Monday, December 31, 2007

Because I am Bored and Evil...

...I started a new blog tonight.

Catherine's Homeschool Stuff will be snuck unto Catherine's Firefox Speed Dial page tonight and tomorrow when she wakes up dark and late (she's determined to stay up 'till midnight tonight) I'll get her on the computer and she can check out her days work! I don't know if this will last but I thought it might be fun PLUS I can link to any online activities I'd like her to try out. AND her relations can check out the blog. ALSO other people can get a glimpse of what a homeschooled kid might do in a day.

We'll see how it goes anyway.

Open Letters From a Teacher - A MUST Read

Here's an open letter from Taylor the Teacher to Mommy bloggers and another one, a fantastic one, for American parents. I'm not an American but the issues and problems outlined in Taylor's letters don't stop at the American border. Those of us in Canada have to deal with them as well. And I'm betting those in the U.K., in Brazil, in Indonesia and beyond have to as well.

The letters are a call to start talking about education. I hope that people also take it as a challenge to start talking about it beyond the cliques we've formed - the homeschoolers, the libertarians, the math reformers, etc. Yes, some of us talk about education but we do it in a piss-poor insular way that never gets loud enough for those outside our circle to hear. We let issues like class size, 'fuzzy' math and creationism in the classroom consume our discussions while the deeper truth is that they're simply symptoms of a system that has fundamental faults.

Anyhow, here's a taste of Taylor's You Got Punk’d: An Open Letter to American Parents:

The establishment has convinced you to send your child to that place. On your dime. Then, they told you that teachers are your enemy. Even if they’re right about us, how can you allow THEM to alienate you from the people who administer your child’s education every day? Particularly if you believe we’re evil and incompetent?

It's my favourite bit because I can see that same strategy in place against parents, especially those of us who take a more active role in our children's education. Divide and conquer, eh?

Anyhow, read her letters and pass them on.

A Weird Look From the Atheist Spouse

Santa dropped off a great present for the family, an Indiana Jones Collection DVD set. It's one of those sets that a family NEEDS to have, like Star Wars (the original series anyway) and Lord of the Rings.

On Boxing Day we put in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Catherine and Harry were having a great times watching until Catherine asked what the ark was exactly. Shannon replied that it was the ark of the covenant from the Old Testament, that it holds the 10 Commandments. She looked at him blankly. He turned around and gave me a weird look that said, "You're the freakin' Christian! Aren't you teaching these kids?"

See, bible stuff has sort of fallen by the wayside the last few months. We've actually had lots of discussion about Christianity but not been reading the Bible or doing related activities. And it was the atheist in the house that was taken aback by that.

We talked about it and both agreed that, religion aside, a good understanding of the bible and Christianity is important for cultural literacy these days. The creationism debate, the effects of native residential schools on the communities of friends, the French/English conflict in Canada, even our socialized medicine all have deep roots in the bible and Christianity. And pop culture...It makes even X-Men a richer read when you understand exactly what being a devout Roman Catholic can do to the demonic-looking Nightcrawler. It also helps when you're trying to figure out why yet another villain is named Cain.

So we're agreed. More Bible. And it was the unbeliever who insisted on it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Curriculum Ordered

I went and spent much money this past week. As if I haven't been doing that for the past month, eh? But this is good, virtuous, educational money spending as it all went to new curriculum for Catherine.

Language Arts - We're dumping Easy Grammar. Easy Grammar is effective but we're both bored silly with it. Instead, I'm picking up Winston Grammar. I would really love to get Cozy Grammar but that's waaay out of our price range so Winston it is. Winston looks good anyway with activities that go beyond simple workbook stuff.

Greek - A Greek Hupogrammon

I'm getting this because Catherine's interested in Greek but without any kind of structured approach I've done absolutely diddly-squat to help her with that. So the Hupogrammon it is! It looks interesting, has good reviews and was only $15.

Math - From Singapore Math I got Primary Math Challenging Word Problems 3 and Brain Maths Volume 1. Though I'm following the Singapore scope and Sequence I'm not using their curriculum but rather Math Mammoth and the Key to series. I've finally got enough confidence to shape our own approach to math. However, if there's one Great Truth in the universe it's that there's nothing like Singapore math word problems and so I picked it up. Brain Maths just looks fun. And I was at the site anyway because I was ordering curriculum for...

Science - Yeah, I know, I know. I've said in the past that our science wasn't going to be based on curriculum but i had forgotten that both Catherine and the husband have a say in this whole homeschooling thing. Catherine wanted a more consistent approach to science and Shannon thought it was time for curriculum on the subject. Ah well. So I choose the only reliably secular company I knew of and then the most affordable science curriculum it offered and now I-Science from Singapore Math is winging it's way to us. We're starting with the Grade 5 books simply because anything lower seemed to be stuff we'd dealt with many times before.

And that's it. It was all less than $200 (bless the current US/Canada exchange rate!) so it will be a pretty affordable spring. The only other curriculum I would LOVE to get my hands on is Math U See Alpha but that's about $100 just by itself in part because Math U See is still charging Canadian customers substantially more than Americans despite the current exchange rate. Alpha would be for Harry to play with but Catherine also loved the Math U See demo DVD so I'm thinking she'd enjoy it as well (as review) and might even like to help Harry with it. What better way to shore up her skills then by teaching them?

That's the roundup. This time last year I was still a radical unschooler. Now I'm swept up in curriculum fever. But that's the great thing about homeschooling, the flexibility and ability to change your approach.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Journal on Evolution and Education

This came to me through an email list (thanks Michael!)and seems like an interesting idea. Ars Technica reports:

A new journal, Evolution: Education and Outreach, has been established with the intention of improving education in the topic by getting scientists and teachers to discuss issues and lesson plans related to evolution. The journal has just released its first issue, and all the content has been made Open Access.

The review at Ars Technica is mixed but it does make special mention of a couple of good articles from the journal. One in particular gets a thumbs up:

...T. Ryan Gregory steals the show with an essay entitled "Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path" (and I'm not just saying that because he's said nice things about me at his blog, Genomicron). Working from the definitions of the National Academies of Science, he shows how the common understanding of terms like "law" and "theory" cause confusion about the place of evolution in the sciences, and how the observable fact of evolution is just one small part of the theory.

It certainly sounds like a resource Evolved Homeschoolers might not only find useful but might contribute to in the future.

EDIT: Duh! Forgot a link to the journal itself! Here it is, Evolution: Education and Outreach.


I took a tumble yesterday. I had to go out to let the dog in because the twit wound her chain around a tree. I looked out and saw that it didn't seem icy and so decided to go out in my slippers. But it wasn't the ice I should have been worried about, it was the frost on the deck. Just as I was about to go down the steps my feet slipped out from under me and I landed on my tailbone.

There is nothing like landing on your tailbone. It's one of those injuries where cartoon stars should appear over your head to show just how absolutely painful it is. I hobbled over to the dog, grabbed her and managed to get back in the house where I flopped on my stomach in bed for an hour. I took a couple of Ibuprofens and it finally started to calm down to something reasonable. For the rest of the day standing was tolerable, sitting was okay if I managed the right position but everything in between was horrible. Today it's about the same.

So I'll make a call to my doctor today. There's likely not much she can do but even a prescription for a good painkiller or instructions on how many ibuprofens are safe would be welcome. The worst of it though is how limiting it is. I've actually gotten into a cleaning routine the past couple of weeks and not being able to do all of it just about drove me crazy yesterday. I've stretched out a clothes hanger so I can grab laundry out of the washer or off the floor (bending over is out of the question) but I'll have to look for other creative solutions today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Boxing Day!

To those who don't know Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated by Commonwealth countries (and a few northern US states). Wikipedia has a good rundown of its history. For our family this year it's our day of rest at home after all the excitement and running around of the past couple of weeks.

Anyhow, it gives me a little time for blogging and a bit of a rundown of our holidays.

First Christmas - We were at my parents for gift opening and Christmas dinner. They gave the kids the neatest old fashioned gifts including a magnetic spinning top. this was everyone's favourite. Harry loved it, named it 'Kaiser' ( I have no idea how he came up with that) and snuggled the thing whenever he wasn't playing with it.

The Whirl-O magnetic spinning top.

There was much eating, drinking and playing of cards.

Christmas Eve Eve - It had a very Canuckish flavour this year. We went out Christmas light watching and our first stop was for hot chocolate at Tim Horton's. It's a Canadian coffee and donut chain that's up there with the maple leaf and beaver in terms of symbols of national pride. Then we switched on the radio and found a local station playing all east coast Canadian christmas music. Jackpot! After we were done we went for poutine (french for 'heart attack'), a dish that's made up of french fries covered in cheese curds and then smothered in hot gravy. Yum.

Christmas Eve - My husband spent a few hours at works and came home with a new digital camera. I made fish/lobster/scallop/clam chowder and the in-laws came up for supper. Then we all heading off for the Christmas Eve service at my church where Catherine was doing another reading. She did a wonderful job this time. My mother-in-law really enjoyed the service and thinks she might head to church with me on her Sundays off. I don't think she's been to church (barring marriages and funerals) since my husband, then 3, first expressed his atheism by biting my father-in-law in the ass during a Roman catholic service.

Christmas Day - I had a horrible night as I knew I would. I never sleep well because I'm too excited waiting for the kids to get up. I go to sleep, wake up and listen for them, fall back to sleep and dream they DID wake up then realize it was a dream and start the cycle over. See, my kids are horrible. They go to sleep promptly and then don't wake up until 7 or 8. I don't get this. I don't understand this.

They finally did wake up and we had a great time. Just before lunch we bundled up and headed out for the in-laws. Once there we drank, laughed, ate and played cards. In fact, I thumped my husband 3 times in 45's, a previously unthinkable event.

Today was supposed to be a visit to a traditional Boxing Day get together with Shannon's extended family but we haven't had a day together by ourselves as a family in almost two weeks and the kids were dying to play with their Christmas toys so we're staying home. Pancakes for breakfast, light cleaning and much playing are on the bill.

All in all this was a fantastic Christmas for us as I hope it was for all of you.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent, Day 24

This being Christmas Eve there's only one possible site I could link to as there's only one thing occupying everyone's mind, "Where's Santa?" As of the writing of this post he's approaching Sydney, Australia. Those lucky buggers will be opening their presents in a matter of hours. How do I know this?

Why NORAD of course!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent, Day 23

It's probably a bit late in the game for a site like this but it was pretty damn cute so I couldn't resist. Nathaniel and Dillon's Merry Christmas Adventure features a couple of Springer Spaniels who travel to different countries and give a bit of information how each country celebrates. The priceless bit however is in the games section where you can dressup a snowman...And have a dog take a whiz on him. Good Christmas fun.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent, Day 22

Only a few days to go!

Toady's offering is a game, Present Grabber. This is a neat little game where you are a character who uses a grabbing device to try and snatch christmas presents. It looks pretty simple when you start but definitely gets addicting!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reaching Out, Radicals and Teachers

One thing I see flung at homeschoolers from time to time is the accusation that we've given up on public schools, that we've abandoned them instead of working for change. It's the one accusation that really drives me up the wall because I really think that leaving the system IS a valid and important way to work for change. Even if changing that system is the very least of our concerns and we want nothing to do with institutionalized schools our leaving makes an impact and does help those who choose to stay within it.


We build alternate models that educators can look to. We create a demand for alternate curriculum (like Singapore Math) that school parents can use in their home or lobby the school boards to adopt. We demonstrate the need for more flexible approaches to schooling with our demands for online schooling or partial enrollment. We explore elements of education, unschooling, interest-led learning, etc. that schools, by their nature, often can't. We create a different standard and example for how involved parents should be in their children's life and education. We push the conversation surrounding education to places it simply couldn't go otherwise.

I think we're the radicals in education. Every discussion has the radicals and every important discussion needs them. Now, I often don't like what radicals have to say myself. In the discussion of religion and atheism I generally can't hack a Sam Harris or a Christopher Hitchens but at the same time they move the conversation to places that people only whispered about before. Religion as child abuse? The thought makes me angry and uncomfortable but it's not a statement without some foundation and it does encourage a better examination of matters I might previously have ignored.

In education, that's us. But if that's us then maybe we need to take a step outside our circles. Of course, this relates to my Inviting People Into Our Homeschooling post. It also relates to this excellent post by Taylor the Teacher who seems to be encouraging teachers to start speaking up about school issues in their blogs because:

I mean, I hate to be a bitch, but this thing is irreparably broken. The school system, that is.

Look at that. It's broken. She's a teacher and I'm a homeschooler and we completely agree on that. That step outside our homeschooling could be towards those entrenched in the system who see from the inside what we see from the outside. Granted, we probably wouldn't agree on what the solutions might be but in discussing our differences we might start to see the beginning of some new avenues to explore. Heck, in the past when teachers and homeschooling met look what we got out of the deal, John Holt, the beginnings of unschooling and John Taylor Gatto.

End of ramble.

Advent, Day 20 & 21

Yes, I know I'm bad. I missed yesterday. Today I'll offer up two things to make up it.

For the 20th here's a link I've already posted about but in case some missed it...Elf Youself. It's good for LOTs of giggles.

For the 21st why not engage with elfs in a different manner? At Elf-Ford's Dressup Game you get that chance. This is a pretty rich game with lots of choices which doesn't always seem to be the case with dressup games.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Geekmas Tolkien Fans!!!!

Jackson returns to Middle Earth

Marrying an Atheist

Hermant, The Friendly Atheist, has a post on interfaith dating. While it's good it's the comments that really interested me. It doesn't take long for someone to remark that:

I’m not sure I could date a religious person. My standards now are such that I require the skeptical mindset in order for a woman to be personally attractive to me. Some people prefer blondes, I prefer freethinkers.

Uh huh. Maybe I'm wrong but all I see in comments like me is, "I could only date someone who thinks like me". Maybe that's all I see because that's exactly what I used to think. I would never date someone who supported the death penalty, who didn't believe in God, who voted for a certain political party...

Guess what? I'm buggered on all counts. I married an atheist who thinks certain criminals should be fried and always votes for that certain political party.

And it still works brilliantly. Why? Because I don't need a mini-me to reflect my views back to me. I simply need someone with whom I can exchange ideas in a respectful manner. It's not the disagreement that makes problems, it's how those involved handle the disagreements. I agree that if you don't know how to navigate disagreements than finding someone who agrees with you is probably a good thing but why not keep the pool of potential partners as big as possible by simply learning how?

I suspect that this is something most crusty old married people know but I'm interested in seeing what other people have to say on the matter.

Advent, Day 19

What do you do if your lifelong amibition has been to become a skydiving elf? Why play Merlin's Christmas of course. In the game Santa's sleigh has had a mishap that sends presents tumbling to the ground. You play as Merlin and you have to take a header off the sleigh and grab presents as you fall. Lots of fun!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Math Love and Good Stuff From the BBC

I'm feeling it, I really am. Over the past few months as Catherine's moved past simple operations into word problems and algebra and decimals and such I'm rediscovering math and getting swept up in it. Now, I'm no whiz. I have no ambitions for math supergeekdom but I am passionately curious right now even if I don't always understand what I'm reading or listening too.

For those who may feel something similar I'll offer up a most excellent radio series from the BBC called Five Numbers. It also has a sequel called A Futher Five Numbers and together the two series cover zero, Pi, the Golden Ratio, and 1729 (you'll have to listen to find out about that one) amongst others. It's fascinating and very often funny and is the perfect way to relax when everyone else has gone to bed. Sit at the computer with some chocolate, a glass of wine and a game of solitaire and listen. I guarentee you'll enjoy yourself.

Advent, Day 18

Today I'm going to take you back. Here's Band Aid;

They all look so young. It's fun to think that then Bono was a tiny little fish amongst some huge superstars. Also, I never realized how gorgeous Jodi Watley was or how pretty Boy George was. And boy, I forgot how good big hair could look on some guys (Paul Young - yum).

Since Bob Geldof herded the British and Irish artists into doing such a fantastic job North America couldn't be left behind and so Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie wrote We Are The World and herded American artists into a studio to record it;

That video has so much of my childhood embedded in it. Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers...Granted, I never knew who the guy with the fuzzy hair and weird strung-out voice was until I watched the video again recently. Oh. That's Bob Dylan. Okay. Sorry but at 12 the guy couldn't compete with Daryl Hall. And Harry Belafonte? Yum.

But why the heck is Dan Ackroyd listed in that group? By all rights he should have been in the next video...

Tears Are Not Enough written by super producer David Foster - which I can't embed, darn it. You'll have to click on the link and you should. I don't know if it got a lot of play in the US when it came out but it's a darn good song and you'll be amazed at the big names. I was. I sort of thought Canada was a bit dry on the world famous artists at that time but then I saw Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, Oscar Peterson, John Candy, Neil Young, Geddy Lee, Bryan Adams...Okay yes, there's also Platinum Blonde and Loverboy but heck, they were fun too. There's also the owner of THE best rock voice EVER, Burton Cummings from The Guess Who (what a group - Randy Bachman of BTO came from it as well). You know I'm right. And a yum for him as well.

Hopefully this will spark some warm memories.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kidney Stones and Christmas Pageants

That was me. In the middle of one of the busiest weekends I've had in years I started getting intense pains and nausea. I toughed it out for a bit but we eventually marched off to the ER and 6 hours later came out with the diagnoses of kidney stones. Thankfully the pain had stopped just before we left so I didn't have to sit in pain for those 6 hours.

I have to say though, I will never poo-poo kidney stones again. I had thought that, compared to giving birth, it couldn't be too bad. Wrong. While I wouldn't say the pain is worse it's constant, unrelenting and there's no cute baby at the end of the ordeal.

But the weekend was actually a very good one overall. The absolute highlight was in church on Sunday. Catherine was with the Sunday school when one of our ministers asked her if she'd like to read. Uh oh. Catherine can read and her reading is getting better all the time but it is a little behind and she does need some time to sort the words out. But to my surprise she said yes. Yes to reading a passage she'd never seen in front of the whole congregation. I went up to give her a hand and though it was a little slow and clumsy she pushed through the reading without ever getting flustered or frustrated. When she was finished she sat down with a smile.

I was in awe of her. This was the first time she'd ever done something in front of a crowd. She was being asked to do something she wasn't strong in. She struggled through mispronunciation and previously unknown words to produce a reading that was pretty shaky. And through it all she was confident and happy, never letting it occur to herself that she should be upset, embarrassed or that she might have failed. That's not to say that she didn't know she didn't do a great job at the reading but she didn't let that haunt her. When she stepped down, she had a very realistic view of her performance but simply got on with the day.

It was awesome to see a little girl with such a firm and unshakable sense of herself.

And even better? My husband was there to see it. It was the day of the Christmas Pageant and there was no way he was going to let a little unbelief get in the way of seeing his kids dressed up and singing carols. He'll be there on Christmas Eve as well. Catherine was asked to read then as well but this time she'll be getting her reading ahead of time so she'll be able to practice. I can't wait.

Advent , Day 17

If baking cookies seems like a bit too much today then visit this site where you can not only decorate cookies but send them off as an interactive e-card!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent, Day 16

This is an easy one. It's a snowman craft to do with the kids.

I will put up some proper post either later today or tommorrow. It's been a bit of a whirlwind the last few days with choir practices, christmas shopping, kids' pageants and kidney stones. Yes, kidney stones.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent, Day 15

This site, Create a Silly Christmas Story, is something like Madlibs. Plugs in a few names and nouns and you can create a Christmas story for the kids to giggle at.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent, Day 14

Here's a really cute activity. The Snowdog is an animated Christmas card that tells a little story. Go try it out!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent, Day 13

We're over half way there!

It's another commercial today. That's brings me up to 3 and yes, I think that's not only acceptable but fitting. A secular Christimas can be be a wonderfully and unapologeticly commercial Christmas and I think it's fitting to celebrate that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Common Room's Response

The Common Room lady responded to my invitation:

Step into my parlour said the spider to the fly....

I went. I was going to make a comment, and then I saw that you and your friends had already decided what I thought, and why and where I was coming from, pretty much erroneously in every case. There doesn't seem much point in attempting to dialog in such circumstances.

Okay. I get it now. I really do (honestly Doc). It's not discussion she wanted. It was the soapbox. It was the 'Preach it sister!' comments. When confronted with a challenge, even a polite one, the challenger gets cast as a deceiptful predator and the challenged as a victim who never had a fair chance to begin with. If I'd been smarter I would have realized she was drive-by posting and never actually was interested in exploring the issue.

It's been a theme since the beginning of this. Complaints about the rules? Cast the complainers as anti-family friendly and delete discussion. Sore about having ethical shortcomings pointed out? Cast the pointer as a loser and yourself as the victim.

It's all sleight of hand. Don't look down here where I did indeed clarify the rules or did finally notice the ethical problem or wrote a post I'm unwilling to defend. Look up here where I'm being hunted by a spider. Oooh! It's getting closer!

So I get it. Lesson learned.

Advent, Day 12

Hre's a holiday snowglobe for you to shake. Best used after the cat has knocked the tree down, the kids have found a stash of stocking stuffers and your husband has drunk the last of your eggnog.

Be merciless.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Response for The Common Room

The Common Room has a post up about the controversy surrounding the HSBA. It's a thoughtful one but not one I (of course) agree with.

And that's a shame. The fuss seems to center around their request that blogs be family friendly

I think the initial fuss was really over the no swearing policy. The no swearing policy came after a fuss the previous year with a specific blogger and the rules seemed designed to exclude that blogger, possibly in an attempt to avoid another fuss.

A whole lot of other bloggers then realized that, due to the rules, they were excluded as well. It should be noted that the HSBA seemed to see some sense in the protest as the rules were amended afterward.

(which is hardly unreasonable in a blog contest where children and teens read)

I have trouble with this. Even the cleanest homeschooling blogs sometimes have posts on child predators and violent school shootings. Should homeschooling blogs really be considered family friendly when they're discussing a case of a teacher raping a student? But that's not a discussion we've even had in the community. Someone said 'family friendly' and others said, 'oh, of course,' and the matter was considered settled before it had even been addressed.

(initially some of them were also in the running for prizes, and somebody suggested, wrongly, that they were breaking the law)

That was a rather late post to the fray and after the initial fuss. Criticisms are getting lumped together when they need to be addressed seperately.

The question of legality was reasonable. It probably was a good thing for the HSBAs as they're getting a little bigger and should be looking into matters like that.

, and some objections to at least some of the prizes offered, as they come from hsing businesses not everybody supports. You know what, some of the prizes offered are not prizes I would use or recommend, either. At least one is a business I have refused to buy from for many years now, and I think my reasons are very good. But so what? I LIKE the Homeschool Blog Awards, and I love that Sprittibee and friends are gracious enough to volunteer all this time to do something for others. It's generous of them, and it would be churlish of me to complain about how their project looks.

If an award purports to represent the general homeschooling community then the awards should reflect the general homeschooling community in terms of volunteers, categories, rules and prizes. This is pretty standard stuff. Having a group of prizes that overwhelmingly represent one kind of homeschooler presents the image, real or not, of bias. It's something all organizations have to be careful of.

If you don't like the sponsors, there are at least four options I can think of, all of them more reasonable than giving a hard time to hard working volunteers who you have not supported with helpful input, funding, or donations of your own time.

The first step being helpful input. There were some very strong reactions to the HSBA troubles but there were also some very reasonable and calm ones. I remember a very respectful criticism from Don Gookin on the HSBA blog in particular. How were those reasonable and calm complaints dealt with? They went unaddressed and then were deleted. If helpful input is going to happen then the HSBA people have to be receptive to it.

If they aren't receptive to honest criticism (very valid criticism as we should remember the HSBA team did indeed change their rules in response) why on earth would someone expect they'd welcome someone who'd formerly been critical offered to volunteer and help?

You could start your own secular blog awards and do your own leg work. I really hope this isn't what happens, because I think that kind of splintering is harmful to the homeschooling community.

Was the homeschooling community ever a unified whole?:)

You can also work harder at nominating and canvassing for those secular blogs you like if you don't think they are getting enough notice. And you could suggest, after the Blog Awards are done, that next year might include a category for secular blogs, or even more specifically for a non-family friendly blog- that way, at least other voters would know ahead of time if they wanted to go read that blog or let their children read there. Call it 'the blue zone,' or something, and the rules about profanity could be lifted only for blogs in that category. Volunteer to be the overseer for this category, to screen nominations for spam or anti-homeschooling blogs, or blogs that have nothing to do with homeschooling. After all, it's not fair or reasonable to expect the current volunteers to wade through material that they find offensive. Note: I do not even know if this would work or be acceptable to the current volunteers- my point is that instead of requiring more work from people who have already invested a considerable chunk of their lives in a strictly volunteer project, you should invest your OWN time.

Does the HSBA reflect the general homeschooling community or not? If it does it should be open to criticism from those in that community. It wasn't. That sends the message that they are not interested in reflecting the general community. Should I support a group that doesn't reflect my blog or the majority of the homeschooling blogs I read? No.

Why does anybody feel the sense of entitlement to other people's time and work this way?

If you claim to represent a wide swath of people don't be surprised if some of those people speak up when your actions don't reflect your claim. What represents a sense of entitlement better than the presumption that you speak for everyone even when your actions contradict that claim?

The big problem in all this is that discussion wasn't allowed. Now we've all skipped to the end and are painting the 'other' with our judgements. The story doesn't have chapters anymore, it's just a few paragraphs about a hard working chicken, reduced to a simple image so all the debate that should be going on is shrunk to something that can be labeled as jealously or the work of sore losers.

If the homeschooling community is going to be a community it doesn't need to rally around one award. It doesn't even need to agree on anything. It just needs to be willing to listen to and talk with the different parts that make up the whole. For me at least, that's where the HSBA really fumbled the ball and why it doesn't represent me.

However, I'll pick the ball up and give it a toss to you if you're willing. :)

Carnival Time!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Seeking Rest on Ancient Paths and the Carnival of Family Life is up at The So Called Me.

Did I Say We Were Taking a Break?

My mistake.

I got my hands on a copy of the first workbook in Key to Geometry and Catherine, who's been dying to do more geometry couldn't wait to get started. 15 pages of lines, line segments and triangles later she was satified for the day and wandered off to play Harvest Moon.

A Little More on the HSBAs

It's simple ethics, isn't it? You run a contest, you exclude yourself from the running. I've been in many organizations and that was almost always a given. It's not so much to prevent cheating as to prevent any appearance of impropriety. There must be absolutely no doubt about the results.

And if you didn't realize that and someone pointed it out to you, should you take it personally? I tend to think not. Someone pointing out that you shouldn't be running in your own contest is akin to the friend who points out you've got spinach stuck in your teeth before heading out the door. It's a bit of advice to avoid embarrassment.

Superangel feels pretty bad and bitter about being excluded from the HSBA awards. She's young and very bright and I know she'll get over it. Meanwhile, even more interesting than her post are all the responses from fans who think she's justified in her position and her anger. Note them all Superangel. These are the people that would smile at a friend with the piece of spinach in their teeth and say, "You look fantastic! Let's go!"

It's not until pianosteve, well down in the comments, that someone thinks and cares enough to point out what's gone wrong with Superangel's reasoning. He writes a graceful response that does Superangel more honour than anything else above it. I hope she puts quality above quantity and gives his post some serious thought.

HT to Doc.

Advent, Day 11

Today I'm cheating my secular theme just a wee bit to bring up a website that tackles a problem that's plagued us Christians for a long time.

Tacky Nativity scenes.

Here's just one small taste of what you can expect:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mkae sure you read the site author's commentary and prepare for a some good, hearty chuckles.

Monday, December 10, 2007

First Day of Christmas Break

We finished up Key to decimals last week and are almost done a unit in our spelling so this week was the start of our homeschooling break. What did we do? Homeschooling of course.

We did have that spelling to finish up so we did a test today. Then I wondered outloud if Catherine would like to do a couple of pages from a daily skill builder worbook we'd picked up in the summer at a yard sale and she decided she'd love to. Then we started talking about quarks for some reason and I remembered a coloring book on quarks I'd printed out from Jefferson Labs (check out their K-12 Education link for more excellent resources) ages ago and so we read that and she colored it. Then we read more on the Romans. And replanted an Aloe Vera plant. And it's only lunch time.

I'm not sure what the afternoon will bring but at this rate we may have calculus figured out and the Aeneid read by bedtime.

Advent, Day 10

Here's one of my favourite internet Christmas moments.

The music is "Wizard's of Winter" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and a page of information on the video can be found at Snopes. Meanwhile just watch it and try not to move along to the music.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Advent, Day 9

Here's another commercial. This on is a gift from my part of the world and it's one I grew up on and I wish the Sobey's chain of grocery stores still ran. Watch for the little girl in the choir belting out the song at about :35. She was everyone's favourite.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

History is Back!

Yesterday we finished up Key to Decimals book 1 (Catherine aced it, thank you very much), did our spelling test and then retired to the couch for some reading. It's been either the Ancient Egyptians or Ancient Greeks for years around here so, thinking it was time to move on, I pulled out A Picture History of Ancient Rome by Richard Erdoes.

I picked this one up a couple of years ago at a local book sale. It was a library discard and probably around fifty cents. I wasn't really sure what the text was like but the illustrations were so good I had to grab it.

(Make sure you click on the picture to get a larger view)

Isn't that fantastic?Every picture had the kids excited about the story to come and talking about the elements of that picture. The only books I've read recently where the illustration were anywhere near as engaging were National Geographic publications like Our Universe and Geo-Whiz.

The gentleman who did the illustrations also wrote the book and he had the exact same talent with words as he did with illustrations. Catherine and Harry were hooked, I read half the book before I realized how far I'd gone and my husband came out from the kitchen where he was doing his homework to sit down and listen. The text is so simple, clear and crisp and the information inside is perfect for a solid introduction to the history of Ancient Rome.

Definitely one of the best books we've read this year and one we'll treasure.

Now go buy it. I promise you'll thank me.

Note to myself: Start flogging books that cost more than a couple of dollars!

Advent, day 8

It's Saturday and hopefully that means we've all got a little bit of time for family stuff with no homeschooling or runnning around (says the women who's going out Christmas shoppig) and so I thought maybe an offline craft might be appropriate.

It a 3D paper snowflake from Wikihow.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Advent, Day 7

My offering for today is a game I've played about for years. It's not really a Christmas game but it is about gnomes and that's sort of Christmassy, right? They're like, first cousins to elves aren't they? The game is a pile of fun though and that's why Boutercart made the list.

In this game you throw gnomes at a dartboard. Enourmous fun, eh?

The game is mostly in German but has the key buttons in something close enough to english. Controls are simple. Simply click on the gnomes you want to use, holding the mouse button down. When the dart board appears move your mouse forward a buit to throw and release the mouse button when you want to send your gnome flying. This is a two player game so grab one of the kids and challenge them to a match.

Have fun!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Advent, Day 6

Here's a cute one, Jerry's Christmas Jukebox. Click on an ornament and you'll be treated to a Midi Christmas carol and be given the lyrics so you and the kids can sing along!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Inviting People Into Our Homeschooling

I've been looking at teacher blogs lately thanks to the Edublog Awards. It's a great way to find education blogs without having to sort through the chaff as many of the best and brightest are right there. It's why dy/dan now has a link on my sidebar and why Taylor the Teacher soon will.

One blog I checked out today was The Principle's Page and there staring me in the face was the post, HOMESCHOOLING IS GREAT, BUT IT SURE MAKES IT HARD TO PICK TEAMS.

Everyone should go to at least one dance, have their own locker, be on an organized team that wins and loses together. At least one time in your life you should also live in fear that you might get hit by a dodge ball if you don’t pay attention and keep your mouth shut.

With quotes like this, it's a bit of a rehash of the old myth that homeschoolers don't get socialization. The aim is a little more focused though on homeschoolers missing out on school socialization experiences. I know at this point I'm supposed to start going on about all the things my kids do to socialize or about the awful bits of school socialization but I'd just like to acknowledge that the person who wrote the post is perfectly correct. My kids will miss out on some very positive aspects of public schooling.

And yes, there are a lot of positive aspects. My school career was mostly miserable after about grade 7 but still there were the cafeteria discussions, the teachers who connected with us, the triumphant oral presentation in front of 30 fellow students, the model UN...There were things that I did enjoy that my kids won't experience. Does that bother me? Not really.

Any choice carries that consequence. By changing jobs my husband will miss out on some good aspects of his former job. By choosing to stay home with my kids I'll miss out on the great moments of working outside the home. But the thing is, well-considered choices often have benefits that a person would miss out on otherwise. By changing jobs my husband now has a whole career path to explore that never existed before. By staying home I get the wonderful opportunity to homeschool my kids. By homeschooling my kids will get to experience things that schooled kids will miss out on.

People outside the homeschooling community often don't see that though and I think that's honestly our fault. Take a quote from the post:

Proponents of homeschooling will point to high ACT and SAT scores as examples of how much these students have learned as they are about to enter college.

He's right again. Granted, not all of us pull out the statistics in a homeschool debate but enough do that people often get the impression that homeschooling is wholey and simply about academics. When it's simply about academics then those outside homeschooling don't get to see how important the lifestyle often is to us. They don't have a clue about we socialize, that we are involved in our community and our kids are very often out at dances, playing in organized sports or gossiping with friends.

What I think the gentleman's post points to most are not weaknesses with homeschoolers but how homeschoolers communicate what we do with people who aren't familiar with it or rather, how we fail to communicate what we do. We know what we do and we talk and blog about it within our community but when we confront stereotypes in articles or blogs we often resort to the statistic quoting or scattershot attacks on schools. Maybe what we really need to do is talk about the soccer league our daughter played in or link to the blog post where we describe a fantastic day at a museum. Something that actually reflects what we're living instead of our standard rebuttal.

Something that welcomes and begins to invite people in.

This is my invitation to the gentleman from The Principle's Page. Please feel free to read my blog and explore the other blogs I've linked to. I guarantee you will find that our kids are missing out on school experiences but I'm also betting you'll find we have experiences that make up for that.

Advent, Day 5

Today I have two videos. Catherine pulled out and read The Night Before Christmas yesterday and so I'd carry on that theme today. The first video is the poem and a cartoon some of us are familiar with.

The second video is a good reminder of just how old the poem is. It's a silent film from 1904! At this point Clement C. Moore's piece had been around for almost 90 years.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

About Santa, She KNOWS.

I read Catherine a biography of St. Nicholas tonight. Now I'm not sure how accurate it was because we both gave each other skeptical glances when we learned St. Nicholas was distributing real gold coins to sailors through dreams but heck, we did get some general details of the man.

Why were we reading this you ask? Okay, you probably didn't ask that because you assumed it was a christmassy thing we were doing and yes it is but the real answer is that Catherine KNOWS.

You know what I mean. About the big guy in the red suit? The whole, "He's not real thing."

It happened yesterday over Key To Decimals. She was adding decimal numbers like nobody's business when she asked, "Who is Santa Claus?"


"Who do you think?" I lamely asked.

"You and Dad," She said.

I told her she was right. She held her smile and started back to work but her chin was just a bit unsteady so I told her to come over and we hugged and she broke down.

I felt like such a heel.

After she was feeling a bit less horrible we had a long talk. We talked about Santa and myths and legends, about rites of passage, about how she was now a part of the whole Santa fellowship. Also about NORAD and puberty. Um, trust me, they were related to the subject at hand. Sort of.

But just knowing wasn't enough. Finding out about Santa IS a rite of passage and as such needs some ceremony. So we read about St. Nicholas and some of the other characters like Black Peter that contributed to our modern idea of Santa. We also talked about the spirit of Santa Claus and Catherine came up with a way to honour that by making cookies for the gas station employees who helped us out a few posts ago. And of course she's going to help wrap Santa gifts and toys for her brothers stocking. She's happy again and beginning to cherish her new role.

If I had it all to do over again I'm really not sure that I would have done the Santa thing. It's not something I've always been very comfortable but, at the same time, I do remember how it felt to believe when I was a kid and the magic surrounding that. Maybe even with fictional characters it's sometimes better to have loved and lost than never to have believed at all?

Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

Dewey's Treehouse is hosting this week's edition of the COH.

A standout post is Alasandra's Voiceless Homeschoolers. She addresses why is it that homeschoolers who aren't a certain brand of Christian get so upset with some of the fundamentalist homeschooling crowd.

Look at This!

It's from Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards and I'm nominated. Of course, nobody's voted for me yet. Nobody. Not one blessed soul. Not even my own self.

Someone should address that.


Advent, Day 4

Here's another game to keep you and the kids busy today!

Penguin Push

You need to guide blocks of ice into marked squares. Simple, eh? But this also requires a bit of thinking ahead before any moves are made. Good luck!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Zooming Through Key To Decimals

I was a little taken aback last week when Catherine seemed confused by decimals. We've never formally covered them. We've encountered them in real life but sometimes that's like gathering up the ingredients but not having the recipe. Catherine might have the baking soda, flour, salt, etc. but not be sure of how they need to mixed together to make tea biscuits. I had Key to Decimals sitting on my hard drive so I decided that would be our recipe book.

Our first day Catherine did the first 10 pages of the first book. Today she did another 8. At this rate we'll be through book 1 by the end of the week! Best of all she's enjoying it and understanding it all. I think, as I alluded to in the first paragraph, she's had all the pieces but just needed a little structure to put them in order.

We'll probably go back to Singapore for awhile after Key to Decimals book 1 and then do book 2 some time in the New Year. 3 and 4 will likely wait however until we go back and finish the Key to Fraction books. However we go about it I'm darn happy that I can say we're both enjoying this.

Advent, Day 3

Here's a site that's become a classic Christmas link over the past couple of Christmases, Popular Front's Snowdays. Cut out a snowflake, send it out onto the internet with a message and let it drift down the screen of other people who may respond. You can also get a look at the snowflakes others have created.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quotes from a Sunday Morning

I insisted the kids go to church with me this morning (they're usually willing anyway) so they could see what Advent was about in the church. My daughter protested by yelling, "I don't believe in God!" as we went out the door. That had my husband grinning like cheshire cat.

The service started with the kids in the choir pews for a little discussion about Advent. The first candle lit today represented hope and to symbolize that we were all given red ribbons, for the struggle against HIV/AIDS. When our minister asked what the kids though the red ribbons meant one shouted out, "Santa Claus!"

The kids were also given ribbons that they were to write their hopes on and bring back to hang in the church for Advent. One young one protested the homework by letting everyone know, "I don't have any hope!"

Advent, Day 2

Here's something fast and funny and just a little bit naughty for your second day of Advent!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Advent, Day 1

UPDATE: If you found this page please be aware that my Advent Event is now an annual thing so if you click on the blog title for current posts you'll see this year's Advent posts! :D

It's December 1st! My offering for today is Snowline!

This a fantastic little game where you have to draw the path that Santa will take to get past obstacles to the finish line. The best thing about is that there's so much fun in failure. Even though this was a little too hard for my five year old he still had piles of fun as he sat and giggled like a mad man when a bad design would have Santa toppling over backwards or being swept up by a tornado.

Have fun!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Looking to Buy a Microscope?

We certainly are. Maybe not this year but sometime soon and I've read page after page of recommendations to try and educate myself. Then comes PZ over at Pharyngula with the most wonderfully informative, straightforward and practical guide to buying a microscope for kids that I've ever come across - Holiday microscope shopping.

He clearly gets what kids need. Cheap microscopes are dismissed. Compound microscopes get the thumbs down too for their fussy slides preparations. In the end it's the stereoscope or dissecting scope that gets the nod and I think his best reason for it is that there's, "enough space for someone to put their hand under there and look at nifty dermal papillae or scabs or their pet gerbil, without squishing or cutting them into thin sections." No fiddling around and lots of opportunity for touching what's being examined.

PZ also supplies links to sites where you can purchase the stereoscopes. I'll add Boreal Northwest for those who want a Canadian supplier.

Thank you PZ!

Day by Day Advent Calender!

Starting tommorrow I'll be writing a post a day with an advent theme, in effect creating an advent calender to countdown to Christmas! I'll have online games, a couple of downloads, crafts, classic moments from online christmases past and a few contributions from Youtube.

This will be a secular advent calender. The Christmas season of Advent starts on Sunday and if anyone wants a most excellent online calender for that full of activities, crafts, stories and bible readings check out the Advent Calender at

I'm inviting everyone to join me and I promise that I'll provide you with at least a couple of moments rest from holiday planning and panic and a bit of time for the family to have some fun while gathered around the computer. Tommorrow I'll start with something that had me hooked instantly and my five year old giggling for hours.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blog Plug - ParentalTech

COD has started a new blog, ParentalTech:

ParentalTech is blog about technology and kids, written for parents. Technology and internet culture are deeply ingrained into the lives of our children. This blog will help you keep up with them.

It's full of great stuff and interesting reads. It appeals to my geeky side but there's important stuff for the ungeeky parent as well. Take a look at the post on Facebook for instance. That's stuff we all need to know.

One of Those Days

Thursday is preschool day here. Harry attends, Catherine goes to help out (and gets paid for her help) and I take a couple of hours off. Usually we have a complicated system of car-trading and ride-giving to get the kids there as we only have one vehicle and it goes to work with my husband but today my sister was going to work a little later and just picked us all up. We got to the daycare, my sister and Harry got out (Catherine is sick today and choose to stay with me), I got in the driver's seat and took off. A few kilometres down the road I stopped to get gas and as I turned the car off I realized, "I have no keys."

See, my sister's car will run without the keys. You can start it and then slip out the keys. And guided by force of habit my sister slipped the keys out. I drove off.

Of course though, once you turn it off it won't start without those damn keys.


I went into the gas station and used their phone to call my sister. I got the answering machine. I left a message explaining what had happened. I had decided to walk back but the cashier took up my cause and started asking around and calling for someone to give me a ride back to the daycare. Just then the patriarch of the gas station (it's a family business) pulled up and he gave us the ride. He also gave us, in the few minutes we rode with him, a compact summary of the talents of the man that built the old school the daycare was now housed in. We pulled up just as one of the daycare workers was pulling out. I thought, "Oh no." My suspicion was confirmed when I knocked on the door and my sister answered saying, "Jody just left to take you the keys!"

The gentleman gave us a ride back and just we were about to pull in to the gas station has cell phone rang.

"That's them, calling to tell me they have the keys."

It was.

I went in and got the keys and thanked everyone. I went out to fill up the car and realized...I'd pulled up on the wrong side of the car.

All is well now. I turned the car around, filled up and came home. Through all this Catherine was quiet but when we got home we had a discussion about how helpful, kind and generous people can be.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our New Christmas Ornament

We put up a Christmas tree Sunday. It's a cheap little prelit white one we picked up a couple of years ago and somehow used through two Christmases. Not this year. This year it's the kids tree and in a couple of week we'll pick up a nice pine or spruce at one of the local stands. Anyway...

Since the white one is the kids tree they've been making decorations. My son directed my construction of a paper chain (he has a hard time with the tape dispenser). The colours he choose were yellow, orange and black. Very Halloweeny, eh? So that's on the tree.

Yesterday my daughter was coloring monsters from the Dover Mythological and Fantastic Creatures CD-ROM and Book.

It's clip art but clip art can make great coloring pages, especially with the weird, wonderful and occasionally horrific creatures in this collection. One of the creatures was this guy...

You'll notice he's brightly coloured. He's also been carefully cut out and if I had a working digital camera I'd show you where he's currently hanging...On the kids' Christmas tree!

I guess they're going for a horror theme...?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This Lolcat was Obviously Homeschooled!

From I Can Has Cheezburger obviously.

UPDATE: I post a Lolcat and then notice Doc has done so as well...And hers are SOOOO much funnier!

The Perils of Face Painting

My kids went to a hockey game Sunday with my husband, his father, their cousins and the in-law parents of their cousins and...Actually that was it. I was lucky enough that there wasn't one more ticket so I got to stay home.

At some point, either intermission or after the game all four of the kids got their faces painted. The next day three out of the four had red, itchy eyes. Catherine, on top of the itchy eye, had a splotchy red face. My sister-in-law had the best best guess for the culprit, the face painting of course.

I hadn't really thought of it but face painting at public events is probably not the most hygienic practice. There's the risk of countless kids who may or may not have colds, flu's pink eye or face rubbed by hands that never got washed after a bathroom trip. All of the same possibilities are there with the person that paints the faces. And never mind the makeup. Most of us know that our private stash of eye shadow and blush has a limited shelf life due to the chance of bacteria taking up residence but what about that face paint that's been exposed to countless people and possibly been used on previous occasions?


I'm not a really careful parent and I allow for a lot of risk in my kids life but balancing the tiny benefit of blobby, misshapen dinosaur ham-handedly painted on the side of their cheek with the possibility of illness, eye infection of worse...Not worth it. I can paint their faces at home and, if I do say so myself, do a much better job of it.

Uninspired But Working Well

I haven't been posting much about our actual homeschooling aroun here because for the last week it's sort of devolved into the basics. Catherine does a spelling test, a bit of grammar, reading to her brother and some work on her times tables. That's it. I haven't done anything formal with Harry. I'm sure we've done some interesting stuff on other subjects but I've been preoccupied with christmas and other concerns and haven't taken the time to write it done or really take notice.

I'm betting we'll have another week or two of the basics and then something will come along that will get us fired up again. I'm not going to force it right now because it's been three months of school work and we're coming up on Christmas anyway.

There is one bit of our work that's gotten much better. I bought Catherine a little school planner (a one dollar end-of-line type deal)a few weeks ago and she sat down and planned out her daily homeschool schedule. Even though history and science have sort of fallen off the map the last week she's been very good about doing her language arts and math ever since she wrote up her schedule. The girl that used to doddle and take an hour to finish one worksheet now plugs away with an eye to the time so that she can get on to math or reading ot lunch at the time she planned for.

It's been an amazing change that will serve us well when we get inspired again.


Courtesy of Pharyngula here's a link to a neat little game that might keep the kids (and parents) engrossed for a good afternoon -!

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Mom is Teaching!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Important if You're Considering

I've been seeing lots of plugs for on various homeschooling blogs and I want to make sure people do their research.

There's a thread at that has information on the issues some parents have been having with this company.

Follow the links in the thread to Hawaii Virtual School and you'll find a page full of information on the matter including court documents.

Make sure you've made an informed choice.

Evolved Homeschooler Tie!

Lynn put the Evolved Homeschooler design on a tie! It looks awesome and is just the most perfect Christmas gift for any and every evolved homeschooling Dad out there. She's donating proceeds to the National Center for Science Education.

I still have the Cafepress store up and it's rung up a little bit of profit. Plans to donate to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital never really got off the ground since they haven't reponded to my emails (yes, that's plural) for the information I need to send the profit directly to them. Granted, I could have it sent to me and mail it to them but I would really, really prefer the money go directly to where it's supposed to go. So the $10 or so has sat at Cafepress awaiting inspiration. Maybe Lynn's idea of donating profits from her tie to the NCSE would be a good place for the Cafepress profits to? It seems really fitting considering the message of the logo.

More on Magic Crystals

A person read my post, Magic Trees and Burdocks and kindly emailed me a link to a site that's absolutely full to bursting with crystal growth formulas. Not only does the site have formulas and techniques but it also lists online source and has areviews of commercial kits. For the christmas season you could even use the sites plans to grow a snowflake!

When you're done perusing the crystal site go to the homepage of Wayne's This and That. This Wayne Schmidt fellow is one one gloriously curious man. Want jokes? Tips on eating chocolate? Soil testing kit reviews? Instructions on making a kaleidoscope? Recipe for the best vanilla pudding? An Etch-A-Sketch autopsy report?

It's all there!

When you've got a free hour or two grab a coffee and go through his site. It's a treasure trove and you'll be absolutely delighted with all the stuff he's got there.

And thank you Victor for letting me know about the site!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wait a Minute...

So I'm looking at christmasy sites and activities and I stumble across a site where some soul has put together a little arrange-the-manger activity. I thought the art was a little naive but was having fun stacking animals and wise men in a tower when I noticed something amiss.

Here's the site, Arrange the Nativity Scene.

Who can tell me what's missing?

And I bet most people will suspect what it is before they even click on the link!

Have the Kids Giggling Like Mad

By way of of Momof6malloyboys comes Elf Yourself! Upload some pictures of your kids and the website will insert them into elf bodies. Here are my two darling elves.

You can also Scrooge them.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cooking Mama

My daughter asked me yesterday if I could find some cooking games for her to play on the computer.


Cooking games. *sigh* What kind of geek am I raising?

I googled and came up with this site which has a TON of cooking games. Who knew? One winner was Sushi Go Round and I have to admit, it wasn't just winner with Catherine. I was in their, wrapping up sushi and pushing saki on customers too. Very fun.

This evening I was browsing the Scholastic catalogues my sister's daycare gets and there was Cooking Mama, a cooking game for the Nintendo DS! Holy rabid cow Batman!

So guess what Catherine's getting for Christmas.

Not from Scholastic though. They want $29. Amazon shall likely have my money.


Catherine has a reading time every morning where, after spelling, grammar and math, she and Harry head into their bedroom and pick out a few books that she reads to him. This was my idea and it's brilliant. Catherine practices her reading, they have some bonding time together and I get 30-45 minutes to veg on the couch with chocolate and The People's Court (yes I watch it. Be quiet.).

Yesterday my neice was up so Catherine had an audience of two to read to. She picked out several books but that one I heard her read was 'Go Dogs, Go!'

She did an absolutely fantastic job. She read with feeling and an ear to making the story thrilling for the kids. When she got to a part that needed extra emphasis she had Harry and Madi yell out the lines with her. When she was at a page with lots of action, say dogs climbing a tree, she'd embellish and then have the kids urge the dogs to climb faster and higher.

See, I'll be thrilled when both my kids are skilled and smooth readers but what I really want is for them both to be able to read out loud and capture the interest of others. I'm not sure why that's important, just that it's a skill I admire in others and enjoy using myself. It was wonderful to hear her.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Carnival Time!

The Carnival of Education is at NYC Educator.

This Is My Brain On Math

My Dad forwarded an email to me last week. The people who'd emailed it to him were convinced it was magic. Dad knew there was some trick but didn't bother looking for it at the time. Here is the email...

There was a bit more that involved some stuff about having to pass it on but that's the core of the trick.

I got it right away.

I couldn't believe it. I miss the obvious all the time. I'm famous for it. But I picked my card and realized it didn't appear in the bottom. I then realized that must be true of all the top cards if the trick were to work so the question then was, "Do any of the top cards appear in the bottom?" Bingo!

I attribute this to working with Catherine on basic word problems. First step in a word problem is to figure out what the question is then work from there. Once I asked the right question of this trick it fell apart. I am now really beginning to understand the benefits of math beyond just numbers - that it really can train you to see things differently and to apply logic where before you might have simply stopped at bewilderment. Neat stuff.

I called Dad to let him in on it. I don't know if he's let his friends know that it wasn't magic after all.

Thanks to We Saw That for the images I used in the post.

Our universe

It's funny how sometimes you can bumble through an uninspiring, ordinary day and yet at the very last moment have a wonderful moment with the kids.

Last night, after I'd tucked Harry into bed Catherine came to me with Our Universe, a fantastic National Geographic publication.

Catherine was excited because the first illustration was of an ancient Egyptian scene with a farmer looking up at the sun. The sun was Ra. We started reading and for a kid who loves myths, this book had the perfect introduction. It also had beautiful illustrations of Ancient Hindu and Norse images of the Earth. We read on learning about lunar and solar calenders, about Ptolemy and Eudoxus and about precession which for some reason, really captured Catherine's interest. I know we've got a little toy top around here somewhere. I'll have to find it so we can play with it a bit today to demonstrate precession.

Harry came out soon after we started reading (holding all three of his most favourite stuffed animals) and he seemed just as engrossed as Catherine. With this book though, it's not hard to understand why. The illustrations are par for the course for National Geographic and so not only illustrate concepts well but are gorgeous to look at. I've actually decided that any National Geographic book I see for sale will be an automatic buy. They capture my kids like nothing else, certainly as no curriculum or unit study or lesson plan approach has.

We didn't read for too long, about half and hour or forty-five minutes but it was enough to redeem the day and I tucked two inspired and bright-eyed kids into bed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sometimes It's Better to be the Enemy

Barry at Kitchen Table Math has a post on some very unhelpful tips from the NEA for parents who want to help support their kids. The kicker is the guide on helping a child who wants to become an engineer. Go read Barry's post for priceless excerpts and the comments following.

What a friend school parents have in the NEA. You american homeschoolers should be glad they're your enemy!

Finishing Curriculum

Today we finished book 1 of Key to Fractions and it felt so good. This book has been on the go since last spring and has been approached when Catherine was interested in it. Since putting it back in into rotation a little while ago Catherine's ploughed through it with ease and it's actually fit in well with our overall approach to math.

Maybe the curriculum doesn't rule our approach anymore but it's still nice to shelve a finished piece of it.

Aside from that Catherine did some spelling, copywork and listened to more Story of the World as she worked on her paint by numbers picture.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm Back

I was away for the weekend. I went up to the parents to help with some christmas light putting-upping. Turned out that I really didn't do a whole lot but the visit was still nice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Make Your Own Mattress!

I've been looking into DIY concrete countertops and sinks for one reason or another and somehow that got me to a site where a person describes making their own mattress. A mattress is just one of those things I thought you needed a factory for. I'm starting to think there are a lot of things I could make myself and actually don't need a factory for.

Anyway, here's the link! It sounds like a very comfortable mattress.

Here's a diagram of a foam mattress should anybody want to do some research!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Teaching Latin

Occasionally I get a little panicky because I realize that *gasp* my kids aren't learning Latin. Yes, I know that's silly. However, a lot of the homeschoolers I know on line make Latin a real part of their curriculum and since I'm generally measuring myself against them, of course I come up short in that respect.

I was relieved today to read Let’s Not And Say We Did at Right Wing Nation (no, I'm not a regular reader of that. I came to it through a post at Kitchen Table Math).

It's good stuff. Three commonly cited reasons for teaching Latin are laid out and then addressed. The reasons are:
Studying Latin teaches students grammar.
Studying Latin teaches students Latin roots.
Latin histories are part of our culture and history.

The author mostly seems to address the first question but he does so well, arguing that if helping kids to understand english grammar was a concern then we'd do better teaching them German. I'll let you read the original post and decide whether you agree or not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is up at Edspresso!

Talking to a Teacher

Tonight was Catherine's Girl Guides enrollment night where all the new girls pledge their eternal souls to the dark sisterhood of Guiding and they all get shiny pins. I shouldn't be like that. It's a really nice troupe with great leaders. One of the leaders has told me that they'd considered homeschooling in the past but choose to continue with schooling for some very good reasons I won't go into.

Tonight I met the mother of that leader and it turns out she had been hoping they would homeschool, was disappointed when they decided not to and was interested as all get out about it. And she's a former teacher.

I know about a half dozen or so teachers and former teachers and talked to many more over the last few years. One of those, just one, wasn't keenly interested and supportive of our homeschooling. By coincidence, or maybe not, she seemed to be the only one I've known who didn't seem to have any passion for her chosen career. All the others seem ready to offer advice, time and resources and want to learn about just what it is I do at home with my kids in terms of education.

I've heard a lot of stories about homeschoolers who've had ugly reactions from teachers and I've expected it to happen for some time. I've been expecting that for 5 years now. I think perhaps I better stop because inevitably when I meet a teacher and he/she finds out I homeschool and we start to ramble on about math and kids and, "isn't it great when you get to watch them learn?"

Occasionally there's a bit of a gulf. I can't use advice on record keeping that's meant for classes with 30 kids and I'm betting my prime tactic for dealing with a disinterested kid, take time off to go watch cartoons and snuggle, isn't going to be something a Grade 6 teacher will find valuable. We're both in education but we're both different kinds of specialists within that field and very often the skills and tools needed for one situation are exactly was isn't needed for the other.

Regardless, we still love kids and watching them learn. And we all relish our place in that learning.

I've invited the grandmother up for tea some day so she could get a bit of a feel for how we go about our homeschooling. I hope she takes me up on it.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Nerd Family is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling this week!

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I think it was Grade 8 when I had to read 'Island of the Blue Dolphins' by Scott O'Dell for school and I remember that I loved it. However, up until Catherine and I read it again over the last week I didn't remember much of the story or why I loved it so it really was a wonderful rediscovery for me.

Where our last book, Seaward, felt too fussy at times and like a short story fluffed into a novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins felt exactly right. No fluff whatsoever and every word needed. The chapters were short and inevitably sucked me right into the next so that it was a treat to read out loud. I'd sit down intending to read for half an hour but go on until my voice was disappearing and I was pushing the two hour mark.

Catherine loved it as well. How could she not? A girl trapped on an island who challenges cultural norms, proves herself strong and capable AND befriends animals left and right? This book almost seems tailor-made for Catherine. I'm fairly confident the Karana and Rontu will have a place in her imagination for quite awhile.

Here's a link to the sequel (which I didn't know existed and will have to pick up):

The book is, of course, based on a true story. We might explore that a bit if Catherine wants to and some of the links I've found are as follows:

Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island

PDF from the Museum of Man

PDF with a map of San Nicholas and a few activities on Island of the Blue Dolphin

EThemes list of resoures on Island of the Blue Dolphins

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meandering Through Math

This switch to using the curriculum instead of letting it use me has been working really well. On Friday we did the art project thing with the 2 times table and ever since then Catherine has had that table memorized! Granted, I've also been quizing her at unexpected times but I think the art approach really cemented some of it in her head. I'll be taking a similar approach with the other tables and other ways (other than memorization) of learning them.

Today I started by passing Catherine the math binder and asking what she'd like to work on. The answer was an enthusiastic, "Math Mammoth!" but I forgot I'd stuck the JUMP Math Fractions Unit in her binder as well and she stopped when she came to that. She'd done quite a few pages several weeks ago but we'd stopped when it got to addressing adding fractions with different denominators so she could shore up her multiplication skills. So that's where she started today.

JUMP Math, in this unit so far at least, is very much focused on building skills and not on explanations. Catherine was doing the worksheets that would prepare her to come up with common denomiators to add but not understanding why she had to do that. Okay. Leave JUMP Math.

On to Brain Pop where the math section has a little video explaining the addition of fractions. She watched and took the quiz and was a little closer to understanding.

On to Key to Fractions and where she left off months ago. This had more fundamental worksheets that she worked on happily and seemed to help her just a little more.

And all this she did either on the couch or at a little desk in the living room rather than her desk in the kitchen. Much better.

Today also helped me see the usefulness of having a library of quality curriculum around. We jumped from one to the other finding what worked at that moment and what would help us move forward. And the 'we' was sincerely meant. Catherine made the choices in what to do today and it made the whole process infinately more pleasant. Something resembling what we had in the earlier days of our homeschooling when unschooling was the approach.

Blog Reading Level

I originally saw this at Notes From a Homeschool Mom but notice that now Alasandra has a post on it as well.

Here's my blogs reading level:

cash advance

I have no idea how they arrive at that. Taking my last post and the posts it linked to into consideration, I haven't got a lot of confidence in their rating.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No. 1 in Cat Butts!

I suppose it was inevitable. With my recent posts on cat butts here and here I have apparently established myself as an authority and am number 1 on a google search for 'cats BUT,S'(yes, someone did that search and got to my site). Okay, so it has to be badly capitalized and horribly puncuated for me to be number 1 but still...I'll take it.

The same search turned up a valuable homeschool tool, Cat's Arse pencil sharperners.

NOTE: Apparently I'm not the only one into cat butts. Check out Alasandra's dirty pictures - Alasandra: Charybdis is mooning us