Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Homeschooler. Homemaker. Feminist?

I call myself a feminist but I have to admit that I don't have a firm idea of what that means for me. Does it mean I'm committed to equal rights? Does it mean I tow a certain line when it comes to issues like abortion or women in the military? If it does mean those things, am I satisfied with that?

I discovered recently that the answer to the last question is, not at all.

I'm not much for labeling myself something so that I can simply adopt the views espoused by those who share that label. Rather, I choose the labels because they give me a foundation from which to build my views on things, make me ask the questions I need to when I'm evaluating my thoughts or a course of action on a matter. For instance, I'm not a Christian because it gives me the answers. What attracted me, in part, was that it gave me a foundation from which I could construct my answers. My neighbour has a broken foot. How can I show my love for that neighbour?

My other labels and roles are useful for the same reason. Being a parent, being a homemaker, being a homeschooler. It's also why I'm a little reluctant to call myself certain things. I get squirmy and uncomfortable when I attempt to call myself an artist because I'm well aware of what that would demand I start asking of myself. When am I going to work on my drawings? What do I need to do to improve my skills?

But feminist? What questions does that prompt in me when I'm going about my day and sorting out my life and ideas? I think I have the start of an answer.

I was reading a blog post yesterday about the Feminist Theory of Science. It's really a good read, as are the comments but one thing that stuck out for me was,

Just consider the field of primate research, for one, which is perhaps the most famous example. When all primate researchers were male, they saw only alpha males in primate groups, and dominant male behavior. When females began to do observational work on primate groups, all kinds of behavior that had gone completely unnoticed suddenly began to be observed and reported, and the field of primate research was completely changed. All because a different perspective had been brought to bear on the same data sets.

It also brought to mind feminist theology. In biblical criticism the real gift of feminist theologies has been noting what, for hundreds upon hundreds of years, was simply not noticed by the men. Were early Christian women involved in church leadership? That wasn't even a question for the longest time until someone noticed that perhaps you don't tell people not to do something, as in Timothy 2:11-12: "A woman must learn in silence, in all submission. I do not permit a women to teach or to dominate over a man, but to be in silence", unless someone is doing it.

I've also been looking at the work of Artmesia lately. She was a post-Renaissance painter who's work is very different from what many of the male artists of the period were doing. Look at her women and you'll discover they have personalities. They are there to help tell story, not to please the male eye. In looking at her art you realize, by contrast, just how alike the women in so many contemporary paintings were and how narrow the view of the artists was.

The last connection was a blog post I made a year and a half ago on a different blog. The New Avengers and Herman's Head deals, sort of, with the classic superhero team in comic books made up of a selection of male characters that represent differents personalities but then just one or two female characters who are there simply to represent the the feminine. The token girl.

All this relates the theory of the male gaze.

The defining characteristic of the male gaze is that the audience is forced to regard the action and characters of a text through the perspective of a heterosexual man; the camera lingers on the curves of the female body, and events which occur1 to women are presented largely in the context of a man's reaction to these events. The male gaze denies women agency, relegating them to the status of objects. The female reader or viewer must experience the narrative secondarily, by identification with the male

Though the essay that talked about this (by Laura Mulvey) deals with the cinema it's not hard to see how, once you understand and accept the premise, it affects science, theology, art and even comic books.

So back to me and feminism. What makes me a feminist is that I can see and acknowledge that male gaze. Furthermore, that when I make decisions and evaluate my actions I will take into consideration and give due value to my very female gaze and further, acknowledge that there are more gazes then these.

That's as far as I got. I haven't really figured out what useful questions all of this will prompt or how to test and use them. But I do know that at least there's a foundation under the label of feminist that I will be able to build on.

Any thoughts or comments or welcome. I realize this was a bit of a ramble but this is a blog and, at times, that's what they're for.

A Bit of the Renaissance

On Monday Catherine did a couple of Geeart lessons. Seeing as she was in the mood for art I pulled out a couple of books I'd given her for Christmas. They were nice big art books, one on Leonardo Da Vinci and the other on Michelangelo. Though she was a little reluctant to start it didn't take for the painters' work to drag her in. We were soon talking about light and structure and very often simply about what we liked best in the paintings.

As luck would have it Biography had a show on Michelangelo Tuesday night. We sat down and again, Catherine was a little reluctant but was soon asking questions and bringing out the Michelangelo book to get a better look at some of the details being shown on the program. Her book's focus however was only on his paintings so it was a real bonus that the show really showcased a lot of his sculpture. That helped her notice just how much the art of the time resembled Greek and Roman art and helped me plant a few seeds about the Renaissance that will come in handy when we get to that in history.

There were lots of giggles though as marble nudes meant lots of marble penises.

Now Catherine's conflicted. Leonardo used to be her favourite artist but now she's quite in awe of Michelangelo. And I have barely introduced her to Raphael. Hehehe.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Homeschooling in the Dark Ages

Funny headline from the HSLDA:

Legislator Wants to Take Homeschool Law Back to the ‘Dark Ages’!

Uh, you mean when almost all kids got their education at home? Sounds good to me.

Accept Global Warming? Who cares! It's About Risk Management.

This addresses something I've been thinking about for awhile. Whatever your position on global warming, shouldn't basic risk management dictate we take action to curtail polution and damage to the planet? If the doubters are right then the worst case scenario is economic harm but, if the doubters are wrong and nothing is done the consequences will be much more severe. But I tend to think we live in a time when people don't understand how to assess risk ("I would never fly! Planes crash all the time. What? Oh well, little Johnny didn't need a seat belt. We were only going down the road to the store") so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this basic idea doesn't get much talk.

Watch the video. It's not only informative, it's entertaining. The guy has a real gift for this sort of thing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pop Culture Synergy

Youtube meets Tom Cruise meets Lolcat.

Blog About Heart of Wisdom? God Will Get You.

Tami wrote up an interesting blog post that includes some criticism of Heart of Wisdom. I've never looked at Heart of Wisdom myself. I really don't know much about it and the Hebraic educational model as opposed to the Classical model. I'm more of a Catherine or Harry model kind of homeschooler myself.

Anyhow, she blogged about it and got a tremendously funny response in her comments from 'No Name':

...If I were you I wouldn’t mess with someone in God’s corner. He’s bigger and you will be sorry.

That's not the whole thing but the commentor does accuse Tami of writing about Heart of Wisdom just to get blog hits and well, I figure he/she/it is right so you can go over there, give Tami a hit and read the whole comment. It's good for a snicker.

It never fails to amaze me how people can be so sure God is on their side and be so embarrassed about that fact that they hide who they are. Funny that.

Thankfully, another Heart of Wisdom user left a very reasonable and measured response just after 'No Name' so we can conclude the comment was a bit of isolated lunacy and not reflective of the whole Heart of Wisdom crowd.

BTW - REad Tami's post and go to the links she's provided. This Hebrew/classical thing is a really interesting issue I never knew existed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

When 15 Minutes of Play is Better Than a Week With Curriculum

Let's Play Math has a post on Euclid's game. Last night I printed off a hundred chart, grabbed a highlighter and sat down at the kitchen table to play game with Catherine.

Note: Taking a look at the game and the rules might be helpful right now.

Within half a dozen moves Catherine realized the winner had been determined by the very first move. A few moves more and she realized half the board would never be marked and why (the highest of our first two numbers was 47). We talked a bit about the possible outcome and decided that, of course, there were only two outcomes, she'd win or I'd win, but that those two outcomes could be determined by four moves at the beginning.

1. She picked an odd number to start.
2. She picked an even number to start.
3. I picked an odd number to start.
4. I picked an even number to start.

Sure enough, she won through her first move of picking an even number. That let us decide how the other 3 initial moves would end a game.

After that, since this was Euclid's game, I googled Euclid and found this page. We read it and noticed an image of a sheet of Euclid's writing. On it were some shapes so I asked Catherine what kind of math she thought Euclid was interested in. 'Geometry"!' she answered.

That reminded me of an activity a friend (who's also a teacher) had shared with me when I mentioned Catherine was having trouble with the difference between 2 and 3 dimensions. So we grabbed some paper and traced a pattern block. I drew an x and y axis and explained that those were the two dimensions would could measure the shape by. Then I went a little further and showed her how we could number the lines and plot the points of the shape. I thought I was losing her but she said, "I know! Remember when we did maps?" and she drew out a little example of a map with a grid over it and showed me how she'd learned to find a square in the grid by the coordinates she'd been given. Awesome.

That down I stacked up pattern blocks on the tracing and said that the shape was now three dimensional and asked her to show me how that was and where the new axis would be. She understood right away and demonstrated it.

Ta da! Now of course I need to get some activities to reinforce this. I found a little whack-a-mole game on the subject and plan to make up some worksheets where can plot points to come up with some shape or secret message. I know this isn't 4th grade math but she seemed to enjoy it so we'll take a little detour and when she comes back to it in a couple of years there will already be a foundation.

Fifteen minutes of wandering off the path.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blood on the Kitchen Floor

The dog eating. Note the red arrow. That is the corner of the chair where the cat sits.

The cat.

The moment...Almost. The red arrow is a cat paw. The blue is a fleeing dog butt.

The aftermath. That's just one drop among dozens.

I was feeding the dog to try and get a picture of her. The fact that I captured a bit of the attack just moments later was just luck.

By the way, the dog is fine. She has a nice scratch on her ear but that's it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Books Left to Rot

Go visit Sweet Juniper. Take a look at the beautiful photos she took of the corpse that is the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository. On the one hand it's a horrible waste in a city that, with an adult literacy rate below 50%, can't afford it. On the other hand, with mushrooms and trees growing up through forgotten curriculum meant for a system of forced schooling, it could be a visual metaphor for freedom in learning. One thought makes your stomach turn. The other lifts your heart.

Don't fall for the latter image though. This is a city where a third of the population lives below the poverty line. The rotting books aren't broken chains, they're willful neglect.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Well, I finally saw the Eragon movie. We bought a used copy it at the local DVD rental place and I snuggled up with my daughter who loves the movie.

I do not love the movie.

First, it was derivative in the worst sense of the word. If you've read Lord of the Rings, Dragonriders of Pern and watched Star Wars then watching Eragon is something like watching clips from all those but simply recast and smushed together.

Second, they filmed the book, not a movie. Or at least it felt like they did. Someone flipped through the book and told the actors that, "Okay, now we've got a scene where Eragon races home to find his dead uncle. Do that one."

Flips page.

Now he's got a talkie bit with the crusty 'Obi Wan' dude. Do that one now."

There's little attempt to translate the story into a different medium and as a result it felt like I was being told about the story rather than being told the story.

Third, it was derivative. I know, I already mentioned that but heck, in every scene there was the poor shadow of a character I'd seen or read elsewhere. There was Wormtongue, here was Obi Wan, there was the fortune teller (I can't place where she's from as everybody and there dog inserts her in their movie and/or book. I figure the actress who played her was someones girlfriend. Most fantasy or Scifi flicks seem to have the one character who's played - barely- by the blonde the producer or directer is currently boinking.). And it wasn't simply the plot and characters that were derivative, it was even the way they shot and lit the story. Mysterious foreground light on a night riding scene, circling helicopter shots...Blech.

Lastly, it had John Malkovitch. Now, the guy is a fine actor but whenever he's cast in a movie where he's surrounded by accents his own voice is jarring and ugly. He's strictly meant for contemporary films. Thankfully, he's only in the film for a few minutes as they just stuck him in to tell us about this bad guy we're supposed to be afraid of and then forgot about him for most of the film.

I am not going to eagerly await a sequel. I am not going to read the books. I am going to introduce my kids to much better fantasy so that they come to understand that they can do much, much better than Eragon.

Friday, January 18, 2008

There's Got to be a Name for This Phenomenon

I blog and comment on message boards and talk about issues as if I were American. Creationism, 'fuzzy' math in schools, Mike Huckabee etc. are all talked about as if I were sitting in Ohio somewhere and living in the society that's directly affected by those things. Instead I'm in Nova Scotia and at least one step removed from those matters. Creation isn't the same issue here and fuzzy math hasn't infected the schools. If I'm in a debate with someone on a message board and they check out my profile and point out, "You're Canadian, what do you know about this anyway?" I get a little disoriented. Canadian? Oh. That's right.

I suppose this happens because about 90% of the people I know and joke with and talk to online are Americans and to talk with them often means talking to them about issues that concern them. But it is a little weird. I'm still a true and committed Canuck offline and even online I do have to wave the maple leaf at times but still the feeling of being almost American is never far away when Opera's fired up and I'm surfing the web.

If there's not a name for this there should be one.

Clown are Scary

Joanne Jacobs reports that the University of Sheffield in England surveyed kids and found out that they generally find clowns to be scary. Apparently they want to redecorate the children's ward at a hospital and someone (thankfully) thought it would be a good idea to ask kids their opinion.

I hated them as a kid, my siblings despised them and I don't think I had one friend who had good feelings about them. I find kids generally like their adults to be without masks and to behave, for the most part, like adults.

Stick to talking trains and cartoony woodland animals. 90% of kids will adore one or the other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winston Grammar - Review

This is our third day into using Winston Grammar and so far it's a hit. Now I know that new curriculum is ALWAYS a hit when it's all shiny and new but I'm hoping this keeps it's favoured status.

What makes Winston Gramar a hit with Catherine is that it's not simply workbook work. It comes with a bunch of different cards that represent the different parts of a sentence and those are what Catherine uses to map out a sentence. Having her use her hands rather then simply fill out a worksheet seems to engage her brain and she recalls the previous day's lesson much more easily (this is something I've got to work into math!). The other great thing for her is that the lessons are quick. We only spend 5 to 15 minutes a day on it.

What I like are the very clear instructions and the script. I was a little surprised to find that I really liked having a script to follow. I tend to be a little scattered and the script was just what I needed to keep my explanations focused and clear. I can also see how this is a great approach for someone who's not so familiar with the subject.

Another great thing is it's focus on mastery. You don't move on from a lesson until your child can not only pick the objects of a lesson out of worksheet pages, not only when they can pick them out of other sentences and paragraphs but when they can use them in their own writing. This means that though a lesson in the student workbooks is only maybe a dozen sentences the lesson may actually take a week or more. It also allows for a bit of variety. It's not the same old black and white worksheets day in and day out as it was with Easy Grammar. It's cards and worksheets and selected readings and some creative writing.

I'll check back in when we've had a chance to get bored with the program and let you know if we're still having fun.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Because I Know My Readers Will Fully Appreciate This

It's uncanny, isn't it?

Women in History

It never fails. I write about not blogging and then I get the itch to blog.

Tonight we watched Engineering an Empire; Persia. It was supposed to be Rome but that's the one episode I don't have...Yet. So Catherine had her pick of Carthage, Persia and others. She went for Persia. She decided Cyrus the Great was a most excellent guy and the Persians might just be more interesting than the Greeks. She also learned that Xerxes had a female general Atemisia. I learned while googling Artemisia that Persian female military commanders weren't especially rare! Indeed, google 'ancient female military' and all sorts of interesting hints start to pop up about female warriors.

You assume that because you never heard about the women in history that they simply weren't there. You start to look and they begin to pop up everywhere.

A side note: While googling for General Artemisia I happily found information on the post-Renaissance artist Artemisia. I'll have to introduce Cathrine to her as well.


As anyone checking this blog would have noticed I haven't been posting the last few days. My husband left for Toronto Saturday for a two week course and I've been focused on the kids and the house for the past few days. I will get back to blogging, just don't be surprised if I'm a little less prodcutive then usualy!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Welcome My Sister

lifeontheplanet recently put out the cry for other Episcopal homeschoolers to stand up. Now I'm not an Episcopalian but only in the sense that a devil's food cake isn't a dark chocolate fudge cake. We're basically the same product, just with different branding and we're both part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

So here I am announcing myself. If there are any others out there feel free to go over to Life on the Planet and let her know!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Peeking Around the Corner

I think some of the best moments of homeschooling are the ones I'm not a part of. Those moments when it's just the kids and your only role is as an unnoticed observer.

I had one of those moments yesterday. Catherine was at the computer doing her GeeArt lesson and Harry, Madi (the niece) and I were out in the living room. Harry wandered out so I went in to shoo him back out but he was watching her lesson intently. She didn't mind so I pulled up a chair and he sat down. I left the room and when Madi wandered in next I didn't follow. Having the two little ones in there didn't seem to cause any screams of protest so I let it go. Ten minutes later though I heard Catherine talking. I peeked in and there she was giving the two younger kids a lesson on lines in art. She was using a little app that was part of her lesson to demonstrate lines and structure, carefully explaining it and then asking questions to prompt the kids to come up with some ideas and answers. Her tone was light but not pandering and she had the kids, a 6 and a 4 year old, pointing out things about art that she herself had only just learned about.

I started homeschooling for reasons surrounding the kids' learning. I never thought one of the benefits would be the development of good teaching skills.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mad, Sad Cows

Saturday night Catherine and I snuggled up on the couch and flipped to the Documentary Channel. There's a most excellent CBC series called The Nature of Things which has been on TV for just about forever. Hosted by Canadian Super-Scientist David Suzuki this show has been a part of my life since childhood and it's always been a favourite. I saw there was an old episode on Mad Cow disease and we decided to watch it.

Horrible stuff. Government inaction, dying cows, dying people, pain and stupidity on every level...We never moved. When a noisy Harry came into the room Catherine shushed him immediately. When the show finished I asked her what she thought.

"It was gross and sad."

It was the perfect summation and I was happy that, even though she felt that way, she still felt it was interesting and important to watch.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Evolution Resources for Secular and Christian Folk!

I found a new site today, Epic of Evolution. It's all about evolution and it's got lots of neat ideas for activities and a huge list of books on the topic. The list has a number of subcategories including an excellent one filled with books for kids and a wonderfully surprising category, Evolution and Religion. One of the books, Thank God for Evolution! is available as a free PDF download from the author's site.

It looks like it might be a good resource for Evolved Homeschoolers, especially for those of us who are Christian ones.

Geometry Help Needed

In all our talks about shapes recently I've come to realize that Catherine isn't quite getting the idea of 2D and 3D. I've explained it a few times in a few different ways but it hasn't sunk in.

I have an idea for an animation that might help but I don't know the first thing about how to make it. First an x axis would be drawn, then a y axis. Then a point would appear on the graph with brief lines to show how the points relates to the two axis. Then another and another. The three points would be connected by line segments and then the graph would turn, changing from a face-on view to a diagonal one.

Then either:
- Some animated thing would appear that would attach to graph and pull thus creating a prism. Then another axis would appear to represent that.

- Another mirror image graph would float behind the original and lines would appear that connect all the corresponding dots to form a prism. Then another axis would appear to represent the new dimension.

If anyone knows of an animation like this I'd like to see it. If anyone knows of a program I could use to whip that up I'd appreciate that as well. I can probably get the idea across without the animation but it would be a help.

EDIT: My husband gave it a shot and seems to think he's got Catherine understanding it. Still, I think I'd really like to do the animation anyway if only for the geeky satisfaction of doing it. Plus, it would come in handy when we do some graphing.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Evolution, Philosophy, and the Existence of dodecahedrons

A funny post popped up on my Google homeschooling alert today. It comes from Fear of Ignorance and it's a post where the author lets loose his frustration with the Huckabee win and homeschoolers. His perception of homeschoolers is, like a lot of people's, more than a little off but he said something in his post that put a huge smile on my face.

There are dangerous ideas out there that you can’t risk your child being exposed to! Evolution, Philosophy, and the existence of dodecahedrons are all things your child is better off not knowing about.

Now why would that make me smile? Because here's a picture of what Catherine's been doing this week:

Those are the five Platonic solids. The one in the middle is a dodecahedron and it's the one Catherine constructed this morning. While she was putting it together we sort of wandered off topic and Catherine started talking about how words weren't real, just ideas. I mentioned that was true but that they described real things. We were pretty damn close to Platonic dualism! Plato himself also got a mention along the way. So there's philosophy. Evolution hasn't made it into our day yet (Although I was planning to read a post from The Angry Astronomer on Galactic Evolution) but 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

I invited the author over so he could take a peek at what some real homeschoolers do. He admits that he's only known one homeschooled person (that he knows of, of course) so I imagine he'd find a visit eye opening. Here's hoping he takes me up on the invitation and gets acquainted with some of us.

My Son Has Glasses

I have perfect eyesight. It's a fluke of some sort though as I was the only one in my family who didn't need glasses growing up and now, I'm again the only one with no glasses.

Here's Harry before:

Here's Harry after:

A Winter Picture

A view from my kitchen. The snow is a pain to shovel but it sure is pretty.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Catherine's Blog

The first day of Catherine's homeschool orders blog went well. It gave Catherine a clear idea of expectations but gave her the freedom to do stuff when and as she wished.

A few more benefits I saw:

- Her reading gets a work out.

- She's interested in starting her own blog.

- She can proof my writing.

- She writes comments that tell me to bugger off.

A Neat Lesson on the News

News reporting is never unbiased and very often of dubious quality. How do you get this across to your kids? Why, visit the Friendly Atheist of course! Here's a video Hermant posted:

The CNN visits a gas station where a blue blob has been spotted on a security tape and concludes after no-doubt rigorous research that gosh, the blue blob must be a ghost!

Then someone with a few more brain cells to rub together produces another video:

How embarrassing for the CNN reporter.

How I covered this with the kids was just let them watch the news report and then asked them what they thought. Harry didn't really care enough to bother butting forth an answer but Catherine's immediate thought was that it was a light being shone on the camera NOT that it was a ghost.

That's my girl!

We then watched the second video which carefully and methodically lays out a very good theory of what the blue phantom actually was. It's an excellent demonstration of the scientific method and Catherine had a great time watching it.

If I get enough gumption I might suggest that we do our own news report and ghost video today or see if Catherine can come up with another situation where a very ordinary event can be miscontrued as some as being supernatural.