Friday, February 29, 2008

BlogNetNews is Up and Running!

Need another way to get your daily fix of homeschool blogs? Dana has started up BlogNetNews - Homeschooling and it looks like one of those sites that will go hand in hand with my morning coffee! I'm sticking a link in at the left under "Homeschool News".

Thank you Dana!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Science Resources!

The Homely Scientist is homeschooling his kids in science and has some excellent resources that he reccomends. It's an older post but I suggested he submit it to the Carnival of homeschooling. We need some people in science to start taking an active part in the homeschooling community.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Some Nice Logic Puzzles

While searching for some Venn diagram activities I found a nice sampler of logic problems from William K. Bradford Pub. I've never heard of the company before but the selection of puzzles from Logic & Venn Diagrams: Perplexing Puzzles MathBox looked fun and I've printed them out for Catherine to tackle.

If you're looking for a fun way to keep logic skills honed the sampler is certainly worth a download.

Microsoft Encarta Winner!

The winner was just picked out of a stainless steel mixing bowl by a child of mine and she is....


I put the picture up because I had two Heathers entered and she looks like a movie star anyway. My blog could use a good dose of glamour!

Congrats Heather! You'll be receiving an email shortly!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Changes, Again.

Catherine and I had another talk about how her homeschooling was going.

What she's comfortable with for daily work is grammar, ancient Greek and math practice. I knew she loved Winston Grammar but she's been a little less enthusiastic about Greek and math lately so that surprised me. She explained she's not always fond of the work in the Greek Hupogrammon but she does want to learn to read ancient Greek and realizes that's going to take a lot of work. It's somewhat the same case with the math, she's not keen on the work sometimes but understands the value.

Science, history, art, music and even some math however were things she wanted to eliminate from her schedule. Not because she didn't want to do them but because she felt she did much better with those subjects when she approached them on her own terms. This doesn't mean a curriculum-free approach to her though. She enjoys I-Science but would rather read the text on the couch with me, explore the workbooks at her leisure and be free from planned lessons several days a week.

Of course this means her daily blog (which has suffered fro a lack of posts lately due to internet problems and a run of the flu) will undergo a change. Probably to more of a journal of her work, something like what this blog was originally meant to be. I can't just delete it. I gave the address to my mother-in-law and she's expecting posts.

Just another post to show that even though our homeschooling family is 4 years into the journey we're still changing and tweaking and evolving. I suspect we'll still be doing that another decade from now.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is up at Sharp Brains and boy, it's fantastic. Heck, one of the categories is Education as a System. You just know that posts in the category are going to be thought-provoking. The same goes for the posts in Learning and Teaching Philosophy.

Spend a bit of time with this week's carnival and I think you'll realize just how close many people inside the system and those of us outside it are on so many issues.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Canadian Health Care Rant

Today I went to the local hospital to have a renal ultrasound. I had that kidney stone in December so this is just to see if there are any more hiding out.

My appointment was for 1:30 pm. I arrived at about 1 pm, grabbed a number and sat down. I had only been there for a few minutes and had just begun to read a magazine when the woman at the desk called my number. Annoyed, I put down the magazine and went to the desk. She had the nerve to be polite as she quickly and efficiently took my information. She even smilled when she asked me to take a seat again. Ridiculous.

Just as a opened the magazine, out came the ultrasound guy. Damn him! He led me into the room. He politely and efficiently did the ultrasound and then let me leave. I walked out of the office never having had the chance to read even one article in that magazine. As I left the hospital I glanced up at a clock and noticed it was 1:10 pm. That's a full 20 minutes before my appointment was supposed to have begun!

And the worst of it? No one gave me even the smallest chance to fork over any payment!

Honestly, I can understand why some in the US are terrified of Universal Healthcare. Who on earth would want that kind of experience?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

IBM's Free Educational Game Offering

Mindless Math Mutterings has a post on PowerUp a game from IBM. It looks really neat (MMM has a link to more info) and deals with math, science and saving a world from ecological disaster. For those who can run it please go check it out and tell me if it's fun. I'm going to try it but I'm not optimistic. The thing requires a gig of RAM. I've got half that.


Microsoft Student with Encarta - Review and Giveaway!

Lately I've been looking for internet resources on a variety of topics for our homeschooling. Roman history, eclipses, biographies of mathematicians...You name it and I've been googling it. It's been taking up a lot of time, too much time, but for some reason I never thought of the obvious solution which was to purchase some sort of encyclopedia so all that I needed was right on the bookshelve or hard drive. I can be a bit slow. Fortunately, in a wonderful coincidence, I was asked if I would review Microsoft Student 2008 with Encarta in exchange for a free copy. Hell yes! I was also asked to give away a copy...But more on that later.

Microsoft Student includes a whole bunch of neat stuff but what I opened first was Encarta Kids 2008.

Right after I opened the program Catherine (who has impeccable timing) came into the kitchen and asked, "What's that?" So I didn't get a chance to look it over first. In fact, the computer was hers for the next couple of hours as she explored the animals and science sections. When I finally kicked her off I asked her if she liked it.

"It's awesome! Now that's the kind of softwhere I like!"

She's enthusiatic about it to say the least. I got a chance to watch her use it and it did seem to offer a lot of what I was trying to find with my hours of googling. Lots of articles, videos and audio files that Catherine found informative. It was a little shallow, I couldn't find a diagram or animation on lunar eclipses for instance, but it's an encyclopedia and not meant to offer in depth coverage of any subject. What it seemed to do well for Catherine was whet her appetite for more information.

Encarta Kids also includes games. They are all simple matching, sorting and quiz types games. I did notice a gaffe or two. A question on prehistoric people should not be in an ancient history quiz category. That aside Catherine enjoyed them and kept calling me in to play with her.

Next I tried out Encarta Premium. It has a similar interface to Encarta Kids where you can navigate folders by subject matter but that seems to really limit what you find. Much better was the search function. Euclid was nowhere to be found when looking through the biography folders but whe I simply searched his name I was treated with a nice article.

Other tools which were included were Microsoft Math, report templates, writing help and foreign language dictionaries. I didn't spend too much time looking at most of those as I don't have much use for them at this time. I did however look at some of the reports because I had one worry. They were all MS Office or MS Works documents. Not everyone runs those programs so I set Open Office (the very good and very free alternative to Microsofts offerings) as my default, went into Student and attempted to open them. Success! Open Office did the job perfectly.


- While Open Office will open MS Documents, Encarta will not use my default browser, Opera, to access the web. Instead it handcranks old Internet Explorer until the thing decides to start. Granted, even if it would use Opera I probably couldn't access Microsoft sites with it so I guess that's not a big deal.

- Why on earth can't all the text in Encarta Kids be accompanied with an audio track of the same? Not all kids can read or read well and often even when they can it's not how they best learn or retain information.

Good Stuff:

- My daughter loves it. Enough said on that.

- It has cut down on the time I spend googling. I really appreciate having so much information at my disposal without all the work.

- There's so much included! I may not have explored the templates, MS Math or language dictionaries too much but these are things we'll definately have use for in the future and it will be so much easier to have it sitting on the computer rather then searching the web for a lab report or french translation.

I'm quite happy with Microsoft Student 2008. Despite some minor problems it fills a gap in our homeschooling resources and has become an often used piece of software. My daughter enjoys Encarta Kids, I'm glad to have Encarta and just those two features alone would have been worth the price for me.

NOTE: Contest is now over.

On to the giveaway! I have a code availible for one lucky person to win a free download of Microsoft Student 2008. Just leave a comment (that includes some way for me to contact you) and I'll consider that your entry. I'll have Catherine pick a name out of a hat next Monday and I'll announce the winner then! Good luck!

NOTE: If you leave an email address please make sure to put in spaces or write out 'dot' or some such thing to protect yourself.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Selectively Representing Ourselves

I realized yesterday that if someone, curious about homeschooling, asked me what I did with my kids last week my answer would very likely create an impression of our homeschooling that isn't true. My answer would be something like this;

"Well, Catherine continued to work on her Ancient Greek and grammar. We also started reading a really neat university text on Mathematics. Oh, and Catherine, Harry and I have been working our way through Tennyson's poems on King Arthur."

And I would answer that because heck, isn't it neat that we're doing all that?

Of course the questioner would start thinking we're a clan of awkward geeks obsessed with academics. That I'm not letting my kids be kids.

How to explain that after the Greek and grammar there were 3 hours of cartoon watching? That the Math text was read on the floor with Pokemons being used to illustrate a set? That Tennyson inspired ridiculous jokes (Catherine pointed out that I might not want to read a bit about children being spitted on stakes in front of Harry so we decided that in the future we'll replace that gory bit with the term, "kid kabobs.")? And nevermind the hours spent playing Harvet Moon or Spongebob Squarepants together on the Game Cube.

But then again, next time someone asks do I really want to be truthfull?

"Catherine continued to work on her ancient Greek and grammar and then entertained her brother with fart jokes for the rest of the morning."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vonage Hell.

I have been a Vonage customer for 3 years. In that time I've been reasonably happy. Yes, it was a pain not to have a phone when the internet was down or the power went out but it was cheap and it worked well.

And then I had the power surge on Tuesday which killed my router ('phone adapter' in Vonage speak) and since the cell phone travels with my husband the decision was that we'd cancel Vonage for now. In the future I might be getting a cell phone and we might go back but now, in a winter full of storms, having a phone that depended on the power wasn't a good idea. So I called Vonage.

The first call (my dad has lent me his cell phone until the local company can get us connected) was me saying over and over, "No. I want to cancel my Vonage account", while the rep tried to convince me to stay. Now I understood why you can't cancel your account online. Anyway, although going back to Vonage at some point wasn't just a possibility before the call but probable, after my third refusal of two free months I decided I would never be a Vonage customer again.

Eventually that rep started getting beligerant and even sounding angry. Good. That kind of behaviour from someone I don't know tends to send me into a rage and that means my thoughts clear, I get very calm and my resolve becomes a concrete wall that stupid people can't even hope to chip their way through.

He sensed this though and figuring all hope was lost, put me on hold and then dropped the call.

I called back. The next rep let me talk long enough to say that I wanted to cancel my account and then also dropped the call.

I called back. The next rep simply picked up the phone and then dropped the call before I could say anything.

They must tag customers.

So I stopped calling them for a bit. I called my mom and vented. I went out into the living room and screamed (sending the kids into giggles) and then after ten minutes I called again.

The rep answered, took my info and asked what she could do for me.

"I want my Vonage account cancelled"

She offered me two free months. She offered a new router. She pushed and pushed but the rage was back and I stayed firm, finally saying, "I want to end my relationship with Vonage."

After I said that she gave up and closed my account.

Altogether it took close to an hour.

I used to reccomend Vonage to any who asked about it. No more.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Best Homeschooling Deals of the Past Week

I've been curious about the FLY pentop computer for awhile. It looked so neat in the ads on TV and my geeky fingers itched to hold it. Well, we went shopping and I saw a FLY Bundle (as shown in the Amazon widget below):

It was the pen AND a recharger. Now the above widget has it new for $89. The store I was at had it marked down to $26! Needless to say I snatched it up, convinced my daughter she wanted it and had her buy it with her own money. Evil perhaps but she hasn't stopped thanking me ever since. That little thing is soooo cool. You can write a word and it will tell you what the word is. You can draw a calculator and use it. you can draw a keyboard and play it!

Best deal number 3.

At number 2 is another pen. This one is just about the opposite of the Fly as it's a fountain pen. At the local thrift store I found a calligraphy set with a pen, three nibs and 8 unused cartridges and all for a dollar! Since my daughter wasn't with me I sprang for it and presented it to her when I got home. She might possibly think it's neater then the FLY. Silly girl.

The number 1 best deal of the week was a textbook I found at the same thrift store for either a quarter or 50 cents. It's Mathematical Ideas. This is mostly an overview of mathematics concepts that starts out with set theory and ends with matrices (huh?). And it's soooo good! I'm actually going to let an amazon reviewer speak for me because he (Brandt C. S. Sponseller) nailed all my thoughts:
This is an excellent book, and it is very entertaining to read--a description that does not fit many mathematics textbooks. Although geared for students without much math background, it is an enjoyable read for all, with its engaging sidebars, its sense of the history, and believe it or not, a sense of humor (for instance, a problem requiring you to create a Venn diagram for the topics of country songs--truckers, prison and love). As a philosopher, it is refreshing that the first 100 pages are devoted to set theory and logic--something that is not focused on often enough in basic courses. Most topics are likewise presented with a philosophical angle--for example, the first page points out the problems with defining "set." Utlimately, all definitions of set are circular--does this make "set" undisputably axiomatic? These kinds of problems are at least implied throughout the text. The effect is as deligtful as it is rare. You are not given the sense that the subject matter is complete, instead you are inspired to solve the dilemmas.

It's fantastic fun and I think I may start reading it and doing it with Catherine. I know she'll enjoy the logic and I'm pretty sure she'll enjoy learning all the symbols involved in math that the text explains clearer than anything I've seen before.


Disregard the last post! I can access the internet again!

If you ever find that you've encountered a problem you can't solve, here's the magic formula that will provide the solution.

- Try everything you can to fix the problem. Everything. Work yourself up to the height of frustration.

- Give up.

- Tell everyone that you've got an unsolvable problem. This is key and a step that cannot be skipped.

- After everyone knows, try one last time.

The problem will be solved. Honestly, this happens time and time again with me and it's just happened again. After giving up my computer for busted I reinstalled the new network card this morning, fiddled with the run menu, restarted and the Lord be praised, got an internet connection. 3 days of frustration solved in 3 minutes.

So I'm back. Whoo Hoo!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big Problems

I realize I'm neglecting my blog again but this time it's a problem with my computer, not me. There was a power surge Tuesday and it took out my router and then my network card died a slow and horrible death...Only I don't have a network card because that's actually a part of my motherboard (Oh motherboard, please don't fail me!). I'm trying to get my poor computer back online but long phone calls to my ISP and much time spent swapping out cables and cards have gotten me absolutely nowhere.

I'm typing this from my sister's roommate's computer (which is a huge gaming beast so I'm having to wipe drool off the keyboard every few moments). Hopefully I will have my machine working by early next week. Hopefully! Until then I apologize for not posting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Big Changes

I apologize for not posting. It's been a little crazy around here the last week. My husband learned he's going away for about 3 weeks (he's leaving today) so we've been doing stuff with the kids. We also learned there's a good chance the company he's working for may want him to move up to supervisor much sooner that we thought so we may have a very large pay increase coming our way and a move to the next province over.

It's just insane. For almost all of our married life we've been firmly in low income territory. There were even a few years where we hovered above the poverty line. Now his salary will very likely double in a year and there's a possibility it may actually triple.

It turns out that people in trades are hard to find. If you do find them they're very often fresh out of school. My dear husband had no idea but his combination of an electronic technician degree (despite it being years old and never used) and years of management experience is gold to certain industries right.

So we're all in a bit of a haze in my house these days.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

COH is up!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Beverly's Homeschooling Blog at

Make sure you read Ragamuffin Studies post on Just Thinking about Inclusion and Ideology. It's exactly what I've been thinking lately and relates to my feelings on the afrocentric school mentioned in my last post though I didn't really go into detail.

The other must read is WWWDD? at Just Enough, and Nothing More. Tammy deals with cherry picking in a post about liking some of what Wayne Dyer has to say, despite thinking he's a jerk.

It occurs to me that the posts are related. I think the idea that kids should be shuttled into the same classrooms to learn the same things from the same textbooks is possibly the process that promotes all or nothing thinking, or rather, doesn't allow kids to exercise the critical thought that cherry picking promotes. However, if I'm talking to, say, a Christian fundamentalist mom and want to make that conversation meaningful and enriching then I have to cherry pick. Dismiss some views or comments, move on and see the value in other views she holds.

It's not giving everyone the same experience that makes for enriching diversity. It's allowing them to be deeply different and then making the effort to bridge that in discussion. Does that sounds like a bit of a synthesis of the posts?

Sorry if this doesn't make sense, I'm just starting to think about this and my thoughts aren't clear. If anyone has read both posts and thinks they know what I'm saying but can do a better job, please do, either in my comments or own your own blog.

Taking Control of Their Schooling

There's a bit of a kerfuffle in Ontario right now because of, "the Toronto District School Board's decision to establish one of Canada's first black-focused schools" (story here)

I didn't know what to think at first. My immediate thoughts were something along the lines of segregation, and would this even get suggested if the idea were for a white-centric school? Then I shook my head. White-centric schools are what we have now. Despite a few blossums of multiculturalism, the root and trunk of what kids learn about Canada is white and western.

What's actually happening with this is that a community took the term "public school" to heart and decided that, as the public, they had a right to find an approach to schooling and curriculum that fit their community. They did what homeschooling parents do and recognized that their children's education was a matter that they had every right to exercise control over.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Blogging Ethics - Bitter Homeschooler Wishlist

Diary of a Mad Editor lays out how the lack of blogging ethics can personally affect someone - namely her. The issue is the use of her Bitter Homeschoolers Wishlist on numerous blogs without proper credit.

This is basic stuff. If you reprint someone else's work (and no, not in entirety unless you have permission), you link to and credit them. Apparently it's hard for some to understand as you'll see when you read her post. She's asking for people to spread the word about her blog post. So if you've got a blog you know what to do...

I'll just say that the chap (revealed in the posts) who did her wrong may have done himself quite a bit of harm in the long run.

H/T to HE&OS

New Name!

All hail to the wonderful and magnificent Lynn at Bore Me To Tears who came up with the wonderful idea of simply tweaking my blog's name a bit to better reflect the content. I really, really like it as it seems to open up many blogging possibilities.

I'm now Day by Day Discoveries.

Must Save for Posterity

Harry this morning:

"I am 6 now but when I'm a big man I will be number 1!"


"Mom, do big mans have numbers? In their bodies?"

I think the neatest thing about kids are their attempts to express things when they don't yet have the experience or language for it. It's so darn cute!

Mucho Morsels Monday

Since Catherine's homeschool blog has been such a successful organizing tool I thought I'd use my blog for organizing myself a bit. I'm going to post my menu plan for the week, complete with links to the recipes. Now there's apparently a neat blogging linking thingee out there connected with this blog that has formed a net of Menu Plan Mommies and I might join up next week but I'm too late right now. I'll just go it alone in the mean time.

Monday - Orange Roughy Parmesan, homemade home fries and tossed salad. Oh crap. Now I remember why I needed those seasoned bread crumbs. Frig. I could crumble a stale "everything" bagel or maybe crumble some toasted bread crumbs mixed with italian seasoning?

Tuesday - Pancakes, sausages. It's Shrove Tuesday. Must eat pancakes.

Wednesday - Glazed Meatloaf, rice and veggies from the freezer (where all good veggies live).

Thursday - Roast Turkey, potatoes, veggies. Because my husband thought that since the bloody thing was on sale he should buy it. Nevermind that we now have to buy a roaster that the bloody thing will fit in.

Friday - Turkey Soup (no recipe, just toss all leftovers in pot and boil).

Saturday - Stew (no recipe either), dough boys (That's Nova Scotian for dumpling. We're a little sadistic in our naming of food).

Sunday - Mondi's Super Simple Chicken, Chicken fried rice, tossed salad.

Phew! That's it.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Regret

It's my blog's name.

Day by Day Homeschooling just sucks the big one. Once, it reflected what I wanted to do with the blog but since I've decided to abandon that particular focus (posting a day by day account of our family's homeschooling) it's not such a good fit.

No, that doesn't mean I'm going to change the name. I'm quite aware that my blog's name is likely part of how people who read it think of me. And besides, it's like that ugly sweater that gets pulled out on cold nights. Ugly yes, but comforting and familiar.

So I'll keep it. I just wish I'd had the foresight to call it something a little more clever.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

i-Science - Secular Science Curriculum

Remember how I decided we wouldn't use a science curriculum? Remember how I finally bought one because the husband and daughter wanted to try on? Well, we have had i-Science from Singapore Math for about a month now and it's going really well.

When I bought it I went for the grade 5 curriculum as the grade 4 book seemed to cover stuff we were already very familiar with. When it arrived I went through the teacher's guide (which includes the textbook so I didn't buy a seperate text) and had visions of planning out lessons but the actual use of the text has been something like this: Read the textbook to Catherine, ask the questions in the text (she loves to be "interviewed"), leave the text and go to Brainpop or other resources. For me, the teacher's guide is rather useless and I should have saved some money and simply bought the textbook. I'm very glad for the basic structure the text can provide and it's real value to me is as a general guide from which Catherine and I can explore. Lesson learned for next year.

The workbooks are excellent. They aren't fill-in-the-blanks and wordsearch-galore type workbooks. They have labs and experiments with clear procedures and great questions. And it's not even $10 for the two workbooks you need for the year! Honestly, I think they're a great buy even if you're using a different curriculum or not using one at all.

For the whole shebang I spent $34.40 ($25 for the teacher's guide and $8.40 for both workbooks) before taxes and shipping. Cost was part of the reason I went with i-Science rather than Singapore Math's other offering, MPH Science. For a test run I didn't want to put out too much money. If I go with it again next year I'll simply buy the text and workbooks which would make it less then $20. Can't beat that!

I-Science is very good, cheap and flexible. 'Nuff said.

We've Got it Good

There's been a lot of comment on the Colorado Independent's current issue which has a few stories on homeschooling. They aren't very interesting stories. It's basically the same old article that been written a hundred times that spolights a Christian homeschooling family, quotes HSLDA statistics and injects comments from a couple of homeschooling critics. Apparently the Colorado Independent isn't much for breaking new ground preffering instead to tread well worn paths.

But don't think we've got it bad.

Instead look at this blog post at D-Ed Reckoning where a news story about one public school is dissected.

Snyder was probably thinking that this one writes itself. All she had to do was visit the school, make a few expert observation, and interview a few expert teachers, and declare a solution to Philadelphia's education woes.

What she wound up with was what all the doe-eyed journalists wind up with when they write about education -- an article full of cliches.

It's really worth the read. A reporter writes a glowing article about one school's success and an intelligent blogger follows with a breakdown of what's actually going on at the school. Of course the unfortunate part is that so many people will see the reporter's story and never see D-Ed Reckoning's work. What most people will see is yet another piece of glowing goodness that soothes their worries and prevent any honest look at the failures of one city's public schools.

We've just got people who encourage a few stereotypes writing about us. The people in education in Philidelphia have a whole legion of people in the media who are all too willing to make fairy tales out of public schools and distract the public from looking too closely.