Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Argh! Bar Models.

I don't know. I just don't know.

We did a word problem today. With algebra. Yes, yes, I know I posted awhile back that Catherine finally got the bar models in Singapore Math. Thing is, she got them but she doesn't like them.

We read the question. We determined what the unknown was. Catherine whipped up an equation, 2a plus 3a over 2 equals 1044.(I wrote it out because I don't know how to knock out "over 2" on a keyboard). Sure, it could have been simplified a bit but she created it so we did the math. I then did a bar model (it was so much easier for me!), decided it was 1044 divided by 3.5 and did the math. The answers matched.

Now granted, algebra is coming much easier to me these days then it ever has before but how come she finds it so easy?

Just a note. It wasn't all roses. Her multiplication was sloppy and her spelling (on a worksheet)...Oh my. I just won't mention that. At least she's not shy about trying to write anymore. But oh my.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dreaming Big

It's finally hit home with both my husband and me. If we get out debt paid off by the end of the summer and if we knock down our mortgage in the next year and a half we can build a house. We can not just build a house but we can build an off-the-grid house.

I've been wanting to do this for awhile but two things made me think it wouldn't happen. One, the power and heating systems I've looked at would cost quite a bit up front and we just didn't have that kind of money. Two, I thought Shannon had no interest in it.

One problems was solved with Shannon's new job. The other was solved last night when we were watching a show featuring green houses. Shannon and I were talking about what we'd like to do if we built. Geothermal heating, constructed wetlands instead of septic...And then I said, "Living off the grid would probably be asking too much of us."

Shannon shrugged and said, "Why? I think we could do it."

So now, off the grid is our goal. We have two years to research and plan. If anyone has any resource they want to share I'd be grateful!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One More Thing on the Lessenberry...

Okay, more than one thing.

First off, Jack Lessenberry has a great last name. It's just fantastic. I mean, Downes or Laden...Not the same ring at all. I like his name so much I'm sort of thinking of incorporating it into my everyday speech. The next time someone tells me that the only homeschoolers they know are social freaks I'll say, "Don't be such a Lessenberry!" Or maybe when I read the next editorial that claims homeschoolers are all adoring Ken Ham fans or else frontal-lobeless hippies I'll think, "That sure was a Lessenberry."

Yup. Love the name.

Next thing is that not only does Doc have the post I should have written but chickened out of (and I'm glad of it. She did a much better job then I would have) but Summer is joining in on the fun with How to Hate Homeschoolers Properly. She got her hands on The Anti-Home Education Guidebook and is letting us in on it's secrets.

Lastly, and more seriously, there's a post that relates deeply to much of the Lessenberrying that goes on. It's by Elisheva and it's called The Anointed and The Benighted. As usual, while the rest of us are splashing around on the surface she's gone deeper to explore what's behind the phenomenom of Lessenberryism:

Sowell (go read her post to find out who that is!) goes on to say that those who hold the Vision of the Anointed, take it upon themselves to characterize those they deem "them" to be not only factually wrong, but morally inferior. Because the Anointed ascribe to themselves only the best of motives, they do not feel the need to define their terms or to present logical arguments or empirical evidence for their rightness. They are right because they are the caring and compassionate few, the Ones Who Know What is Best for Us All, and if only we would let them get on with the business deciding momentous questions on the basis of their Vision, we'd all be led to the Promised Land.

Damn. She's good.

Break Time!

Catherine's finished Key to Decimals book 2, worked her way up to adverbs in Winston Grammar and learned the whole ancient Greek alphabet. Time to set aside learning new things in those three areas and concentrate on practicing what she's learned. The weather has been absolutely beautiful anyhow so why coop her up in the kitchen with more texts, eh?

So I think we'll try daily practice.

- Daily practice from Daily Math Review.

- Set of mental math problems from Mental Math Sheets.

- Half a dozen questions on operations with decimals and long division. I'll get worksheets at Worksheetworks.com.

- Three word problems from Challenging Word Problems, Primary 3.

- A problem involving critical and logical thinking, probably from Brain Maths Volume 1.

- Daily grammar practice from I-don't-know-where-yet. I'm thinking lots of Mad Libs and maybe Daily Grams.

- Editing. Hopefully Catherine will write something near the start of the week, bring it to me, we'll edit it and then she'll rewrite it. We'll edit again the next day and she'll type it out. I stress the hopefully part.

- Greek? We'll probably go back to the Greek Hupogrammon after a break.

We'll try this anyway and see how it goes.

Another Day, Another Homeschooling Critic

I had a big long post with a point-by-point rebuttal ready to go on this essay on homeschooling by Jack Lessenberry. His post has all the usual assumptions, leaps of logic and vague emotional appeals that we've come to know and love from people that want us to know we're doing a bad thing but can't be bothered actually learning about what it is we're really doing. Nothing too challenging. The fact that such a sloppy argument comes from a journalist of 30 years is a little surprising.

Then I looked at the comments. There were a number of good ones. What was Mr. Lessenberry's response? He invoked the Spelling Defense (sister tactic to Godwin's Law):

Ms Kelle, I did not say you are unqualified. however, you spelled both invoked and argument wrong, and have inadvertently helped prove my point

So I guess that if I were to assert journalists aren't qualified to write then his lack of punctuation and capitalization would prove my assertion?

Then someone points out, "you should have at least spoken to some public school teachers, or met some homeschooled kids, before penning your article."

Mr. Lessenberry provides this howler in response:

I sleep with a public school teacher, every night, and have for 31 years. I remain convinced that, if anything, I was too kind to the homeschoolers.

Talk to one public school teacher and you've talked to all public school teachers, eh? I'm mean, they're all connected to the mighty Mother Brain, right?

From his profile:

Jack has always said that the thing he loves about journalism is the fact that it's all about people-about connecting with and learning from them.

"I want to create intelligent dialogue about the problems we face. I think we need to think about and talk about who we are as a country and people, and explore those things."

I call bullpucky. His essay is by someone who has decided he knows enough. Someone who's given up on curiosity and settled on pontificating. His comments to those who try to engage in an intelligent dialogue show he wants no such thing.

So why did I shelve the big long post with point-by-point rebuttal? Mr. Lessenberry did all my work for me. In two comments he revealed his ridiculous leaps and sloppy attitude to research and learning better then I ever could have.

UPDATE: Doc did the research I, and Mr. Lessenberry, didn't in this excellent post. She takes his essay apart quite nicely and introduces the wonderful term, edutard.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Operations with Decimals...And Lizards!

Catherine was doing work with decimals yesterday. She had to work through addition, subtraction and multiplication problems, keeping in mind what she had to do with the decimal. It didn't go so well. The first time through she moved the decimal as you do in multiplication on every single question, subtractions and addition included. I pointed out her mistake, erased all the wrong answers and asked her to do it again. She did and got most of them right but still didn't have a firm idea of what to do.

I thought about it for a minute and drew a snake to represent how decimals moved in the answer to a multiplication question:

I couldn't come up with an image for addition and subtraction so I gave Catherine some paper and 15 minutes to come up with as many pictures as she could that would represent what to do with the decimal in different operations. Here is some of what she came up with:

I was surprised by the different images and the cleverness of some of them. The dolphin is definitely my favourite.

Right after she had left the room to draw those pictures I came up with an image for decimals in adding and subtracting:

Catherine's drawing went into her math book and mine went on a poster I'm making of math symbols and ideas:

(Would anyone be interested if I did up some PDF's of our math visuals?)

Catherine now knows what to do with the decimal in different operations. She still doesn't get the why of this however. The pictures help her remember what to do but not the reasons for doing it. We'll conquer that later.


The 2nd Carnival of Canadian Homeschoolers is up at Jacqueline's Jabberings. If you're a Canadian homeschooler with a blog make sure you contribute a post to the next one!

Dana is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling. My pick for most interesting is More Grousing About Children's Literature at Sometimes I'm Actually Coherent. He points out the frustrating pattern of fathers being painted as buffoons by books, TV, advertising, etc.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Have any Left-Brained Epiphanies to Share?

Out in Left Field wants to know about any right-brainers out there who've had left-brained epiphanies. This was brought on by frustration with Hollywood's obsession with just the opposite:

Two movies released this week feature introverted, soul-deadened, betweeded professors who are as academically eggheaded, i.e., as left-brained, as they are clueless about all that right-brained stuff: human relationships and spirituality...In the stories we like best, it always seems to be a right-brained epiphany.

I shared a little of my story of my left-brained epiphany. How I've lately discovered the joys of rational and systematic thought and the fun of mathematics. Now OILF wants more stories so if you're a right-brainer who has at some point woken up to the wonder of things more generally associated with left-brain thinking please pop over and leave a comment!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Trip to the Park

My husband just came back from a two week trip so we packed the kids up and headed up to our local wildlife park for some family time. I, for once, took the camera.

The white tailed deer are near the entrance and a huge draw because there are food dispensers where you can get bit of food for a quarter and feed the deer through the fence. My best picture of the day was this one.:

Up a bit, after some arctic foxes and reindeer, is what's essentially Predator Alley. Artic wolves, timber wolves, bobcats and lynxes. The coyotes are in behind those four and are generally a lot harder to spot. They were especially hard to spot today since their section was closed. Ah well. Here is a timber wolf:

The moose pen was undergoing some renovations so no pictures of those beasts but after some horribly smelly fox pens we got to my favourite part of the park. The birds! A small sampling:

As always there were peacocks running free everywhere. The otters gave a great show and the black bears were, luckily, right down at the front of their pen so we all got a very good sense of how big they really are.

There were also some pens with eagles, falcons and owls. The park isn't simply a zoo but it also takes in sick and injured animals. The birds of prey they house are always ones that can't be returned to the wild due to their injuries. However, they're still spectacular:

Here's a video of one more of the injured birds that the park cares for. His disability is pretty obvious:

Friday, April 18, 2008

How Does Your Brain Work?

At the most excellent blog Out in Left Field the question was asked, Are all epiphanies right-brained?

Two movies released this week feature introverted, soul-deadened, betweeded professors who are as academically eggheaded, i.e., as left-brained, as they are clueless about all that right-brained stuff: human relationships and spirituality...In the stories we like best, it always seems to be a right-brained epiphany.

I left a comment letting the author know that I had indeed had a left-brained epiphany.

Then I started really looking at math while homeschooling my kids and engaging in demanding debates and suddenly I've had a blossoming of rational thought and a found a lot of joy in numbers. It has been wonderful.

I've always thought I was a right-brained thinker. I tended to be empathic and artsy and well, I am left handed. All the things associated with being right-brained right?

Well, first there was the epiphany and then some tests that Lefty provided in the comments on Empathy versus Systemizing.

I took the Systemizing Quotient test.

0 - 19 = low
20 - 39 = average (most women score about 24 and most men score about 30)
40 - 50 = above average (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score in this range)
51 - 80 is very high (three times as many people with Asperger Syndrome score in this range, compared to typical men, and almost no women score in this range)
80 is maximum

I'm a 34. That's within average but quite a bit higher then what most women score and even higher then what most men score. That's a challenge to my notions about myself.

I then took the Empathy Quotient test.

0 - 32 = low (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score about 20)
33 - 52 = average (most women score about 47 and most men score about 42)
53 - 63 is above average
64 - 80 is very high
80 is maximum

I scored 52. That's more like it. A little above what most women score and what I expected.

Okay. Then I took the Autism Spectrum Quotient test.

0 - 10 = low
11 - 22 = average (most women score about 15 and most men score about 17)
23 - 31 = above average
32 - 50 is very high (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score about 35)
50 is maximum

23. 23!

I had always chalked up my interest in drawing, singing and the arts in general to some vague right-brained artiness. The first two tests had me questioning that. The more I think about it my interest usually lies in the structure of a piece or a song rather then what emotion it evokes. Is it maybe not the interest in art the points to how you think but rather, what excites you about art? I remember seeing a piece of art that basically looked like a close up of backlit window blinds. The person I was with said it left her cold and dismissed it. I thought it was fantastic and kept poring over the details - the structure.

The tests also had me reflecting on my childhood and I was surprised to learn that the images I often called up were ones that supported my previous idea that I was an right-brained thinker rather then a systematic thinker. The emotional attachment to paper scraps, the empathy for other kids. What did I often not recall? Things I don't quite know how to even explain. Like an an obsession with counting things and needing them to end in even numbers or having to mentally reconstruct scenes I was looking at to make them symmetrical or follow a consistant pattern. I haven't even thought much about those so I don't know how to properly communicate what I was doing but I did realize I've cherry-picked my memory to conform to my idea of myself.

I don't know how accurate the tests are. What I do know is that they've challenged me to think about myself and who I think I am. To not whittle myself down to some personality type but explore the possibility that I'm probably a person that encompasses a whole spectrum of personalities types. I suspect the same is true for most of us.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Restraint and Scheduling

I read a blog post not too long ago about giving up responsibility to our kids (I can't remember the blog now, darn it). It got me thinking about how much responsibility I hoard for myself in our house. How I barely portion it out to the kids at times because frankly, it's easier for me to do it myself. What a shortsighted and petty thing to do.

My first thought was to have some kind of big discussion with the kids on responsibility and portion up chores and have lists and...Go overboard. Thankfully, I've noticed lately that I tend to go overboard for a day or two and then nothing comes of that. Instead I started Monday with restraint.

Catherine and I talked about what she wanted to do next in math. She decided she'd like to go back to decimals. She's halfway through Key to Decimals book 2. We sat down and counted out the pages left. 20. She thought she could do that fairly quickly.

"This week?" I asked.


We divided the pages by 5 and she took out an old student planner I picked up last fall and wrote down the pages she had to do for each day. Then she decided which days she'd like to do Greek and Grammar and wrote those down. We didn't go any further and that's pretty much where her formal work stops. And I'm trying to be restrained. No awesome grand plan that covers everything.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

If it Looks Too Good to be True...

I've been seeing some blog plugs on K-12 Free Homeschooling pop up and was getting ready to write something but noticed this most excellent post from The Home Education Magazine's Editor Blog on Mimi Rothschild, the head cheese of K-12 Free. From the blog:

I’ve waited two days to write this post, believing it’s best to err on the side of caution when the stakes are potentially very high. Having waited two days, and having considered all the harassing phone calls, all the blisteringly-written letters, all the provoking emails, all the threatened lawsuits… well… enough is enough.

Mimi Rothschild contacted our advertising manager last week “seeking to run a large ad campaign in Home Education Magazine.” Knowing our lengthy history with this individual - her last contentious email and phone call were in February - our advertising manager contacted us and asked if we wanted to run her advertisements. We said no, we did not want her advertising in our magazine, for reasons which can be readily identified through our past communications with Mimi and her multiple dbas and aliases.

The post goes on to detail lots of interesting things about Mimi including a great series of infomative comments about her on a HE&OS thread. I'll add a couple of sources that I often use when I notice homeschoolers asking about K-12 Free Homeschooling or any of the other sites run by Ms. Rothschild. Both have lots of information that you can follow up on.

Hawaii Virtual School - Apparently people searching for them had experienced some confusion and ended up on Mimi Rothschild sites. They put up this page with a lot of info, including links to articles and court documents (!).

Homeschool.com thread - This details some troubles some members of the forum had had with K12 Free. Search for "mimi" and you'll find more threads on the same matter.

When we're looking for education options for our children we've got to be careful. Before you sign up for something, take a few moments to plug the name into Google. Even better, pair the name with "complaints" and see what comes up. Make sure you do your research because even something that seems free can cause a whole lot of pain and heartache.

They're Either Blind or Handing Out Blinders.

I'm beginning to develop two uncharitable ideas about why people think homeschooling parents must have some form of qualification in order to teach their children.

They are:

1) I couldn't trust myself to do that.

2) People can't be trusted to do that.

Number one is probably the one I see most often. They don't trust their own knowledge when it's unaccompanied by a $40,000 piece of paper. They don't trust their ability to judge the knowledge of others. They don't trust that learning can happen without a teacher leading them by the hand. They often don't even seem to trust that they can learn at all once out of the environment of school.

Number two generally represents those people who don't have a problem trusting themselves. They're very sure of their own abilities and knowledge, they simply know that everyone else can't be trusted. This is because we aren't them.

One group has been molded by the system of education to think they can not function without it. The other group has become the system.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Freaky Son

I had heard about the Red House before. This is my 6 year old's other house and it often is where he has, "many of Thomas stuff," and where his Red House family lives. I found out yesterday that Red House was actually a planet and on this planet Harry's other mother and father had, "died in a 'splosion."


"Yes! It was huge! They were made into bones and they died."

"I'm sorry to hear that!"

"But I have many of brothers and sisters and they didn't die. They were in tent, a metal tent. But my parents died so I came to this planet."

"Well, we're sure happy you did."

"I'm glad too but I miss my brothers and sisters. I need to build a portal so I can go get them."

"How will you do that?"

"Hmmmmm....I know! I can use my Digivice!"

This is the point where Catherine and I stopped exchanging weird looks and started laughing. A Digivice is a a tool from Digimon. Now we were in familiar territory and the conversation that was previously freaky and morbid was now turning out to be about Digimon. Pokemon and dragons soon made their way into the story as well. I have no idea where the Red House planet or the crispified parents came from but I'll simply assume he picked up some images somewhere and incorporated them into what he thought was a thrilling and dramatic story. I look forward, I think, to more.

Ants for Geeks

I was at my local thrift store last week and picked up Simant. This is an old game (the jewel case assures me it will work on a 286 running Windows 3.0) and one I'd never played myself but I did remember hours and hours of fun with Sim City (by the same legendary designer, Will Wright). I picked it up and a few days later Catherine installed it on her computer. This is what it looks like:


(couldn't find a decent pic with an english screen!)

I wondered a bit whether she's like it. Those graphics are pretty old school. No problem. She worked her way through the tutorial and got swept up in the game in no time. When we were talking about it last night she was enthusiatic, describing it as awesome and, "one of my most favourite games ever!"

While searching for a picture I found a neat article from the Zooilloogix blog that has some absolutely spectacular pictures of ant nest molds. Click on over to see what I mean.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rural Kids

I had a knock on the door last night. I answered and saw a boy, about 7, whom I hadn't seen before.

"Does a little boy live here."


"Can he come out and play with me?"

"Sure. Harry!!"

Harry got his shoes on and ran out and they screamed and ran happily for the next hour.

Turns out the boy lived down the road a little. His family had been there for a little while but we hadn't connected. He found out about Harry and marched up to our house to see him.

This is Rural Parenting. Shove them out the door in the morning. Forget about them. Call them in at night.

It makes for confident and intelligent kids.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Go Get a Pelvic Exam

I was listening to a radio show today called White Coat, Black Art. It covers a lot of really interesting aspects of health care that the end users, us, rarely think about. It's a Canadian show but I'm betting most of the issues are applicable to US listeners as well and I heartily recommend you subscribe to their podcast. The one I listened to today was about pelvic exams:

The sound of the running water. The metallic speculum bills tapping against one another. Suddenly, you feel your sock-covered feet in the stirrups. Well, at least half of you know what we're talking about. Today, on White Coat Black Art... the perils and the puzzles of the pelvic exam.

It's a good one and had me in stitches for much of the show. Besides, haven't you always wanted to know where the oldest speculum in history was discovered and hear the term, "satanic vagina"?

Anyhow, it got me thinking about a post Andrea wrote a little while ago:

If it has been more than a year since your last checkup, do me a favor. Tomorrow morning, instead of checking in my blog or surfing a few sites or even buying a bunch of daffodils to raise money to cure cancer, pick up the phone. Call your doctor and make an appointment. Yeah, it’s a hassle, I know. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your family. Do it for me.
 Andrea's right. Go get it done. It's not a big deal and should be an essential part of every woman's health regimen. Listen to the show first though. The story about the flying speculum is priceless.

Homeschooling Without a College Degree

I'm answering my own call with this post. I want to write a bit on why I feel comfortable homeschooling my kids despite the fact that my formal education ended with high school. This is for Steve but I think it will also make a good addition to the archives for future use.

1) Current subject matter. My two are officially in Primary and Grade 4. There should be nothing in the elementary school curriculum that poses any great problem for a high school grad.

2) If I need a teacher for my child who has mastery over a subject, I can find one. Homeschooling does not mean the parent simply steps into the role of teacher. More often we're facilitators and coordinators. My daughter has an interest in calculus? I know a college prof who adores calculus (not to mention how her eyes light up when quantum physics is mentioned). My son wants to pursue microbiology? I believe there's an uncle on my husband's side. Either one interested in tearing down an engine or the principles of flight? I have a dad and two brothers who are aircraft engineers. I had a friend whose 12 year old son had a passion for geology. She found a local professor, had her son write him a letter and voila! Her son now has a mentor on the subject.

3) Homeschooling material is different from school material. I have two types of curriculum that's used regularly in our house that does not require an instructor with subject mastery. The first is the scripted curriculum. I am in no way qualified to teach my kids grammar but I knew that and bought Winston Grammar. It's a scripted curriculum that tells me exactly what to say, anticipates questions from my daughter and generally guides us both gently through the subject. The second type of curriculum is self-directed. This is our Singapore math and the ancient Greek workbook, the Greek Hupogrammon. These texts cut me out of the picture and direct the script right at the child. When the subject matter is completely out of my territory it will likely be self-directed courses and curriculum my kids will follow. Teaching Textbooks is an excellent example, The Teaching Company is another one.

4) I can learn. So I didn't go to college. There's nothing to stop me from picking up a book on atomic theory or joining a message board full of textual critics and biblical scholars or listening to lectures on the Roman Republic. My brain stills works quite well (much better in fact then when I was in school) and I can learn enough about the Gracchi brothers to give my kids a decent account.

PS: Note that I've only given the 9 year old a decent account of the Gracchi brothers. I don't want to give the 6 year old nightmares. :)

A Challenge on Revealing our Homeschools

Steve over at Steve Likes to Curse has written a couple of posts on homeschooling that have garnered a bit of reaction. The first one had some of the usual stereotypes about who homeschoolers were. He got some responses (one from me), did some poking around and then posted a follow up where he gracefully admitted his error, posted resources for secular homeschoolers and even a link to the Evolved Homeschooler Cafe Press store. This is a good guy.

He still has his concerns about us though.

I’d still be more comfortable with children being taught by teachers who have been to college and mastered their subjects, than well-meaning parents who are simply following a lesson plan.

For all its faults, one great advantage of public school is that it forces the child to interact with peers from different backgrounds, in an environment where they are not always the center of attention. Even in the best of circumstances, that's something I think few homeschooled kids get.

But wait! Steve also makes this clear:

Believe me, I'm more than happy to revise my opinion about this.

So this is what I have in mind. We could write some posts that reveal 1) why we're comfortable homeschooling without college mastery of subjects and 2) the diversity our children are being exposed to by virtue of being homeschooled. I'd prefer it if we didn't focus too much criticism on public schools. The issue is us and what we're doing. Just leave me a link in the comments. If you have an older post that addresses this better then a new post could, that's fine as well, simply leave the link.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Ultimate Story of Book Regret

Yesterday I wrote a post and mentioned that I regretted not buying a book while at a used book sale. Lorraine, in the comments, went one better and said she's found a book she should have picked up, didn't and later found out it was worth money.

I've got you sooooo beat Lorraine.

When I was around 9 I was at a friend's house. This friend told me of an abandoned house she'd found and suggested we go explore it. It took a bit of a hike through the surrounding woods but we eventually got to it. I don't remember what it looked like but I have the impression that it was a large house and had been grand at one time. Our community, in the age of sail, had been a wealthy and prominent ship building community so gorgeous old houses in ruin weren't too unusual. We went through the kitchen. I remember a big wood range and a gaping hole in the floor that we had to scoot around. The next room was the library. The fully stocked library.

I remember the room as lined with waist high bookshelves. I remember a lot of books and many of them were medical texts. I remember they were all in wonderful condition. Most of all I just remember feeling awed.

We looked through the books to see if there was anything we felt was really interesting. I found a paperback on ghosts and spirits that was published just before WWI. It was in wonderful condition. A little yellow but not brittle. After my friend found a book she liked we decided we'd borrow them. Yes, we'd take them home and read them but return them later because we didn't want the house harbouring any bad feelings towards us.

I never did get back to the house. We moved away a year or two later and I forgot about the incident until I was an adult. I don't know what happened to the little paperback. I don't know what happened to the house. I ran into the friend about 6 years ago and she said she hadn't been back either and didn't think she'd even remember how to get there now.

I still think about the books. I just checked Google Earth and can't find a trace of the house. But it's been 25 years.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Carnival Time!

There's a new homeschooling carnival and it's important because it's a Carnival for Canadian Homeschoolers over at Jacqueline's Jabberings. Everyone knows that Canadians are exceptionally bright and perceptive (modest? Not so much these days) so improve yourself and check it out!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at A Pondering Heart.

A Picture is Worth...

I was at local book sale on Saturday. It's a once a month deal run out of the local Masonic Hall basement and it's absolutely full of great stuff ranging from 10 cents to a dollar. My best buy? John Holt's How Children Fail and How Children Learn for a dollar each (*brag*). My lasting memory? A little boy that was there with his mom.

This little boy (about 5 or 6) picked out book from the pile of children's picture books and was fascinated with the cover. It had an angular submarine hovering over an underwater scene where two people in diving helmets stood walking along the bottom, long walking sticks in hand. The book was a condensed version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He showed it to his mom and she pointed out that that was the book they'd heard about at the library from one of the librarians but, that it wasn't the real book. As I was digging through the children's novels I found a copy of the real version and handed it to her. She was excited and asked her boy if he wanted it. He didn't really answer, he just kept looking at the picture book version.

I kept an ear out and listened as the mom kept asking him about the real version. He didn't give fart about the real version. He was wrapped up in that wonderful cover. I asked him what he liked about it, hoping the mom would clue in, and he talked about how strange the submarine looked being angular as opposed to curvy and wondered what those walking sticks might be for. The mom didn't catch on. It was a dumbed down picture book as far as she was concerned and not worth even considering.

Let me say that the mom was wonderful. She was attentive and considerate to her son and it was a pleasure to see them interact. It was just that she had a bit of book snobbery that prevented her from seeing the value in that 10 cent book. And let me also say that this irritated me because I was once guilty of the same thing. I too would have snubbed the picture book in favour of the real and authentic version, thinking it was something watered down or that it insulted my child's intelligence. Not so.

Just the cover of that little picture book was already prompting questions and wonder in that little boy. What if he'd taken it home and opened it up?

They left without the book and I'm still kicking myself for not simply buying the damn thing and giving it to the boy.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I know Spring is officially here but today really felt like the real deal. The sun was warm and the sky was blue. To celebrate, the kids and I went shopping for butterfly nets. Yes, I know there aren't any butterflies yet. At least not in rural Nova Scotia but it really doesn't matter to the kids. They're outside right now, in what the day has left to offer, running around and catching imaginary butterflies. Or hunting small dragons. The former is more likely.

I bought the butterfly nets with dangerous visions in my head. As I reached for them I was actually thinking, "These will be fantastic to carry around on regular nature walks!" Worse, the vision in my head was of us gloriously marching through a field with nets, notebooks and sketchpads in some Charlotte Mason fantasy. Nothing against Charlotte Mason or those who follow her methods you understand. It's just that I'm finally realizing I pick up too much stuff with some grand intent that never gets followed through on.

There are shelves of stuff I picked up with grand intentions. This board game would help Catherine with multiplication, these blocks with fractions. I'll inspire Harry's creativity with this building kit and oh my, wait until we all have wonderful and warm family time building that wooden village set.

The truth of it is that about half collects dust. Another large chunk gets used in plays and in ways I didn't foresee and a very small portion gets used as intended. For a little while.

Not that this realization will stop me of course. I did get the butterfly nets after all.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Used Homeschooling Resource for Canucks!

Time for a deserving plug.

I've been ordering from the Home Educator's Resource Emporium for a little while now. This is the place I found one of my all-time best book buys, described in this post.

The site is full of gently used books at great prices. The titles are often a little quirky and titles I haven't seen elsewhere. Sandra, who runs the site, is always prompt and wonderful in any communication. The books arrive quickly and always as described.

What more could you ask for?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Biology Book

I pulled out a college biology text yesterday thinking I might add it to our reading line up. Catherine loved the pictures and illustrations but I sort of balked at reading it because it was published in 1985 (another thrift store find). Granted, the basics of biology probably haven't changed a whole lot in just twenty years and we will be looking at it but that small fault had me digging around for what else was availible and as a result I found Chemistry Demystified by Dale Layman.

It seems to be sort of a biology-for-dummies kind of thing. A general overview with language that's not as dense as a college textbook. It doesn't have any of the amazing photographs of the text I have (nor of the one I crave, Biology by Campbell and Reece) but it's black and white line drawings do have their own advantage:

Lots of giggles.

Catherine loves that picture.

So, general overview, clear language, funny illustrations and...End-of-chapter quizes! If there's one thing Catherine loves, it's quizes and since this isn't a textbook all the answers are in the back of the book.

We'll certainly be going back to biology again when Catherine's older but this book will give her a nice introduction and a sense of familiarity with the subject. We'll just juggle this with The Story of Science and we'll be set in the science department for a few weeks.

NOTE: Apparently we're going to be juggling the elements book I was talking about a few weeks back as well. We put it aside when it started getting dense with talk of beta decay and such but Catherine wants it back in the mix as of tonight. And I just had a conversation with a teary-eyed Harry who's feeling left out in the reading department lately. And he's right. Lots of Thomas books tommorrow.

Show and Tell - The Chessboard

I've missed Dana's last two days of Homeschooling Week prompts but I'll pick up today with Show and Tell. Here's the Show part:

The picture is awful but that is one of the most valuable toys, pieces of furniture and homeschooling resources that we have. It's a chessboard. I bought it several years ago for my husband for Christmas. I loved it. It's funky and cool and always reminds me of the, "Square candies that look round," bit from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory because it plays with angles and curves. Those legs on it also flip under so that it can be hung or stored away. So neat. Anyway, the important thing was that my husband hated it. Absolutely hated it.

The fact that my husband hated the board meant it was basically abandoned to the kids and boy, have they made use of it. It has been used for checkers and chess, as a battleground for Pokemon, as a make shift desk for drawing, crafts and snacks, a stage for Barbie performances and an impromptu seat. It's also been rolled around the living room on its side. It's now full of stains and chips and the original funky design I loved is looking pretty tacky and worn. Regardless, my husband and I look at it and laugh because what was originally a huge miss of a present has now evolved into one of the most used and most loved resources in the house.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

That NYT Article on Muslims who Homeschool

I've seen the article on Muslims who homeschool pop up in a few places (I first noticed it at O'Donnell Web). The article didn't seem like much more then the average fluff on homeschooling so I never bothered to read it, until now. Today I found this post on Sunni Sisters. It's really worth a read as it talks about stuff the article never mentions such as (from the mother interviewed for the article):

When he asked me about why we chose homeschooling, I compared raising Muslim children to an eastern martial arts tradition (i.e. Karate, Tae Kwan Do, etc., something people in the West understand and respect). The homeschooling setting is a place where the kids have a teacher whom they look up to and where the teacher should embody the values he/she is trying to impart to the students. I said that there were three parts to raising a Muslim child — teaching about (1) Islamic jurisprudence (the do’s and don’ts of the religion ), (2) Muslim etiquette (how to behave in society), and (3) Muslim culture (poetry, singing, history, appreciating things of beauty in the world around us and reflecting on God’s blessings in everything we see, etc.).

Here's what made the article:

She made up her mind after visiting her oldest son’s prospective public school kindergarten, where each pupil had assembled a scrapbook titled “Why I Like Pigs.”

Nice, eh?

This isn't new. I know a lot of homeschoolers who would be reluctant to be interviewed because they're afraid of this exact same thing. However, Sunni Sister really points out how, as wary as homeschoolers may be, Muslims have good reason to be even more so:

Most of the time when a Muslim is misquoted, or has their statements distorted, taken out of context, and heavily or selectively edited, that Muslim never gets a second chance to clarify. One of the things our community is rapidly learning is that you only get one “take” when it comes to doing media interviews, be it TV, radio, or print. I was ambushed by a television producer on air (he was off camera, I might add) some years ago, and vowed from that moment not to do TV again, because I do not handle surprises like that well, and because I realized that this is how the game is played with Muslims. We invite you on to talk about your needlecraft group and you end up stuttering and looking like an idiot or a liar when you’re asked complex policy questions about Afghanistan and Iraq.

The poor mom in the NYT had the "misfortune" of being a homeschooler and a Muslim. The journalist must have thought he struck gold with the pig anecdote, two stereotypes wrapped up in one sentence.

If I ever had the chance to meet the mom in question, Hina Khan-Mukhtar, I'd give her a hug and tell her I get it. The journalist was a jerk and she and her family are much, much more then he bothered to show.

Another Breakthrough

Catherine hates the Singapore bar modeling. We tried it when we first got the Singapore texts a year ago and she was almost in tears with frustration. We tried to touch on it several times since and with the same results every time.

I gave up, showed her a bit of algebra and decided that maybe she was more comfortable with abstract algebra then visual bar models.

Well, we tried again today. The fact that it was a visual model that got through to Catherine on the long division yesterday made me think that the bar models were worth one more shot. Maybe it wasn't the bar models, maybe it was me.

We read a problem. Something simple about a farmer that had x number of chickens, sold y number and asked how many he had left. I drew the bar model and explained it. Catherine was already getting upset. Then I looked at the bars and decided they looked like boxes.

"Wait a minute Catherine. This isn't a bar model. Those rectangles are boxes that the farmer puts his chickens in. He has x number in the whole box, y number in this portion...How many more chickens are in the box?"

"Oh! I get it!" said Catherine.

And that was it. Bar models are now box models and whatever is in the word problem, whether it's chicken or people or televisions, gets put in the box model. The problem was that the bar model had no relation to the word problems. She didn't understand how those rectangles related to the chickens. Once I created a picture (chickens in boxes) she was fine. One year of avoiding bar models and in one minute the avoidance was over.

I then had her draw out several more word problems on the dry erase board and she did them perfectly.

One year. One whole year. D'uh.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thrift Store Treasure

I picked up a little book at the local thrift store a couple of months ago. It's Giving: Ojibwa stories and legends from the children of Curve Lake.

Anishinabe children from Curve Lake, Ontario drew and retold stories about "how and why" things happen.


I pulled it out yesterday. They've been asking for poems at bedtime (we'd been reading Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S Eliot) and as I was lacking in the poetry department I thought some short stories would be a good substitute. They loved it. I think the first thing that grabbed them was that the stories in the book had been told by children around their own age. Second, it's all myths and legends and there's nothing they like, Catherine in particular, more then myths and legends. Third, It's chock full of animals.

After I was finished reading a few stories last night, Catherine asked if she could look at it and read most of it before she finally went to sleep. Tonight she finished it off, enchanted with the stories and never realizing that she'd read her first real book on her own.

I pick up things never knowing what the kids will think of them. It's always nice when I get it right.

Long Division Conquered

I'm not sure if we're late to long division compared to other homeschoolers or even the local school kids but yesterday Catherine got her first exposure to it. It went...Okay. I let my husband do most of the work explaining and while he was at her side she did well. When he wasn't by her side she was unsure of what she had to do.

Today the husband's at work and Catherine and I were left to explore it on our own. First thing I did was prop up the big dry erase board and opened the new pack of dry erase markers. Math is much more fun done big and in a variety of colours. I wrote a problem down and Catherine picked a colour and began working. We went through four problems and she was still having problems remembering the steps. Then I started diagramming what she was doing as she did it.

Warning. This sounds daft.

She'd be faced with finding out how many times 4 went into 9. I'd draw and arrow to the right. She'd have to write 2 on top. I'd draw an up arrow. She'd multiply 2 by 4 and as we're working left, I'd draw and arrow going to the left. She's write 8 below the 9 and I'd draw a down arrow.

This didn't help her at all.

But when we both realized that the arrows roughly represented a circle and I blurted out that she simply had to work each step in a circle, cycling back to the same starting step and to begin again and then she got it. Long division went from a confusing and patternless process to simple cycles of just a few steps each. She was thrilled and starting drawing circles to cement the image in her head. After that, with that image of the circle, she declared long division was easy and fun.

Our process - "The Divine Circle of Division"
(Hokey name but we were reading about Pythagoras the night before)

I sometimes think the next best thing to having a teacher that knows a subject inside and out is having one who's almost as clueless as the student. That's certainly me. When encountering something like long division I'll approach with no ideas of how I need to teach it but rather come up with an idiotic-seeming idea like making a picture of the process that turn out to be just what my daughter needed.