Weekly Report: 10 Days To Go

Just ten more days remaining in our school year! A lot of EG's curricula is coming to an end but she's finishing strong.

She finished Story of the World Volume Four this week, writing two summaries for the final chapter and reading the afterword as well. She read a biography of Nelson Mandela, as well. EG will spend the final two weeks reading about what's happened since 1994, American government, and personages of importance.

EG has finished through Lesson 102 in LoF Beginning Algebra (out of 108 lessons)! She still loves it. :) She also beat one drill level and came close to beating the other. She finished one Mind Bender exercise.

In Latin, she did several exercises from the text as well as the workbook. She's nearly finished with Chapter 2, which is where we'll stop for the summer.

EG read The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems for literature this week, as well as finished up The Wind in the Willows from last week. She wrote the narration for The Wind in the Willows as well. In other language arts work, she finished ten sentences in Practice Town, two lessons in Paragraph Town, two lessons in Caesar's English I, and learned about emjambment vs. end-stopped poems.

She did memory work daily, worked in Physics Workshop for a couple of hours, and read about vectors and force.

We're so ready for our break, though!


I Don't Need A Support System...

Liz Phair may not, but most homeschoolers do.

Whatever your personal beliefs, if they don't fall into the category of conservative Christian, you are likely to find yourself on the fringes in the homeschooling community. I've talked about that many times and pointed out many examples. Others in other areas like to point to the existence of their particular inclusive or non-sectarian local support group as if their mere existence meant it was not a problem for anyone! Other times, other resources will be suggested. Sadly, while I appreciate much of the content of magazines like Secular Homeschooling, I felt it had a strong agnostic and atheist bent. Just because I'm not a conservative Christian doesn't mean I fit in with the Skeptic movement, or whatever the term was.

That, then, is the problem. Or, shall I say, part of the problem. Another portion of the problem is living with the frustration and the disappointment. Whenever a new resource is discovered, it seems like almost inevitably religion is interjected at some point. And, along with that interjection, there is a letdown.

How do you cope with that frustration and disappointment? Not having expectations that are too high is one common response. After all, if I were to approach the new homeschooling books, sites, curriculums, or other resources with the default assumption that they are written from a creationist and conservative Christian viewpoint, I wouldn't be disappointed when that was confirmed. I'd instead be pleasantly surprised if that turned out to not be true!

It's a guarded, cautious way to approach the world, though, and I have a feeling that if I turned in that direction completely, I'd eventually miss some good resource or curriculum in my attempt to avoid disappointment and frustration. This isn't exactly the outcome I'd want, either.

Another approach is to talk about each instance. Whether in person or online, giving vent to the frustration allows some to process it and then more or less put it away. I wouldn't know anything about that approach. Using a blog to vent one's frustration? Pfft. Y'all know I must be talking about someone else.

Many times, we're told to create our own. "There's a niche!" I don't want to create a website or magazine or curriculum. I wouldn't mind helping coordinate informal gatherings to discuss curricula, and that's something Smrt Mama and I are working on, as it happens. But non-conservative Christian homeschoolers shouldn't have to create all their own support systems. Ultimately, that's what gets to me, time after time - the support system is already there for them. Just not for me.


End of the Year Musings

I'm so excited because, including today, we have nine more days of bookwork! We have fourteen days remaining until we hit 180, but five of those are educational field trips, so no bookwork then.

The best find this year was Michael Clay Thompson's language arts series. Around the time there began to be a lot of buzz about it, I was feeling frustrated with most of our language arts curriculum. We had just finished Writing Tales 2 and began Classical Writing Homer A. Homer was excruciating. It was taking a lot of time every day, yet it didn't feel like it was developing skills particularly quickly. EG didn't feel like she was learning anything new.

Similarly, I could see that she wasn't having good retention with our vocabulary program (Vocabulary from Classical Roots) or grammar (Junior Analytical Grammar). No matter how much I wanted each of these programs to work for us, and I did, the facts were staring me in the face - they just weren't working for EG!

I knew what curriculums did work well for her, so I had a good idea of the type of curriculum for which I was looking. Luckily, along came all those discussions about MCT. Looking at the discussions and the samples, I realized that it just might be a good fit - and I was, thankfully, right.

What about Classical Writing? After all, it wasn't that she wasn't learning. It was just going painfully slowly. Yet, I wanted the progym for EG...

Around the same time, I listened to SWB's writing lectures on mp3 - each individual one for the three stages. I also reread WTM for the billionth time. After reading, listening, digesting, and ruminating, I felt confident enough to stop Classical Writing and move forward "WTM-style." We'll get to the progym, around 8th or 9th grade. She'll be able to move faster through it (something that we'll appreciate) and have the time now to do more cross-curricular writing and other important things. It was a balance with which I felt (and still feel) comfortable.

So that's our best curriculum find of the year. :)


What are the top reasons that I homeschool?

A warning: this is potentially going to come across as snobby and possibly condescending. I went to a high school known for producing a snobby attitude, and while I was often told I didn't act like I went there, I know some of it rubbed off. This is intended to be an explanation of why some of my attitudes might be a little different; it is not intended to say that other reasons are bad, that our reasons are the best, or any other value judgement. It just is what it is. Any snobbishness or condescension is unintentional.

With that said, why do we homeschool?

It started here...
01. Both Spousal Unit and I were at times bored during elementary and high school, and we went to excellent schools. We know how bad boredom can be for enjoying learning!

So began to investigate the
02. In our area there are many private schools and church schools. The church schools are automatically ruled out. Several other schools are too difficult to which to gain admission, and once in, we would need significant financial aid. Even with that aid, it would be a drain on our finances. We couldn't travel as often. It would be, potentially, negative socially for the kids. Finally, there are no private schools that offer the academic rigor we desire for our children that are close enough to our home for us to also have the family life we desire.

That essentially decided us. For the academic rigor we wanted at a price we could afford, we were looking at homeschool. Then we also considered...
03. Sibling relationships. Spousal Unit and his siblings never attended the same school once he was in seventh grade, and neither he nor the next youngest ever attended the same school at all as the youngest. I've also observed the way that being separated by age can carry over negatively onto sibling relationships. I was an only child, and if my kids don't have the sibling love as adults, I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to help them have it.

Finally, you could say, our decision boiled down to the aforementioned rigor as well as
04. Time. With homeschooling, we can pursue the aforementioned rigorous academics, extracurricular and cocurricular activities, hobbies and avocations, and still, thanks in part to the absence of homework, have time for the kids to play freely, to have down time, to explore their own interests, to read for fun.

The flip side is that I want my children to have all of these advantages of time and family relationships as well as the advantages of a private prep school education and extracurricular activities. Understand, though, that I don't think the currently educational model is inherently flawed, the way many homeschoolers seem to. If an amazing school that fit our criteria appeared on the horizon, and we could afford it? We'd have to think very seriously about it, at least for high school. At this point, I have grown attached to homeschooling and the way it makes our life work, so I don't know if we could, when push comes to shove, take that plunge. In that sense, I definitely feel that homeschooling is a lifestyle and not just an educational choice! Still, in the end, the academics and activities we pursue are based on a school model, for good or for ill.


It's Just the Same Old Song

When my parents decided to send me to a private school, they were told multiple times by some of their acquaintances that they were doing a horrible thing. The local public schools, they were told, needed me as a student, and needed my parents as involved parents. The local schools would benefit so much from our presence! How could my parents choose to spend so much money on their own child, and not try to enhance the community school?

Nowhere in their reasons, of course, was mention made of how going to the local public school would benefit me. I was a typically nerdy child, if one can say there is a typically nerdy five year old. I asked my preschool teacher (we didn't call it "pre-kindergarten" or "pre-K" back then) for homework. I read early. I memorized the states & capitals at age four because I wanted to do so. I also memorized "The Star-Spangled Banner." I could tell time on an analog clock. I had a whole host of strange behaviors and even the most dedicated defendant of the public schools never tried to suggest I should attend them because of what the local school could offer me.

So, you see, it's no surprise to me to read an article detailing why gifted children shouldn't be homeschooled. The article is a list of how the public schools lose out when gifted children are homeschooled. That's it. The community loses. The school loses. There's no argument that the child loses by being homeschooled, though, and I suspect that's because the author is intellectually honest enough not to argue that!

So I wish I could say that this article is surprising to me, but it's not. I wish I could say that the sentiments that attacked my parents were less common or less voiced, but they are not. For whatever reason, in a country that subscribes to an ideal of individualism, when it comes to gifted children and their education, we're suddenly supposed to idealize Spock, and let the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or one.


Honesty: The Best Policy?

I have a general philosophy regarding public blogging about homeschooling. I don't want to be fake, but neither do I want to post things that would give nay-sayers an example at which to point. I have less publicly available venues where I can truly vent when necessary. Lately, though, things have overall been doing well... and I post the truth of that. Normally this doesn't seem to be an issue, except when it comes to the Weekly Report.

Specifically, when I post a link to my Weekly Report on the appropriate thread over at the WTM boards. Almost every week, I get a comment to the effect of "Wow, that's a ton accomplished," or "I can't imagine such a busy week." Now, for me, to be honest - yes, our weeks are overall "busy," but it's not because my children are little slaves that I stand over with a whip, making them produce schoolwork day and night. This consistent response makes me worry that I'm coming across either as "holier than thou" with regard to schoolwork, or, alternatively, that people must think I'm an ogre with the aforementioned whip. Neither of which is particularly true.

Still, in the end, I'm blogging more or less for myself. I am required by state law to write an annual summary or report; I want to remember things that have happened in various weeks; I'm more likely to blog than I am to pull out a pen-and-paper journal. Ultimately, of course, I don't really care what faceless internet strangers think of me, though of course it's nice when they like me and become not-so-faceless and not such strangers. (I won't ask them to be less strange.)

I have seen calls in the past for homeschooling parents to be "more real." The idea is that too many of us, apparently, place a nice veneer over what we share, and as a result, each of thinks we're the only one that struggles with X. It may be true that we need to be more real with one another, but I don't think public internet postings are the right venue for that "realism."

Besides, do you really want your children reading what you said about them in another six years or so, if you're too real? :)


Weekly Report: 165 Days Completed (15 Remaining!)

EG had another excellent week. The most notable thing was passing another level of drill - on only her second try!

In other math work, she completed Lessons 91-95 in Life of Fred Beginning Algebra. She also finished Key to Percents Book 2, but was stymied in her attempt to begin Key to Percents Book 3 because... we can't find it. I bought it as a set (with the answer key for all three books) from Rainbow Resource, but we can't find it in any of our school stuff. I'm going to have to spend more time searching over the weekend.

EG read about the vocative case, subjects & objects, and transitive & intransitive verbs in Latin Prep 1, did five exercises in the textbook, and completed two exercises in the workbook. So far this is mostly review material, although presented in a slightly different way than it was in Lively Latin. EG really like Lively Latin, but this appeals to the same part of her that loves Fred and MCT.

Speaking of MCT, EG finished four sentences in Practice Town, read about and practiced using figures of speech in Building Poetry (including an apostrophe to a personified iTouch), studied two lessons in Caesar's English I, and completed two lessons in Paragraph Town.

Literature this week involved beginning The Wind in the Willows. Because she had so many books for history (see below), she'll finish it over the weekend and at the beginning of next week before writing a narration. We're spending our remaining weeks of school on various modern poets, so no narrations will be required.

In history, she read Madam President and They Led the Way, as well as the Sterling biographies John F. Kennedy and Neil Armstrong. Her reading in The Story of the World Volume Four covered 1989 - Tiananmen Square, and the fall of Berlin Wall. EG is nine now; I was nine when these things happened. In addition to her summaries, I found video on youtube for both events. I've tried to convey to her how it felt to see the Berlin Wall come down, but I sense it may it one of those things where she will not understand it fully. Similarly, I can't quite understand when my mother says that she thought, growing up, that there had always been a war in Vietnam, and that there would always BE a war in Vietnam. Since the song "We Didn't Start the Fire" was released in 1989, I realized EG had studied all the years covered by the song, and played it for her. She was excited at how many of the named things she knew.

For science this week, the kids calculated their footprint and read about Earth Day, since science lab is on Thursdays. EG also read a chapter in CPO Physical Science about force and answered the reviews orally. Finally, EG did two Mind Bender puzzles, and did memory work each day of the week.

I have still not been very good about getting to formal school for FB, but he's doing all right anyway. He pretend-reads all sorts of book and does read basic words (CVC, CCVC, etc). He's currently working his mind through subtraction as well as the fact that there are multiple ways to add numbers to get the same sum - at least six, depending on your point of view, for 10, for example. He also has told me once or twice while out that someone nearby "looks like a President." At first I was confused, and I managed to elicit that he thought the person in question looked as though he could be a President. I realized quickly that FB only remembers one President - the current one. In his mind, Presidents are young black men. Say whatever you personally want to about Obama's policies, but I am heartened by this.

PC continues to be small yet in charge. Her receptive vocabulary is scarily large. As long as I can find a way to phrase things in a yes or no manner, I can ask her pretty much anything and get a response. We also can't talk about something without her understanding. It's a little freaky!

This weekend: RenFest!


I Did That!

Every homeschooling parent needs a hobby.

Oh, everyone can enjoy hobbies, but it's my firm belief that homeschooling parents, especially, need a hobby that produces something tangible.

We work hard daily, and there are intermediate steps along the way - a child completing a math book, lesson plans organized for a new unit, another year finished. The end result, though, is years away, and in some ways, there is no true end. Any stay-at-home parent may bemoan how everything they do is undone within days or even hours, a feeling aptly described in the old saying, "A man may work from sun to sun, but woman's work is never done."

I think the human mind needs to see evidence of accomplishment. There's an impulse to point and say "Look! I did that!" Homeschooling will afford us that opportunity... by the time we hit age 50 or 60.

So, then, a hobby. For me personally, I've finally come back to knitting. If I knew someone who did a lot of woodworking, I might've gone that direction, but both knitting and woodworking were things I enjoyed even as a child. Knitting won in the end because of portability issues and also the fact I found someone who knew enough about knitting that if I got into a tough spot, I wouldn't have to frog the whole thing. I could get help!

Knowing that you have a source of help available empowers you to take chances that you might otherwise take, too. I've attempted to pick up knitting as an adult previously, but reached a point where I was stymied and afraid of putting in the effort only to run into roadblocks. For me personally, knowing Smrt Mama could help me pick up a dropped stitch made me confident enough to try new things.

I've had a small, relatively steady trickle of items off my needles in the last six to twelve months. A hat for each kid, thumbless mittens for PC, thumbed mittens for FB (this was significant!), a hippie head-kerchief for EG, a scarf for FB, and I've just cast on for (gulp!) a sweater for PC. It's calming when I sit and knit in the mornings, keeps my hands busy when I watch TV, and helps me feel like waiting in the car at Master's Academy or vision therapy or piano lessons or band isn't quite such a waste of time.

It doesn't have to be knitting, of course; anything that produces a tangible product will suffice. Because some days, it's good to look at something finished and complete and go, "Hey! I made that!"


Just Keep Swimming

Since I last updated my by 1 July list, I haven't made as much progress. The remaining items are, for the most part, quite daunting.

I have finalized plans for EG's art skills study for next year. That's one big one! I have nearly finished the history of science lesson plans, but I still need to finalize my list of supplemental books and insert them at the appropriate places in the overall text. Setting up the timeline is merely time-consuming. I'm not entirely sure how to go about breaking the Art of Problem Solving texts into daily lesson plan chunks, so while I've done a first pass, I have no idea if it's adequate!

The big one, of course, is "make history pages for fifth grade." I've got to do this. There's no way around it. It's a huge project, though, and I suppose I've just been putting off the inevitable - that for a few days, I'll need to eat, breathe, and sleep history plans, just to knock it all out.

I have other lists that I keep as well; each is a separate heading in my "Master To Do" list on the computer. I'm working on two of the items listed under "By 1 August 2010," I've finished a number of things under "Moving Projects," there's nothing left under "Assorted," and then I have a list for each week, and I've been crossing out the majority of things on that list each week as well.

Why am I reciting this list? I'm trying to point out to myself how absurd it is that I feel out of control and as if I'm not getting enough done! Sometimes I look around the house and feel like I'll never be able to get it on the market. I feel bad that I'm not doing more schoolwork with FB. I should serve my children more vegetables with dinner, and the corollary to that is, of course, that I shouldn't be such a failure at CSAs. (Food goes to waste, because I'm just too picky.) I can't help being a supertaster, of course, and I can't help that I don't own a Time Turner.

So instead, I'll just focus on the fact that I finished knitting a scarf for FB last night, and that I have to choose what project to cast on next. That's me in the corner... with my fingers in my ears as I sing "La la la, I can't hear you" at my house and my list of things I should be doing.


The Virtues of Not Planning Too Specifically Too Far Ahead

Like the other neurotic homeschoolers, I have a master plan. The most neurotic version showcases what classes I think the kids will take... all the way through high school. Luckily, I don't have my hopes pinned on one particular curriculum or another, for the most part.

Sometime around this time last year, I wrote a note to myself, to STOP finding additional resources for the next year (this year!) and just plan it. I also noted I could start planning for fifth grade at some point shortly thereafter, and thereby spread out the cost of fifth grade materials.

To help myself out, I made a list of what I thought we'd be using for fifth grade.

I got two items right: Life of Fred, and the Art of Problem Solving texts.

The rest was oh so very wrong. Prentice-Hall Science Explorer was a thought I entertained for fifth grade science. At that point, I thought we'd continue with Lively Latin 2 for Latin, before going to Latin Prep. The rest were various language arts resources all of which have been replaced by MCT. Needless to say, I'm laughing at myself, especially since I titled the list. "What I know we'll need for fifth grade."

Yeah. That. :)


An Excellent Leader of Oneself

I contemplated not making this post. Not because the subject matter is particularly offensive, or offensive at all, really. I do worry about its reception. My oldest child is, after all, just finishing up her fourth grade year, and this post - this post is about college.

Suffice it to say that, yes, I know I am worrying extraordinarily early. However, I also believe in the maxim "begin with the end in mind," and we're getting to a point where we need to "begin" a few things that will carry over into the high school years. And, of course, the high school years are where colleges look. It's still early. Just chalk it up to my personality type and try to read the substance of the post. :)

There are two groups of books. There are books about getting into colleges & finding the right college, and there are books about homeschoolers going to college. In large part, the latter focus on the documentation that is necessary. I'm thankful that these resources exist! However, when they turn to choosing a college and getting into a college, their focus is on non-selective colleges. This is understandable; the majority of the population does not go selective colleges. (Selective colleges, as I understand it, are defined as those that admit less than 50% of all applicants.) The books that are not written for homeschoolers but for the general audience tend to focus on selective college admissions. This is also helpful information.

What's the problem? There's little written for homeschoolers who hope to attend selective colleges or selective programs within colleges & universities (or to gain merit scholarships). Oh, the academic advice is sound, across the board. That's not the issue. The advice to show involvement in your community through volunteer service - that's certainly applicable to homeschoolers! Suggestions to get a job or an internship, ideas of how to spend your summers - all homeschool-friendly.

It's the extracurricular activities that keep me cross-eyed.

So many of the mainstream books exhort students to display their leadership qualities in their extracurricular activities. Class officer, editor of the school paper, yearbook editor, captain of the varsity insert-sport-here team; it's not difficult to find a leadership position through school activities. Myself and my two best friends in high school were the sole senior members of math club and science club; we divided the offices of president, vice-president, and secretary/treasurer amongst us for the two clubs, and we dutiful wrote down our positions on our college application forms. As I said - not difficult. If my daughter wrote down that she was the president of science club on her application during her senior year, though, admissions officials would just laugh, even if she did more work than any of us did twenty years before she applies.

In short, showcasing leadership ability seems problematic for homeschoolers. For male homeschooled students whose families do not have issue with the Boy Scouts of America, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout provides an excellent route around this problem. Unfortunately, the comparable Girl Scout award, the Gold Award, is neither as well-recognized nor as rigorous. The Gold Award was comparably rigorous in the past, but I would not hold it up for comparison at this juncture. Can I require my daughter to fulfill old requirements? :)

One of my fond hopes is that I can find or found a way for EG to participate in math competitions, and for all of the kids to have some speech & debate competition experience. I don't want them to participate in one of the Christian debate leagues, however, so I have this sinking feeling that I'm going to have to find or found a group the hard way. Still, that's two activities. Even assuming she has some kind of community service and an athletic endeavor of some kind, I know it will look paltry compared to the extensive resumes that it's entirely too easy to assemble at most public and private institutions.

I do think that more and more organizations and clubs for homeschooled high school students will appear between now and when EG is high school age, much less when the younger two reach high school. I do wonder how other secular, peacenik homeschooled girls have handled this problem, since churches, Boy Scouts, and Civil Air Patrol don't provide the best fit (and are commonly quoted as excellent "resume builders" by the few publications that address selective college admissions). Of course, the fact that I intend for my daughters to pursue a rigorous college education is already anathema to some homeschoolers, so what can you do? Maybe I'll write a book after EG is accepted to Cal Tech. ;)


Faux Book Review

Each month, as part of my 101 in 1001 list, I make the effort to re-read a book I own that I have already read. I originally added this requirement because it was too easy for me to keep books "just in case" I needed to refer to them, or wanted to re-read them, and then never do so. This effort to be conscious of the books I already own has been helpful over the years (I originally did it for 12 months during my first 101 in 1001 list).

This month, I have been re-reading Hold On to Your Kids (Neufeld & Mate). It's oft-recommended, and I've enjoyed it each time I read it. It's a sign of a good book, I feel, when the reader can glean something new from the book each time it's read. Hold On to Your Kids passes that test, for me.

I should also add that while the authors state that homeschooling is not the answer for everyone, and have an attitude of "there's no help for sending your children to school for hours a day, you just have to do it in today's world," it's also a fantastic endorsement of some of the less tangible benefits of homeschooling. Read between the lines. :)

One chapter discusses how to avoid peer attachment, and two sections of that chapter particularly stood out to me upon re-reading.
• "Peers are not the answer to 'eccentricity.'"
• "Peers are no substitutes for siblings."

With regard to the first point, the authors discuss the obsessions in American society with "being 'normal' and fitting in," and how "individuality and eccentricity are out of favor." They go on to discuss the value of adult attachment for children to unfold into their own unique selves, and how peers are quick to discourage individuality. When Rachel on Glee is described as "looking like a homeschooler," I think homeschooling parents and their children should see an inherent compliment. Rachel's self-assured enough to dress as she pleases. The "strangeness" that is attributed to homeschoolers may in fact, according to Gabor and Mate, be an outgrowth of properly functioning adult attachments! That's something to celebrate.

The portion about peers being no substitute for siblings stood out for many reasons. I am an only child. The sibling-substitutes recommended by the authors are cousins; my only cousin is ten years old. On a personal level, I find it intriguing. I never felt the lack of siblings, per se, and I would say I was less peer-oriented than many of my cohort. I will also admit that I find it gratifying when my children "herd" together, lost in their sibling relationships. I didn't feel that sibling relationships presented the same issues as peer attachment, and it's encouraging to read the authors' explication of how sibling attachments are far more healthy and less likely to become primary attachments that supercede the parental/adult attachments.

This is one of those books that's helpful for me to re-read every two years or so. It's a helpful reminder of why we do what we do around these parts.


You Mean One Day I Won't Have to Make the Decisions?

A few months ago, EG and I had a fairly in-depth conversation about what she wanted to study next year and in the years following, all the way through high school, with regards to science. We discussed Advanced Placement courses, possible summer programs, the chance of finding a professor locally with whom she could do research, once she's in high school, the importance of a high level of comfort and enjoyment of math in order to do upper-level science - the whole nine yards. I have a few small things that I require, and we added those into the mix.

And here, then, is where we wade into somewhat uncharted territory. There's no reason that she can't do what it is she'd like to do, but I don't see many examples of it. Further, the assumption in most circles seems to be that a child who is capable of high school work before high school age should graduate from high school early. That's not our philosophy. EG will graduate from high school in the spring of 2018, just as she would have had we sent her down the street to school back in August 2005. Her high school education will not look the same as it would have in that scenario. She'll go both wider and deeper. I don't know which books she'll read for high school, or what electives she might choose. I do have an inkling of how she'd like the science portion of her transcript to read, though.

Luckily for her, her math skills are more than adequate to meet the pace she wants. It's common knowledge that math begins to be a prerequisite or co-requisite at higher levels of science, which can in fact hold some students back from the acceleration that they desire.

Science is EG's main area of interest, at this point, at least in terms of thinking about potential courses and direction. Charting a course with her input is a slightly new direction for me. I've become so used to making the necessary decisions for her education without any other input. Yes, occasionally my mother or the Spousal Unit will give his or her two cents' worth, and occasionally I've even asked for outside input. In the end, though, I've always been the final arbiter, and this - this represents a departure. I know it's a necessary one, but I'm thankful, I think, that she's ready to begin with one subject, so we can navigate the transition slowly, one area at a time. Not that she couldn't handle it otherwise; I'm just not sure how I would.


Weekly Report: Week The Somethingth; 160 Days Completed!

EG had an exceptionally productive week, especially since we were coming back from our spring break!

She passed two different levels of drill (we alternate between two levels, one M/W/F and the other T/R) this week, in addition to finishing lessons 86 through 90 in Life of Fred Beginning Algebra. She completed nine pages in Key to Percents Book 2 between the week of spring break and this week of school, as well.

In Latin, she finished the first chapter of Latin Prep 1. I told her ahead of time that I would "grade" her on the material in the last three sections of the workbook ("Consolidation") and she passed with flying colors - 93% correct. Her weakness lies in translation from Latin to English, which doesn't surprise me, since I would consider Lively Latin somewhat light on translation.

EG read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler and wrote a narration of it during spring break, and read Maniac Magee and wrote its narration this week.

Ten sentences from Practice Town were completed, leading me to the conclusion that we're going to review gerunds this coming week (she has a solid command of the other verbals). She also finished two lessons in Caesar's English I, and wrote a compare/contrast paragraph for Paragraph Town. In Building Poetry, EG studied stanza.

During spring break, EG did one week's worth of history work, in an effort to have it concluded a week early. She read Gay America and I Have A Dream in addition to a chapter in Story of the World Volume Four. This past week, she read the COFA biographies of Thurgood Marshall and Joe DiMaggio, as well as 33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History. She wrote her summaries about Chernobyl and the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

She completed her memory work each day and two exercises from Mind Benders C2. Science was a little light this week; she did read some, but didn't do lab this week, as vision therapy had to be rescheduled. Overall, I was anticipating a bit of a "draggy" week-after-spring-break, but EG did exceptionally well at getting back down to work. She concluded the week with her final testing period for band and passed off five additional songs!


No Common Ground To Start From, And We're Falling Apart

Can common ground truly be found between those who homeschool for religious reasons and those who homeschool for other reasons, such as academics? What about between those who use a curriculum-based approach, and those who are devotees of the unschooling lifestyle?

I've noticed a tendency in myself lately when I read the WTM boards. Unless it's a poster I can remember seeing previously, and I can recall some nugget of information, I find myself hesitant to post. My suggestions are always going to be secular in nature, and that's not always welcome. Further, I find when I read posts where they invite comments on what they have planned, I don't feel comfortable making suggestions depending on the obvious slant of what is already selected. Yes, there are some exceptions to this rule, but overall, I feel as if I don't have anything to contribute. Our worldviews seem too different, separated by a huge gulf.

It's funny, really - I don't remember ever seeing or hearing the term "worldview" until 2005, at the earliest. It seems like the last few years have seen a real explosion in its use. At first, I didn't understand the utility of the word. Eventually, I realized that I could, indeed, see my (theistic, for the record) evolutionary worldview influencing how I viewed things. I've been enamored by the elegant simplicity of evolution and genetics since I first understood what they were; it's little wonder I "see" evolution in nooks and crannies and little strange spaces.

And so, to be intellectually honest, to be true to my own moral perceptions, I cannot, in good conscience, tell someone that their use of Apologia is rigorous. I cannot tell them that it "looks good." I don't expect someone with a young earth creationist viewpoint is being really honest when they tell me my plans - complete with a focus on evolution! - look good!

Let's go with other secular homeschoolers.

Let me interject here. "Secular" homeschooler generally means "any homeschooler who is not a very conservative, creationist Christian." If you're a liberal, evolutionary Christian - you're secular. If you're an Orthodox Jew, guess where you will be lumped (unless you have a large community of other Orthodox Jews homeschooling near you) - yep, secular homeschooler! Pagan? Secular! Actual atheist? Secular! So "secular" may or may not mean anything in terms of a similarity of worldview, after all.

Still, then, you encounter the "unschooler." I don't know that I like the term any more than some unschoolers do, but I do have a picture in my mind. The mom who, at park day, disparages people who "use curriculum." The one who says to a friend that she doesn't understand how people who use curriculum can "get it all done" and still let their children have any time to play. The ones who look at me askance, as if I'm abusing my child by making her do, horror of horrors, math drills. Yes, these are all things I have observed in real life.

These are the homeschooling parents that appear to be the most similar to me! We may share similar approaches to parenting and life in general, but when school enters the picture, it all deviates sharply. Again, they don't really think my plans look good - they're actually horrified! It's not an unequal situation, though, because of course, I'm horrified, afraid their children will be like the twelve year old I met who was sadly resigned that she might not be able to catch up on math in time to apply to college to study engineering. An impasse.

Do I think it's really all so bleak? No. I think that many times, the divisions between groups of homeschoolers are artificial and imposed. Despite a few protestations to the contrary, math, for instance, is math. It should be possible to have a group form whose sole purpose is to prepare for and compete in math contests without religion or homeschooling style entering the discussion. There are an enormous number of clubs, events, and activities that should fall under this same rubric. EG attends a homeschool band group that is overtly conservative and quite Christian. Just ask the bumper stickers. (Don't ask me about the pink "Palin! 2012" stickers, because it takes me the full week between Fridays to recover from them.) But a trumpet is a trumpet, and band music is, well, band music. There's no statement of faith. Dd does know not to start discussing how much she loves Darwin and Obama while she's there, but that's okay. :) I see no reason why the vast majority of homeschool programs and groups could not be this way - organized by whomever, utilized by whomever.

Despite my thoughts, there are going to be gaps, and gulfs. When it comes to the aforementioned Darwin, homeschoolers will be sharply divided. It'd be hard to teach most science classes without choosing evolution or creation. And, in the end, I think that's okay, too. Homeschoolers do not compromise one big happy family, or even one cohesive movement. Calls from any corner to, essentially, play nice and sing Kumbaya are doomed to failure, in my opinion. And perhaps that's as it should be. Homeschooling, after all, is the very picture of individualistic expression.


Bragging Rights

Even if I weren't aware of the school buses making their rounds early, the flashing lights exhorting me to slow down at 12:20 instead of 2:20, and the signs on every school marquee, I would still know when my county schools were having parent-teacher conferences. All I'd need to do is to view Facebook.

Parents are, understandably, quick to share that their child's teacher has given them a good report. In some cases, considerable detail may be shared, down to each child's reading level and how that compares to the child's grade level. Since this is all coming from an outside authority, the information is usually met with enthusiastic comments.

I can't help but feel like the reaction would be slightly different if I were to post such details of my children's accomplishments and achievements. To be fair, I doubt I would post as much information as some, even if my children weren't homeschooled. It's simply not my way. At the same time, though, I don't know that even information from an outside source (standardized test results, for instance) would be viewed in the same way that they would were I not the teacher and the parent.

Compounding the problem is our society's tendency to celebrate "everything but" the academic. Tops at a sport? Best at an instrument? Starring in the play? These are all acceptable accolades. Top scores on the SAT? Expect a polite "good job!" and a look that conveys the meaning all too well - we're just not supposed to talk about that.

And I was raised in that society, too, and it's ingrained in me. The problem comes when you have a child (or children) who lends him- or herself (or themselves) to the type of pithy anecdote that makes a great status update on Facebook or a wonderful 140-character tweet. Why is this a problem? Well, it's only a problem if you have an additional child or children who doesn't; a child or children who would be the one with the excellent SAT score or the amazing history project.

Perhaps I'm merely too reticent about accomplishments in general, but it is ingrained in me. Sharing these things goes too close to bragging, and that, nearly above all else, is to be avoided. Still, I can't help but feel like it's important for kids to hear and read some "bragging," some positive outside evaluation (wherein "outside" is "anyone who is not the child"). Or is it better, setting them up to be intrinsically motivated, without extrinsic motivation, in a way that I could never be?

I don't know.


Good Morning, Starshine

I wish I lived in a culture that supported the idea of a mid-day rest period.

I love the early morning; I love watching light slowly creep across the sky, and listening to the world awaken. I love the nights too, though; I love the stillness and the stars. I'm only human, though, and I cannot simultaneously wait to go to bed and still rise with the sun. The best solution, obviously, would be the mid-day rest.

But, as I said, I don't feel like our culture supports such a creature. There's always going to be something that best fits into the early afternoon. Even my preliminary schedules for next year include activities in the early afternoon time frame on two of the five weekdays. It's just when those things are. Along the same lines, stores and offices are going to close at their designated times, no matter when I might like to find my bed. If I lose a couple of hours (let's say 12:30 to 2:30 pm, or 1 to 3 pm), the pediatrician or the vision therapy center aren't going to be open until 7 to accommodate that. The grocery stores and bookstores aren't going to stay open for an extra hour or two.

Compromise is necessary, then. For a long time, I've tilted in favor of the nights, for many varied reasons. It was unbalanced, though; I missed the mornings. I've been trying very hard to rise around 7 am, which means I have to be in bed by 11 pm without exception, for the most part. Of course, now that I'm regularly seeing the good side of 7:10 am from the sunroom or the living room, I find myself wishing I could rise even earlier. Simultaneously, I wish I didn't always have to go to bed in the evening, even though I know I'm tired.

Really, I could take or leave the early afternoon! Especially if I've had a good lunch, I'm comfortable, and the ambient temperature is right, it's already easy to feel a little drowsy. Going from a little drowsy to a nice siesta doesn't seem like such a large step. Until I find a way to institute a siesta, though, I guess I'll just have to approach each day as slightly unbalanced. Either that, or I need to train myself to run happily on just six hours of sleep.


Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen

Last June, just before PC was seven months old, she pulled up to stand for the first time. Around that same time, the Spousal Unit & I talked about our house. We have an abundance of living space, but only three bedrooms. We're thankful for our two bathrooms, but could see the advantage of more in our future. Our living space, while abundant as mentioned, is strangely configured. Due to a large amount of it being in the finished attic, it's not quite as large as our square footage figures would suggest. In short, if we had just two children, we would never outgrow this space. It's possible that if we did not homeschool, we could stay in this space with three children. We do have three children, though, and we do homeschool, and the final nail in the coffin - we're not sure if we'll have a fourth child or not.

We realized, last June, that we would be moving at some point between that moment and three years in the future. Last August, I spent one night looking at listings online, as I periodically do. It was growing late, and I decided to look at just one more page. Near the bottom of it, I found the perfect house.

So began our efforts to ready our present house for sale. We quickly realized we weren't going to be able to do it within weeks, but no one was buying the perfect house, and I had faith - if not that house, there would be one even better.

The house was taken off the market around the holidays, and hasn't been relisted. We're very close to being able to list our house, but are waiting now to see if our neighbor wants to purchase it. Yes, our neighbor - he wants investment property, and it would be an ideal situation for us. We could remain in our house and rent until buying our new house was finalized. (We're not willing to take the chance of paying two mortgages - no way, no how.)

And while the process has seemed to drag at times, I can't help but feel that it's unfolded in the way that was right. Right for us, right for the ultimate outcome, I don't know precisely, but I know that there have been very few times where I have felt frustrated or that something was awry. In the end, too - we've had time to say good-bye. I've had time to have holidays and get-togethers, and to know it's the last time in this house. Maybe that's why EG's birthday is terrifying me, aside from the uncertainty; it's the only major event that hasn't happened since I found our house.

But we're nearing readiness, I think. We're waiting to hear what our neighbor decides. One way or another, it's coming closer. It feels right - except for that burgeoning panic when I consider how much work I will have to pack!


The "Ideal Curriculum" - History

I've been putting off the ideal mathematics & ideal science plans, mainly because there is such wonderful variation in those two areas. So, instead, I'll turn towards history, which isn't so much a plan as an outline. After all, I subscribe to the idea of using a spine and then using lots of real books and primary sources to flesh out the spine text; I'm not about to start enumerating all the possible supplemental sources. Here, then, is the basic plan I intend to follow with both FB & PC. EG's will look the same from fifth grade onward.

Birth Through Age Four
• Important parts of the American mythology introduced via picture books and as seasonally appropriate (e.g., Thanksgiving, George Washington, Paul Bunyan, The Star-Spangled Banner, The Ride of Paul Revere).

• Ancient history through 400 C.E., utilizing The Story of the World Volume One: Ancient Times, the corresponding activity book, and supplemental history books and biographies.

First Grade
• Medieval history, the Renaissance, and the Reformation (400-1600 C.E.), utilizing The Story of the World Volume Two: The Middle Ages, the corresponding activity book, and supplemental history books and biographies.

Second Grade
• Early modern history (1600-1850 C.E.), utilizing The Story of the World Volume Three: Early Modern Times, the corresponding activity book, and supplemental history books and biographies.

Third Grade
• A one year concentration on United States History, using DK's Children's Encyclopedia of American History as a spine text.

Fourth Grade
• Modern history (1850 C.E. through the present), utilizing The Story of the World Volume Four: The Modern Age, the corresponding activity book, and supplemental history books and biographies.

Fifth Grade
• Year one of a three-year cycle, covering ancient times through approximately 1000 C.E., using History: The Definitive Visual Guide as a spine text.

Sixth Grade
• Year two of a three-year cycle, covering the remainder of the middle ages through approximately 1700 C.E., using History: The Definitive Visual Guide as a spine text.

Seventh Grade
• Year three of a three-year cycle, covering from approximately 1700 C.E. through to the present, using History: The Definitive Visual Guide as a spine text.

Eighth Grade
• One year of United States history, using Joy Hakim's Story of US series, Zinn's A People's History of the United States, Out of the Past, and other primary sources.

Ninth Grade
• Back to the four-year cycle, beginning again with ancients via History of the Ancient World.

Tenth Grade
• Medieval times are next, using History of the Medieval World.

Eleventh Grade
• Early modern era, using whatever SWB titles the third book. :)

Twelfth Grade
• Back around towards the present, again using SWB, this time the as yet unwritten and untitled fourth book.

That's the gist of it. As I said above, all of this would be supplemented with history books, biographies, primary sources, and so forth.


Weekly Report: Spring Break Version

We took our much-anticipated spring break this week! All of our outside-the-house activities were cancelled, with one exception - EG still had trumpet lessons. Those are in the late afternoon, though, so our days still stretched in front of us without end.

The first three days of the week were not spring-like. They were summer-like. I sent the children outside quite often those days. On Wednesday, we even had some friends over to play. Thursday, the rain came, sending the 5,000+ pollen count plunging back down. I still have a nasty residue all over things in the sunroom, since I like to keep the windows open and the ceiling fan going. Today, we're preparing for FB's delayed birthday party tomorrow, and band meets today for EG.

I did challenge EG to practice each of her instruments for a full 45 minutes a day this week, and she has risen to meet that. She also had a small amount of schoolwork to do, primarily because our last five official days of school this year will actually be spent traveling. So she worked on history some, read a book, did a bit of math, and finished two Mind Benders.

We made some progress on our efforts to ready the house for sale, as well. Slowly but surely, we're getting there!


BIG Things I Miss

• Male friends. Sure, I went to an all-girls high school, but then I went to college at a school with a 3 to 1 ratio. As the girls would occasionally say, "The odds are good but the goods are odd." (Exhibit A: Spousal Unit). It's not that I don't keep in contact with some of my male friends, but realistically, I am immersed in a very, very female-centric world. Most of the time, I'm all right, but it's unbalanced. I like androgyny (in actions and attitude, not necessarily appearance), and to get androgyny, I need a little XX and a little XY.

• My creative, academic brain. I find it hard to concentrate for long periods of time. When EG was young, I wrote a decent amount of fic and read serious books regularly. Homeschooling has taken away that creative process for me, and parenting three children has removed my ability to read very many serious books.

• Knowing what will happen next. I like predictability. I like saying, "Next year, we'll do X on this same holiday." Right now, I don't know where I'm going to be living on the next major holiday or birthday. We've wrapped up FB's birthday & Easter, and the next big thing is EG's birthday, in August. I have no idea where we'll be then, and honestly, that pretty much scares the crap out of me.

• Horseback riding. I always miss it, really, but I never have figured out how to make it work in this homeschooling, my-kids-are-with-me-all-the-time life.

• Having a dog. We have an ornery, annoying cat who's nearly 11 years old, but we still don't have a dog. I like the way dogs look at you as if you were the most awesome person ever.


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

He of the spiffy clothes

Three kids, one camera... yeah. We try, anyway!

This our bunny cake. He's awkward, and leans to the left. Naturally, we gave him a nickname, perfect for the awkward and left-leaning. Al.


Forget BIG Responsibility: The Push Back

I think responsibility is important. My homeschooled kids are never going to have to own their homework and schoolwork in the same way that they would in a public or private school. I'm always going to know what it is they have to accomplish. I try to make sure they have age-appropriate opportunities to take on responsibility.

What's interesting is how much that's resisted by others.

An example: for vision therapy, EG has 15 minutes of work to do on the computer daily. Scores must be recorded on a specific sheet and turned in each week. She's in charge of recording those scores, taking the sheet to vision therapy each week, and getting more sheets when necessary.

When she needs more sheets, they always want to come out and talk to me about it. Do they really think my handwriting is that messy? I've finally stopped going in to the office at all, giving her another piece of responsibility. Horror of horrors, I make my 9.5 year old cross a parking lot to the door by herself.

I let her walk ahead of me at the Y, too, and go into the appropriate (girls under 14, boys under 8, adults only accompanied by a child) locker room by herself. Yes, I have gotten strange looks for this bizarre behavior.

In short, the level of responsibility I attempt to give her in public situations which is, in my view, pretty mild (I know I could give her considerably more), is viewed as strange and, judging by those looks I mentioned earlier, possibly irresponsible.

So, in a million tiny ways, I try to increase the kids' level of responsibility & independence, and in a million other ways, it feels like society pushes back. It's downright frustrating.

And now, let me reference something that is BIG. The temperature today. After weeks of frigid temperatures, making us think that winter would last forever, we had approximately two days of spring weather (one of them being on the first day of spring), and now have gone straight to Summer. We were not allowed to pass Go, nor to collect two hundred dollars. We are allowed to have highs near 90°F. Right then.


All These Things That I Have Done...

While my children are 4.5 years and 3.5 years apart, I did not manage to space them quite correctly for following the four-year history rotation as set forth in The Well-Trained Mind. I did, however, manage to come relatively close. As EG begins fifth grade, FB will begin kindergarten. When FB begins fifth grade, PC will begin first grade, although she will be nearly seven already. Beyond the potential advantages for the history cycle, though, my children are spaced such that I have time to look back and really ponder on the should have, would have, could have. EG ends "grammar stage," just as FB begins to gear up for it, and so forth.

With that in mind, what I wish I had done differently, and a little bit about why.

01. Poetry Memory Work I wish we had been more deliberate about memory work in general, but there's a delight in a small child when she or he finishes memorizing a poem, especially when the poem is more than one stanza. It's not that EG hasn't memorized poems this year (and a few last year), and it's not that she doesn't enjoy it still. It's simply that it's one thing that is low on investment, in terms of time and energy, but large in the payoff.

02. Grammar Memory Work Similar to the above, it takes little effort to memorize, for instance, pronouns (FB can recite demonstrative pronouns just because he's heard EG saying them daily for over a month), but again, a large payoff.

03. History Memory Work Honestly, there aren't that many things about some parts of history to memorize. Does a child really need to memorize the pharaohs? Unless the child is going to be an Egyptologist, probably not. There are some worthwhile speeches and documents worth memorizing though, and poetry about history, as well. We weren't deliberate in this area until later, either.

04. More consistent science at an earlier age To be clear, I'm not saying I wish we had used a formal program. I think WTM-style science or even something less formal is perfectly adequate and perhaps better than a formal program. I wish I had bought science kits earlier, though, and, as I say, more consistently. Grammar-stage science doesn't have to be rigorous or thorough, even for the most science-minded, gifted child. It does need to be present and periodic.

05. Wait on Latin until 3rd grade Pretty much what it says on the box. I will probably pick 50-100 words & chants for FB to memorize during second grade, just to ease the transition, but otherwise, I think the payoff is not large enough for the time expended.

06. More narrations I think I was afraid that narrations would somehow take the joy out of reading. I failed to remember that a narration doesn't necessarily have to be formal or written, either one. Yes, in retrospect, we should have done a few more of those formal, written narrations, too, but you can be sure I will not hesitate to ask FB "What was the most interesting thing you learned in this book?" when we read non-fiction, and "Can you tell me/Daddy/EG/PC about the story we just read?" when it's literature.

07. Less worry about 'perfect' This is an issue in basically every area of my life, to be honest. I have to guard against letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

08. More art, both appreciation and skills So, art. The biggest gap in my otherwise fairly excellent education was art appreciation. I have very little art history. I can remember a few units which were designed to teach us about an artist or school, and then we were to create a project in that style. As a result, I remember a lot about Matisse and cannot tell you in which century Degas lived. Since I knew nothing about it, I threw a figurative blanket in my head, put my fingers in my ears, and sang "la la la, I can't hear you," in the general direction of art history & appreciation. Needless to say, this is not the best approach one can take. Similarly, I do not possess oodles and oodles of artistic talent. Since I was pigeon-holed early on as an academic type, there was rarely any effort to encourage any artistic leanings I might have had. I was an adult before I even realized I had a decent aesthetic sense. This doesn't encourage one to take the initiative in teaching art skills. So I packed EG off to Master's Academy. While I think this still does fill an important role, I wish I had at least incorporate some art into history, and taught her some basic drawing, things I plan to do with FB and PC.

09. Piano lessons in 2nd grade, or 3rd grade at the latest For various reasons, it's worked all right for EG not to have started piano until 4th grade, but ideally, I'd like the kids to be finished with their mandatory two years of piano lessons by no later than the end of fourth grade. I think it's good to have piano experience before choosing any other kind of instrument, and I think learning the basic theory is important, and I can see numerous advantages to learning this "grammar" during the grammar stage.

10. More music appreciation I had a little more music appreciation in my own education, though a good portion of that was the history of rock 'n' roll. Additionally, music appreciation seemed so intimidating, with a need for millions of CDs, spilling over. It was one of those subjects where perfect became the enemy of the good. Luckily, we've also discovered the podcast Classics for Kids, which makes grammar-stage music appreciation that much easier.

11. Less supplemental books for history We love SOTW. We love the activity guides. I also love looking at books in various homeschooling catalogs, and reading posts on message boards about great supplemental books. The result can be too many books. When planning SOTW 1 for FB, I've tried to keep the supplemental books to an average of one per chapter. In some cases, this may still be too much, but it's a start. It's no good to feel overwhelmed with a number of books, even if they are picture books, that you feel you must read before beginning the next chapter.

12. Less dependence on the library In the beginning, I thought I would save money by checking books out from the library. The result of this, combined with the problem of too many supplemental books, was annoying trips back and forth to the library and a growing amount of fines. Yes, I have tentative plans to use the library more next year than we have this year, but I'm trying to be judicious. Not every library book is always available, and the library should never become a burden.

13. Less worry about socialization For a time, I worried a lot about her socialization. I knew very few people with children her age, at the time, and I worried a lot about her being exposed only to children who were younger than her. I've since learned that one seeming solution, having her in a Girl Scout troop with girls who are in a variety of school settings, doesn't really work out that well in the end. For other reasons, too, I should have just worried less. Kids don't need groups of friends. That's a modern affectation.

14. More time outdoors I don't think it's really possible to have too much time outdoors, you know? Enough said.

15. Learn to swim earlier Poor guinea pig EG. In one of my efforts to shore up our relationship with Spousal Unit's relatives, she used to spend the day, from time to time, with the older of Spousal Unit's sisters, who lives in the same metro area as we do. On one of those excursions, said sister-in-law took it upon herself to take EG swimming and try to teach her to swim. She wasn't quite three at the time, and we spent years undoing her resulting fear in the pool. We probably should have kept slowly coaxing her rather than stopping most efforts for a year or two before resuming them in the summer of 2008. She can swim just fine now, but I want the younger ones swimming well by six or seven.

16. Learn to ride a bike earlier Part of this was lack of opportunity for EG, and part of it was other issues, which will be detailed somewhat below. Still, we had the tendency not to push her to do things, and some things? Kids needs a little push and encouragement.

17. Worried about the issues of spelling & hand-eye coordination earlier This doesn't apply to every child, but EG was wildly asynchronous with regard to certain aspects of development. Of course, I read enough that said "gifted kids are asynchronous!" that I pushed it from my mind most of the time. There's a difference, though, between "asynchronous" and "working well above grade level except with handwriting and spelling," especially when the latter is combined with hand-eye coordination issues, difficulty riding a bicycle, and other issues. Also, her handwriting and spelling weren't merely "on grade level," but below grade level. Finally, I realized something had to be done, that despite all of our best efforts, there was something still missing. So we had her evaluated by a developmental optometrist and she's doing vision therapy. There's definitely a difference already. Do I wish I'd had her evaluated sooner? Absolutely. Will I hesitate to push with the others, even when my concerns are dismissed by some? No.

As with anything, your mileage may vary. I'll try to post about the things I'm glad we did within a week or two, because there are many of those, too.


Not-So-BIG Celebrations

As a child, our Easter celebrations had a delightful regularity. In the morning, I would see what the Easter Bunny brought, and then we'd eat breakfast, get dressed up in new clothes, and go to church. After church, we'd return home, and I'd leave my new clothes on until after my grandmother, aunt, & uncle arrived. When I was even younger, my uncle wasn't married to my aunt yet, and my paternal grandmother was still alive and mobile, so the party would have been two grandmothers and my aunt.

You'll notice I was the only child in the picture, literally and figuratively. I am an only child. My father is an only child; my mother's only sibling, my aunt, adopted her daughter the same year I was pregnant with my oldest child.

We'd take pictures, change clothes at last, eat Easter Dinner, and hunt eggs. I can remember legendary egg hunts, especially as I got older; we'd all take turns at hiding the eggs and everyone tried to find them. The hiding places got more and more complex as we tried to stump each other. Often, after hunting eggs, we'd play board games until it was time for everyone to leave.

While my extended family was not huge, I felt for years that holidays were, in a sense, defined by the presence of extended family, and the more extended family, the better. When my aunt adopted my cousin Emily, I was thrilled that EG would have a cousin her age. No, we didn't live in the same town, but we're separated by a distance of less than 100 miles, and our family made the trip often; the rest of the extended family, less often; my parents, quite often indeed. And, in fact, holiday celebrations for several years were more or less what I had pictured at one point.

Of course, long before I ever knew the Spousal Unit, I had dreams of having nieces and nephews via my imagined-spouse's imagined-siblings. Spousal Unit does, in fact, have two sisters, but I knew by 2001 or so that things would not be precisely as I had once imagined. One of his sisters is a good bit younger than me, and I had had my children pretty early, after all. I honestly didn't anticipate the other sister having children at all, due to her own statements.

(She does, in fact, have a child now, who is almost three. I've seen my niece maybe three times. Things deteriorated with most of Spousal Unit's family around the time of FB's birth.)

But years passed, and my extended family was less willing to travel. We were less willing to travel, too, as we added first FB and then PC. I understood a reluctance to travel on Easter Sunday, and Christmas, but when my grandmother stopped attending birthday parties and Thanksgiving, it was hard not to take it personally.

Okay, I'm trying to write this dispassionately, but here's the truth: it's still really hard not to take it personally. She says we're too far to drive, now, on a flat, straight shot of an interstate highway, but will still drive northward, into mountains, on state roads or worse, a journey of far more miles.

So our celebrations are smaller, certainly. My parents come, and that is the extent of our guests for holidays. Birthdays still include Spousal Unit's mother. Things don't look how I had always dreamt, but the positive side of that, I suppose, is innovation. No one is going to complain, after all, that instead of pastel-shaded cupcakes or a bunny face cake, we had a standing bunny.(My bunny cake was somewhat awkward and left-leaning, so we named him Al.)

How, then, did our Easter look, compared to those of yesteryear? The kids woke early - very early - and went to see what the Easter Bunny brought. This was EG's first chance to help stuff the baskets and she had a lot of fun helping with FB's and PC's baskets last night. We ate breakfast, cleaned up, and the kids watched a video. Later, they put on new clothes, and we took lots of pictures, and hunted a few eggs. The kids changed clothes. We ate Easter Dinner (ham, macaroni & cheese, asparagus, & glazed carrots) before eating Al the Bunny Cake. Then we did a lot more egg hunting. After my parents left for home, EG & FB played Monopoly in her room, EG practiced piano, PC took a much-needed nap, and we've had a lazy sort of evening.

What would I change? I admit, as much as I feel conflicted over many churches, I greatly miss the ritual of worship in a church. And I do miss the complex egg hunts, though I know those will gradually return as the kids get older. I do regret, somewhat, that my kids won't have the experience of waiting for "everyone" to show up on a holiday, but except for EG, they have rarely known any different, and it's hard to miss something you haven't experienced.

We keep rituals and celebrations, though, and as I said before, there's no one to complain about change or innovation. We can keep tweaking away until we have rituals and routines that feel right for our family, not for an imagined family. In that respect, I'll keep our not-so-big celebrations, after all.


BIG Progress

Continuing with the theme of "BIG"... :)

Since my last update on my by 1 July list, I have...

... bought Art In Story, read it, and made plans for art appreciation for kindergarten. I really like using this for art appreciation, because it lets it be a light, 'sometimes' subject. There are eleven specific lessons that we'll cover during the ancient time period, and a similar number during SOTW 2. The library has some resources for viewing art, and I may or may not see what books the library has from the list of Children's Books for each lesson when we get there. That will depend on our time frame and how interested FB seems to be. I'll do a more detailed review later, but I would definitely recommend the book because it makes it easy.

... almost settled on supplemental books for history of science. I really need to cull the list farther, at least in terms of what I plan to purchase, but it's so hard to do! I did sort it out into a list of "books for now" and "books for later," which helped a lot.

... finished the "history pages" for kindergarten. Hooray!

... planned the prehistoric life/dinosaur unit.

... set up all of our binders for next year! EG is actually using one already, since she started Latin Prep 1 once Lively Latin was finished.

... set the calendar for next year, including our tentative travel dates. On the slate for travel next year are Destin and Disney World, plus we'll probably plan a shorter, less expensive trip in May 2011. I know we'll do some weekend trips as well, but at least our major trips are set.

... created all the schedules that are necessary for 2010-2011 school year. At least, I think I have all of them! I have a schedule for EG and one for FB. I didn't go through the entire MOTH procedure this year, but I did use some of what I learned in doing it last year. I also have learned that I personally do better with a daily checklist, since what I have to accomplish varies widely depending on what exactly the day's schoolwork is, what the day's errands are, and what's for dinner. Part of the reason I didn't use the MOTH procedure is also that our days should be more uniform. Aside from the public speaking class EG will take, we don't have anything currently scheduled before noon, and I plan to keep it that way. Oh, sure, we'll occasionally do things before noon! But nothing weekly. :)

.. finally decided how to approach scheduling Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and the accompanying workbook, because it's not immediately obvious how they should line up.

If you're keeping score at home, it means very few things remain on the list:
• Finalize plans for art skills for fifth grade.
• Make history pages for fifth grade.
• Make history of science lesson plans.
• Break AoPS texts into daily lesson plan chunks.
• Set up timeline.

As you might guess, the second and third of that list are looming over me and filling me with a bit of dread. :)


Weekly Report

One hundred fifty-five days completed!

Previously, on a week not reported, EG finished Lively Latin. Hooray! She also beat level thirty-two of drill and moved on to level thirty-three.

This week, EG continued forward in Latin Prep 1. So far, the material is a review of things she already knows, so she's doing well. Some of the material is presented differently and there's more emphasis on translating, I think. She finished five exercises in the text and five in the workbook.

EG read Plain Girl this week and wrote a short narration of it. She also finished eight sentences in Practice Town, two lessons in Paragraph Town, and two lessons in Caesar's English I. We read a chapter in Building Poetry together and she worked on writing some poetry of her own.

Her readings for history in SOTW this week covered terrorism (1972 Olympics) and Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. She wrote a summary about each section. Her reading is still lagging a bit behind the SOTW timeline, just due to sheer volume, but she read the COFA biography of John Glenn, an interesting book about various decisions made by Eisenhower while he was president, and Ain't Gonna Study War No More, about, as you may have guessed, various peace movements.

EG finished four pages in Key to Percents Book 2, and five lessons in Life of Fred Beginning Algebra, plus did drill for five days. She also finished her current Mind Benders book. She's progressing steadily with her memory work, though I'm considering finding another history-related piece to memorize. I do think I'll have her work on "The New Colossus," as well.

She's reading a bit in CPO Physical Science each week in addition to lab work in Physics Workshop. It's her first experience even attempting to use a textbook for a content subject, so that's been sort of interesting for both of us. We're going over the section reviews and the chapter assessments together, orally.

FB & I didn't do any math this week, due primarily to the math supplies being (finally) relocated upstairs, followed immediately by the upstairs becoming so messy that I just couldn't tolerate trying to do actual work in such an environment. He continues to love handwriting, and he's definitely making progress with phonics.

PC continues to get into trouble as much as possible by climbing, running, or otherwise being the queen of the world.

And that, as they say, is that - we are done for the week and are taking spring break next week. Hooray!


Secular Thursday in Snippets

• Yesterday was kindergarten registration for my county. If the kids went to public school, it would have been the day to register FB. It's weird to think about things in those terms, sometimes, but I do have a game I play in my head from time to time. What I think would have happened with each of the children if they had gone to public school.

EG's path would have gone one of two ways. It's possible she would have learned to sit still, to be quiet, and to please the teacher. She wouldn't cause a fuss, and would blend into the background. Alternatively, her difficulties with spelling and her inability to sit down for more than 5.2 seconds would have had her labeled special education within six months. Not sure which road she would have been on, to be honest.

FB could go two ways as well. He's the kind of kid that a teacher will either love or hate. If he managed to get teachers that loved him, he could in theory have done well at a public school. If he got even one that didn't, though, I suspect he'd be one of those boys that they'd want to diagnose with ADHD. The amusing thing, of course, is that if either of the older two could be considered ADHD, it would be EG. Not FB.

• I ordered the book A World of Faith, sight unseen, as a basic primer on various religions. I was a little nervous, wondering if it would be what I was looking for. I haven't had a chance to read it, but when it came yesterday, the review-blurb on the back? I noticed it was a quote of Jimmy Carter, and I breathed a sigh of relief. If Jimmy says it's all right, I'll probably think it is, too.

• I had the brilliant idea to do a unit on prehistoric life with the kids, focusing specifically on dinosaurs. Because the unit will involve reading and watching DVDs only, I knew it would be something we could do on the weekends and over the summer, very casually. What I didn't anticipate was how hard it would be to find appropriate books for EG to read! I had a ready-made spine for FB (DK's First Dinosaur Encyclopedia), plus ready-made supplemental books (Magic School Bus, Let's Read and Find Out books). I had a good overview book for EG (Dinosaurs), but I wanted a few other things to flesh it out. I finally found a few likely-looking titles on amazon but I don't know, in practice, how they'll go over. I'll post our prehistoric life lesson plans AFTER we've executed them. :)

• Prehistoric life naturally segues into evolution, which is one of the things I hope to have EG cover in some detail next year. Finding books for that is sort of interesting, too. I don't want to overload her with adult-level books, but many of the "middle school level" books don't really go into enough detail. Decisions, decisions.

• I don't really enjoy April Fools' Day. It seems less like a day about having fun and more of a day about making fun of other people, too often. So I'm blogging today, and otherwise will probably go media-silent until we're on the other side of it. I just don't need it.

NaBloPoMo: April Edition

I've decided to do NaBloPoMo again this month, April. The official 'theme' is BIG, and since I was immediately hit with six or seven specific ideas, and a few more vague ones, I felt that this was, well, doable.

What do I have in mind for this month of blogging? Big changes, big plans, big celebrations. Big lists, big decisions, big issues. Big weekly reports. ;) Hopefully, big fun and big packing. Big ideas.

We'll see where this takes me. Hopefully, dare I say it? Someplace big. :)
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