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