I went for a run. I had technically finished the Couch to 5K program almost four weeks ago, but I had completed it by focusing on time rather than distance. Tuesday, I ran a full 5K on the treadmill. I know it isn't for everyone, but for me, that runner's high is amazing and addictive.

Day Eighteen
• Today is my leaping day, so named from this quote from Wicked: "Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap." I'm thankful for the reminder to trust my instincts and my intuition. I have never regretted trusting my gut; I have regretted going against what I knew, deep down, I should do or not do.

Want to hear the song? The soundtrack version; This amazing Firefly/Serenity vid using the song is where I was introduced to it. The Glee version is lovely, but is missing the important line at the end (the one that goes with November 20): "And if you care to find me, look to the western sky/as someone told me lately, everyone deserves a chance to fly/And if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free."


Thankfulness, Days Fifteen & Sixteen

Day Fifteen
Peppermint hot chocolate at Starbucks. I have a brand new investigation in my life. Does a hot chocolate with peppermint taste like warm, liquid York Peppermint Patties, or does it taste like warm, liquid Thin Mints? This is, obviously, an important question that I must endeavor to investigate at any opportunity.

Day Sixteen
Today is just... going really well. Scarily well, even. The kids got up in good moods. We had a great breakfast (oatmeal with butter and honey, plus banana yogurt), and we actually got some schoolwork completed in the brief amount of time between the end of breakfast and when we had to leave this house. The drive was fine, I got a peppermint hot chocolate, and dropped EG, FB, and Spousal Unit at the ice skating rink for homeschool ice skating day, before getting to LLL well before the meeting time. The tables were covered with stuff, but I moved them over and set up the rest of the meeting. The meeting went really well, and then I picked up the others before meeting Smrt Mama and her crew for lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. In to every life a little rain must fall: there was no strawberry lemonade today. Alas. Then we drove home. PC is napping, Spousal Unit is working, EG is doing science, and FB is telling me I should stop having rest time because he wants to do school. Go figure. If this is Tuesday, I will take it.

Also, bacon. Specifically, bacon from Pine Street Market. It's what's for dinner, and I am very, very thankful.


Historically Speaking

What’s the point?

I know exactly my aims in terms of grammar stage history. I want to introduce my grammar stage child (currently, FB) to famous people and personalities, and to the stories, myths, and legends of various cultures and time periods. Keeping this purpose firmly in mind helps me when choosing our overall curriculum (Story of the World), as well as when choosing supplemental titles, whether fictional or otherwise. The purpose – the point – is clear.

Similarly, I have a purpose in mind when I contemplate rhetoric stage (high school) history. I want to see evaluation and synthesis. More prosaically, there’s preparation for college level history and historical analysis. Here, again, then, the purpose of history study in these years is made somewhat clear. Using college-level texts and complex writing assignments are two ways to meet those goals, and choosing other materials and resources is made somewhat easier when looking through the prism of the goals of evaluation and synthesis.

Honestly, however, I have trouble finding the same clarity with regards to logic stage (or middle school) history. The Well-Trained Mind talks about exploring cause and effect during the logic stage, and on the surface, this does indeed sound like a fine purpose. In practice, however, this gives little direction for choosing methods or materials. In fact, I think that Susan Wise Bauer realizes this, as the chapter of The Well-Trained Mind that tackles logic stage history provides some of the most elaborate description of the book. In the end, however, when I read that chapter, I too often feel like some of the work prescribed falls under the aegis of busy work; work for work’s sake.

Here, for an example, is a week of history for EG, using The Well-Trained Mind as a guide.

01. Read a double-page spread in History: The Definitive Visual Guide.
02. Re-read the same double-page spread, this time listing important facts found.
03. Mark all dates on time line.
04. Find the region under study on the globe, on the wall map, and in the atlas. Read any relevant commentary in the atlas. [Currently, we don’t have an atlas, but as soon as we do, this will be part of her assignment.]
05. Read any assigned reading and/or biographies.
06. Write a summary for the week on one topic from the double-page spread; use assigned reading or any additional resources for further information.
07. Evaluate a primary source from the time period and culture under study.
08. Create a one point outline.

Something I do not require, which is listed in The Well-Trained Mind, is to make a one to two paragraph biographical summary for any important people encountered in the reading.

That is quite a bit of work, especially if any additional reading is required. I can see where reading about geography may assist in terms of cause and effect, as well as perhaps evaluating a primary source. The summary could be a way to expound upon cause and effect. None of the components, however, seems to be an overall guide to how this should work. None of it seems to be the magic pill that helps explicate cause and effect, or teaches about it, or puts things in context. All of content is still jumbled together. I can perhaps see where each of these individually might lead to an understanding of cause and effect if they were done with me by her side, explaining every step. I feel that she needs independent work, however, and I’m not confident that I would always see the connection. And, well – frankly, I don’t really enjoy ancient history.

Where does that leave me? It leaves me pondering the entire scope of what I have planned for logic stage, actually. Further, I’m swinging again on the pendulum between ‘a Great Books-style integrated study of literature and history’ and ‘gearing our social sciences curricula to both play to EG’s strengths and to be imitative of the best prep schools.’ Generally, when I have a “crisis of faith,” I merely re-read The Well-Trained Mind and have my faith restored, but I’m not so confident that that method will work in this case. For starters, I just re-read the portion of WTM concerned with logic-stage history. I remain convinced that history provides excellent content for practicing the skills of writing and outlining; I similarly view the practice evaluating primary sources as valuable. I just can’t seem to muster up enthusiasm for the remainder of it.

On the other hand, all of this could be explained by the fact that we’ll hit the halfway point (in terms of required number of days) for our school year somewhere around Thanksgiving, and will have somewhere between 105 and 110 days logged when we break for Christmas & New Year’s. Maybe it’s the January Itch come early.


Thankfulness, Day Fourteen

I'm having a difficult time identifying specific things for which I'm thankful, today. It's not that I am not thankful; I am. It's just that any specific my mind lands on seems to be, inevitably, further linked to many other things. My thankfulness is nebulous today.

So, then – I am grateful beyond measure that I do, in fact, have so many things from which to choose. I've thought in the past about how extraordinarily lucky I am to live in this country, in this time, no matter what the present era's foibles, no matter what negatives about our country can be found. In a sense, I'm thankful for the very privilege that allows me to make a list of that for which I am thankful. So many things coming together, to make this world we inhabit possible – and I am, in the end, thankful for them all.


Thankfulness, Day Thirteen

I know that this may seem a bit like jumping the gun; after all, aren't we all thankful for food and the harvest on Thanksgiving Day? I'm specifically thankful for the farmers' market, though.

Each week, on Saturday morning, I get up, throw some clothes on, and head down to the farmers' market. Usually FB comes with me, unless he's staying at his grandparents' house. Together, we navigate the utter awesomeness that is our local farmers' market. It's a lot of fun to see some things change throughout the year; spring greens and strawberries give way to cantaloupe, blueberries, and okra; summer squash is omnipresent, starting in mid-June; in late August and early September, the last of the summer's berries and melons yield to sweet potatoes and pumpkins; and then, as cooler weather descends, the greens return, accompanied by acorn squash and turnips. Throughout the weeks of the market, other vendors vie for space – the local dairies, the local bacon and sausage producers, the dog biscuit bakers, the German pastries, the local honey. We return each week with a basket bursting with fresh food.

Of course, we live in a city and a state where the seasons do change, and winter is approaching. Sleet fell in my backyard yesterday, which is admittedly quite early for us. Accordingly, my beloved market will disappear in just two more weeks; the Saturday before Thanksgiving will be, somewhat appropriately, our last chance to partake of the local harvest.

And while I did not freeze or can as much food as I intended, I do have jars of strawberry jam and bags of frozen strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I have bags of raw and roasted garlic cloves tucked snugly in my freezer. While we've partaken of meat throughout the summer, I have portions of a cow (including plenty of roasts and stew meat) reading, along with plump chickens (and one not-so-plump stewing chicken). In other words, the proverbial larder is full. And so - I am thankful.


Thankfulness, Day Twelve

Today, I am thankful for my massage therapist. Once a month, I get to leave the house (by myself!) and drive to his cozy studio, where I get a delightful massage with pleasant smells, and then feel nicely relaxed for at least a day or two afterwards. Even in the winter, when it's a bit chilly, or the summer, when it can get a bit warm (the building is over one hundred years old), it's such a pleasant oasis in my life. The whole room invites relaxation, the energy is fantastic – I just can't get enough of it. If I could afford to do so, and I could find the time, I would have a massage weekly.

Lest you think I am all woo-woo and no sugar, let me also assure you that I am very thankful for Peace Love and Pizza's Cinna Love sticks, which are the best cinnamon stick type dessert from a pizza place that you will ever taste.

Weekly Report: Week Fifteen (days 071-075)

We had another "different" week this week. EG caught the cold that PC & I had last week, and stayed at home on Monday instead of going to Master's for piano lesson, public speaking, and Master's Academy of Fine Arts. My good friend Kelly from Rhode Island came to visit, arriving on Monday evening, so we've gone to Fernbank Museum of Natural History and High Museum of Art this week. I continued to require a little less in terms of things that require my presence or participation. I think this will help us avoid a November slump, though – I noticed myself thinking in terms like "just two full weeks, then Thanksgiving week, and then it's December!"

So, what did we do? FB did twelve pages in Explode the Code 2, and four pages in his HWT book. We reviewed the list of pronouns from First Language Lessons as well as the poetry learned so far in FLL. I'm deliberately trying to stretch FLL out so that we don't start the second level too quickly. FB finished his second lesson with words in Spelling Workout A! Eventually, I may move to doing more than one lesson per week (I'm really working to stretch it out, honestly), but one lesson a week seems good for now.

FB learned about Crete in history this week, and we (still) didn't get any science experiments completed. I keep meaning to accomplish more in that area – perhaps next week. We did go to Fernbank, after all, and did some hands-on things there with regards to water. FB finished five pages in Miquon this week, working with addition and subtraction.

FB did go to Master's Academy this week, as well as his oceanography class and gymnastics, both of which he loves.

EG continues to speed through PLATO's Earth & Space science. I decided to use the worksheets differently with it, so she hasn't done the worksheets for any of the units yet; I'd like to get two full units ahead on the computer, just to test her overall retention a little differently. She's all but finished the second unit, though, and has started on the third.

Her critical thinking class had a mock trial scheduled for this week, and she was very disappointed that it had to be rescheduled due to some students' lack of preparation. Still, the class continues to go well for her. Similarly, math continues to go well; she finished another chapter in Life of Fred Advanced Algebra and did part of a chapter in Real World Algebra.

In language arts news, EG finished lesson nine of Caesar's English II and started chapter five in Essay Voyage. She had no assigned reading, but has been reading Pride & Prejudice on her own time. History this week was yet more of the Greeks, and in art history, she moved into the middle ages (and here is where art history pulls ahead of her history).

EG felt well enough to attend her history of science class on Wednesday, though her Tuesday trumpet lesson was canceled by her instructor. She also had band today; testing last week resulted in two more pass-offs.


Thankfulness, Days Eight, Nine, Ten, & Eleven

• This week, I have a Kelly visiting from Rhode Island. Kelly & I met online in 2002; we've visited back and forth several times over the years, and she was at FB's birth; she's the Harry to my Draco. ;)

• Rain, wind, and cold. I know, I know, they aren't normally things to be thankful for - and by the end of February, I'm sure I'll be sick of them. For now, though, I'm able to welcome the blustery weather and the leaves falling from the trees. Autumn must follow the summer – and I love autumn.

• Custard & friends. Custard night at Rita's is currently on Wednesdays, and that's my chance to check in with my girls. We did have to move to Starbucks after awhile, because Rita's just moved to winter hours (closing at eight)

• Peace, love, and pork. Kelly & I went to a local BBQ place that is absolutely divine. A pulled pork sandwich on texas toast and the best barbeque baked beans you can buy; bliss.

• More good friends; we visited the art museum and met up with Mandi & her munchkins. Win!


Voting Is Tomorrow in the USA - Go Vote!

Some things go together - peanut butter & jelly; ice cream & chocolate syrup; apples & caramel. Some things, though, do not. I would argue that politics and curriculum do not and should not go together.

Of course, I'm aware that my political views are a minority within the homeschooling community. It would be hard to miss that fact! However, when I make a decision to purchase books from a curriculum provider, I expect my personal information (e.g., my email) to be used to communicate with me about the products of the company.

It's no surprise to me that Veritas Press and I have little in common politically. We have little in common religiously, either, as they are Calvinist and conservative, and the Christian parts of my beliefs are Arminian and liberal. In fact, I have paused before purchasing from them, but the books that have purchased have been hardly available from other outlets, and seem either non-religious or at least not specifically Calvinist.

Monthly, Veritas Press sends out an "epistula" to those who are lucky enough to be on their list. Usually it's about teaching Latin or history or perhaps it delves into a religious subject, which I promptly ignore. I just couldn't ignore the title this time, though: "Calling for the Vote."

Voting is, to me, at once a privilege, a civic duty, and a profound responsibility of all citizens. I may joke about voting "early and often," or suggest that perhaps only those who agree with me should vote on a given day, but they are, at heart, jokes only. We must vote, and when citizens fail to vote, we all lose, in some way.

Naturally, then, I wanted to read an article entitled "Calling for the Vote." Instead I found myself in the midst of a poorly-written propaganda piece that was carefully cloaked so that they could not be seen to be endorsing a particular candidate or party.

"We are smack-dab in the middle of a disaster."

"There is much talk about the Republicans taking back the House and maybe even the Senate. That would certainly counterbalance some unfortunate policies of the current administration."

"Over the years I've heard talk of a flat tax replacing the graduated income tax…. This also seems too little."

(I cannot argue with the last third of the article, which suggested two actions: taking the time to vote on Tuesday, and praying.)

As I mentioned on Facebook, I would have had equal problem with an email sent from a curriculum company sending an email in 2002 or 2006, damning the administration then in power, and remarking about a hot-button political topic in such cavalier terms as to deem it "too little." It's not the particulars of the message than bother me (though I admit I disagree!), but rather the assumptions and the crossing of lines. It isn't a church's business to tell anyone how to vote. It isn't a curriculum provider's business to tell anyone how to vote. When you vote tomorrow, Americans, your choices are between you, your conscience, and your Higher Power, should you believe in one. No one else.

Thankfulness, Days Five, Six, & Seven

I was still thankful... just not able to find time nor energy to blog.

• FB & PC were exceedingly well-behaved during the two hours we waited on EG at band (one hour for testing, one hour for band itself). Since PC & I were both sick, we really couldn't risk exposing anyone else, and I was feeling poorly enough to want to hide my eyes and curl up with a blanket. Luckily they were well-behaved enough that we could just sit in the car, which was effective.

• We survived the week. Sometimes it is, indeed, the little things.

• Naptime! The Spousal Unit kept the children from being too terribly loud, so I got up, took a shower, read a bit, and then went back to bed for the rest of the morning.

• Heat. I hate turning on the heat before the beginning of November, but it was down to 59°F in the house, and two of us were sick. So we turned it on. Bliss!

• We had a great trip to the zoo for "Boo At the Zoo." The kids didn't wear their costumes (though there was a different reason for each of them), but PC and I wore our matching black Halloween shirts (that were once mine & EG's... sniff). The kids did "trick or treat" at various stations. We saw a joey in its mama's pouch:

and also saw the ultrasound images of the new baby panda that they are eagerly awaiting!

• The kids had a great Halloween. I still need to upload my pictures, but EG was Cleopatra, FB was a Ron Howard clone astronaut, and PC was a giraffe. (I do think FB should dress up as Opie or Richie Cunningham one year; the resemblance isn't twin-like or anything, but it is strong.)


Weekly Report: Week Fourteen (days 066-070)

This week was… odd. I suppose you could say it had its roots in the weekend. Normally, introvert that I am, I'm careful not to be busybusybusy all weekend. This past weekend, though, I had Stuff Friday afternoon & evening, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday. The result was school prep not getting done, so I had to restructure what I had planned for the week to make it all as much "do the next thing" as possible. I learned that we do not do well without written plans.

Purple Child and I have a cold. For me, it's manifested as a really awful sore, scratchy throat, and some congestion. PC nods when I ask her if her throat hurts, but she's really got the upper respiratory thing going on. Poor bub put herself to sleep on the couch this morning after being up for just two and a half hours.

I didn't keep a list of literature for FB this week, and we didn't do OPGTR. He did do two-three pages in ETC each day, and we reviewed pronouns instead of going forward in FLL. He did all of week fifteen in WWE 1, and finished his first SWO A lesson with an actual list of words. Once PC wakes up, I'll go upstairs and give him his "test."

FB also did one to three pages in Miquon each day, and we pressed forward in SOTW 1, reading about the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

EG got more done, since more of her stuff does fall into the "do the next thing" category. She did five lessons in Advanced Algebra and completed the first unit of PLATO Earth & Space Science. She's also started working through a big "for Dummies" book about the computer. We've deliberately had her not use the computer for, well, anything until a little over a year ago, and now it's time for her to learn about all the nifty tools the computer can be. Speaking of the computer, her critical thinking class is going well; they're having a mock trial next Friday and EG's very excited about that.

I assigned Oedipus as her reading, and had two weeks for her to finish it, but she zoomed through it in just two days. We're going to spend next week discussing it. She did complete lesson eight in CE II, and chapter four in EV. I substituted an essay about a topic in history for one of the options (she chose Sparta), and a paragraph about "what is the earth made of?" for another option. She's still reading all about ancient Greece for history.

She read about icons for art appreciation, and we did skip music appreciation this week.

All of their outside the house stuff went well. EG has band this afternoon and is going to attempt to pass off some of the second semester pass offs. We are hoping she can finish the entire year's worth well before the end of the year approaches in the spring, which means fewer times we have to go for two hours.


Thankfulness, Day Four

Miso soup & milkshakes.

I've managed to acquire my first infectious agent of the season, and so far its primary goal is to make my throat as miserable as possible.

Luckily, there's miso in my house, so I had a lovely cup of steaming miso soup. When my throat still didn't relent, the Spousal Unit went to the nearest Steak 'N' Shake (and somehow got lost, so I suppose I should say I'm thankful he returned!) and got me a milkshake.



Thankfulness, Day Three

Song & Stride

The stride is everything.

I should rewind a bit. As a child and a teenager, I liked to run. One day, my knee began to hurt. Badly. I was poked and prodded, x-rayed and otherwise imaged. No discrete cause was ever found. I was told once that if I could ever build up the muscles around my knee, perhaps that would help.

I decided around this time last year that I was going to run again. I missed it. I missed the stride; running is meditation, for me. I decided to use the Couch to 5K program. I did the first few weeks, and had to stop. I started going to my chiropractor regularly again. I rewound, though not to the beginning, and did it a few weeks. I added back in visits for massages. Finally, around the end of August, I returned to it, to finish it. I finished it two weeks ago, just shy of my birthday.

It is, and was, such a gift. Every time I let my legs unfold and go, I'm thankful. I don't enjoy most forms of exercise. Running, though - there's my joy.

And song. The beat that carries me when I run.
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson