Sunday, September 30, 2007

Evolution of My Blog.

I'm not a big fan of memes, or I wasn't, but Lynn tagged me and I really can't tell her to shove off. Of all the bloggers I know she's one of the ones I have the most respect for (besides, I'll get her back one of these days).

The meme;

The idea is that I list five old posts that I think are reflective of the evolution of this blog … In addition, I am to “tag” (”meme?”) five other blogs and they must do the same thing else suffer the usual dire consequences.

Maybe I'm not a fan of memes but this one actually sounds sort of neat.

1) First Post! I even named the first post, 'First Post.' I introduced myself and stated the goals of this blog:

First, to motivate myself. Haven't done too badly with that one.

Second, so friends and family can check up on us. Hahaha! There's not a chance in hell I'd want all my family and friends checking this blog out anymore. Some yes but I just know that others would be all over me over some of the posts I tend to write.

Third, to give other homeschoolers an idea of an unschooling or homeschooling
Okay, I'm still sort of doing that. I've added resource links to the mix but I still get some daily accounts up.

2)Evolved Homeschooler The crowning acheivement of my blog - The Evolve fish logo. This is when I firmly took a step out of just being a personal blog and joined the larger secular blogging community. And look at all those comments! I felt like a star. :)

3)I Like Me! I Really Like Me! A post where I let myself get completely silly. Once I posted that one I felt a little freer in putting a bit more humour into my posts.

4) A Response. Part, the first. This was a good moment. This post and another were meant lightheartedly but taken the wrong way by the target. It could have devolved into a nasty spat. Instead we both took a breath, worked it out and ended up respecting each other. I used to cherish a good spat but this incident changed my view on that.

5)When You're a Bitch The post where I learned that if I post about the bad stuff and not only would people not judge me but they'd hand me a cup of tea and give me a pat on the back. I think that post cemented the idea that blogging was for me, at it's core, building communities.

I'm tagging...EJ, Kitten, Lisa, Not June (does being 'Not June' mean she doesn't really have to do it?) and the lady who's Barefoot in the Backyard!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

How to Make Yourself a Hero

I've been fading lately on the supper front. Bland pork chops and nuked potatoes have been the highlight, yes the highlight, of my weekly menu plans.

No wonder my son reacted to the call to supper tonight with screams of, "NO! NO! NO!"

Tonight I had a tiny bit more initiative than usual and searched 'chicken thighs' on and found Sunshine Chicken. It looked like a winner. It had a four star rating and a sauce with only four things, all of which I had on hand.

One hour later I pulled the most gorgeous chicken thighs I have ever baked from the oven. They smelled wonderful. I served them to my daughter.

"This is awesome!"

I served it to my husband.

"Dear, if you made this every night I would never complain."

I served it to my son.

"NO! NO! NO!"

Okay, so he was in bed late, up early and out digging holes in the yard for most of the afternoon. I could have served jelly beans and chocolate and gotten the same response.

But 2 out of 3! How fantastic is that? And the thighs were delicious.

It's pokey and old fashioned but man, sometimes there's nothing like the feeling one gets from having served a well recieved meal. If anyone else wants that warm glow of satisfaction, the feeling of being a housewife hero, try out the recipe.

Funky Zebras

I forgot one award in my last post. Not actually an award but more of an endorsement. You may have seen this in my sidebar - I am officially Whore Church approved (and what good christian woman isn't?).

If you haven't noticed the link in my sidebar, shame on you. It's damn funny stuff.

Oh, and yes, I know my title has nothing to do with the subject but I realized I'm now listed at Homeschool Blog Buzz and having my post pop up there as "Whore Church" might bring some unwanted attention from some of the more conservative readers of that site.

And besides, Zebras are funky.

Homeschool Blog Awards

Homeschool Blog Awards nominations are starting up!

I've gotten two awards in my blogging career so far, The 'Nice Matters' award from Melissa (That was the best) and The Evolved Homeschooler award. Two Evolved Homeschooler awards actually but one I awarded to myself and damn it, I was too frakkin' cheap to give myself any prizes.

So anyway, I think I should get more awards. Awards with prizes. Feel free to nominate me over and over and over again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Homeschool Blog Buzz

Whoo hoo! I'm listed!

Homeschool Blog Buzz

To anybody who finds me through Homeschool Blog Buzz, welcome!


Catherine did her first spelling test today. She doesn't quite get the idea of a test as she kept asking for clues or 'freebies'. Despite that she managed to get all but one right. Math was simply drills.

History was Chapter Five of Story of the World, 'The First Sumerian Dictator.' I think I mentioned before about the similarities between the babes-in-baskets stories of Sargon and Moses. We'll be finding more similarities between ancient Summerian and Hebrew tales as Gilgamesh is next on the agenda once I find a good version. In it we get a first glimpse of the serpent from the Garden of Eden and the prototype of Noah with Utnapishtim, a man who survived an epic flood.

In science we moved on to Helium. We did up our periodic table card, stuck it up on the wall and then carried out an experiment I found on the website of the PBS show, Zoom. It's about creating 'Flinkers', ballons that neither float nor sink.

We had a little bit of a problem finding helium ballons because the regular shop we go to for those was out, "due to the worldwide helium shortage." Story here. I suspect helium prices were just too high for the little shop. A nearby national grocery chain had oodles of it and we managed to get our balloon.

Then I gave Catherine the balloon and explained her challenge. Make it a Flinker.


"What now?"

"It didn't work."

"How can I do that?!"


In the end, with lots of help from me, we got it hovering in the middle of the kitchen but I'm now in the process of googling the bejezus out of "problem solving skills" in search of more activities that will get her thinking.

See-Through Frog

It seems a see-through frog has been created.

"You can see through the skin how organs grow, how cancer starts and develops," said the lead researcher Masayuki Sumida, professor at the Institute for Amphibian Biology of state-run Hiroshima University.

"You can watch organs of the same frog over its entire life as you don't have to dissect it. The researcher can also observe how toxins affect bones, livers and other organs at lower costs," he told AFP.

Dissections have become increasingly controversial in much of the world, particularly in schools where animal rights activists have pressed for humane alternatives such as using computer simulations.

It neatly skirts the moral implications of killing and cutting up a living creature simply so a 15 year old can see it's inner workings. Of course it completely glosses over the moral implications of designing a see-through creature simply so a 15 year old can see it's inner workings. Somehow the fact that it's still alive is a reason to pat ourselves on the back?

But the thing is, it turns out the frog is still dead.

The transparent frogs can also reproduce, with their offspring inheriting their parents' traits, but their grandchildren die shortly after birth.

It takes a couple of generations to realize that of course but death is death. I't's just been delayed so that the 15 year old kid doesn't have to ask himself any important questions at the moment he's looking at the frog.

I'm not quite sure where I stand on this. It is very neat. I guess I'm simply bothered that it seems to be implied that a question has been answered and we can feel good about the transparent frog. There's learning to be had in peeking at the frog inner working but there's real growth to be had in the ethical questions that still surround this issue, isn't there?

To rip the entrails out of a digital frog you can order a free CD here and the accompanying workbook here. Those resources come from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and they offer up some resources and food for thought regarding ethics and medicine.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Clothes Shopping

Preschool, a bit of homeschooling (nothing interesting today) and then down to my mother-in-law's for supper and clothes shopping.

Clothes shopping means my husband's cousin's kids have grown out of another batch of clothes and 3 or 4 garbage bags of those clothes are sitting at my mother-in-law's house. The cousin has a daughter who's 2 years older than my daughter and a son who's about 2 years older than my son.


So twice a year we get the bulk of my kids' clothes for the next 6 months. Thy're thrilled with all the new stuff and I'm thrilled that it cost me nothing. I don't know if used clothes would be good enough if they were in school so this, in my mind, is one more benefit to homeschooling.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Jesus and Being a Dick.

A few weeks ago I had heard some story about how fellow Christians were doing asshole-ish things to not-Christians and I had the idea of writing a post that would boil down the Golden Rule and the teachings of Jesus (the love thy neighbour Jesus not the tipping tables in the temple Jesus) down to the catchy phrase of, "Don't be an Asshole." I figured it would be much easier to remember than the, "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you," thing for those prone to letting their little inner assholes win the day.

Never wrote the post. Now I can't. I got scooped by John Scalzi (via I am a Christian Too). However he scooped me a good month before I even thought of writing the post so it's okay.

John wrote:

A Hindu chaplain was called to offer a prayer at the US Senate yesterday; the response of some Christian nutbags was to slip in and disrupt the prayer because the Hindu chaplain wasn't giving his shoutout to Jesus. They were trundled out, the prayer was given, and yet, somehow, the Republic did not fall. I think we can all thank Vishnu for that.


I think it's fair to remind them of a number of things:

1. Whatever the rationale, they're being dicks.

2. At no point in the Bible does Jesus say "be a dick in My name."

3. Lots of other Christians seem to get through life without feeling called upon to be a dick in the service of Christ.

4. Indeed, when many of these Christians discover to their dismay that they've been a dick about something, they will frequently fall to their knees and say, "Forgive me, Lord, for I have been a total dick."

5. And He does.

6. That's a hint.

He did it better than I would have anyway.

The point still stands though.

Don't be an Asshole or a Dick.

Of course you know I posted this just so I could work Jesus, asshole and dick into the same post.

I have to go pray now.

Review - Timez Attack

I found Timez Attack a few weeks ago while hunting for resources. I'd finally clued in to the idea that drilling was not evil, was something my daughter in fact enjoyed and was even required if I wanted her to be well prepared should she go into math, science or card counting in Las Vegas. A lot of what I came across at first wasn't promising. Most of the games were either boring flash card sims or some sort of Asteroids rip off.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Timez Attack. Just take a look and see why:

Now those are graphics! Now I've made sure my kids are exposed to old-school consoles through my gaming consoles collection and emulators but still, my daughter regularly plays Dungeon Siege and Age of Mythology. She's spoiled in terms of what she expects from pixels. But Times Attack delivers. The graphics are smooth, the creatures are well designed and the atmosphere is perfect for a dungeon crawler.

The controls are easy to master, a combination of mouse and keyboard (the tools with which all true gamers work) although just the keyboard can be used. It's really worth a swing through the tutorial at some point as it has some valuable tips including how to brighten the screen and how to use the keyboard-only configuration but what I really liked is that you can go right to the game and hints on how to play will be displayed along the bottom of the screen. They can be easily turned off but for those of us who never have the patience to bother with a tutorial or manual, it's a lifesaver.

Is the game fun? Heck, yes. Is it a good drill program. Heck, yes!

What's at stake for the character is his freedom. Running through the dark stone corridors, passing under flickering torches and battling huge trolls in multiplication drill style for the keys that will help him to freedom has had my daughter on the edge of her seat every time she sat down to play. I can't really say more about the gameplay then that. If it has a seasoned gamer like Catherine begging to play it they obviously got that part right. What I think they also got right was the drilling. A problem is shown, then a picture that represents the equation and then the battle-drill which repeats that problem several times. Next time it's a new equation except that the battle-drill now asks the first and second question. Each drill builds on the previous ones.

The best thing about Timez Attack? The basic version which includes the times tables from 2 to 12 is free! That fact says to me that the developers are pretty confident that not only will the kids love playing the game but that they'll master it fast enough that they'll be begging for more of a challenge. The complete version costs $39 (download, CD is $5 more) which seems a pretty good value to me. Catherine hasn't mastered the free version yet but I don't think it'll be too long before I'm called on upgrade to the complete game.

Timez Attack Website

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


We did all the normal stuff today. The math, the language arts and the history. Where it got a little more interesting and different was when we did some science.

I have a couple of little periodic tables but over the year we'll be building a big periodic table on the kitchen wall with index cards. We put up our first one today. It was Hydrogen and on the card we've included the atomic weight, number and the symbol. Also, the Latin root 'hydro' and Greek root, 'genes'. I'm also thinking we'll add the electron configuration as it seems to be a fairly simple concept. Here's the card:

It's not a masterpiece of design and 100 or so of those taped to the wall is soooo going to ruin the paint but oh well, we had fun.

We did watch some footage on the Hindenburg disaster. When Catherine asked what caused it I explained that it was the hydrogen of course. But not so! A little googling on the matter came up with the theory that it was actually the very flammable shell of the airship that was the initial problem. Of course once the flame got through the shell and ignited the hydrogen...

I have a few more neat things planned involving hydrogen this week but I'm hoarding them for later posts.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 91st Carinival of Homschooling is up and the host is Eric Novak at The Voice of Experience who takes us on a tour of the fairgrounds that are homeschooling!

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm Sure You Could Add This To a Unit Study Somehow

Possibly Sex Ed. It does come with an optional hairy chest useful for demonstrating changes in puberty.

Another one:

Religious Studies?

Both courtesy of Rob Nance at Cheap Ass Toys and both downloadable here in PDF.

To clear up some confusion I caused (not at all unusual for me) here's the link to the blog I first saw the Hasslehoff doll on, Newsarama.

God Bless America?

From The Friendly Atheist (he's a cutie too):

Perhaps in response to Rob Sherman’s atheist activism or his daughter’s recent (successful) campaign to get God Bless America off of the Homecoming Dance song list at her high school, the family evoked a response from the suburban Chicago community.

Their home was vandalized Friday night

Despite the fact that church bulletins were found I think it's clearly wrong to assume this was the doing of Christians. Messages scrawled in chalk mentioned a chap named "Jessus." Perhaps they should shove their anti-christian bigotry aside and go find this Jessus person so they can get to the bottom of this!

Frankly, I think it likely has nothing to do with the whole "God Bless America," matter either. Who wants a song like that at their school dance? The kids must be thanking Dawn Sherman for getting it pulled. It hasn't got a dance beat. Maybe you could slow dance to it but everyone knows slow dances are for feeling up your partner and how in the hell are you going to be in the mood for that with someone screeching about God in the background? I mean, just look at the lyrics:

Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam...


Guide her? From the mountains? Foam?

Hmmmm. Might be suitable for copping a feel afterall. At the very least.


I'm sure I've said we would not be covering spelling as a distinct subject. I can't see the use of it myself. I learned spelling by reading and that was that. However my husband decided that was most certainly not that after working on a poem with Catherine and suggested she do some spelling. I rolled my eyes but asked Catherine if she'd like to try it and she said yes. I told her sternly it would mean more drills like Calculadder. Her eyes lit up.

Oh yeah, I forgot, she loves drills.

So out Language Arts period of the day will now be spelling and grammar with creative writing and punctuation on alternating days. To think, I was a radical unschooler less than a year ago! But wait, that's not it. We're also adding Latin and Greek roots (here is a site with a fantastic list). Catherine really wants to learn ancient Greek and Spanish but we've also got french on the menu and a plan for science that includes learning scientific lingo. Latin and Greek roots would be a great way to get a foundation for learning those languages and understanding science lingo.

"But it's not going to help me at all when I learn Japanese!" Catherine laughingly said this morning.

Japanese? Oboy.

With math we're working through our Math Mammoth Multiplication book. Once again I have to stress how much I love this series. They're clear and uncluttered and inexpensive. $40 bought me our core elementary math curriculum and remains the best deal I've gotten in terms of homeschooling curriculum. Poor Singapore Math sits ignored on a bottom shelf somewhere, the target of my daughter's passionate hate.

Science was a little worksheet on observation and inference. It was a little dopey and Catherine wasn't too impressed by it. I can't offer a link unfortunately because the author is taking the site down.

History was better. We listened to Story of the World, Chapter 4 and then an didactivity sheet on hieroglyphs and scribes and I hit a home run on that sheet. I read the information on the sheet and then we took a look at a couple of charts that showed what certain symbols meant. One is shown below.

Then the fun part. The worksheet gives a little story in hieroglyphs that you have to decipher! We both had a ball with that.

Later as Catherine was colouring, Harry and I sat down with an alphabet and number poster and a bunch of poker chips. I have no real plan for Harry but I've learned that if you just grab some odd resources, something will fall into place. And it did. We counted, added and subtracted the chips. We sang the alphabet. I called out letters and numbers and Harry rushed to cover them with poker chips.

I swear, one of the most fundamental homeschooling resources is a dollar-store set of poker chips.

All in all a brilliant day. Probably helped by all the silliness of yesterday and an early bedtime last night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Just Plain Silliness

Most of our Sunday was pretty mundane, we didn't even head out to church. The evening however has been a different story.

On a whim my husband whipped up a chocolate cake after supper. Since there was only 3/4 of a tub of frosting left he of course had to dump it all on the finished cake. Then the candy sprinkles came out and the kids soon made sure the frosting was barely visible under the sprinkles. The husband cut the cake into huge pieces and we all stuffed ourselves.

To burn off the calories dear husband then turned on the dance music channel on our cable. Much ridiculous dancing followed.

After the dancing I was searching for free sound effects on the internet(someone had requested help in a forum I frequent) and mistakenly played a very loud clip of a cat scream. The kids ran in and giggled like mad as we all listened to more cat yowls, firecrackers and F-14 sounds.

One thing though, I realized what a small part sounds play in our homeschooling. I search for videos, worksheets, pictures, etc. but the sound of a duck quacking?

Here are the links (most can be saved by right-clicking on the title and clicking, 'Save Target as...'):

Partners in Rhyme

Absolute Sound Effects Archive

Media College

The evening was topped off by a tea party. Catherine brought out her good china and invited Harry, which tickled him to no end. There was some polite conversation but the party ended as storytime approached and Harry decided he'd rather be a cat.

Dinosaur 3-D Screensaver

Just a quick heads-up. Giveaway of the Day's free software for today is an animated dinosaur screensaver. Since studies have shown that aproximatly 98% of homeschooling families include at least one dinosaur fanatic, this might be a neat little application for some.

The program will only be availible today and must also be installed today.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Glorious Atoms

This is why I homeschool.

Through 13 years of school and Gumbi knows how many bloody little diagrams of solar-system like atoms I never got any kind of firm sense of how an atom was really put or held together. Never! I left school with a loosey-goosey idea that by some quasi-magical way, atoms just worked. It was enough for the school system to know that I graduated with that little solar-system like diagram in my head.

So last week I learned that the diagram was inaccurate. The electrons don't have neat little orbits. A more accurate model is a cloud. This poster (shown below) shows some of the shapes possible and also, just how beautiful science can be.

Tonight I learned what holds the nucleus of an atom together. Now I knew protons had a positive charge. I don't think I ever bothered to think that, of course, they should repel each other rather then stick together in the nucleus. I do think I'd heard of the strong nuclear force. I don't think I'd ever understood what it really meant beyond the quasi-magical bit. But tonight Catherine and I watched a most excellent show called 'Atom' from the BBC. It's actually a three part series but we skipped the first to get to the meatier elements and birth-of-the-universe stuff (we'll go back later) and boy, was it fun.

A photograph of about 500 atoms of Niobium (41) and Selenium (34) neatly arranged at the surface of a crystal (darker atoms are simply lying lower in the surface).

The host used models throughout to demonstrate what he was talking about. Snooker balls were protons. Magnets became protons when he was demonstrating how objects with positive charges should react to one another. The same magnets wrapped with velcro demonstrated how the strong nuclear force overpowered the repelling force. So simple! Now I had a model in my head to consult instead of the quasi-magical feeling. There was more, lots more. I now know that iron is the most stable of elements, why some decay and why some decay. And I know even more which is too much to go into. None of it will get me into the door of a university physics department but it's ridiculously basic stuff that I darn well should have known.

So I'm glad I homeschool my kids. Not only can I make sure they get a solid understanding of things, I can make sure I do. Once again the education of my kids has been the education of me. How awesome is that?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lucky Find

We didn't do much for school work today. After a little bit of grammar review it was pretty obvious that Catherine was working through a fog. She and Harry have a cold and though it doesn't seem to have hampered their spirits or play any it's gotten in the way of her ability to focus on her work. Sure there are times when you should plow through but today wasn't one of them.

History did get a bit of coverage later in the day. We went up to a local thrift store yesterday and I picked through the software and found a game called Exploring Civilization.

I'd never heard of it or seen it before but it was a dollar so I picked it up hoping it might compliment SOTW. I sort of expected it wouldn't be much, certainly not likely to contain anything Catherine didn't know but boy was I wrong. The first activity had a little quiz that asked Catherine to identify who had invaded Egypt around (I think 1600 BC). The Hyksos! Another activity had her matching different icons that represented events and monuments to the cities in Egypt they were related to. And she loved the game! It's seems to be directed at kids a little older than Catherine but it's a fun and challenging resource.

The only link I could find for purchasing the game is here.

Thrift stores and yard sales...Yet again shown to be the best and most interesting way to find your homeschooling resources.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making Play Dough

We started the school morning with a review of prepositions. I figured that it was time to get back to Easy Grammar 3/4 so I copied some pages out of the teacher's guide (it contains all the same pages Catherine's workbook does) and Catherine did a few pages. Math Mammoth was next and more multiplication which Catherine is really enjoying.

Tomorrow's history stuff includes making a cuneiform tablet so I'd planned to run out and buy some clay on the weekend. However, why not get squeeze two subjects out the craft? So we made Play Dough today. It was a whole lot quicker and easier then I'd thought it would be and we'll no doubt be whipping up regular batches now. Since we made more play dough then I needed for the next day the kids all grabbed some, stamped their hand prints in it and let me bake the results for an hour or so.

I found the recipe at and am I ever glad I did. Instructable is just the neatest site full of crafts and experiments with detailed instructions. It's worth spending an hour or so going through the site because you'll come up with the neatest things to do with your kids like make Rheopectic slime, marshmallow guns or gorgeous grow crystals.

Right now Harry's watching Zoom on PBS and Catherine's playing Jumpstart Artist. This is one of the software titles that she's been using off and on since she was 5 and it's charms haven't seemed to have worn off. If I were to recommend a core collection of educational software I think all homeschoolers should have (sounds like a future post!), Jumpstart Artist would be near the top of the list.


The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at About Homeschooling!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Homeschooling in the Last Days.

Okay, whoever searched for the phrase, "Homeschooling in the Last Days," and wound up on my blog (assuming you come back), I want to tell you something.

If you really, honestly, truly believe these are the Last Days, forget about the frikkin' homeschooling.

Stuff your kids with candy, spend 12 hours a day at the theme park, buy them a Wii, 360 AND PS2, give them each 6 kittens, bunches of frogs and a pony, have chocolate cake at every meal and a birthday party everyday.

If it's the Last Days then drop the freaking BJU workbook and go have fun. Yes, I know you'll have lots of fun when you're raptured but gosh, it's not like they'll be able to come back for a visit.

At least work on getting them the 360. I'm pretty sure they're won't be any Microsoft products in heaven.

Monday Stuff and Those Damn Romans.

I have a friend who's computer wasn't working so I took a drive into town today to take a look at it. I packed up the kids, a few toys and Catherine's school work. One thing I learned: School work doesn't travel well. Despite the best of intentions I couldn't manage to help her with multiplication while stripping the case off a PC. Next time I won't even bother.

On the bright side I'm 98% sure the computer problem was simply a matter of a worn out start button. Not something I'd ever repaired before and since I don't want to learn how to do it on someone else's computer AND the local repair shop quoted a very cheap price, off it went to the shop. Now of course I have to do some googling and pull an old computer out of my stash so I can learn how to do it. I suspect it's ridiculously simple.

After we got back I had a nap while the dear husband took the kids off to the local wildlife park. They came back with the neatest things.

The wildlife park is full of peacocks and they just finished molting in August so when a worker collecting tail feathers spotted the kids he gave one to each of them. The striped feather may be from a pheasant.

I should have gone. I was doing homework for my course and a little extra research by listening to a TTC lecture series on the Roman Emperors. I'm starting to think I don't much like the Romans.

I'd learned earlier that some mummies from the Old Kingdom of Egypt weren't truly preserved but rather, in effect, shellacked. They'd have an outer appearence of preservation but inside would be reduced to a pile of dust and bones. Seems to me that the Romans were often the same way. A stiff and static outer varnish of civilisation but inside a stinking, crumbling pile of ruin. Probably not fair but you spend an afternoon listening to stories of Caligula, Nero, Commodus and people getting offed by knife, poison and collapsible boats (Agrippina, Nero's mom. Didn't work and she had to be bludgeoned to death) and you come to a different conclusion.

Yes, I know the Greeks were brutal too and the Egyptians were no better but Good Lord, at least they knew how to do it with some style!

Carnival of Family Life

The Carnival of Family Life is up at Mother Approves!

Friday, September 14, 2007


I don't think I've got much to report on that I can attach my nifty links to. It was Calculadder drills, copywork, Math Mammoth and some pages from Story of the World today. Not one nifty thing I hunted down the night before. Not one neat activity that I need to share. Shoot.

I'll do better next time. I promise.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

'Two Awesome Women

Two women have really had me thinking lately. They're pretty much polar opposites and if they ever sat down for a cup of tea together I would NOT want to be there because I imagine it would be one long, awkward silence but they're both still awesome.

The first is Michelle Duggar.

Yes her. The fundamentalist christian mom with 16 or 17 kids. There's probably not one point of politics or religion I'd agree with her on but this is obviously a woman who loves kids and not only loves them but knows how to create a stable and caring home for them. Further, I think she recognizes the real value of what she does for her family and is secure and confident in that. Our differences aside, I can see a lot in her that's worthy of admiration.

The second is Kathy Griffin.

Here's a woman who's probably closer to me politically but still leagues away in terms of religion. From what I gather, she's an atheist. I'm fairly sure a christian or even fellow believer of another faith wouldn't say what she did at the Emmy Awards...

Can you believe this shit? Hell has frozen over. Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now.

I suppose some think I should be offended. I'm not. It was a funny line. It was also a brave one. The US is not an easy or even sometimes a safe place to make fun of religion, especially on prime time TV. Too many people are too willing to get offended instead of turning the other cheek. Kathy Griffin had the courage to offend and to go for the laugh even when it would most likely lead to finger wagging, censorship and threats. How is that not admirable?

Strictly Ballroom

I just found out that JJ at Cocking a Snook has a thing for Strictly Ballroom and attributes it to her radical unschooling self. I'm not a radical unschooler in practice anymore but that was the movie that summed up my unschooling ideas. When I was on the Unschooling Discussion email list I brought that up and Sandra Dodd'(whose writing and ideas I need to requaint myself with but that's another post...) said that it was a favourite of hers as well.

I guess I'm wondering who else loves this little gem of a movie and if others see a special relationship between it and their educational philosophy.

The Cuteness

My husband went shopping with my son the other day and they brought back a little bag with just a few green beans in it. I didn't know what to make of it but my husband told me that they're magic beans. Harry wanted them.

So today we had to plant the magic beans. Harry grabbed the bag and marched (yes, marched) outside. I suggested the nasturtium garden where Calico's buried. For a minute he seemed to agree and then nixed that. Then I suggested under our big poplar tree.

"No! 'The tree will fall down!"

I wasn't getting something. To be fair, I'd just woken up from a nap. Anyway, I just followed him after that.

He picked a patch of ground in the middle of the lawn. I grabbed a spade, turned over the sod and he deposited the beans, pods and all. I flipped over the sod and stamped it down.

Harry looked up into the sky and said, "I gonna climb into outer space!"

Of course. Planting those magic beanstalk beans in the garden would have ruined it. Planting them under the tree would have knocked it down. Good planning my son.

The job done he marched (yes marched) back to the house and called out as he went, "Come on Mom! Now we gotta wait."

And that we will.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Pile of Work on Wednesday

We really went at it today. History, science, copy work, math, you name name it, we did it.

1) Math. Catherine passed a Calculadder drill and so got to go on to the next. We also did a few pages from Math Mammoth on multiplying with a number line. Neat stuff and Catherine really enjoyed it.

2) Copy work. Using the Amazing Incredible
Handwriting Worksheet Maker
I made one copy work sheet for Catherine. One because I know from the Calculadder drills how long Catherine takes to write something.

3) History. Another page from World Map Skills, this time on ancient sites related to primitive people and their art. Then we went on to Story of the World and listened to chapter 2 and 3. After we were done with that we went over to the first two lectures from the TTC course on the History of the Ancient Egyptians. The lecturer is Bob Brier and he's fantastic. He's passionate and expressive and even though Catherine didn't think it was as interesting as SOTW (some of the material covered went over her head) she was still getting wrapped up in the lectures. I'd definitely recommend his courses and as luck would have it his course on the Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt is on sale! $25 for audio CDs or $20 for a download. Highly Rec commended!

4) Science. I think I may finally have found something that will give me a foundation from which to help the kids learn about science. How to Teach Science has an email course that seems promising. I'll write a longer post on this once I've had a chance to finish the course but so far it's been a relief. The lady who runs the website maintains that there are certain core things kids need to do good science including thinking skills and writing skills and there are certain things we need to give them like rules of science and the basics of atoms and molecules. If we give them the proper basics we'll equip them with what they need better than many elementary curriculums out there.

So anyway, today we watched a couple of Brainpop shorts on atoms and then took the related quizzes. I printed out a periodic table and we'll go through the elements one by one. One resource that will help, is linked to our history and looks fun is Greek Mythology and the periodic Table.

Tommorrow Harry goes to preschool, Catherine goes to help the preschool teacher and I go to my course and choir. No school stuff and probably no post!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For Monday and Tuesday

Yesterday we actually did the work I'd planned. Not that it was a lot, a couple of pages from Catherine's World Map Skills book and a Calculadder drill but heck, we did it. The map skill pages were related to SOTW with maps of prehistoric sites and also fit in well with the capitalization we were doing Friday as there were a lot of proper nouns to write down (England, Caspian Sea).

Today we listened to Horrid Histories; The Savage Stone Age. This is absolutely crazy stuff. I'm really not sure if we learned much that was new to use but we certianly enjoyed it. It's full of slapstick skits and outrageous humour surrounding certain subjects like the beginnings of language and Stonehenge and though it does contain a lot of good, solid information it's sometimes a little hard to understand when the accents get a little think. Still, definately a useful resource.

Another Calculadder drill. Catherine beat the first level but hasn't yet made the second in under two minutes. She knows the answers but gets a little to caught up n writing them, not willing to sacrifice a perfectly written '2' to the stopwatch. Incidently, here's a link for FreeWatch, the little software application I use for timing her. I am such a sucker for cute little apps.

Catherine also helped me prepare supper. We're having Albondigas, a salsa and meatball soup that's perfect for a cool fall day. She read the recipe, peeled carrots, added the bouillon and defrosted and added the meatballs (I buy gr. beef in big packs and portion it up before freezing).

Harry said goodbye to a friend today. The neighbour's great grandson who was coming over to play while the family sorted out matters of a death in the family flew home. Thankfully not before they had one last go at the Lego and exchanged hugs and kisses. Hopefully they'll be back next year. I only wish that the friends my kids made and really, really clicked with didn't always seem to be the ones that had to move or live a fair drive away.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 89th Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Why Homeschool!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Husband's Orders

I think the great thing about being married is that you've got someone who, when he/she sees you're doing something dumb or not doing something you need to, will put their foot down and order you around. My husband, fed up, has done that with me.

The issue is my clothes. Rather, my lack of clothes. I really don't have much that's suitible to wear outside the house and when I'm inside the house I'm wearing his shirts and pants and socks and sweaters. Needless to say this bothers him on two counts. One, I've generally gotten to his clothes before he has and two, I usually look like an unattractive lump of cotten blends. So just recently he put his foot down.

I am now under orders to put away half of the money I earn babysitting for clothes. I cannot spend it on books, homeschool stuff or computer crap. I cannot spend it on used clothing or cheap stuff from the local Bargain Shop or Walmart that will fall apart and be unwearable in a month.

This sort of sounds a little old fashioned with the husband setting down rules for the wife but frankly I've found that having equal footing in a relationship doesn't have to mean every decision needs to be a respectful discussion between the two partners. Sometimes you just need to tell the other person to shut up, sit down and do what you're telling them. And sometimes, when your partner does that, you need to listen and do it.

So I'm under orders to shop for clothes. Now I have to sit him down and tell him that tommorrow, he's going to go up to the local gym and get that membership he's been talking about for 6 months. And he doesn't have a choice in the matter. He's under orders.


My darling son came into the kitchen last night. He turned so I could look at his right ear and said, "Mom! look! Look!"

I looked but had to ask, "What is it buddy?"

"My ear! My ear is clean! I cleaned it all by myself!"

I got a little worried. Did he get into the Q-Tips? I really don't want him sticking those into his ears.

I turned him around, looked him in the eyes and asked, "What did you use to clean your ears Harry?"

He grinned, held up a finger, licked it and said, "Slime!!!"

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Yard Sailing

Or Yard Saling.

Yesterday was the day of the annual bigger-than-God community yard sale. For my kids and I, only Christmas is better. Last year I got a wardrobe and two bookshelves for the kids' room for $30.

This year however we forgot about it until the night before. Not planning for it meant we didn't have a lot to spend but we went out anyway. My $20 could buy a lot of books and such for homeschooling.

Or it might have if the first sale we stopped at hadn't been a Star Wars collecter with tons of related crap. I stopped because I had seen the pile of boxes on a table that just KNEW were older software boxes. I have a small collection of MS DOS games in my basement that I like to add to on occasion so it looked like I had hit the jackpot.

They weren't DOS games though. They were all classic Star Wars games for Win 95 or later! X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, Dark Forces 1 & 2, Rebellion, etc. Not only were they classics but they were the classics that I and more importantly, my husband, grew up on! It was fantastic to bring those home, show them to my husband and watch his eyes light up. He's already got two installed (they run just fine on XP thank goodness).

I did manage to find some neat craft supplies and puzzle book for the homeschooling but the geek part of me won out. After I sign off here and do a little housework I'm going to be installing Dark Forces II and playing long into the night.

Again With a Few SOTW Ideas

We've got a few more days with the early farmers of Story of the World in my house. I dug out a Time Life book on the subject that I want to read a bit of with Catherine and our World Map Skills book has some nice pages on the Stone Age and Primitive art.

My find of the week however was Mesopotamia in Colour. Yes, again with the colouring sheets but honestly, they're a great activity when your child is listening to the Story of the World audio book or to you reading it. They not only give some images that can be related to the book, they can also spark some questions and investigations that might otherwise not have come up. Anyhow, here's a sample;

Another idea was simply a question. Listening to a lecture series on Egyptian Pharaohs last week I learned that though the Pharaohs wore crowns, a crown has never been found in any dig, even in the intact tomb of Tutankhamen. The lecturer's guess was that the crown was passed from Pharaoh to Pharaoh. Catherine and I haven't really explored this but I think it might be interesting to ask a child who's into the SOTW Egyptian stuff why they thought a crown had never been found. Further, why, if the crown was indeed passed from Pharaoh to Pharaoh, what that said about the crown and the position of Pharaoh.

Friday, September 7, 2007

For Friday

So today we did some multiplication from Math Mammoth. Catherine certainly understood it but again her problem was that she isn't quick enough on the draw with basic addition. She can do it, she's just slow and that seems to make multiplication a little painful. I think I've mentioned this before and I think I've mentioned ways I intended to address it. I think I completely ignored that. So back to Calculadder drills. We did a couple of easy ones today with 2 minute time limits and we'll keep doing it until the answers come to her quickly.

I should make it clear that I'm not forcing the drills on Catherine. She's found the speed she works at pretty frustrating and since quizzes and drills are something we simply haven't done she enjoys the novelty of it.

On to Language Arts where again it was back to basics. I found a couple of capitalization worksheets at Teacher Vision (here and here). This is something we'll work on some more. There's no way in hell I'd give up our time as radical unschoolers but the trade off is that we have to play a little catch in certain areas.

On to history where there is no catch up required although, since Catherine thought we should start SOTW from the beginning, there's some repeating. Again we used a copy of a map of Mesopotamia (from the SOTW activity book) and reviewed the bodies of water and rivers. The SOTW map has the city of Catal Huyuk on it so we plugged that in Google and read a bit about the site. When I read a bit about it being a Neolithic and Chalcolithic site Catherine asked what those terms meant so on we went on to find that out and start a glossary of terms for the back of her history binder.

Science was related to history. We'd done simple machines before but our SOTW activity book has a colouring page of a Shaduf so we went on a search for info on first-class levers. Enchanted Learning has a simple animation that helped us review. When we were finished we stomped outside to find some way to construct something similar to a shaduf. We ended up balancing a garden rake over the top bar of our swingset and hanging a tricycle on one end. Catherine tried moving it around with a rope on the other end. Then we moved the rope over beside the load or tricycle and I acted as the counterweight (couldn't find another tricycle!) while she moved it around again, finding it much easier that time.

Art was related to SOTW. We visited this page on Indian Rock Art and were supposed to try making our own negative handprints and painted handprints like this one...

...but Catherine wrinkled her nose thinking it would be too messy. Sheesh. Ah well, at least we talked a bit about the art and about how prehistory is really not a fixed moment in the timeline but more relative to the attributes of a culture.

There were a couple of other resources I found. One I didn't use yet and one I haven't really tested yet. The first was the Motions and Forces page from It has a bunch of links to resources useful if you're covering physics. There's a link to Medieval levers that I know we'll have fun with when we get to that period.

The other resource was a multiplication game called Timez Attack. It's basically just a drill game but the graphics and gameplay look impressive and there's a free version for the times tables from 2-12. Unfortunately it's really dark and in our bright kitchen we couldn't see a thing when we tried it early in the afternoon. there also seems to be no save function. Catherine did seem enthusiastic about it however and she loves a good dungeon crawler game. I'll write more when we're a little more familiar with it.

That's it for our homeschooling today.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

For Wednesday

Today we didn't do a whole lot. It was the last day I'd be babysitting my nephew before he went back to school so it HAD to be a play day. Right?

A couple of neat things though.

Harry found a half dead moth that, by the time he brought it out to show Catherine and I after handling the poor bugger was about another quarter dead. This led to printing out a moth lifecycle picture from Enchanted Learning. After examining that we wandered off to the living room to look at a book about moths and butterflys.

Catherine wrote a Diamante poem. We used a worksheet from somewhere but I can't find the blasted thing so here's a link to a worksheet that's much better anyway.

Here's the poem;

Chewy the cat and Kia the dog

Rambunctious, Black
Climbing, Chasing, Biting
Bed, Mice, Pedigree, Couch
Eating, Sleeping, Snoring
Crazy, Funny

The 'pedigree' bit is funny. Catherine put it in to exhibit Kia's love of her food - it's her brand. It's also good ironic humour as it's quite obvious from a first glance that Kia is about as far from pedigree as a dog can get. I also just realized that 'farting' never got in there. If there's a participle more appropriate for Kia, I'm not sure what it is.

Next we did some review questions from The Story of the World Activity book. Catherine loved that part so when we got to a worksheet on cave painting I interviewed her instead of having her write out her answers. And damn it, I don't have a link for the worksheet. I'll find it and post it later. Anyhow, the colouring pages I linked to a couple of posts back came in very handy when we ran across a question asking what the predominant themes of cave paintings were.

We were going to wrap up the evening with a viewing of Brother Bear since it has a nice feeling of why those animal cave paintings might have been so important to prehistoric people but guess what? I couldn't find it!

Anyhow, my course starts tommorrow. This years it's the the church from early christianity up until somewhere in the 1700's. Don't be suprised if I start spouting stuff about Augustine and Luther.

Thomas Recall Result

So last week we got a check from the Thomas Train recall people. It covered the money we spent to send in our one little musical caboose. That was nice as we didn't really expect the postage back. The letter with the check mentioned that we should receive our replacement caboose soon and that a free gift was on the way.

Now when they said free gift I thought maybe a poster or some stickers. Something little that Harry would love but not too expensive.

We got the free gift today and it was Salty!

Not stickers but a $20 wooden engine and a character my son adores! Awesome.

The caboose hasn't come yet but I think it's been forgotten anyhow. Harry is as happy as a pig in shit (as my father says) and is collecting all his engines together so he can properly introduce them to Salty.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First day back

Today was the first official day of school work here although we've been working up to it for a few weeks. It was an easy start with some review of multiplication concepts with Catherine. We'll be using Math Mammoth again for this.

Catherine needs some work on her writing skills so I did a quick search for writing prompts and came with a collection of worksheets from abcteach here. She had a great time designing her alien and spent over an hour carefully thinking about and printing out her answers to questions on the sheet. I'd never seen her pay such carefull attention to her writing before.

We also started Story of the World over again. Why? Well, I ordered a SOTW workbook from a used curricullum email list and it has lots of related activities in it that Catherine thought looked neat. Not wanting to miss out she thought it might be neat to just start from the beginning again. We'll use the activity book and I've also found some more online resources to make this go 'round a little deeper. Today we simply listened to the First Nomads section as Catherine did some coloring. The Stone Age Coloring Book was from ivorybill and were simple little representations of stone age cave drawings like the following;

There are also a couple of nice coloring sheets here of a stone age man and wooly mammoths but we finished the chapter before Catherine got to those so we'll stick them away for later.

I'm Back!

I'm back on the East Coast today. Not nearly as pretty as Victoria, B.C. but it's home.

The wedding was perfect. The ceremony was short but meaningful and although everything about it and the reception was beautiful, it wasn't formal. And for the first time I realy got to see my little brother as a grown man in love. That was a gift and it had me choking back tears during the night.

We started our homeschooling today so I'll post about it a little later. Right now however I'm suffering from a bit of jet lag and am trying to keep myself from falling asleep on the keyboard.