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


I Miss My Books

Around this time last year, we thought that we'd be ready to sell the house soon. We took care of various needs, and the next items on the priority list were the remaining tasks to make the house ready to sell. Then the Spousal Unit's freelance work stopped for awhile. We've been paying for a storage shed for about seven months longer than we planned, already.

Now it's restarted again, and while again, we have some other obligations, we're going to be working on those obligations and the remaining house items simultaneously. We need to put up about six feet of fence, have some basic landscaping done, have one of the air conditioning units serviced, and have a section of drywall replaced (and possibly the insulation behind it). We'd like to have the house professionally cleaned just before listing it, but that's not absolutely essential. It's not a long list. In the intervening seven months, though, we've gotten used to the idea that we're moving "someday soon" versus "really soon."

The result is that I've got to go back and declutter some of the same rooms a second time.

The other result that we've kept living. We've done school this year. We've bought books and curriculum and science kits and toys. And in order to stage the house, I know what has to happen.

I have to pack even more books.

I miss my books. I've already packed so many. I hate that some of the kids' books aren't easily accessible for browsing. I don't want to pack any more books.

But I have to.

The only conclusion to which I can come is that I should wait until at least one item off the above list is done (the fence is probably first), and then pack as much as possible, all at once. Like ripping off a band-aid. And hope and pray that the house sells quickly, so we can move...

... so we can have our books back.
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson