"New Year"

Our "official" start date for the 2011-2012 school year was Wednesday. It being summer, we haven't done that much in the way of formal education. That said, the following all occurred.

- Four activities in Sentence Composing for Elementary School; we started this late in the school year, so she was finishing up a section.
- Typing practice x 3
- Rosetta Stone (German) x 3
- C25K x 2 (w1d2 on Wednesday, w1d3 tonight)
- Trumpet practice x 3

- Two days from the end of WWE 1
- Rosetta Stone (German) x 3
- lots of reading

- lots of writing going on, mostly fiction
- planning for formal work for 2011-2012
- finalized EG's grammar syllabus for 2011-2012
- C25K workouts with EG (I've done the whole program, but on a treadmill and not surface streets, like we are this time)
- GNO with two of my three Ms :)
- Thwarted twice in our quest for Pride shirts from Old Navy, SmrtMama and I had an impromptu day in Midtown yesterday.

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"Official" Days of School

It's only taken me six years of homeschooling (five years of reporting to the state) to finally decide upon the following course of action.

For a couple of years, I've been very diligent at counting days for our state reporting, and only counting days where I felt we reached a certain threshold of learning. It occurred to me several times, though, that there were days we didn't count that were probably far more educational than the end of the year celebrations at the local public schools. As it happens, I also never counted the days that EG was doing end of the year testing. We were usually done with our required number of days by that point.

I also never had a real interest in doing "year round school" in the way that many people usually mean it. I didn't want to do a three week on, one week off schedule, or a three months on, one month off schedule. Summer camps are very important to me as a parent. I'm sure I'd feel that way regardless, but as a homeschooling parent, they're very nearly sacred. Next year, PC can go to a half-day camp at the local YMCA, which means I am eagerly anticipating getting a week where I am ALONE for three hours a day, as well as two weeks where one of the older kids is the only one home with me. I'm getting off track; suffice it to say, while we do light schoolwork throughout the summer, camp is Very Important.

This past year, I did an experiment. Each year, as I filled out my "attendance report," I kept track of our running total of days. Then, I kept an unofficial count. It included things like trips out of town, field trips, and more. If it was somewhat educational, I went ahead and included it. I probably missed a few.

As of the end of May, I have 242 days of education counted for the eleven month period of July 2010-May 2011.

I don't feel bad about what I'm going to do tonight or tomorrow, then: I'm going to print out our "attendance sheets" and fill them out for the 2011-2012 school year. In advance. All 180 days. If we hold with the past year, we'll surpass that by at least 60 days.


Wrapping It Up, Officially

We've been on a very light schedule for the past two months, really; we hit 32 weeks before our spring break week, and almost all of my lesson plans were written for 32 or 34 weeks. EG did have two webinars that both concluded yesterday. All of the extracurricular activities are done until autumn.

And today, I wrote my annual summation of the year. Technically required. Y Georgia law, I'm not actually obligated to submit it to anyone. I'm just supposed to write it and keep it on file. I guess it goes with the test scores that we have to have but not submit.

Now I've really got to finalize everything for next year. I have a lot of plans to finish writing before we start. Oh, and Bento to purchase. I love the Bento iPad app and really want to be able to enter things more easily via the laptop. Other exciting technological things on the horizon include my turn for a new computer over the summer. Oh, Apple store, you just keep calling my name.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Electronic Organization

For Mothers' Day this year, albeit a few days late, I got an iPad. A shiny, new, 64 GB iPad 2, to be more precise. I already loved my iPhone and my MacBook, but I think it might just be my iPad that persuades me to go paper free (in terms of homeschool organization and planning) at last.

I've already added a lot of helpful apps. I'm also trying to figure out a way to swing making it work if we get EG an iPad, because I can already see so many potential uses for it for her with regards to schoolwork.

Therein lies my dilemma, in a way. For so long, I've been the only person who keeps track of the family calendar. I use iCal and have it nicely color-coded and everything. If EG starts using an iPad, though, and I can convince the Spousal Unit to use the iPod Touch, I suddenly reach the point where having our calendars sync would make so much sense. I'm not sure if I can do that with iCal but I'm pretty reluctant to switch to a new system!

I've already discovered I need to get Bento on our computers pronto. I got the iPad app and love it; I can't wait to modify it for school use!

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Why We Don't Identify As Year-Round Homeschoolers

We educate all year, of course, and I still require what most would consider academic or book work during most of the summer months. Overall, though, I tend not to identify us as year-round homeschoolers for one reason: summer camps.

I'm a big fan of summer camps. Yes, kids need downtime, time to relax and just be, and so forth. I'm not denying that. For my kids, though, for whom every day might include a good dose of that sort of thing, summer camp is a great time to expand their horizons and provide them with a not-as-every day experience.

The result is that I'm almost always seeking out options and ideas for great summer camp experiences for the kids. EG has a few camps that she always attends, but this year she's branching out. I'm similarly seeking new options for FB, as he's outgrown the preschool half-day camps, and simultaneously hasn't quite aged into some of the grade-school camps. (Fie!) As I was writing this post, I went to confirm something else and discovered that, technically, PC is old enough for half-day preschool camp at the YMCA. I really can't imagine her at camp. "[PC], come sit in the circle." "No!" Yeah, I think we may wait on that one--though, ohhh, it is tempting.

What kind of camps? This year, both of the bigs are going to ice skating camp. They'll also go to a local high school show choir's day camp (EG has gone for years; this will be FB's first year). EG will go to Girl Scout day camp; FB will probably go to tennis camp at the Y for a week, plus a Sports & Skills camp that a local church holds each year. EG's two big new camps are Girls Rock Camp and Space Camp. Yes, these absorb a huge chunk of the summer budget, lol! I think she'll really enjoy both of them, though. I want to find something else for FB, but as I said, he's at an awkward age. The local universities have summer camps, but he's not considered old enough. He's bright and all of that, but if I pay for zoo camp or similar, I want him to be a little older. I think he'll still manage to have a good summer.

And, of course... I hope we'll be moving this summer.


NaVidPoMo: Day the Last

Because I never got to finish NaVidPoMo, thanks to our internet service being down.

First, the video I was going to post that day:

And, for my daughters. My daughters who have to grow up in a rapists' culture. My daughters, who still seem to need these sentiments. No matter how much we hate that reality.


Two Steps Forward...

• We had no internet for most of last week, and then I took the kids to visit my parents for three days. The lack of internet was a huge downer. I did have my iPhone but it's not quite the same as a functioning internet connection on my laptop with its full keyboard.

• I did manage to get a lot accomplished last week while the kids read a lot. I have more work I want to complete during the remainder of this week.

• However, last night when the storms blew through, a neighbor's tree fell into our yard, across the fence that is technically theirs. The good news is that we have no responsibility, financial or otherwise, for the fence to be fixed. The bad news is that we're dependent on someone else to fix the fence.

• This is how I feel:



I haven’t elaborated much on a lot of my current thinking regarding science. On the one hand, I think the model of studying the three “big” sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics) at the same time, a strand of each, showing how they intersect–that’s good, good stuff. On the other hand, I don’t have the desire nor the time to put that together right now. So, I’m going to take our cue from that plan without following it exactly.

What do I mean?

Next year, because of our “Hogwarts” school, I’m going to have EG learn some basic botany, with botany being an offshoot of biology. She’s also going to do some basic astronomy, for the same wizardly reason, and then her main science will be chemistry. I intend to have her work through some of her physics-based science kits that she has not yet completed periodically as well. This isn’t a huge expenditure of time, and I don’t have a good sense of how it will look, but essentially I want her to spend 16-34 one-hour sessions during her 2011-2012 each on astronomy, botany, and physics. That’s not a lot, and I think it’s doable.

Then, the next year, I’ll probably have her do some work on cells and genetics (rather than straight botany), plus continuing with astronomy. Her main focus will be physics, but we’ll add in some chemistry work to review and refresh (more on that later). The following year will be biology, with some time spent on astronomy plus physics and chemistry to keep them fresh in her mind. You see where this is going? Good, ‘cause that’s about as far as I have worked out. ;)

So, how to go about reviewing and refreshing chemistry? As it turns out, I’ve gathered several resources and will be working on gathering just a few more both to enhance her study during next year and provide an opportunity for review in the following years.

Starting in May and continuing through June and July, EG will read back through The Elements, which she completed near the end of third grade. She will also watch the lectures from the Great Courses’ High School Chemistry. Her main text will be Spectrum Chemistry, which is nicely designed to take three days a week (including lab) and take just thirty-two weeks. To supplement and provide extra practice, I have The 100+ Series Chemistry. I just received this today and it is awesome! I plan to check out some of the other books in the series. She also will read The Elements and The Joy of Chemistry.

During the next few years, she can do the exercises from The 100+ Series Chemistry again, since it’s a “reproducible activities” book. She can also watch the Great Courses’ High School Chemistry again, but use the accompanying workbook. She can re-read the supplemental resources mentioned above. I will have her work through Carbon Chemistry in order to go more in-depth with regards to organic chemistry. I also purchased (at one of the closing Borders stores) Chemistry for Dummies and its accompanying workbook. Finally, with regards to experimentation and labs, she’s already wanted the Thames & Kosmos Chem3000 Kit, so after we take out a second mortgage to pay for it, she can use that for several years too. There are additional resources listed on an amazon wishlist, including Caveman Chemistry, Chemical Magic, and The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry.

Why to go to all this trouble? I think that if we have time to see material twice or even three times, it helps to solidify it in our minds. I think that it’s important to review concepts each year rather than just hope we retain them. I know that sometimes one presentation of a concept will just “click” better than another. As an additional bonus, I won’t be trying to fit every amazing resource I can find into just one thirty-six week school year. Instead, EG will have a year of concentrated study of chemistry followed by plenty of time to review, explore, refresh, and deepen over the years to come. Her stated goal is to take all four offered AP science courses, so she will revisit chemistry in high school with a comprehensive course.

NaVidPoMo: Day Twenty-Nine

I went to get the URL for the one I'd chosen for today, and decided that today, there would be two. Because the second one is beautiful.


NaVidPoMo: Day Twenty-Seven

I totally, geekily love this.


Weekly Report: Week Thirty-Two (days 156-160)

Busy, busy, busy: a really full week.

• FB turned six on Wednesday, which meant no schoolwork! He did read books, listen to a new book, play outside, go to the grocery store, and watch Schoolhouse Rock, which means that altogether I think he covered literature, physics, math, economics, and history, without even trying. ;)
• FB also finished the Orange Miquon book today! Hooray!
• EG started working through Excavating English.
• PC still has the occasional accident but basically is full-time pottying. She did REALLY well at the convention last weekend, although she refused to poop until we got back home. Apparently she's one of those.
• EG finally got access to her online course from Art of Problem Solving, so there's that.
• I spent another Large Sum of Money at Borders. I think this will be the last time (at the store that's closing, I mean).
• I didn't finish FB's sweater for his birthday. I may get it done before his party tomorrow, or he may just get it as an April Fools present or something. I forget how much longer something takes when it's not worsted weight or heavier. :P

I really need some time to organize things, put things away, and generally work on the house, mainly so we can paint a few rooms and overall so we can sell this place. So next week, we're going to do Reading School: math, lots of books, and probably a DVD or two in the afternoons (e.g., Schoolhouse Rock, Life, Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Young People's Concerts, National Geographic, etc.). I work best in the morning and while it's good I spent the best portion of my day on school, it's causing me to feel really behind on this whole moving thing. So that is my solution. The kids think it's wonderful, except FB wanted to make sure we could still do history.

NaVidPoMo: Day Twenty-Five

Love this song. Love the original, love this version.


Moar Conference, or Thoughts on SE HS Conv Part Two

And now we come to Friday. The middle day. I’m going to add a logistical tip here that I’ll repeat in part three as well. I strongly advise not trying to drive home on Saturday evening. Yes, the conference is over by 5 or 5:30, and yes, it seems so reasonable if you only live 2 or 3 or 4 or even 5 hours away–but don’t. Thursday is made longer by driving to arrive there; Friday is a full day due to the convention schedule; Saturday night, you are going to want to pet your new curricula purchases, discuss speakers, write down your thoughts, and generally process the experience. It’s hard to do that when you’re tired, and the quickest way to get even more tired is to drive home as soon as the convention ends. As a bonus, this will make Friday seem like a doable marathon (“Tomorrow is a shorter day!”) rather than just the first part of an Ironman triathalon.

We made the decision on Thursday evening not to try to get to the convention center for the first session. Ugh. I wanted to be there, but not as much as I wanted to reduce our stress. Here is an occasion where the convention center being attached to the hotel would have made a huge difference, because we had to consider transportation time and logistics. Regardless, we skipped both the 8:30 am and 10 am sessions, in the end. My first session for the day was Michael Clay Thompson, “Teaching Advanced Academic Writing.”

I’m going to be honest and say that I expected a better presentation based on others’ comments online. He was a decent speaker but I’ve seen better many times, so I’m not sure where the reputation as a great, engaging speaker is building. That said, the content was still excellent. One of the big things I distilled from the presentation is that there is a skill in reading non-literature which many students don’t have, and research papers are one vehicle for developing that skill. I’m going to throw out a few quotes:

“If we want formal writing to be the outcome, then informal writing cannot be the norm. Academic writing has to be, as it used to be, normal writing.”

“Academic writing is about academic reading. It is not a pure writing exercise.”

MCT is big on using real books, not websites. His basic plan is writing a series of short research papers each year, four papers at around 3 pages for each paper. He spoke about modern approaches to the research paper process (i.e., no need for bibliography cards and note cards, no need to turn in an outline). He also spoke at some length about the concept of a rough draft is counter-productive. Yes, a first draft is necessary, but the idea of “rough” means there’s a lot left to fix later.

MCT is also a big fan of MLA over other formatting guides. Finally, he talked quite a bit about expository, narrative assessment rather than rubrics. Apropos of nothing, he also uses a Mac.

Meanwhile, my mother was next door listening to Dr. Christopher Perrin speak about the intellectual virtues. She said that there was excellent content (and I haven’t had a chance to review her notes, though I’m looking forward to it), but he wasn’t the best speaker. As I’ve said in the past, the best authors are not always the best speakers. This was apparently one of those times. After that, she went to see Julie Bogart speak on the natural stages of growth in writing, which she said she thoroughly enjoyed. Again, I haven’t reviewed her notes, so I’m skimming over her sessions.

Then I went to see SWB talk about the well-prepared high school student. First of all, everyone should listen to SWB, because she is one of those good authors that is an excellent speaker. If you set the bar at SWB, very few speakers are going to impress you. I would know, since I... set the bar with SWB. She covered three areas of preparation: academic, practical, and emotional. I don’t want to attempt to summarize her entire talk, because it’s simply too full and rich. She spoke about basics, specialization, methods of instruction, tests, deadlines, writing, library skills, transcripts, keeping one’s own schedule, managing money, laundry, maturity, gap years, and more, all with coherence and depth. Whew. I bought this one on CD, even though I was in the room, because there was so much to really meditate and think upon.

Then we took a food break before going to the Tim Hawkins show, which was just EG, my dad, and I, for various reasons. Uh. I’ve only ever watched two of Tim Hawkins’ videos, mind you, so I was expecting stuff like “Chick-Fil-A” and “Homeschool Family.” I was surprised at some of the humor, and thought some of it was homophobic. It was near the end of the show when he started singing about climate change and how his Suburban wasn’t hurting anything. That song talked about Mr. Gore. Then he immediately followed it up with a song, well. “Who can tax xxx? The government can! Who can tax...?” you get the idea. I got up and walked out. Gah.

So there’s another tip for better convention time management: don’t buy tickets to things like Tim Hawkins. Even if you know you’ll enjoy it (and obviously, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it), you need to decide why you’re at the convention, on some level. It’s entertainment stuck in the middle of what can be hard-core education and “professional development,” and I’ll be leaving entertainment off future convention schedules for me.

My dad and EG went to one of Ed Zaccaro’s sessions, then, and the Spousal Unit went to a Jim Weiss session for fathers. I happily wandered around the vendor hall, spending more time at places like the Usborne books booth. They had a prehistoric search book in the bargain bin–score! See, you can find non-YEC science material there, you just have to look really hard, lol. After that, Spousal Unit ran EG back to the hotel while my dad attended another of Julie Bogart’s sessions, and I went to Janice Campbell’s session on teaching literature. Who, um, also uses a Mac.

She had some good suggestions for teaching literature and I was pleased that it wasn’t just an ad for her curriculum. She is really big on including context materials, like art, music, other authors, major world events, and so forth, so in that sense, her curriculum is very handy because it’s all organized. She suggested that audiobooks were an adequate substitute for reading the book. I somewhat disagree, but I do think I could probably use audiobooks more than we currently do. She had a great list of recommended reference books and some good suggestions on literary analysis. This was easily a session that a high school student or relatively serious middle school student could glean from.

And that was the second day. It may not sound horribly long, but trust me: it was long and exhausting. A lot of the exhausting part was knowing we’d be getting up to do it again the next day, I think.

NaVidPoMo: Day Twenty-Four

At heart, I still think of the internet as a vehicle for fandom, one way or another...

NaVidPoMo: Day Twenty-Three

March twenty-third is a special day in our household. Six years ago, at 6:28 am, FB made his way out of me and into our lives. I'd say that he slid, but he didn't; he had his head born for a full three minutes ahead of the rest of his body. I heard him cry even as he was still kicking inside me.

Each of my children has a song. I didn't pick the songs, I just recognized them. When they're graduating and we do the somewhat-cheesy slide show with music, I know what songs each will have in the background, and no, they don't get a choice. And for whatever reason, this is FB's song. Love you, my sweet buddy. You're my favorite deputy--and whatever road you choose, I'm right behind you, win or lose. :)


Thoughts on the Southeast Homeschool Convention, Part One

It’s going to take more than one post to talk about the Southeast Homeschool Convention, I think, so this is part one. All of us went, plus my parents, so you’ll see details about that.

Thursday. For anyone local planning to go in a future year, we left between 9:30 and 10 am. We stopped for Starbucks at Exit 149 on I-85, and then at O’Charley’s for lunch, about 20-30 miles from the hotel & the convention center. We arrived at the hotel around 1:30 pm and decided to try checking in, despite the official check-in time of 3 pm. We were lucky and our rooms were ready, so we checked in and unloaded the car. Then we headed over to the convention center.

My mom and I stayed there; the others went to go miniature golfing. I was unprepared for the sheer number of people already there. All of the registration lines were horribly long–except the one for my last name. Score! We were able to quickly register, then found a place to sit and make our plans for the remainder of that day.

My first session was about planning high school, or so I thought, but it turned into more of a session about what to do each year with a view towards college. Since I already knew more about testing for college and so forth than most of the people in the room, this was kind of a wash. I couldn’t slip out easily, though, and I didn’t have another session that sounded appealing (this one had been my back-up choice, but the schedule was redone). My mom went to see Cindy Wiggins speak about kids working independently. This was my mother’s first real introduction to the craziness of the whackadoodle homeschool crowd, bless her (Christian and liberal) heart. She nearly walked out of her session because the woman started it by dissing university professors. My mother works at a university, albeit as consultant/staff, not faculty; still, she wasn’t that impressed with this session.

My second session was with Ed Zaccaro, author of books such as Challenge Math and Real World Algebra. It was a good session. He referenced Outliers, how to create a quality program for the mathematically gifted, and other great topics. Meanwhile, my mother went to see Dr. Carol Reynolds, which was also a great talk. I left the end of that session and encountered a long line of people. Then I realized they were waiting for the vendor hall to open. Ooookay. Well, we had thirty minutes to kill, so we went in. We took in the layout but didn’t yet purchase anything.

Then my mom and I went to see Dr. Peter Enns. The room was eerily empty. I chalked it up to people being caught up in the vendor hall and missing the 6:30 sessions. Listen, y’all, I can be completely clueless when necessary! I hadn’t seen any of the upscut at that point. I just thought it was disappointing that there weren’t more people in the session, because he’s an excellent speaker. His voice is very calm and easy to listen to, he’s organized as a speaker–it was an enjoyable session. (Side note: if you watch QaF, his voice reminds me of Ben’s voice.) I think I learned more in that one hour about various points than I had in perhaps years of childhood church attendance. His perspective was one I enjoyed, too. How to put this? Dr. Enns is undoubtedly not nearly as liberal as I in any way :), but it’s been too long since I heard a voice in Christianity calling for love and communion with Christ, rather than shrill judgement and legalism. The items that stick out are his call not to be too quick to personalize the Bible, and his goal for children to develop a real, not superficial faith, one that prepares them for a lifetime as adult Christians. It was refreshing. I admit, I was predisposed to like him; I was surprised by how much I did.

Like many of the speakers I saw, both Ed Zaccaro and Dr. Enns are Mac people.

After the end of that session, my mom and I took PC while the menfolk, EG, and FB went to a presentation on sibling relationships. We shopped. I did all of my “must-get” shopping. While at the WTM booth, a blowhard (you know the type!) of a man was arguing with Suzanne of WTM about SWB’s use of “BC/BCE” in the SOTW books. Seriously. (I later heard the same blowhard pontificating about Classical Conversations while at their booth. This time he was positive in his statements, but the attitude was similar. What an annoyance!) This was the only hint I picked up on of all the other “excitement.”

Finally we all returned to the hotel, and once all the children went to sleep, I ate dinner, as it were: chips and salsa, plus a slice of bologna. I never said it was the best dinner ever.

Thoughts on the vendor hall: as you might expect, places like My Father’s World and Heart of Dakota have very large displays, as did Vision Forum, Answers in Genesis, A Beka Book, and Bob Jones. On the other hand, so did places like Miller Pads & Paper and Well-Trained Mind/Peace Hill Press. There were a fair number of completely secular or non-sectarian vendors. There was one awesome games vendor, and several used/antique book vendors (I found the Francis Scott Key COFA book in near-mint condition! One of my favorite books as a child.). There was certainly more than enough to look at, even for secular, evolutionary, and/or non-sectarian homeschoolers. Other vendors clearly had a religious slant to some of their offerings (Exploring Creation with Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, anyone? I saw that series EVERYWHERE), but also had non-sectarian and secular resources.

One thing that even Spousal Unit noted was how various curriculums were marketed. Without fail, all of the mathematics curriculums were being sold under the guise of “Math is tough,” whether as an explicit slogan (printed on the free wooden ruler we were handed) or in a more implicit manner. “Where,” he asked me, “are the curricula that are challenging? Where are the banners saying ‘If your current math is too easy, come visit our table!’?” Needless to say, there was no table for Art of Problem Solving.

I think any attendee is going to find multiple vendors and booths that do not, in any way, apply to his/her family and needs. That said, with a vendor hall that large, there was still more than enough to buy and plenty of things to browse. In some ways, I’m glad there were a number of vendors I immediately did not consider, since that made it seem easier and less overwhelming!


Memory Work Monday

One of the gals on the WTM forum suggested blogging on Mondays about memory work. What a great idea! So, I’ll share what’s going on as far as memory work around these parts.

Both EG & FB have memorized one level of IEW’s Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization this school year: level one for FB, and level two for EG (who memorized level one last year). Rather than continue onward immediately, we’ve spent the last two months or so cementing the poems via the every-other-one every-other-day method recommended. On Fridays, the kids listen to the entire CD for that level. It’s working very well. EG will probably start on level three’s poems after our spring break or in May, but FB will wait until August or so to start on level two.

Both of them also have a memory work notebook as well, for every other subject or piece of memory work. They have the dividers for daily, M-W-F & T-Th, each day of the week, and numbered dividers for each day of the month. This week, we’re not introducing any new pieces, but evaluating if any need to move to a new divider. This is mainly because FB’s birthday is in the middle of the week, and we don’t do formal schoolwork on birthdays. I don’t want to introduce a new piece only to skip the third day!

FB’s current daily memory work includes
• six regions of the United States
• speed of light
• the Olympians (plus Hestia/Vesta & Hades/Pluto)
• “Metrical Feet – A Lesson for a Boy,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
• Psalm 100
• “The Star-Spangled Banner”

His M-W-F memory work includes “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Egyptian Ennead, and “Four Seasons of the Year.” The T-Th memory work includes the Greek Alphabet song, “The Cardinal Directions,” the Pledge of Allegiance, boiling and freezing points of water, the speed of sound, the months of the year, and the names of regular polygons.

He has a divider for each day of the week, and under those we have elected officials, periods of early history, telephone numbers, “America the Beautiful,” the visible spectrum, days of the week in order, states of matter, “Days of the Week” (the Mother Goose rhyme), the four oceans, the seven continents, “How Many Seconds?”, the seasons, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” and parallel & perpendicular lines. He’s also memorized all the poetry from First Language Lessons Level 1 and four Christmas carols: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Adeste Fideles,” “Away in a Manager,” and “Silent Night.” We review the Christmas carols once a month (on the 25th, if possible!). I’m really pleased with how much he’s memorized this year!

I’ve required more of EG, as she’s older. I also planned the year based on how well she’d memorized poetry, forgetting that she had the audio for that. Memory work goes much more smoothly for her if she has audio to help her learn it, so next year, I’ll be scaling back so that the Spousal Unit or I can record the selections via computer for her. That said, she’s still accomplished a tremendous amount.

Her current daily memory work includes:
• tectonic plates
• “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
• Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
• Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar
• nutritional categories
• the water cycle
• properties of addition and multiplication
• the planets
• more telephone numbers
• Psalm 100
• “The Star-Spangled Banner”
• five kingdoms
• seven levels of taxonomy
• the Olympians (plus Hestia/Vesta & Hades/Pluto)
• the Greek winds
• current elected officials, including party affliations
• current justices of the Supreme Court

Her M-W-F memory work includes periods of early history, parts of animal and plant cells, the seven wonders of the ancient world, The Gettysburg Address, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” and “Jonathan Bing.” (We’ve integrated the level one IEW poems into her memory work binder at this point.) Her T-Th memory work includes poetic verse lengths, “America the Beautiful,” “O Captain! My Captain!”, the five senses, four sentence purposes, “Metrical Feet – A Lesson for a Boy,” the Egyptian Ennead, “Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore,” and an excerpt from MLK, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which she says with his cadences, having learned it from an audio of the actual speech.

Under her dividers for each day of the week, she has the continents, oceans, “In Flanders Fields,” four sentence structures, “The Ingenious Little Old Man,” “Persevere,” pronouns, prepositions, characteristics of living things, periods of Egyptian history, telephone numbers, “The Swan and the Goose,” the pledge of allegiance, “After the Party,” “My Gift,” “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” the Greek Alphabet song, the Pythagorean theorem, “My Shadow,” “Who Has Seen the Wind?”, and “The Eagle.”

Under the dividers for days 1-31 of each month, we have the same Christmas carols as FB, plus the remainder of the poems from level one of IEW’s poetry.

Whew! And that’s our memory work so far this year. I really need to re-evaluate how much to expect from dd; I expected a lot, as I said, but I also did this partially because I felt like I should have done more memory work, and done it more systematically, when she was younger. At some point I do have to accept that she’s just not going to memorize as many things as a result, and figure out where to concentrate her time and energy.

Weekly Report: Week Thirty-One (days 151-155)

Last week was abbreviated by necessity, as we attended the Southeast Homeschool Convention. That will be subject of its own blog post(s); however, I will say that I definitely plan to attend one of the conventions each year. Next year it will likely be Memphis, because the proposed dates for Greenville include FB's birthday. Prior to attending, however, we did manage to complete approximately five days' worth of school, at least for EG.

EG is supposed to be taking an online course through Art of Problem Solving. She's missed two class sessions so far, because the authorization for her account didn't go through until this morning. So I had her work through some of the text in an attempt to (hopefully) keep pace. She's also still reviewing algebra via Art of Problem Solving's Introduction to Algebra book. While at the convention, she attended two of Ed Zaccaro's sessions, making her week full of math.

EG read several books for literature and history, all focused on medieval times, particularly in Europe. In science, she wrote about evolution and read several more sources, as well as reading about DNA fingerprinting. I picked up two additional sources for her regarding DNA while in Greenville, both dealing with forensic science. She's continuing to review grammar via copies of English Workshop and Sentence Composing in Elementary School, as well as reviewing her stems and words from Caesar's English. She finished her music appreciation assignments for the year! Overall, it was a successful week.

For FB, we did skip a few things, like Right Start; he kept going with Miquon, though. He did one lesson in Spelling Workout plus all of our other language arts work. He also learned about Octavian/Augustus Caesar in history and read a couple of Let's Read and Find Out science books. He didn't attend any math sessions, but he did attend one of Jim Weiss's sessions, and met him in the vendor hall, which may have made his day. Or week. I'd say month, but since his birthday is on Wednesday, I think that will make his month.

PC apparently refuses to use "normal" language. She was caught singing "Toot too chugga chugga big red go" over the weekend. When asked if she was going to ever call them "cars," she said "No. They're gos." Right on, kid.


NaVidPoMo: Day Twenty

Latter Days trailer. I do love this movie.


NaVidPoMo: Day Nineteen

I think most homeschoolers will find at least three or four things with which they agree. I think I've spent the weekend surrounded by those for whom the majority is true. Eek!


NaVidPoMo: Day Seventeen

Because I love this one. Go to about 1:00 if you just want the music.


NaVidPoMo: Day Sixteen

An important message. Slight language warning.


NaVidPoMo: Day Fifteen

Beware the Ides of March!

That said, this has nothing to do with Julius Caesar or Roman history. Just plain ol' American history, and it's fun, too. What's for fun than a fiddling Thomas Jefferson?


NaVidPoMo: Day Fourteen

Because I'm tired. Tired of the looks of disgust, the chortles, the rolling of eyes. Yes, I'm a liberal, and yes, I homeschool. And yes, I wear my politics on my car just as much as many of the conservative homeschoolers. I don't laugh at them, or roll my eyes where they can see, or give their vehicles dirty looks as they sit inside them.

"I know you like to use that word 'liberal' as a crime."

"Because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor."


Book Review: The Purity Myth

Abstinence classes that tell girls they’re dirty and used unless they “save it”; a culture that doesn’t believe women who are raped; porn-based beauty standards for our genitals; a moral compass for young women that’s based solely on sexuality. . . . There’s no doubt that we have a difficult fight ahead of us, but I know we’re up for it.

So begins the final chapter of Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth. A world without all of those things sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? From my perspective, it sounds like a world that all would enjoy and want, not just those that wear the labels of “liberal,” “progressive,” or “feminist.” And yet, of course, there is much in Valenti’s book that would be hotly disputed by those who self-label as conservative, or perhaps even moderate.

The core of her message is that, in American society, we have reduced female moral agency to be equivalent to an individual female’s sexual “status.” Is she straight, white, middle class? A virgin until marriage? Check the “good” box. Is she queer, a woman of color, of a lower socioeconomic status? Not a virgin? Check the “bad” box. It’s a passive morality, Valenti argues, one that is predicated not on what a woman does but rather what she does not do.

The book brings together many strands to support her argument, and does it well. I found familiar authors and titles gracing her pages: Robert Jensen and his book Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity; Ariel Levy and her book Female Chauvinist Pigs; Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl; Michael Kimmel’s Guyland; Cristina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America; Natalie Angier and her wonderful Woman: An Intimate Geography; Meenakshi Gigt Durham’s The Lolita Effect. What Valenti does, and skillfully, is to weave all these important pieces into a coherent whole, and tie the issues together.

Inherently, she argues, padded training bras, purity balls, raunch culture, and more, all add up towards one goal: reversing the gains of the feminist movement. Putting women back in “their place,” and reverting towards the so-called traditional gender roles.

If you know me in real life, you can imagine the look on my face at the idea of traditional gender roles. I’ve been doing my best to turn gender roles and expectations on their heads since I was a kid, and while I do make choices that seem ‘traditional,’ it’s just that: these are my choices, not my only options. I’m not stuck nor limited.

If you don’t know me in real life, you may be surprised by my diatribe against traditional gender roles. After all, I’m a mother who stays at home and homeschools her children. From the outside, or even from this blog, you don’t get much more traditional-seeming than that. For goodness’ sake, I even drive a minivan. As I said above though, these are the choices that I have made, not a role in which I am trapped. I don’t feel that all women should make the same choices as each other, but rather that each woman should have agency to make her own choices for her own life.

And, ultimately, that’s what the book emphasizes: that women are not property, that we don’t need to be covered (akin to a breeding mare or cow), that we have moral agency. Virginity has no universal or medical definition; reducing women to the state of their virginity seems ludicrous and sad–at best.

NaVidPoMo: Day Twelve

One of the best love stories ever told. Extra bonus points because it's set to music from Love Actually.


NaVidPoMo: Day Eleven

It's Friday, and nothing says awesomeness equivalent to Fridays like BSG does.

Weekly Report: Week Thirty (days 146-150)

The weeks seem to just be rolling by... I am loving getting the infusion of new curriculum and I can't wait until the convention next week! Still, we're trying our darnedest to finish the year strong.

FB finished McGuffey's Primer, which he's been reading aloud to me at a rate of one selection per day! He's thrilled, especially since I told him we'd wait a week or two before we started the next book. He's still progressing steadily and somewhat rapidly through his other subjects & curricula: SWO A, WWE 1, Miquon Orange (just a few pages left!), Right Start B, and so forth. He continued learning about Caesar in history this week, we read several Let's Read and Find Out science books, and he's planning on experimenting up a storm while he & EG are at the grandparents' house this weekend.

EG is powering through her review of algebra using the Art of Problem Solving text. This is a great review for her and I absolutely love this text. I can't recommend it highly enough. She's actually just added a few new curricula in the last few weeks: Sentence Composing for Elementary School and Figuratively Speaking are two of them. The former is a little bit below her level but I wanted something structured to finish out the year as a good grammar & writing review, and this has fit the bill perfectly. She's doing on lesson of Figuratively Speaking a week, alongside continuing to use TIP's Growing Up Heroic. Literary analysis and terms are something we've largely skimmed over, so this is a good formal introduction. In science, we're taking a few weeks to do some in-depth study and discussion of evolution, including genetics. This week she read Evolution Revolution and wrote a summary for each of the four sections, plus did some other miscellaneous reading from Universe. She's planning on taking her Space Exploration science kit to the grandparents' house.

We stopped our day on Wednesday to watch Discovery land for the last time. I'm unaccountably sad about the approaching end of the shuttle program. I literally cannot remember a time when the shuttle program was not sending people into space (excepting the hiatus after Challenger, of course); my mother cannot remember a time when the US government was not sending people into space, exploring and experimenting and discovering. Ultimately, as my mother says, we are a nation that does not value education, learning, or life, and this is one of those instances where it is readily apparent.

PC is doing her level best to potty train. Alternatively, she's doing her best to wear every single pair of underwear that she owns. Ha! I am frantically scrambling to knit a shirt for FB's birthday (in two weeks). It's frantic because I initially ordered the yarn in January, there were myriad delays and lack of communication, and I finally received a refund and ordered it from another place late last week. I remain hopeful that I'll be able to get it accomplished. I'll be the frantically knitting one in Greenville...


How Long?

“How long will you homeschool?”

“Will you homeschool high school?”

“Are you going to keep doing that through high school graduation?”

Haven’t we all heard at least one of those questions, or a variation thereof? For whatever reason, it is deeply important to some people that they ascertain if we’re the homeschooler who is going to see it all the way through, until the bitter end. (Thank goodness these people don’t know about the possible ways to ‘homeschool college.’)

The answer for us, is yes, we’re going to keep going, and homeschool high school. In theory, we’ll make sure that there are not better options when each of the children is entering high school, but I am confident that there are not. I also feel like I will want the “reward” of teaching my teenagers. I love teenagers. It makes me sad to think about having a finite number of teenage children. I’m putting in the sweat and tears of grammar and logic stages so we can homeschool rhetoric stage. To be honest, on many levels, I cannot wait for high school!

Still, that’s a long time. In fact, counting from the “first day of kindergarten” for EG, to the projected graduation date for PC, I’ll be in the trenches for nearly 22 years. Sure, that includes weekends and summers, and other holidays, but if you homeschool, you understand: homeschool moms very rarely get true, complete holidays. I, at least, feel like I am constantly researching, planning, and evaluating, even if only in my mind and not on paper or screen. From today, then, I’ve still got about 16 years or so of this gig.

That, of course, assumes that I don’t have another child. The decision about that has not been made. Just for fun, though, if I did, it would bring my time homeschooling to about 26 years total.

I feel that, at the end, I should receive a pension and a plaque. At the very least, I think I’ll expect a gold watch or the equivalent thereof. Twenty-six years, y’all. Phew.

NaVidPoMo: Day Ten

In honor of Discovery's final voyage, go here and scroll down to the video. Watch it!



I'm Just One Person

I find myself having this thought often, lately. "I'm just ONE person. What can I do? I can't change people's minds." I find myself despairing over common and prevailing attitudes.

If you are, like me, despairing over the events in Wisconsin, I have something you can do. On this post, a commenter left a list of Koch Industries products to boycott.

Quilted Northern®,
Angel Soft®,
Sparkle® ,
Soft ‘n Gentle®,
Mardi Gras®,
Dixie® Products

LYCRA® fiber

Copy, print and other office paper products
Lumber, wallboard, other building products

ANTRON® carpet fiber,
CORDURA® fabric,
COMFOREL® fiberfill

OXYCLEAR™ resin,
PERFORMA® film and sheet, and

Beaverhead near Yellowstone National Park in Montana,
Spring Creek in the scenic Flint Hills of Kansas,
Matador Ranch in Texas
Matador Pro Shop’s online store

We vote only periodically at the polls. We can vote daily with our wallets.

NaVidPoMo: Day Nine

For those of you unfamiliar with the show par excellence that is The West Wing, Martin Sheen's character is President Josiah Bartlet, who in the show is both from the Democratic party and a devout Catholic. And yes, the things he says have been written before, but no one delivers them like President Bartlet.


NaVidPoMo: Day Eight

I first saw this video within a day or two of it originally being posted. At the time, I'd never listened to any of the songs from Wicked; I was watching it solely for the Firefly part. It's a beautiful video, and it introduced me to this song.

PC stops whatever she's doing and comes to watch it, whenever I play it. In utero conditioning, anyone?


World Geography

I’ve posted previously that I just wasn’t happy with the way history was proceeding this year for EG. Logic stage history is supposed to be about making connections, discovering the “why” behind history, and delving into cause and effect. I felt like it had instead become a checklist and the result was merely a continuation of learning and approaches like those used in grammar stage. Ouch!

I decided to make a change for next year. Instead of continuing with a chronological study of the world, using a spine, we’re going to look at history through different ‘lenses’ for the next two years (sixth and seventh grades, approximately). Next year, EG is going to study physical geography, the history of cartography, and a bit of cultural geography, all through Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the World with Art. One of things that appealed to me was the drawing component; art skills is one area that continually gets neglected in our home/school. I ordered it last weekend, received it last week, and spent the weekend printing it out and then reading through the history material, the map drawing directions, and the activity suggestions.

I’m really excited about this course of study for next year! Now, if you’re familiar with the curriculum, you know that it really doesn’t include any cultural geography, and that is an area we’ll supplement somewhat. In theory, we have 30-60 minutes set aside each week for art skills, plus 3 hours a week for history/social sciences. With this amount of time, I’m confident EG will be able to complete the reading, the map drawings, one to four activities per chapter, and still have time for a bit of supplementary reading and projects. We may use Evan-Moor geography units for each continent to enhance the physical geography, or we may not; I have to procure at least one in order to decide. One of the things I really want to do is incorporate some cooking for various countries and geographical areas. I also want EG to complete four projects over the course of the year (approximately one per quarter, or one per every seven to eight chapters). Essentially, I’m thinking of having EG do these projects each on a topic that is more related to cultural geography or the history of cartography (as opposed to physical geography), and she’ll have a choice of what format in which to present each one: a display board, a standard essay or paper, a Keynote/PowerPoint-style presentation on the computer, or a website are the formats I’ve brainstormed for now. We’ll also try to actually take advantage of the library for the cultural geography study; I’m thinking of those series of books in the children’s section that cover most of the countries in five or six well-photographed chapters per book/country.

This year of study won’t lend itself to writing as well as straight history might, so I’ll have to make sure to include outlining practice and writing practice in other subjects moreso than I might otherwise would have. It won’t give EG a chance to practice interpreting written primary sources, but it will give her experience with a different type of primary source: old maps! Since the course is projected to take only thirty weeks, we may take time halfway through to do a Jackdaw, and again at the end of the course. Even with these potential downsides, though, I feel like it’s a great choice for her for the coming academic year.

NaVidPoMo: Day Seven

Someone posted this a week or two ago, and suggested that if you substitute "homeschooling" for "baseball," it could be an encouraging video for homeschooling. Really, though, it can relate to anything.


NaVidPoMo: Day Six

This seems appropriate for a Sunday!


NaVidPoMo: Day Five

Special Bonus Weekend Theme Edition! :D

The one beloved by my children:

The one for math geeks and nerds everywhere:

And the one for homeschool moms:


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Nine (days 141-145)

Every February, I have witnessed a brain-growth spurt in EG. Then I spend March and April scrambling to challenge EG rather than present her with busywork. This year is no exception. Yes, I know, I should plan ahead, but I never know exactly how she'll spurt. Sometimes it's more in one area than another.

The big news this week is that EG finished all of her art appreciation assignments for this school year! Otherwise known as "the end of the year is approaching," I tend to think of it as beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The algebra book from Art of Problem Solving arrived and I have to say that I somewhat wish we'd used it from the beginning. Live and learn, I suppose; I had good reasons for choosing Life of Fred at the time, but wow, does it feel like a waste of time now.

FB has been voraciously consuming the SOTW audiobook. I had managed to keep him just reviewing what we'd already covered, but I think he's sprinted ahead of us now. We're officially learning about Julius Caesar this week. In one of the books we're reading about Caesar, the beginning of the paragraph has a little sentence where his mother is calling him inside, using his first name, Gaius. The next sentence refers to him as Caesar. Unfortunately, I found myself reading "Baltar." Oops. Yesterday, FB grabbed the Miquon book and did six or seven pages instead of the scheduled one. Hopefully my Rainbow Resource order will arrive before he commandeers the Miquon book another time and finishes it on me--the next Miquon is supposed to be on its way.

PC has finally stopped referring to going to the bathroom as "ouch." This sounds like a good thing, and I suppose it is, except she went straight to the stage of thinking it's amusing to insert "poo-poo" into almost any conversation. She also managed to attempt to break the drawer on the crib. Not that she sleeps in the crib, but it makes an adequate toy box, given our total lack of space for anything that PC owns. (Some of her toys are in the crib, some are upstairs in the playroom, some are in the living room. Some of her clothes are in the same room as the crib, some are in our bedroom. You get the idea.)

I'm hoping that we'll get something more accomplished around the house this weekend towards the goal of moving. We did get the piece of fencing that needed replacing finished this week. The dog is thrilled. Next up: drywall estimates, and landscaping. In keeping with my theme for the month, this is how I feel about the house:

NaVidPoMo: Day Four

Who doesn't want to hear George Takei's voice saying "douchebag"? A tip of the hat to a friend whom I know would appreciate that I chose this one for her birthday. :)


Curriculum Infusion!

Box Days! Some of this is for the remainder of this year, some is for May Term, and some is for 2011-2012.

English Workshop Second Course (grammar workbook)

Figuratively Speaking and Sentence Composing for Elementary School; the latter is really too easy for EG, but then, I wanted something light for the end of the school year.

Ellen McHenry curriculum: Mapping the World with Art and Excavating English. I started printing out the former and EG caught sight of it. "Oooh. This looks like fun!" I think so, too.

Art of Problem Solving. EG is going to review/refresh her algebra I & II knowledge for the next few weeks to couple of months, while also doing their Introduction to Counting & Probability course.

Lots of goodies! First Time Analogies for FB for May Term, and Primarily Logic for FB for 2011-2012. The Young Investor for EG (maybe May Term, maybe 2011-2012). Primary Grade Challenge Math for FB for 2011-2012 and beyond.

Geography! A May Term project/subject for FB

Vocabulary Workshop Purple. This is for FB, and we'll start it at some point in 2011-2012, though probably not at the beginning of the year. I ordered it at the same time as EG's Vocabulary Workshop A & B, but only this one arrived in today's shipment. Weird!

Last week, I won a facebook contest that Timberdoodle was having for Presidents' Day, and those goodies arrived as well:
A graphic novel-style biography of President Obama, a graphic novel-style book about Lincoln's assassination, a Sterling Point book about George Washington, a 3D puzzle/model of the White House, and Brainbox Presidents. Yay!

I got one more very awesome thing, but since I purchased it prematurely (a long story), it has to wait a few weeks to be introduced. It's really difficult to wait!

Greece. Grease.

Flipping through the radio stations as we returned from buying milk for the week, I came upon "You're the One That I Want." After a few moments, EG asked where the song was from. "Grease," I stated confidently, and returned to singing along with the song.

A moment later, I heard FB pipe up. "It's been translated," he assured his sisters.

Greece. Grease. Just a slight difference.

Is It All Possible?

I've often lamented, to myself and others, that I just need to find "the answer." When I find that answer, I think, I'll be able to accomplish all that I want to accomplish. The fact that I don't currently merely shows a lack of willpower, initiative, creativity, or problem-solving ability. This, anyway, is the thesis from which I work.

What if my thesis isn't actually true?

I have a number of things that I want to do, and do well. Though you might not realize it upon walking into my house, I can be a perfectionist. If I can't do something perfectly, I'd rather just not do it at all, which actually does explain my house. I often let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

What if my expectations are simply too high? What if all the things I feel deserve 100% add up to more than 24 hours in a day? Maybe it's not that I need more problem-solving ability or willpower. Maybe it's simply that I've reached my limits, insofar as my life is currently configured.

My daily tasks & desires run more or less as follows:
- Schoolwork with EG, which includes checking her work, teaching her, and helping her stay on track with her work
- Schoolwork with FB, of which all but 10-15 minutes is direct instruction & sitting with him
- Parenting EG, FB, & PC
- any activities outside the house for EG or FB, which usually involve a period of “sit and wait” for me (I do try to utilize that time for reading or knitting when possible)
- knitting, 15 minutes average (in practice, I will knit a lot for several days, then none for several, and I often knit while watching television)
- reading, 30 minutes (a book I have not previously read)
- magazines, kindle books (I have a backlog), or re-reading, 15 minutes/1 chapter/1 magazine (whichever comes 'first')
- exercise of some type
- cooking or otherwise preparing three meals per day
- decluttering time, 15 minutes
- school prep, which generally takes between one and two hours weekly
- general housework, which may on a given day include vacuuming, laundry, cleaning bathrooms, or any one of a number of myriad tasks, not including the dinner dishes, the trash, or the litter box, ever, thankfully

Let's be honest. It's the world we live in, so I must also include...
- blogging
- email
- facebook and other social media

Then there's the current tasks of
- packing
- otherwise organizing to move

There are more sporadic tasks as well, like the duties I have for various community organizations, switching out clothes for a new season, choosing curriculum, and writing lesson plans.

Maybe, given the way our life is currently scheduled and otherwise designed, it's not all possible. No amount of waking early in the morning will give me the ability to drive to the Y, work out, and get back before dh has to go to work, not without my going to bed before the kids at night. I don't want to become a drudge; I do need leisure time. My ideal would be approximately one hour of television per weeknight, on average, as well as the above time for reading, knitting, and digital tasks.

I'm sure there are people that do everything I've listed on the list above, and then do even more. The question is not about theoretical possibility. The question is about whether I can do these things to my personal standards, and within the constraints of the schedule we have.

An example, then: I am unwilling to put the kids into the childcare at the Y, despite the fact that it is a "benefit" of membership. This is mostly because I had such negative experiences with it when FB was younger. However, the childcare at the Y is also closed for three hours each afternoon–the very same three hours which would be best for us! I'm not willing to yield on the time we devote to school in the mornings, nor am I willing to concede the children's afternoon activities or dinner as a family. The end result, then, is that it’s very difficult for me to utilize the Y. Now, of course, there are alternate exercising options, and the point is not to solicit comments and suggestions, because really, I can brainstorm. ;) In fact, the point is simple: as my life is currently structured, perhaps I truly can’t do everything I want to do. Perhaps I need to focus more on a few things at a time. These last two weeks have been a time for looking at curriculum and planning for the convention later this month; consequently, I’ve done less reading and knitting. Now that I feel I have a good handle on my plan, I can move back towards more reading and knitting. Perhaps this is how it needs to be; I simply don’t know.

NaVidPoMo: Day Three

For all the other girls who aren't ready to make nice, for one reason or another.


NaVidPoMo: BONUS [Day Two]

Because this day has, against all reason, been a beautiful one:

NaVidPoMo: Day Two

This is one of my favorite vids ever. It's to "I Enjoy Being A Girl" and it features a lot of awesome women from various television shows. This is single-handedly responsible for my starting to watch BSG. I kept watching for other reasons, but I started watching for Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck.


NaVidPoMo: Day One

As I stated yesterday, I'm going to post a vid every day. I have all these lovely youtube videos bookmarked and favorited, and rarely think to share them. I'm going to rectify that.

I'm going to start with one for Babylon 5 that was originally done on VHS. It's an excellent video in terms of frames & music matching, and the limitations of the technology used at the time makes it all the more notable, in my view. Enjoy!

Babylon5: Total Eclipse of the Heart


Managing Social Media: Digital "Chores"

Social media. I love it, but I also realize it’s created numerous additional digital “chores” that did not previously exist. I spent part of my evening clearing my inbox, followed by going through my google reader. I’m not completely content with google reader but it’s what I’m using for now. I’d be happy to take suggestions of other good blog readers. More than happy.

More than the housekeeping nature of social media, though, I’ve been thinking about why I use various social media. I’ve thought about splitting my twitter account, for instance. I seem to want to use it for two very different things, and while I applaud those who can easily use theirs for multiple reasons, it’s not me, and frankly, I find it (as I currently use it) overwhelming. So I haven’t been using it, because I both want to follow homeschooling people and other friends, and I want to use it to follow various celebrities. It’s not working for me.

I’ve also concluded that even though I don’t get a paycheck for any work I do, I might want a LinkedIn account after all. To be honest, I don’t really want to use facebook for networking and connecting per se. I find networking to be important, but I view facebook more as a personal playground than a professional one. There are also people whom I know from past endeavours with whom I’d like to remain connected without necessarily giving them access to photographs and other things on facebook. And yes, I know about lists and so forth, and no, I’m not interested in pursuing that option on facebook. I think LinkedIn actually will do exactly what I want it to do–freeing me to use facebook I would like to use it. Win-win.

I’ve decided to a variation on NaBloPoMo in March. I often think about sharing random finds on youtube and the like, but I rarely do. So, for March, I’m going to post one per day. I’ll still be posting other things, but I think it’ll be sort of fun. Most of them will be light-hearted, but I’m sure I’ll slip in something thought-provoking at some point, if I can. :) I find this particularly amusing since the official theme for NaBloPoMo March is “In A Word,” and here I am, doing it without, well, words. At least not the typed form.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Eight (days 136-140)

Perhaps the biggest news in homeschool-land is that we’re switching math programs. EG recently finished Life of Fred Advanced Algebra and the accompany Home Companion, so we had not planned on her starting the next LoF book immediately as it was. However, LoF will no longer be her primary math program. She’s requested that she continue to use it for review (she does review math on the weekends and thoroughout the summer), and we’re happy for that to occur, but it will no longer be her first exposure to a topic. The plan for the remainder of the schoolyear had been to utilize Patty Paper Geometry as a pre-geometry course, to finish working through Real World Algebra, and to take the online Art of Problem Solving course Introduction to Counting and Probability. None of that has changed. That gives me at least two months to create a new trajectory.
EG had a good week; she finished all of her work just a bit early. Hello there, February growth spurt of the brain. It’s time to find something to challenge her. I think we’re going to increase what she’s doing for German through either The Learnables or powerspeaK. The Learnables is my first choice, but we have to investigate how we’ll trick the Mac into playing the Windows-only CD. I’m perplexed that in today’s day and age, major curricula providers would still have products compatible with just one operating system.

The biggest news in FB-land is probably his increasing fluency with reading. I suspect he could skip lessons in OPGTR, but we’re continuing to go through it systematically. I have him working on reading from three angles at present (a reader each day, a story from McGuffey’s Primer, and OPGTR); I haven’t gone back to Explode the Code since he’s now doing spelling via Spelling Workout.
He learned more about ancient China this week, specifically Confucius, and also played with tangrams for awhile. He also played with several of the Thames & Kosmos Little Labs this week.


The Beam In Your Eye, or Somewhere Along in the Bitterness

I’m not really sure if I should post this, to be honest. To some, it may be viewed as unnecessarily airing dirty laundry. Others may just decide I’m whinging, and they may be right, as well. Ultimately, though, I think that there are others like me, and so I’m writing about this–for them.

As I’ve stated before, I don’t think the homeschooling community and the rest of the world use the term “secular” to mean the same things. In the homeschooling community, it appears to be a definition where there is an absence. If one is not a certain type of conservative, creationist Christian, then one is defined as “secular.” In many ways, secular simply means evolutionary. In the rest of the world, a person identifying as secular is usually assumed to be agnostic or atheistic.

Needless to say, there are many religious people and people of faith who homeschool and are also evolutionary homeschoolers, or also liberal, politically, but in general, they are considered to be “secular homeschoolers.”

I find this sadly ironic. I read books by theologians and Biblical scholars. I read about evolution and God. I read different books than do these non-secular homeschoolers, but I am no less engaged, in my opinion, in my faith. I know what I believe. I have studied the Bible. I have read commentaries. I come from a long line of thoughtful people who have all identified themselves as Christian, and until I encountered the homeschooling community, I did as well.

Over the years, I’ve stopped identifying myself as explicitly Christian. It’s been made clear to me that I don’t believe “correctly” in order to have that label. I call myself Christopagan, or a liberal Christian, because I have to distinguish myself in some way from those that have excluded me. If Christian still means a follower of Christ, though, I’m entitled to wear that name.

I've often thought that homeschoolers of all different stripes can still learn much from each other. Some of my very favorite blogs to read are written by people who are, in fact, that specific type of conservative, creationist Christian. I don't feel that I have to agree with my friends on every issue. I recognize that there are places where two good people can come to two different conclusions, and both stances come from a place of conviction.

But something happened last month, though the details are not important, and I was left feeling as though I had been cast out, a beam in someone's eye. Or perhaps I was a misbegotten evangelism project, and it was realized I wasn't going to suddenly become a Calvinist. The details, really, are not important.

How I’ve felt in the weeks since?


I’ve hesitated to respond to blog posts and threads on message boards. I have wondered if my input is truly welcome at all. I’m not a Calvinist. I don’t attend a Reformed church. I don’t attend a church that talks about a moment of salvation. I’m on the road to becoming an Episcopalian. One of those people, who have gay bishops, and women deacons, rectors, and priests. Who reads Francis Collins. I just want you all to know, because I’m also someone who celebrates the old Celtic holidays. I respect and revere the earth, and have from my earliest Sunday School days. I teach my children evolution. My undergraduate major was biology, and I agree with the statement, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” These are my opinions, my faith, my beliefs, and who I am.

As I stated above, I eagerly read the blogs of people with whom I may disagree on some of the above points, or even all. I sometimes find I have more common ground, in terms of homeschooling,with the very conservative (religiously or politically) than I do my fellow liberals or “secular” homeschoolers. There are opinions I would and do cherish highly from those with whom I seem to “differ.” I thought, perhaps foolishly, that the same was true in reverse. That despite my “evolutionary worldview,” my opinions were still welcome on other subjects. I thought that friendships were possible even amongst those who disagree.

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t come from a place of hurt, and some anger which has developed in retrospect. I find myself wondering how much of things in the past were lies. I’ve let myself be burned again. Last time, my mother suggested it was because the people in question were atheistic apolitical assholes. That would be easier, maybe, but no. This time it was a highly religious libertarian who was cloaked (and remains cloaked, publicly) in an appearance of gentle, sweet concern for all. I find myself very bitter. I have friends that don’t treat me badly, so I must not be a completely awful person. I try very hard to be respectful of others’ beliefs. The fact remains that, once again, I don’t know what I did wrong. I existed.

I try to live my life in simple terms. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” My cheeks keep getting slapped, though.


Not A Principal I'd Like to Have

Last week, a principal’s blog post was passed around on my facebook feed. The title was provocative: “We Need to Stop Teaching Our Students How to Write.” There were some interesting discussions that were generated by the link. I think he addresses larger issues though.

01. The issue of change in education, in terms of both method and content
02. The necessity of memorization
03. The necessity of proper spelling
04. The necessity of having a ‘right way’ to do some skills
05. The necessity of cursive penmanship
06. The necessity of foreign language learning
07. The necessity of the nebulous “technology skills”

The author of the blog post is in favor of change, foreign language learning in elementary school, and technology skills. He’s against spelling, keyboarding, cursive, and memorization (his specific example is state capitals).

I wholeheartedly agree that, in general, the United States needs to move towards foreign language learning in elementary school, and not of the one day a week enrichment variety. It should be a daily subject, even if it occupies just fifteen to twenty minutes, and it should begin with listening and speaking as early as possible, with reading and writing of the foreign language following once the pupils have a rudimentary grasp of reading and writing in English. In most cases, then, I suspect the pattern would be listening & speaking in grades K-2, with reading and writing beginning in about third grade.

Now he and I part ways.

The overall tone of the post is one of embracing change solely for the sake of embracing change. I wrote about that not long ago, and how we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Having recently played the part of “the baby,” I’m even more sensitive to this. Don’t change things simply because it seems like the thing to do.

What, exactly, are technology skills? Why do we need to teach them to third grade students, for instance? I’m going to develop my own interpretation, since by the author’s own admission, he does not include keyboarding as a technology skill. I think perhaps he means something like “word processing, internet research and safety, computer care, troubleshooting and ethics” or perhaps “computer programming and robotics, advanced Excel, PowerPoint, and Web 2.0 skills.” I suspect he would agree that a goal for technology education would be “becoming self-sufficient with computers/laptops.” I took these quotes from descriptions of sixth and seventh grade technology courses at one of the finest schools in the country. I have no problem with their objectives. I don’t understand what there is to be gained by a third grader having these same skills. A third grader doesn’t really need to be doing internet research, mostly likely can’t truly comprehend internet safety, and would be learning programs that would be several versions out of date by the time s/he reaches middle school. And, no, I don’t think that fourth graders need to be doing very much of their schoolwork on the computer.

Beyond these arguments, though, I do see inherent value in the very subjects which he scorns. Cursive penmanship, memorization, and spelling all train the brain and develop skills that are not used solely in isolation. They have value both in terms of what they achieve invisibly and the immediate visible value.

I find his distaste for keyboarding the least understandable, however. Keyboarding is taught because there is one way that is more efficient for the vast majority of typists. Keyboarding is taught because proper posture and hand position do matter in terms of body mechanics and possible future ailments. Keyboarding is taught so that kids can best utilize those technology skills which he lauds so much! Without proper typing learned, anyone is at a distinct disadvantage.

I understand that public schools are put in an unenviable position. I realize that instructional time is short, and there are external pressure to teach to the tests–tests whose scores do not increase with proper spelling, good penmanship, memorization state capitals, or achievement of a benchmark words per minute. However, to overuse a tired cliche, throwing out the baby and the bathwater in order to have room for a few bath toys? It simply does not make sense.


However, I Don't Care For Cherries

Happy Presidents' Day!

I still vaguely remember when it was called Washington's Birthday, and people remarked on Lincoln's Birthday as well. Does this make me old?

EG & FB don't have Master's Academy today, because of Presidents' Day, but we're still having school here at home. I did manage to plan some Presidents' Day themed reading, though.

FB and PC are going to listen to Anne Rockwell's Presidents' Day, which, to be honest, was something of a late addition; PC spotted it at the library and decided we had to bring it home with us.

FB has two readers for today, George Washington--Soldier, Hero, President and Abraham Lincoln: Lawyer, Leader, Legend. I had hoped to find a reader about Thomas Jefferson, but I didn't have any luck with that at the store I tried, and I didn't have a chance to look at any others.

FB & EG will both listen to Yes, We Can! and (over the course of the week ) Don't Know Much About the Presidents.

Finally, EG will read The Complete Idiot's Guide to the American Presidency.

If we were looking to spend lots of money, or our library carried them, we would watch the Mike Venezia-produced videos on Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Since neither of those are true, we won't, but I do wish our library had them. Three of the courses offered by The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) look interesting for the future: Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (12 lectures); Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words (24 lectures); and Great Presidents (48 lectures).

What are you doing to mark Presidents' Day? Do you celebrate it at all? Perhaps you're more the type to bake a cherry pie or make a pretzel-log cabin? Inquiring minds (well, okay, one mind–mine) want to know!


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Seven (days 131-135)

I feel vaguely defeated this week. There's no particular reason to feel that way; perhaps it's simply the fact that there's still a few months left, we're trying to finish up all the stuff that must be done so we can move, and so forth.

• I did finish a piece of the "Hogwarts knitting," and started another.
• I kept going despite strange food poisoning-like illness on Wednesday. Sometimes you just have to power through, right?

• PC keeps expanding her vocabulary, though in somewhat odd ways at times.
• PC's favorite book at the moment is my old copy of Lovable Furry Old Grover's Resting Places.

• FB continued learning about adding four-digit numbers with "trading," using the base 10 picture cards from Right Start. It's time-consuming to lay out all those cards, but he thinks it's fun, so there you go.
• FB's reading is going well. I'm tempted to show him a lesson from near the end of OPGTR, just to see if he could read it.

• EG is reading up a storm in terms of supplemental science books.
• EG read Tolkien's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight this week and wrote a lovely literature summary.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Six (days 126-130)

Just over a week ago, I was in Florida, enjoying 70 degree days while we played at Disney World. Reentering the cold, frozen land of Georgia (yes, I know, seriously, Georgia should not be cold and frozen) was a harsh reality check last Saturday. I had hopes that we'd buckle down and get a considerable amount of work done, since, after all, it wasn't very fun here. I forgot to take into account the cold my father acquired at Disney World, subsequently infecting the children. Monday, EG didn't go to Master's Academy; Wednesday, FB didn't go to his class or ice skating; Thursday, I took a really long nap by accident (but I didn't get full-blown sickness, so it must've worked!). FB got one good day of school done this week, on Monday, and we managed to finish his WWE assignments for the week. Tomorrow we're going to read more about ancient India. He also finished a lesson in Spelling Workout and two more pages in Miquon; I didn't worry about it beyond that with my very tired cold-ridden boy.

EG did manage to acquit her schoolwork fairly well. She finished MathPack: Quest, which TIP bills as a ten-week unit. She finished in exactly three. I didn't think it would be a ten-week unit when used as homeschool curriculum, but that helps me gauge future purchases from them, hopefully. She started TIP's Growing Up Heroic, completing the first four lessons. I need to dig into the supporting materials for that. She passed two songs at testing on Friday, and started reading about Asia & the Middle East during the time period commonly known as the Middle Ages. In all honesty, she had to really guide herself this week, thanks to the little two being sick, and she did extremely well.

I knitted a shirt for PC and a hat for myself, and listened to several lectures from The Teaching Company's Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations. I also shelved a bunch of books and culled others in the schoolroom, only to have a shelf collapse about ten minutes after I finished. Spousal Unit went to the hardware store this morning (the wonderful, locally owned one), and has since fixed the bookcase, so I suppose I ought to go fix the shelf. Again.


First Grade List for Next Year

In order to not think about the subjects I don’t have decided for 2011-2012, all of which fall under the category of “EG’s Sixth Grade Plans,” I’m going to write down all of my plans for FB, which are complete and therefore not a source of anxiety at the present moment.

Language Arts
     Spelling: Continue with Spelling Workout B and begin Spelling Workout C; this includes beginning to copy the “Pep Talk” rules onto paper, and keeping a running list of “Trouble Words.”
     Grammar: First Language Lessons, Level 2 (the older, combo version of Levels 1 & 2)
     Penmanship: Printing Power, and daily copywork sheets made via HWT’s worksheet generator.
     Composition: Writing With Ease, Level 2, along with writing a letter once a month.
     Oral Reading: Weekly reading aloud from the appropriate Reader of McGuffey’s.
     Poetry: Memorization of level two poems in IEW’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization; appreciation of poetry through the use of the Poetry for Young People series.
     Literature & Reading: In addition to thirty minutes of free, fun reading daily, FB will have assigned literature. Some will be related to his history studies (some of this may be read to him), some will be from a list I’ve compiled of “good books,” and the remainder will be books specifically assigned just at his reading level to continue to improve his reading. I anticipate he will finish Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading prior to the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

     Right Start B, moving into Right Start C; Calculadder drills; The Red Book & The Blue Book from Miquon; Kitchen Table Math and Primary Challenge Math.

     The Story of the World: Volume Two: The Middle Ages and the accompanying Activity Guide; supplemental biographies and other history books, drawn primarily from the You Wouldn’t Want to Be... series and Who in the World Was...? series.

     Rand-McNally Schoolhouse Beginner Map & Geography Activities, if I can find a new copy; The Geography Book.

     Life science, using DK’s First Animal Encyclopedia, The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia, and Incredible Plants as spines, with supplemental books drawn primarily from the Rookie Read-About and Let’s Read and Find Out series, as well as titles by Seymour Simon and National Geographic.

     Saturday School and/or tutoring/class.

The Arts
     Art Skills: Projects at Master’s Academy; also projects at home using How To Teach Art to Children.
     Art Appreciation: Visits to the High Museum; use of Mike Venezia artist biographies and books like A Child’s Book of Art for informal study; history-related art appreciation using Art in Story periodically.
     Music Skills: Recorder instruction and singing at Master’s Academy; basic piano instruction at home using Music for Little Mozarts.
     Music Appreciation: Focus on each month’s composer on Classics for Kids podcast; Beethoven’s Wig series, Classical Kids series, Mike Venezia biographies, and Opal Wheeler biographies with accompanying CDs.
     Performing Arts: Participation in end of the year play at Master’s Academy; attendance at one ballet performance, one theatre performance, and one musical theatre performance throughout the year.

Physical Education and Health
     Health: informal coverage of nutrition, personal hygeiene, disease prevention (through rest, clean hands, good nutrition), and the importance of exercise.
     Physical Activity: Eight weeks of homeschool soccer; ice skating; gymnastics; possibly team sports (baseball or basketball).

The important question, of course, is what do I need to buy at the convention next month?
Writing With Ease, Level Two Workbook
Spelling Workout B
Spelling Workout C
Printing Power
Right Start C
The Red Book
The Blue Book
Primary Challenge Math
The Story of the World: Volume Two

What else do I need to purchase? Some of these may be a better deal at the convention, but I’m not yet sure.
• Supplemental history books
• Supplemental science books
• Mike Venezia artist & composer biographies
Kitchen Table Math
Poetry for Young People series
• Literature books
The Geography Book
• Rand-McNally Schoolhouse Beginner Map and Geography Activities
Music for Little Mozarts Deluxe Starter Kit
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson