Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

This is so sad. Here I am letting people know it's my birthday today and the truth is that I forgot about it myself for most of the day. Anyhow, I'm 35 now and happy to be that age.

Regardless of my forgetting about my birthday I still had an amazing day. Rebecca from Chop Wood, Carry Water and I hooked up at a local wildlife park to meet and let our Hobbit-loving daughters get to know each other. As I pulled in I noticed half a dozen vehicles pulling in and unloading. All moms with kids ranging from babies to teenagers.

It couldn't be.

It was! A group of homeschoolers from the city was having a day at the park as well! They invited us to join them and we all had a wonderful time wandering around the park at our own speed. It gets better since it turns out one of the employees was also a homeschooling mom.

It was like stepping out of the real world into an alternate and infinitely cooler universe.

I had a fantastic time, had a lot of great laughs with Rebecca and Catherine couldn't stop talking about her daughters and how great they were.

A great way to spend a birthday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Worries

I thought Death had come for my car this weekend. I was driving it to a choir practice Saturday morning and the poor little thing's engine began shaking like crazy. I freaked, turned around and went home. The only time I'd been in a car with an engine shaking that badly was when the car was destined to throw a piston through the engine block.

I've been worrying. If it was the engine then my lovely little Elantra wagon was destined for the junkyard as the engine would likely be worth more then the car. I don't want to give up my car. Although it's a ten year old machine it still worked well up until the weekend and seemed to have years left.

My wonderful car.

Besides the worries, I have real stuff to do this week. I'm meeting another homeschooling mom tommorrow, have to see the doctor, go to my first Guides meeting as a leader, my EFM course, time with a friend...I've already been cheated out of an important choir practice. If it was something serious the whole week might be out the window.

Oh yeah. And serious stuff costs buckets of money.

This morning I called up my local garage (I have a wonderful garage), told them what was wrong and they said they could take it today. Whoo hoo! I dropped it off (my husband's fantastic grandfather gave me a drive home) and hoped. They called an hour later.

Spark plugs and wires.

I needed new spark plugs and wires.

I was freaking when all the car needed was spark plugs and wires.

Ah well. The week is saved, the repair bill was cheap and my lovely little car is healthy. All's well that ends well.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pet Store Math

A little while ago I purchased a neat bit of math called Your Business Math: Pet Store  for Catherine. It seemed right up her alley with the pet store theme and since orders have to be placed, stock has to be marked up and bills have to be paid it looked like a great way for her to practice arithmatic, decimals and percents.  It's seems I was right too because when she heard about it her eyes lit up.

 The first thing she was supposed to do was design her logo. After some doodling and ideas this fell by the wayside in favour of ordering stock. Today she sat down and finished it and the result is pretty damn nice.

I admit I helped her but it was mostly in the advice department. We did mock-ups and discussed colour and text placement and when the time came I penciled in the name. But the design was hers, drawings were done by her, the colour choice was hers and the clever name was hers.

BTW, many thanks to Traveling Jews where I not only learned about Your Business Math but also first heard of Life of Fred and Ellen McHenry's The Elements. It's a most excellent blog with tons of creative homeschooling ideas that I plan to steal enmasse. Thank you Travelling Jews!

Just for Today - A Free Drawing Tool

Giveaway of the Day is featuring PD Particles today as their free giveaway.

PD Particles is a software program for sketching, doodling, painting and drawing with particle brushes. It is loaded with features made for professionals, yet priced low enough for retired artists, students and hobbyists at all levels. If you like to draw and doodle, this is for you!

I don't know what particle brushes are but this looks like it could be a fun program for the person who likes to fool around with art programs. Keep in mind that you must download AND install the program today.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two Dogs Are Better Than One

We're looking after my parents' dog for a month as they go traveling. It's been a joy. Their little Lhasa-Pom, Buffy has become our mutt's best friend. Kia is having a ball with this little fluffball and we're seriously considering adding another dog to the mix when Buffy goes back home.

Here's what they've been up to:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The Carnival of Canadian Homeschooling is up! If you're a Canuck homeschooler and HAVEN'T contributed yet then it's time to get your act together and submit a post!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at A Pondering Heart.

The Carnival of Education is up at Steve Spangler's Blog.

Check out this post in particular where GrrlScientist links to a video that tours the human body. Pay particular attention to when they show the human nervous system. It makes the human body look like nothing but potting soil for the brain.


Every year around this time we get mice in our house. We have an older home out in the country and mice seem to go with the territory. So every year we set out traps (classic snap traps - I am not a catch-and-release type of woman), kill the buggers and then poke around trying to find the entry point. If we find one we seal it and then hold our breath until next fall. Or rather I hold my breath. My husband always seems to think we've solved the problem.

We haven't yet. The last few nights I've been either sleeping on the couch or lying awake in bed because it seems the wall just behind our bed has become a mouse highway. It's not constant but every once and awhile there's the scritching and scratching of little mice feet running behind the gyprock. Of course, my husband doesn't hear it because he can sleep through canon barrages and so he thinks I'm "hearing things," and he dismisses my concerns because he fixed the problem last fall. I insist we have mice. He insists I'm crazy.

Not anymore.

Today I opened a kitchen drawer and found the proof I needed. A tiny but immediately recognizable mouse poop. YES. Bless your bowels little mouse.

Victory, thy name is mouse poop.

Let the killing begin.

Excuse me. I have to do some disinfecting now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lorraine's Link

I just want to let everyone know that Lorraine of Lorraine's Links fame now has her own blog! It's Live for the Experience of Living and it's excellent!

BTW Lorraine, you wondered how I could love my ugly new sofa. Let me introduce you to my dog, Kia:

I have a soft spot for ugly things.

Monday, September 22, 2008

You Don't Always Get What You Want...

We got a new couch Saturday. Now it's not new-new but it might as well be. My husband's aunt bought it for a room in her home that was never used. In the few days we've had it it's probably been exposed to more bums than in the years she had it. But she is downsizing and wanted it gone. For a few hundred dollars she was selling it, a matching chair, 3 throw cushions, a coffee table and two lamps. Cha-ching! How could we say no?

But we bought it unseen. A few hours after we said yes I was regretting it. What if it was ugly? How would we fit it in our already cluttered house? What if it was ugly?

Fitting it in was a trick. While my husband went to get it I moved stuff around. The problem is that we wanted to keep our previous sofa. Partly to serve as the kids but also because it's become the dog's bed. Can't have the dog displaced.

I moved the living room around. Made room where there was none. Waited for the couch. And hoped. The worst case scenario was that it would be a huge, overstuffed monster with wood details on the arms and some loud pattern.

Guess what arrived?


I nearly cried. $300 for my nightmare.

And then I sat in it.


And then I laid down on it.

Oh wow.

I get these sofas now. I get why people buy them. You sit down in one and it feels like you're being embraced. It's one huge ugly hug. My little, red, modern sofa NEVER felt like that.

Now, slowly but surely, that couch has been getting more and more attractive. I keep looking at it throughout the day and thinking, "It really does suit us," or, "Gosh, how nice to have a half decent piece of furniture." It's not only getting attractive but I'm getting downright affectionate towards it. I mean, it looks new, it's comfy, it's welcoming, what's not to love?

Once again I learn that what you want (or don't want) isn't always a true reflection of what you need. That ugly couch was what we needed and I love it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

20 Questions Meme

Lynn had the nerve to tag me for this meme so here goes...

1. How many songs are on your iPod?

iPod? Do I look like some Apple nerd? I don't own no stinkin' iPod!

2. What music would you want played at your funeral?

Traditional Cape Breton fiddle music. I'm not big on my roots but that would be nice.

3. What magazines do you have subscriptions to?

National Geographic and Homeschooling Horizons. When we get a bigger house I will be adding pretentious mags like the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's and also some comic book subscriptions.

4. What is your favorite scent?

Cloves and in second place, gingerbread loaf before you've baked it and just after you've poured the hot water (according to my recipe anyway) into the dry mix.

5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it?

A '63 Corvette, a nice house on the ocean, 6 months trips to different locales and books.

6. What is your theme song?

Ode to Joy.

7. Do you trust easily?

YES. Which is probably why I'm developing a more sceptical side at this point in my life. Still, if you stand in front of my so that I can look into your eyes and tell me that you are the love child of Tom Cruise and Robby the Robot, I will believe you.

8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?

Both to an extreme.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?

The prospect that Stephen Harper might form a majority government. Eww. Eww. Eww.

10. Do you have a good body-image?

Generally. I have my moments but overall I tend to think well of my chubby self.

11. Is being tagged fun?

It always cheers me up to think someone thought of me and tagged me, especially when it comes from bloggers I admire (*cough* Lynn *cough*). It also makes for a really easy posting day. :D

12. How do you spend your social networking (Facebook, etc.) time?

Mostly blogging but I also post at an atheist forum, two homeschool forums and my internet home, the MaximumPC forums. I do a bit with Facebook but it's not nearly as fun.

13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?

Buying curriculum. White chocolate Lindt bars.

14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

I know she's generous. She's obviously very intelligent and has a good sense of humour. I also think she's the kind of sharp that sees through issues into their core. Her one glaring flaw is that she lives in another country and on the other side of the continent. Makes it hard for me to invite her over for a coffee.

15. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?

The Unicorn Song by the Irish Rovers. I'm so sorry I Molytail. I now know your pain.

16. What’s your favorite item of clothing?

A spiffy if impractical black jacket I bought last spring.

17. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?

Only when there are melted marshmallows involved.

18. What would you do if you see saw $100 lying on the ground?

Let the local people or merchants know about it and then take it down to the local police station in case the person tried to track it down.

19. What items could you not go without during the day?


20. What should you be doing right now?

Making breakfast for my son.

"I'm hungwee mom!"

Okay. Okay. Pancakes and bacon on the way.

I'm tagging Molytail because I mentioned her in the post and anyone else who's interested!

Friday, September 19, 2008

How Sweet, I Think.

 In French today Catherine had to draw some pictures to accompany a bit of text. One of the pictures was, "mon ami." She covered up her work so I couldn't see and then, once it was finiahed,  revealed it with a big smile.

Click on it to see it better. You'll notice that under, "mon ami," is a picture of me. Awww. I was touched. But look at it closer.

See the computer? The coffee? The school work? Me balanced between the two with a crazed look on my face and pointing furiously at the school work?

So I'm some crazy woman living in the triangle of computer-coffee-homeschooling? Ouch.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Her Violin Exploded

 Okay, catherine's violin didn't exactly explode but it did make a loud noise as the bridge shot out and the strings collapsed. Catherine looked at me and I looked at her and we both cursed (again) the cheap violin I'd bought her.

 Lessons were today so we packed up the violin and bridge and saved them for the instructor. Got there, has a great talk (sorted out all my previous concerns with her- basically I was panicking for nothing) and then she put the bridge back in. Catherine played for five minutes and then... *CRACK* the bridge broke in two and dropped onto the floor. The teacher was more then a little frustrated at this point. She confiscated it so the music shop owner could have a look at it and see if it could be fixed or there's was something defective about the body and construction.

The lesson - If you're going to buy a violin, do your homework and open your pocketbook. Cheap violins are hard to keep tuned, awkward to use and prone to failure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Post Worth Reading...

 No, it's not by me. It's a post by Sunniemom over at A Woman on Purpose.

The post is What Do We Miss When We Are Dismissive? and in it she explores what happens when we dismiss information soley because of who is communicating it.

It hits home with me because I have a tendency to be dismissive myself. Wrapped up in my own sophistication and cleverness I'll wave off information because it comes from a right-wing source or a conservative Christian website. But it's not clever at allt. It's lazy and indulgent.

Sunniemom has it right:

I do not want to imply that we be ideological fluffballs, floating on the winds of majority opinion and changing our stance with every shift in the social climate. But do we give credit where credit is due, or as soon as we see certain words- “global warming”, “conservative”, “pro-life”, “Democrat” do we turn away dismissively- “Partisan!” “Right wing fanatic!” “Liberal nutjob!”

If Hillary Clinton offers some insight based on her experiences, do we mock it simply because she said it? If Rush Limbaugh points out a study that supports his stance on a topic, do we dismiss the report because he is a conservative talk-radio host? Or do we take the time to actually see whether those things are so?

Sunniemom takes it further and has some great things to say on the matter which should be no surprise to people who know what a consistently thoughtful writer she is. Go read it.

Carnival Time!

The Carnival of Canadian Home Educators is up!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Nerd Family.

The Carnival of Education is up at Thomas J. West Music.

Sulu Gets Married!

 This is geek news of the first order.

George Takei and his longtime partner, Brad Altman, were wed Sunday evening in a Buddhist ceremony in downtown Los Angeles...

I know he's never going to see this but...Congratulations!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is This?

 Go on, guess.

Okay, I'll tell. Catherine's L'Art de Lire work for today was to colour a little story in the text that we've been reading for the last few days (I started her at Level 1 which is sort of geared to younger grades so yep, there's some colouring). That piece of paper is what she tested the colours on before she used them. She had to determine the proper shades of red, brown, grey, etc. before she would use them on anything.

It took her an hour to colour the very simple illustrations.

I don't know why Mimi la Souris warranted such care and attention to detail but shucks, it was one of those times where I just felt a sense of wonder for my daughter.

A Homeschooling Update

 Our homeschooling schedule is still working. It's our 7th week of the new schedule and we haven't gone of the rails. I haven't gotten bored and Catherine is still engaged. I don't know if it's my ritalin, the schedule, the choice of programs, Catherine's (or my) new maturity or magical fairies that sprinkle happy dust all over our kitchen table at night but damn, something's going right. 

 Yes, the schedule has been tweaked but the foundation of it is still in place and even seems to be firmly embedded in our day.

 Math is first and we spend an hour on it, no more. The first 15 minutes are either work from The Intensive Practice 5A book or Challenging Words Problems 5. The next 45 minutes we spend with Primary Math 5A. All the books come from Singapore Math (for the Canadians, I bought them at Blue Mantle, the only supplier I could find that sells the old fashioned non-US and non-Standards editions) and boy, although there are times I want to chuck these books across a room I also absolutely love them. Over and over again they take Catherine and I to the edge of frustration but it always happens that with a night's sleep or the turn of a page it rescues us and not only that but rewards us with some marvelous insight. 

 The next 10 minutes is devoted to Peterson Directed Handwriting. How wacky. Who knew some old fashioned, rhythm-minded penmanship course would be the hit it is.  Harry has even been joining in as we write letter in the air and chant as if we're performing some cult ceremony. 

 Megawords follows and takes 20 minutes. We're still enjoying this! Both Catherine and I would take this program over a regular daily/weekly spelling list thingee anyday.

 Writing takes 30 minutes in the morning but often there are projects that Catherine has to work on in the afternoon. The progymnasmata approach is working although we're sort of taking a break from it for a week or two. Working through the steps has made me a little more confident in my ability to build a writing activity on my own so this week we're doing a piece of poetry. Sort of. 

 Catherine asked for a poem on unicorns. After much googling that resulted in horrible pieces about mystical pink unicorns that fart rainbows I settled on The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers. I know it's not exactly classic poetry but it's fun and the unicorns don't fart rainbows. Monday we read it and listened to the song and then talked about the descriptive words used. Today Catherine took the main verses and condensed each of them to a sentence so she could turn the lyrics into a piece of prose. She's got plans for grand illustrations and I want to play around with the parts of speech so this may actually carry into next week.

 And then we have French. Yes, French. Ancient Greek has gone on vacation while Catherine embarks on learning a language that actual living people speak (Greek will be back when I figure out how to work it back in). We're using a cute Canadian curriculum from Nallenart called L'Art de Lire. Again, it's a good fit (we started at the most basic level) and we're both enjoying it.

 Aside from violin practice that's it for the foundation of our daily homeschooling. That's what we manage to accomplish every day and I'm finding it absolutely amazing that it's still working. I'll post about our afternoon subjects another time. That's a little shakier and inconsistent but heck, we're making progress.

Monday, September 15, 2008

About the Violin Lessons...I'm Worried

 My daughter has had two violin lessons and I'm already sweating it. Thing is, the teacher had her using her bow by the first lesson and had her trying to learn a piece on the second! I remember plucking strings for a long time as I learned to listen to notes and developed some dexterity with my fingers. I rather expected something the same here. Isn't playing an instrument a cumulative skill like math? You learn it layer by layer, building on what you know?

My daughter isn't even familiar with how the notes should sound, why the rush to have her playing a piece so quickly? I know there's a Christmas recital at the music studio - Maybe the teacher thinks I'm more focused on seeing my daughter play something then on her acquiring the proper foundation?

 I'm a little hesitant to talk to the teacher because I don't want to come off as the parent who had a few years of violin as a kid and so thinks she knows it all but I also don't want Catherine set up to fail because of frustration. Since how I'm perceived really isn't an issue of any importance I've only got one choice.


Next time I will do this properly. I will interview and ask for resumes. I will make sure we all feel comfortable with each other. It would have been easier in the long run.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We'll Return After This Short Interruption.

 The husband came home for good yesterday so we're going to spend the weekend doing family type stuff.

This means I'm not going to blog until Monday.

That means I will probably get the urge to blog furiously by tommorrow morning and will likely have to take the previous sentence back. Regardless, I'm going to leave it there just in case I really don't blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Ice Age

 So today was history right? Remember that new plan of English and Math in the morning and then one whole subject in the afternoon? Well, I wrote down a bunch of stuff we could do today but as the afternoon approached I got lazy and just grabbed my copy of Prehistoric Canada and gave her the first few worksheets to do if she wanted. She did and so she labeled ice sheets and coloured land bridges. Then came a page on Ice Age mammals that she adored. The page suggested she research an animal so she got on Google and looked for information on the giant sloth and sat and read a couple of articles. Not too bad.

She wanted a printout of the articles but being too lazy to format them properly after the copying and pasting I simply googled, "Giant Sloth worksheet." Oh yeah! Enchanted Learning! I always forget to check there. They had a half dozen or so printables on ice age mammals so Catherine took them all to colour and read and stick in her new history binder (no, I didn't make one up like I did with the music one. I just grabbed an empty one from my stash). She's doing that now as she and Harry watch The Black Cauldron.

Yesterday I had the benefit of a well planned day and we had fun and did some great stuff. Today I sat back on my heinie and went with the easiest route I could find and Catherine still had fun and did some great stuff.

Being lazy pays off sometimes. Now excuse me. I have to continue the theme and go throw something on for supper that contains processed meats and requires no effort.


The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Why Homeschool!

The Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival is up!

Are You a Crafty Geek?

 If you are, I have the PERFECT project for a rainy afternoon:

Is that not an awesome paper craft?

The link is here and you can also download Batman and the Flash.

Now if you click over and wonder why the Flash is wearing a winged pie-plate on his head instead of the familiar red suit be aware that these are the DC heroes as they were presented in the Golden Age of Comics. The Green Lantern, when he appears, will have blonde hair and a cape and Wonder Woman will be wearing a skirt.

So it's a geeky craft and history. Can't get much better than that!

H/T to Newsarama.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gosh, I'm Such a Scammer.

 I just reread my last post. What a meaty post filled with lots of links and nice looking activities...

You'd almost think I have my act together.


I don't. I lost my nifty homeschooling binder Monday and in a mindless panic bought that Master Planner thing I mentioned in the last post.  Then I found the binder. Under a pile of books and paper that I need to toss...Someday. Tomorrow I have History for the afternoon and not a bloody idea about what to do. I think it will likely involve popcorn and Digimon. 

That is all.


A Musical Afternoon

Catherine has been helping me tweak the homeschooling schedule and one of her ideas was to have a subject a day. While I wasn't willing to give up math and english in the mornings I agreed that we could try that for the afternoons.

Today was the first day of the new plan and the subject/theme was music. I needed a day to review the treble clef and note duration with Catherine before her practice on Thursday so I thought today might as well be the day. Since she wanted specifically to play classical violin (I suggested fiddle, what I'd always wanted to learn, but she turned her nose up at it) I thought we could also listen to some classical music.

While poking around on the internet I found Classics for Kids. This site offers a short weekly podcast on one composer a month. This month's composer was J.S. Bach. Perfect. Okay so we'd be exploring Baroque instead of Classical but if there was ever a composer that could sell an eager kid on the violin, he was it. So he would be the focus. All that was left was for me to do my usual thing and go completely overboard.

First thing we did was listen to the Classics for Kids podcast on Bach. Next I fired up the first movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 which was also on the site while Catherine coloured a picture of Bach (from here).

The colouring page was simply for busy work during the music but it actually turned out kind of fun. I'd picked up some Crayola Flourescent Crayons while we were yard sailing (yes, I insist on spelling it that way) and Catherine wanted to try those. The colours are much more vibrant then the scan shows and when she came to the shaded areas of the picture she used the regular crayons and got a quick insight into how color value can can create the impression of light and shadow.

Next we did a biography sheet.

The sheet I got from a Master Planner download I bought for $5. Um...No, I didn't really need it and yes, I bought it when worried about scheduling and while looking for that one product that would ensure our homeschooling will be an absolute dazzling success but I promise it's actually been a nice little download and shucks, that's one purdy biography sheet. Right?

Catherine filled in the info, cut out a picture of Bach I'd googled and pasted it on and then glued on the little biography from a sheet I'd printed off of Classics for kids. We both decided that actually having to write down a few sentence would be a real drag for something that's supposed to be fun. The little bit at the end refers to a month of jail time he served when he wanted to change jobs but his employer, a Duke, wasn't willing to let him go. We discussed it for awhile and finally came up with that sentence to summarize the incident. Then both the coloring sheet and the bio went into her new music binder in the "Biography" section. Yes, that's the me going overboard part.

Next we snipped out another picture of Bach, wrote his years of birth and death on it and pasted it onto a piece of paper in her new Music binder. See, last night I got the idea that if we're going to poke around in western music we might as well make sure we know what periods the music came from. I sat down, went into Open Office and did up one sheet for each major period of western music from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century.The Baroque one now looks like this:

In my head I have a vision of the gradual building of a sort of timeline collage that will develop over the next year or so. But that's in my head. I have had many such plans and more often then naught they get abandoned. Still, there's always hope, eh? Anyhow, that went into the "History" section of her binder.

Next she turned to the "Music Theory" section of her binder (I had too much fun making that binder last night) and did a couple of sheets on notes and the Treble Clef. Actually, first she looked at a neat printout I found here (here's the direct link to the pdf) that makes it clear that notes are actually expressions of fractions! Too cool. The perfect compliment then was a set of worksheets called Rhythm Math that had Catherine figuring out the missing note in a measure. Next we reviewed the notes of the Treble Clef with these worksheets. I've been wanting to do music theory with her for awhile but I really didn't know how to approach it. With a violin teacher who says, "She needs to know this by next week," it's so much easier. A little bit of guidence and I can find my way.

 And that's it. It took about an hour and a half and all the while I had Bach playing in the background and we were discussing different things we'd learned about his life, his work and one or two of his contemporaries. It felt light and fun but in the end we covered quite a bit of stuff. I think Catherine's one-subject-a-day idea may work out quite well.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It Almost Had Me...

Curriculum is a sneaky, evil beast. Wise are those who forsake it, for to use it means inviting a treacherous presence into your life that will pretend obedience. But the moment it senses a weakness or doubt it will leap at you with claws bared in an attempt to wrest all control from you.

The progymnasmata almost had me last week. I was trying to plan out this week's exercises when I thought I'd like to try a poem instead of a fable. More then that, I'd like to try the activity I'd come up with this summer with the One Ring poem from Lord of the Rings that Catherine loved. A bit of a break. A chance for me to revisit some progymnasmata resources and read some new stuff I'd found on writing.

But I wavered. I thought, I'll mess up the routine. I began to wonder if straying from the cycle is a safe idea. If I might somehow jeopardize Catherine's writing...Endanger her learning...

Then I kicked myself in the ass and drop-kicked the nasty little critter that was whispering those things in my ear.

I will control it. It will not control me. We are free to make our own way in our learning and the curriculum will be a tool, not a master.

Of course, wasn't that what everyone thought about the One Ring?


Unschooling. I should have stuck with the unschooling.

PS - We did do a fable after all. I consulted Catherine and she said she would love to do the poem exercise with a Unicorn poem but I couldn't find one in time that wasn't absolutely awful so instead she picked out her own fable, The Woman and the Hen. She picked it because it was a clever and funny little fable...And because it only had four sentences.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Questions From a Teacher

Another day, another blog with questions about homeschooling. This time the blogger, Jennie of The Perrys of West Seattle, is a teacher and over the course of two posts she explains that she's a little worried about us:

What bothers me is homeschooling 'teachers' think that ordering up some curriculum or taking their kid on a field trip and creating a diorama is equivalent to a great education. I wonder if they know about Blooms Taxonomy of learning behaviors? I wonder if they know about the backward design process called Understanding by Design and how to plan their lessons so true understanding occurs and standards are met. I wonder if they truly know if their child has come to understanding. Because I still struggle with that one.

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Behaviour and Understanding by Design are both conceptual frameworks. While they're very useful, they're formal framings of knowledge that most observant parents tend to develop. Reading up on both (I even found a page on Bloom's by a homeschooling parent!) I found little that was unfamiliar or earthshaking. The simple fact is that the knowledge those ideas contain is not sealed away from discovery by amateurs. It took study and observation to come up with the ideas and that's something most homeschooling parents (most parents period) do every day.

The idea that true understanding can only be divined by those with knowledge of Bloom's Taxonomy is a little strange as well and really demands some support. It would seem to be contradicted by the fact that learning and teaching have been going on for quite a long stretch of time before Bloom's contribution. Jenny does address this in a comment:

People have been learning for a long time, but we are in such a different world now. The jobs of today and tomorrow require so much more than teaching the 'old school' way. This is the crux of my viewpoint.

But that's wrong. She isn't talking about training for modern jobs (whatever that entails) when she brings up understanding; she's talking about deeply wried processes of learning that have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. Evolution doesn't work in a generation or two or happen because micro-processors were invented. How we learn and how we understand haven't undergone a radical change in the last half-century and many of the 'old school' ways will be just as valid as they were a century ago or two millenia ago precisely because of that.

There's no question that some of the jobs of today require different skills but where's the support for the idea that in order to learn those modern skills we need a radical departure from learning and teaching styles of the past?

Jenny does ask this question:

My point was, how do homeschooling parents obtain the specialized information about what constitutes real learning?

The same way parents have always done, by observation. Also, by the experience of learning ourselves. Throw in bookstores, Google, and libraries and I'm a bit confuzzled as to why someone thinks homeschooling parents could avoid such information. Teaching degrees don't come with a secret passcard to knowledge that the general public can never access. At least non of the teachers I've known have admitted to that.

Another point from Jennie:

What about reading for understanding and writing with competency AND loving every minute of it. That takes specialized information that I have gather, created and tweaked (and still am) over my years of teaching.

You mean, just like many homeschooling parents have done? I've been homeschooling for 5 years now. She really can't be saying that she imagines that in that time I put no work or research into what I'm doing.

My last beef with Jennie has to do with selection bias. Her primary experience with homeschoolers and the experience from which she's forming her judgement that our children may lack deeper understanding comes from the, "4 homeschooled students come into my class in the last 6 years."

Where, I ask, do kids end up when homeschooling hasn't been successful for them? In school. Where do the kids for whom homeschooling has been a whopping success for generally not end up? In school. Deciding what homeschooling must be like based on those 4 children is like an emergency room doctor deciding that walking is inherently dangerous because all he ever sees are slip-and-fall injuries. There's an inherent bias at work and Jenny hasn't recognized it.

If you go over, go easy on her. She's written politely and graciously and would probably benifit more from a thoughtful refutation then a take-down. Besides, from the picture in her sidebar it looks like she has an absolutely gorgeous little boy (seriously cute, baby-crave-inducing cute. Be warned!) and so I'm betting that with a few more years of parenting under her belt she'll start to get how a parent can assess real understanding without an education degree.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Yard Sale Finds

Today was a huge local yard sale in which people along a long stretch of rural road set up table to sell their old junk to the neighbours. Part of me hates it. People start thinking they can walk drive and park anywhere and that their survival when crossing a road rests more with magic fairies then common sense. But part of me loves it. The kids and I grab some money and spend a couple of hours browsing the yard sales close to home.

Our best finds? Catherine is thrilled with her Harry Potter Gamecube game. My old Dayrunner book that I've carted around for a decade is on it's last legs so I was happy to see the exact same model on a table for a quarter. Harry's best find? A game called Penguin Shuffle that's been keeping him occupied since we got home. I shot a video with the camera to show the essence of it. Be warned that the picture is way too dark and I should've reshot it but see, Chewy the cat was gnawing on Catherine and me through the whole affair, and well, bad lighting or not the video tells a story.

NOTE: The video should be viewable soon.

Okay, It's viewable now but even worse then it looked before I uploaded it. *sigh* Nevermind.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some Quirks of Mine

I was over reading A Woman of Purpose today and it seems Sunniemom went and got herself tagged for a meme. And then tagged everyone who read the post.

The meme is “6 Unspectacular Quirks About Me”. Here goes.

1) I eat orange peels. Not always and generally only the think Navel orange peels but I do eat 'em.

2) I can not only cross my eyes but can also move one independently of the other. I've been practicing this since I was 7. The things 7 year olds think will be valuable life skills...

3) It is milk with tea and cream with coffee. The cream/coffee thing can be compromised on because cream is expensive but NEVER would I put cream in tea.

4) I can not wait for the day I get real crow's feet. They are the neatest, warmest, most expressive wrinkles and I want them. This visibly upset the Mary Kay lady when I told her. I'm serious.

5) I leave the spiderwebs alone when I do my twice-a-decade-dusting.

6) Computer stores make me giddy.

It's makes me feel weird to tag people so I'll leave this open to anyone to answer. Here are the rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks you possess.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Have a New Niece!

She doesn't have a name yet and I don't have pictures but I do know that out in Sidney, B.C. there was a lovely little baby girl born this morning who was 8 pounds, 2 ounces and she's my niece.

This little girl is wonderfully lucky because she just happens to have my younger brother for a father and he is not only deeply in love with her but will do an exceptional job of raising her to be a caring and intelligent person. Her mother is a woman of great humour, strength and intelligence who is just about the best role model a little girl could ask for.

Congratulations little niece! You've been gifted with an amazing family.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Job Drama is Over.

I feel very relaxed and content at the moment. The hubby called a couple of hours ago and he's coming home for good. No more northern New Brunswick. No more visits every second weekend. He's got a position to fill locally and so next week is his last week away from home.

Yes, I know I'm lucky. He's only been away for about 2 months and even then has averaged a few days home every couple of weeks. There are moms who read this whose husbands have to go away for longer periods to farther away and get home much less often. But still, I'm happy. And I'm hoping it's not too much longer for you guys.

Oh shit. No. This doesn't mean I can start the ball rolling to buy my dream house. Why? Because someone bought it before I could. The nerve of some people...

Do Dead Things Make Your Eyes Light up? You Might be a Homeschoolng Mom.

I found this post from Homemade Homeschoolers about finding a learning opportunity in the form of a dead mouse.

Yup, she's a homeschooling mom.

I think our first educational dead thing was a chipmunk that we watched rot and then scavenged the remains for the skull. I boiled it and set it in the sun to bleach but a breeze knocked it to the deck and it shattered.

Our next one was a baby snowshoe hare our cat had killed and brought to the house. I had plans that involved again, getting at the skull but the plans were never fullfilled and after two years of sitting in my freezer the little bunny finally went to the compost.

Now we're treated with dead rodents and birds on a regular basis. The cat has become the, Death: A Natural Process instructor and you usually have to watch your step on the front lawn. Until we put the dog out of course who just adores all the snacks the cat provides.

I'm betting this is pretty common; a dead snake or decomposing squirrel causing a big grin of happiness to blossom on the face of a homeschooling mom. Anyone have their own stories?

Carnival Time!

I have to admit that with the husband home on the weekend and me trying my best to let it be a relaxing time and not get upset that this intruder was messing with my house and schedule, I didn't submit any posts to the homeschooling carnivals. I realize that takes away from their appeal and fabulousity just a bit but still, even without me there's lots of great reading!

Carnival of Canadian Home Educators

Carnival of Homeschoolers at Homeschool CPA

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's Working! It's Really Working!

An hour is how much time Catherine spent working on her fable rewrite today. One whole hour of her writing and me not hearing a peep. Not a complaint, not a cry for help, nothing. She came out with two double-spaced pages of fabulous fable and handed it to me with a huge smile.

This is our fifth week of Classical Writing: Aesop (admittedly rejiggered for our purposes) and it just seems to be getting better with each week. Catherine enjoys the work, I enjoy the fact that most of it is independent and the other things I've been slowly adding like Peterson Directed Handwriting and Megawords only seem to compliment the writing. This feels so good!

Math isn't far behind in the feel good department. Life of Fred: Fractions hasn't really been delved into yet but the Primary Math 5A is coming along and adding more to the math seems to make the whole math time more focused and enjoyable (how weird). What I added was Primary mathematics Intensive Practice and Challenging Word Problems. I think the trick was that I only got those two books a week or so ago, after we were almost finished with the first unit in PM so it's all comfortable review. Catherine has a time when she can feel competent and enjoys working the numbers now instead of it always being about learning the next concept.

Science is a ball. The Elements: Ingredients of the Universe is easy to follow and is having unexpected benefits. In five minutes with four quick questions on the bottom of one page Catherine conquered the idea of ratios. It came in handy when I did a quick review of adding unlike fractions. What had caused a little trouble before was now as easy as pie.

I have never had so much stuff click like this before. While not every day is good and productive and cat-fight free, overall we're doing pretty damn good. One month in and there's nothing that I regret buying. Nothing that Catherine hates. I must be dreaming!

A Bird on the Deck

The husband's away. We ran him up to the airport today (only 20 minutes Molytail!) so he could catch a bus back to Edmundston. It's a 12 hour bus trip but at least the buses have a plug-in for his laptop!

When we got arrived back home we got to the door and noticed a miserable little bird sitting on the deck. It was a female Wilson's Warbler and it had obviously been the sport of our cat because one leg was wonky and one eye was missing completely. Poor thing.

Wilson's Warbler - Female

Of course we had to do something. I think all three of us knew she wasn't long for the world but how could we leave her there, shivering on the deck?

I said we needed a box. Harry immediately volunteered his prized train station box (a plain cardboard box with some holes cut in it). We placed an old receiving blanket on the bottom and I gently lifted the warbler into it. Then we put a towel over the box and put him in a quiet corner of the house.

An hour later the little bird was dead. No one was surprised and although we were sad, no one was terribly upset. Catherine took the opportunity to pet her and remarked on how soft she was and everyone got a last look before I took her out to the compost bin.

I thought our intervention may have hastened the tiny warbler's death but when Catherine and I discussed the possible outcomes, we decided that we'd done the just thing afterall. Even if the worst case was that we did cause it to die sooner (I'm excluded the possibilty it could have lived. The injuries we could see were gruesome. It's likely the ones we couldn't see were worse) it was probably kinder then to have abandoned it to suffer for longer.

Where we weren't so sure was in my decision to dump it in the compost bin. Yes, the end result was effectively the same as if I'd buried it but I'd forgone any ritual or show of respect for the bird. If we had to do it again, we would have gone for a short burial.

Now we're off to research Wilson's Warblers. Catherine is wondering if the bird might have had a nest and that research migh tlead other places today. What a gift that little bird gave us.