Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Few Pictures of Us

I needed to have some pictures of me and the kids today. First, I tried to get my husband to take them. This is a good example of what the result of that was:

So me and the kids grabbed the camera and I snapped of some pictures at arm's length.

A nice one (except my upper lip is missing. Where on earth did I leave it now?):

Wait a minute, are these MY kids?

Om my God. I think they are!


Friday, May 30, 2008

Becoming the Student

In our slow shift back to unschooling I've been trying to find ways to deal with the curriculum Catherine likes. The two big ones are Winston Grammar and the Key to books. The problem with those is, as usual, me. I'm having a hard time helping her navigate the stuff without becoming a teacher.

One thing that seems to be working is that I've become the student.

When Catherine sits down with her Key to Algebra I sit down with her. She has her workbook, I have looseleaf. She does the questions and I do the questions. Considering the Key to series is meant to be self-directed, it only seemed to make sense to assume the same role as Catherine.

It's made quite a difference in how I see the work she does and also in how we interact. Instead of her calling when something isn't making sense and me fumbling around trying to sort it out, I'm there from the get go working through it with her. We compare answers, tease each other over dumb mistakes, share our insights and have a lot of of relaxed fun.

I haven't tried this with Winston Grammar but I'm thinking it might work well there as well. We've been on break from it for awhile, stopping after we finished adverbs. Since adverbs are pretty much where my knowledge of the parts of speech stops I think I'm going to learn quite a bit. It's happening with Key to Algebra. We're simply doing operations with negative integers, very familiar stuff for me, but I'm still finding new ways to look at it through the text and through Catherine. And heck, I can't wait until we get to the stuff that will offer more of a challenge.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Score for the Boy!

Harry likes worksheets. It's not an intense interest but when we're playing school and Catherine is doing one and my neice is colouring he likes to be doing something similar. The only problem is that he doesn't have much patience for most. If I can find one with trains or cars, he's set and he enjoys them. However, so much of the stuff out there seems to have generic themes. If you're a little kid who's not really interested in animals or sports then the worksheets look pretty bland.

What I really wanted was some Thomas the Tank Engine workbooks. What I really couldn't find, in stores or on the Internet, were Thomas the Tank engine workbooks. Until today!

I was walking around a local shop, poking around the toy section when down on the bottom shelf I noticed one vinyl zip up case and in that case:

Whoo Hoo! There was actually a bit more - the usual cheap colouring supplies and a sticker book but it was really the stuff in the picture that thrilled me. A dry erase board for printing (he loves printing lately, especially with dry erase markers), four workbooks and a couple of flashcard decks. Flashcards never get used as they're 'supposed' to be used here but the kids always find a way to have fun with them. The workbooks are perfect for his interest in printing.

When I showed him the books he was all smiles. He sorted through it all, carefully looked at one of the workbooks and started quizing me with the flashcards. If they all want to play school tommorrow he'll fit right in.

Note to the Thomas the Tank Engine folk: Make more of this stuff. Lots of it. There are a lot of little boys out there who would appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Subway Kerfuffle as an Educational Opportunity

I'll be quiet about this soon, I promise.

It's just that I followed on O'Donnell Web to HERP&ES (love the name change!) to a A Second Generation of Homeschooling and found a post that's goes over the edge with lots of All Caps and calls for action on the Subway matter. Fine, I sort of wish the first step was discussion but she's picked her course.

What grabbed me was this quote:

Will Subway's contest prevent us from homeschooling in the future; will it prohibit our hard-earned freedom to homeschool? No. BUT it does limit us in the educational arena. Where's the progress in that?
(bold and italics are author's)

I don't understand. Since when are sandwich shop contests part of the educational arena? Maybe the author has some thoughts to justify that claim but she doesn't explain them. I'm left a little puzzled.

Besides, she's just wrong. This contest doesn't limit us in anyway. If fact, our exclusion makes this potentially much more educational then the contest itself. Think outside the box.

- Use the story starters anyway.
- See if the kids want to construct their own contest.
- Explain the contest, it's limitations and discuss the matter. See what different points of view your kids might have on the matter.
- Look at other contests, read the rules and see if exclusion is standard practice or something confined just to this contest. See if the kids can come up with plausible reasons why those exclusions might be needed.

There are probably a ton of ways to make this a much more interesting, fun and educational then the original contest could ever be. But for goodness sake, don't start giving power to fast food chains by claiming they've somehow limited something that's completely within your own control.

Carnival Roundup!

The Canadian Carnival of Home Educators is up here! If you're a Canadian blogger and haven't participated yet then make sure you submit a post for the next one.

The COH is up at Walking Therein.

The Carnival of Education is at Bluebird's Classroom.

A Thoughtful Post on the Subway Kerfuffle

PrairieFrog Blog has a most excellent post on the whole Subway contest kerfuffle here. She makes the point that others have, that Subway has every right to limit who their prize goes to, but tweaks it slightly by comparing the prize to a gift:

This is Subway's contest, and they are giving away a prize. They host the contest, they make the rules. This is as it should be. When I give something away, whether it is charitable donations or birthday presents, I give to the recipients of my choosing. If, as a landlord, I want bake bread as a blessing to one renter, but not for all the tenants, that too is my business.

In Subway's case, it just flat makes sense to me that they'd like the $5,000 of athletic equipment to benefit a larger pool of children than just one family. But regardless of whether it makes sense, it is their right to have the rules they choose--Senseless or otherwise.

The tweak gives the point a fresh perspective and the post is a satifying read. Of course, this is nothing new for anyone who reads PrairieFrog Blog.

I'm going to add one comment on her post from Carla because it expresses perfectly something I've been feeling about this whole matter:

I think that as homeschoolers, we make the choice to be counter-culture. Why, then, do we expect culture to bend to us?

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Confess, I'm a Gorehound

I got a new game. It's an older PC role playing game called Planescape: Torment and it is SO up my alley. See, it's a dark fantasy and it is gloriously gory.

I have this thing for gore. Now, it has to be fake gore and generally, the schlockier the horror movie it's in the better but still, while other teenage girls were buying...Well, whatever magazine teenage girls 18 years ago were buying, I was buying Fangoria. It's a magazine for horror lovers and it had page after page of coverage on horror movies, TV shows and books. It was where I first learned about Peter Jackson although it had nothing to do with hobbits and everything to do with a zombie-horror gem called Braindead. I'd clip the pictures of corpses and severed fingers out and joyfully line my locker with them.

And I collected comic books. Man, I was so cool. I just can't understand why I was such a social outcast.

But back to Planescape. Why is this such a wonderful game for me? Why, because it's got insanely imaginative gore! Need a magic ring? Let the local seamstress dig around in your intestines a bit. Trust me, it's there. Found another magic ring but are a little put out to realize it won't come off the severed finger it was attached too? Just bite of one of your own fingers and attach the severed one! Easy, right? Oh man, it brought back memories of stupidly gory Troma films.

I should point out right now that my love of gore has it's limits. It has to be fake, it should have a sense of humour and it can't be paired with terror (at least not in my post-kids days). Dollman Vs. the Demonic Toys? Alien Vs. Predator. Yes. Saw? The disembowelment scene in Bravehart. Oh heck, no. I can watch zombies eat people in a B flick all day. Silence of the Lambs? Only if I can watch it through my fingers and have a clear plan of escape.

Anyhow, this got me wondering. An appreciation for a well executed decapitation is not something normally associated with homeschooling moms. I can't be the only one with a bit of a dark side or an unexpected interest. Anyone else?

My Life...It's Homeschooling.

For this weeks Carnivial of Canadian Home Educators the theme was sharing our lives outside of homeschooling. I thought about it and thought about it but my life seems so intertwined with homeschooling that I don't know how to unravel it.

I am part of a community choir. We sing everything from madrigals to the Beatles. That's outside of homeschooling...except when I bring Catherine with me and watch as she skips around the practice hall while we sing. Then it's intertwined again as she gets a taste for baroque or jazz.

I do take a course, Education for Ministry (lay ministry, not the other kind!). I'm on hiatus this year but I've got two years under my belt and two more to go. That's something that's completely my own. Except I pass on some of what I've learned to the kids and the research the course has sparked has turned up lots of resources for homeschooling.

There's my drawing. Even there though, as I practice and learn new skills I''m looking over at a daughter that seems to have the same interest and eye for drawing that I do. I learn a skill and I try to help Catherine learn it.

What else happens outside homeschooling?

My blogging and my forum visits. Even then I blog and talk about homeschooling.

To find out where homeschooling ends and the other stuff begins is hard. Homeschooling isn't like school after all. There's no bell, no bus ride home. It's a lifestyle, not an institution. And it touches everything in my life.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Just Stop it With the Subway Hate

So Subway doesn't want homeschoolers entering it's contest. Turns out that doesn't sit well with a lot of homeschoolers. Me? I don't care. Why?

I choose to homeschool my kids. I knew that meant they weren't going to school. I knew that meant some stuff meant for schools wouldn't be meant for them. They don't get to ride schoolbuses, they don't get to have lunch at the local elementary school and they don't get to enter contests meant specifically for school kids.

What really gets under my skin about the reaction to the Subway contest are the extreme reactions. Boycott Subway! Subway Hates Homeschoolers!There's very little measured response or thoughtful commentary. What about an imaginative action that might enlighten Subway? Why not write in and politely tell them about community groups and co-ops that homeschoolers are involved in and that could use the athletic equipment and suggest a more inclusive contest next time? Why on earth start throwing stones and hissy fits?

It's a contest. It's a contest for school kids. We don't have school kids. Let it go.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Cable is Gone

Well, it will be gone next week. I called today and someone will be out to pick up our cable box on Tuesday. I'm hoping for at least 3 months of no TV but we'll see.

Catherine and I have been talking about this for quite some time. She's not quite as enthusiastic as I am but is definitely willing to give it a shot. Harry wasn't really consulted. He'll watch TV but he's not especially attached to it.

I should note that no TV does not mean no TV. I suspect the Gamecube and XBox will remain quite active and that the DVD player and VCR will still be in use without any limits imposed. It's simply that we've all noticed that we tend towards passive TV viewing and we're curious about what would happen without any channels to watch.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Letting Go and Having Fun

I think I've got a plan of attack for overcast days. Usually I'm dark and grumpy on days like today. I feel lost and the kids and I seem to be disconnected. Yesterday I knew this and so I planned for it.

I cut out three pairs of butterfly wings from black construction paper. I then cut out holes so that the kids could glue coloured tissue paper on one side for a stained glass effect. I knew my niece would want to play school so I printed out some 'B' copy work pages for her and Harry. Catherine might want to play along too so I printed out an adjective-butterfly activity thingee for her. I piled them up on a clean kitchen table (remember, the kids can't make a productive mess unless there's a clean canvas) and then went to bed.

Catherine noticed the pile in the morning. She picked up the wings and asked what they were for. I explained the craft to her and asked if she wanted to try it. Of course she did! The little ones followed and it wasn't long before the kitchen table was a mess of glue and tissue paper.

Harry was the first to lose interest. Butterflies were interesting but boats were better and so we dug around until we found a Styrofoam container he could float in a bucket of water. The cuisenaire rods became passengers but were soon evicted because floating boats isn't half as fun as constructing ramps over the bucket and jumping Hot Wheels cars across.

I sat down with Catherine and my niece and worked on Harry's butterfly. It was so nice. I just let go of the reins and talked and had fun.

Catherine's butterfly took some neat turns from the expected craft and then was abandoned as Catherine decided she's much rather create silhouettes of animals, decorate them with the tissue paper and hang them in a mobile. I said that sounded like a great idea and kept out of her way. The girl that can't seem to find a book that's sitting in front of her without asking me then decided to use Google Images to find some silhouettes (something she's seen me do but never tried herself) she could print off. All by herself without asking one question.

So I kept out of her way more.

My niece was the persistant one. She worked on her butterfly until it was finished. It took her forever. It made a huge mess. Her finished butterfly was beautiful.

Catherine finally decided she'd found enough silhouettes for the day and noticed the adjective worksheet. She sat down, drew a picture of a butterfly and wrote 8 imaginative adjectives to describe her picture. The spelling was completely wonky and I asked her if she wanted me to correct it but she said no. She said she did want to work on her spelling but in a different way. She even outlined a bit of a plan that I'll try out with her tommorrow. But I won't take it over and I won't push.

For lunch Catherine suggested bananas. Fried bananas. I chucked out my plans, heated some butter in a pan and fried up some bananas. Harry thought there should be chocolate and I added that since the whipping cream container would make an excellent boat, maybe we should use up what was left. He though that was a good idea and helped me whip the cream. We had fried bananas with chocolate chips and whipped cream for lunch. I was the only one who liked the bananas but everyone was happy.

Right now I have to go because we planted some acorns about 6 weeks ago and now have little trees in need of repotting. But damn, I feel like it's been one of the most plugged in and concious days I've had with my kids for quite some time.

Carnival Time!

Three Carnivals today:

Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival gets top billing.

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Po Moyemu--In My Opinion.

The Carnival of Education is up at Teacher in a Strange Land.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weird Find of the Day

I stumbled onto Christian Books today through a google search. this is what I saw...

They must have been hacked?

Regardless, it gave me a good chuckle!

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Philosophy of Housework

The internet captures everything. Even stuff I've forgotten.

Case in point is my last post which had me thinking about my days on the unschoolingdiscussion email list. I googled it, joined again and then punched my old name from the list into google. I knew a couple of things I'd said on that list had made it onto a site or two. Sure enough I found this:

Ok, I think I'll share my newly thought of philosophy of housework here. It started when my sister was over and chasing the kids around. I was straightening up the livingroom and had just finished piling up blocks (Big cardboard ones. We have, in all, 10 or eleven different kinds of wood, plastic and cardboard blocks. I feel so wealthy. :) ) when my son (2) ran into the room, saw the blocks and immediately tore down the pile. I smiled and shook my head. My sister, who'd arrived in time to see this, sternly said, "Harry! Your mother just finished putting those away!" When she said that I felt offended. Didn't she know I only pile those blocks so that Harry can knock them down? And there was the Aha! I looked around the room at the clean living room and realized that was why I did any cleaning.

We don't clean up messes to have a clean house. We clean up messes so there is room for more mess!

Now I think of cleaning up after my kids as replacing a canvas. I do it with the thought that by giving them room again and a bare floor and organized toys to pick from I'm handing them the tools to write another mess onto our house. It's meant that at the end of a day, or sometimes a few days in a row, I just let the mess stay, because really, it's a work of art or a story. Maybe it isn't finished. Maybe it's too interesting to be gotten rid of so soon. It also clears up my feelings of resentment about doing the bulk of it. I like being the one to reset the house so that we all can live another, different mess the next day.

Anyway, thought I'd share since it's really helped me bring more joy into the housework!

That was four years ago and a neat example of the kind of thinking unschooling inspired in me. I've got to get back some of that.

My Homeschool Mentors

When I started looking into homeschooling I knew of no one that did it in real life. My first exposure to real homeschoolers was on the America Online homeschooling forums.

I stumbled into the forums asking the classic newbie questions. Questions like, "Do you think Abeka is a good choice?" before I was even aware that there were different styles of homeschooling. The ladies at the forum were pretty quick to kindly point out that I was so uninformed that I had no business asking such questions. They then led me to links, like A to Z Home's Cool and Jon's Homeschooling Resources where I could begin to learn what I needed and, more importantly, learn how to learn what I needed.

I got a great view of the diversity of homeschooling from the AOL forums. I got to know a very conservative Baptist lady who held many views that directly opposed my own but whose tolerance and thoughtfulness has been a model for me ever since. I knew a pagan homeschooler who first opened my naive Canuck eyes to the bully Christianity could be in certain places. I also met Becky.

Becky was the first real unschooler I remember knowing. She had weird ideas. She didn't think kids needed chores. She didn't think they needed formal lessons. She thought schools should be ditched in favour of resource centers. I remember slowly coming to respect her views. I don't remember if I had decided to be a radical unschooler before we switched to a local ISP but I do know it was Becky's voice in my head, even years after, that guided me.

After the AOL forums it was Sandra Dodd, Pam Sorooshian and the women at the forum and Sandra's email list that influenced me further. The women that frequented those places questioned everything and woe on the poor newbie that thought they'd receive group hugs and unquestioning support. The conversation was sharp, the questions searching and tolerance for feeling-good kind of advice very low.

And then I got caught up in curriculum and left radical unschooling behind.

I think I left it behind because I forgot about my mentors. I forgot about Becky and Pam and Sandra. I, for some reason, left the unschooling circles and stopped talking about it. Without any unschooling talk I became uncertain. With uncertainty I started reaching out for crutches. The crutches were curriculum.

Using curriculum hasn't been all bad but very often my reason for resorting to it has been. I've let uncertainty direct our homeschooling for almost a year and a half now and damn if I didn't see the extent of that until right now (literally, right as I'm typing these last few sentences). Until I took a look back at my mentors and gave them some serious thought again.

I think I need to reconnect. I may not go back to radical unschooling but I do need to get rid of the doubt that's been guiding my choices for too long.

Friday, May 16, 2008


The kids are playing barbies in the living room. That's Catherine (9), Harry (6) and Maddie (my neice, 4). Harry's got the one Ken doll and the girls are trying to marry him off. Harry is a little frustrated with their efforts.

"Excuse me. I'm a skateboarder. I'm fit for one pretty girl but not for two!"

I think it's so darn neat the way kids put words together to express stuff.

NOTE: To up the cuteness factor imagine that line said by the kid from the second Indiana Jones movie. Harry sounds just like him, almost to the point of having the accent.

For the Sake of my Family, Pittsburgh Must Take Down Philly

This is playoff season in hockey. This is the time of year when my husband brings home huge amounts of chips, dip and Pepsi and nests, surrounded by his food, on the couch. This isn't usually a huge problem because his team, the Philidelphia Flyers, usually tanks early. Not this year. This year they decided to put some effort into it and they're now battling for a place in the finals.

This is not good because I had planned to do away with cable TV for the summer. This is something I've been wanting for a few years and it wasn't until this winter that my husband finally agreed that it might not be a bad idea. His only condition? Wait until Philly was done playing.


Sunday is the next game. Pittsburgh needs to win just one more game to knock out Philly. Please Philly, for the sake of my dream of a summer with a TV free family, lose.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dr. Phil...Ugh.

I watched Dr. Phil today. I'm not a regular Dr. Phil veiwer but I've been seeing promos featuring James Van Pragg, "celebrity psychic", and the skeptic in me was curious. Was Dr. Phil going to pander to this guy or expose him?


I should have guessed.

Mr. Van Praagh styles himself as a medium, someone who communicates with the dead. I think he's someone skilled at cold reading who's managed to constuct a mythology around that skill that he can then turn around and sell to people. And today Dr. Phil helped him do it.

Van Praagh prattled on about dead people beng attracted to life energy (really James? You've done the studies?) and about auras and Dr. Phil sat there and smiled and took it all in and even had the gall to call Van Praagh fantasies (detailed in his new book that y'all have just got to read) theories.

The next guest was a women who was hearing voices and getting electrical shocks. She maintained it was a ten year old boy. Dr. Phil said a little bit on possible issues regarding mental illness and then turned the poor woman over to Van Praagh who, in the matter of a sentence, had her thinking that instead it was a man named Dave. He then went on a fishing expedition for information to lend his claim credence. Dr. Phil looked on and smiled.

To close the show Van Praagh got to do a cold reading of a few audience members. As cold readings go it was actually pretty bad. He kept trying ("I feel music was a part of his life?" "I see piles of paper, lots of books.") but his targets seemed a little unresponsive. Nevermind, a good cold reader pushes on and soon enough the targets managed to dredge up some memories that offered a shaky connection to what Van Praagh was casting out. Human nature being what it is his targets won't remember all the clumsy fumbling that actually happened. They'll only remember what they think he got right.

The real laugh for me was when Dr. Phil went off about scam artists in relation to one woman's addiction to phone psychics. What the hell did he think he'd just spent the hour showcasing? Here's a man who's supposed to be well versed in how the human mind works and yet he lets a cold reader on the show who manipulates his audience and pretends his skill is supernatural. Is Dr. Phil unprincipled or willfully ignorant?

Anyhow, it was an embarrassing episode and I sincerely hopes he loses some sleep over what he did.

More info on the skill and art (but not the supernatural power) of cold reading:

The Australian Skeptic's 13 point how-to guide to cold reading.

The Cold Reading Technique

And a bit of information on James Van Praagh:

Series of critical articles about Van Praagh by Michael Shermer

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Speaking of Science...

I found an absolutely wonderful series of shows on BBC Radio called Citizen Science. There are three episodes dealing with the important roles amateurs can fill in advancing science. Conservation, distributed computing, and astronomy and the subjects addressed.

The episode on distributed computing was the most interesting to me. I've been involved in it for a couple of years. My computer is constantly folding proteins for Fold@Home:

Folding@home is a distributed computing project -- people from throughout the world download and run software to band together to make one of the largest supercomputers in the world. Every computer takes the project closer to our goals. Folding@home uses novel computational methods coupled to distributed computing, to simulate problems millions of times more challenging than previously achieved

How does this help?

Proteins are biology's workhorses -- its "nanomachines." Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or "fold." The process of protein folding, while critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology, in many ways remains a mystery.

Moreover, when proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. "misfold"), there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.

By running a piece of software I'm making a small contribution that helps scientists better understand protein folding and eventually, how misfolds lead to disease. I'm making a tiny contribution in the work towards cures.

One other distributed computing event I was unaware of was Stardust@Home.

On January 15, 2006, the Stardust spacecraft's sample return capsule parachuted gently onto the Utah desert. Nestled within the capsule were precious particles collected during Stardust's dramatic encounter with comet Wild 2 in January of 2004 and something else, even rarer and no less precious: tiny particles of interstellar dust that originate in distant stars, light-years away. They are the first such pristine particles ever collected in space, and scientists are eagerly waiting for their chance to "get their hands" on them.

Where does distributed computing come in? Not in the conventional sense as with Fold@Home but rather by using the actual people on the computers to sift through scan after scan of aerogel, the stuff that may contain the stardust.

By asking for help from talented volunteers like you from all over the world, we can do this project in months instead of years. Of course, we can't invite hundreds of people to our lab to do this search-we only have two microscopes! To find the elusive particles we are using an automated scanning microscope to automatically collect images of the entire Stardust interstellar collector at the Curatorial Facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston. We call these stacks of images focus movies. All in all there will be nearly a million such focus movies. These are available to Stardust@home users like you around the world. You can then view them with the aid of a special Virtual Microscope (VM) that works in your web browser.

I studied, took a test and started scanning a couple of days ago. I'm hooked. I've gone through almost a 1000 movies. It's pretty easy to lose yourself in the process for an hour and the moment when you hit on something you feel might be an honest to goodness track of a bit of stardust is a nice way to start a day.

Fold@Home and Stardust@Home are both great ways to get involved with science as an actual participant.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New and Free Science Curriculum!!!

I found out about this on a message board I frequent (thank you ladies!):

Classic Science: Elementary Life Science

This seems to be the work of one awesome teacher who goes by the name of Mr. Q. His site is here and he also has a newsletter you can sign up for.

Thank you Mr. Q, who ever you are.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Talk About Expectations

Catherine was working on her math today. She choose to sit in the living room and this meant she was chatting me or her brother up every chance she got. I was getting angry and finally sent her off to my bedroom.

I realized afterwards that I have this vision in my head of how I expect Catherine to do her work. I expect her to work fairly efficiently. I expect her not to engage anyone except if help is needed. I expect her not to be doodling when she should be adding negative and positive integers.

Two problems:

1) All I did in school was doodle and doddle.

2) I've never actually shared my expectations with her in any reasonable or constructive way.

I think we'll have a talk tommorrow. I'll mention what I'd like to see, whether my expectations are reasonable to her, share some stories about myself when I was a kid and ask her for any ideas she has about how to get her work done with fewer distractions.

The New Toy

Shannon was in heaven last night. He could watch watch hockey and play Civilization IV at the same time. How did he do that you ask? Isn't your desktop computer in the kitchen while the TV is in the living room you say? Why yes. But he used the laptop.

Yep, we bought a laptop Sunday. Shannon may be heading out for the summer in the next month so we thought we'd get him the laptop for entertainment and talking to us via Skype. It was pretty much the cheapest laptop at the store but all we were looking for was something with a webcam that would play Civ IV and his collection of old strategy and war games. This is it:

Of course, this means that the desktop I'm typing at right now has now been officially titled Mom's Computer. No more husband looking at me with big brown eyes and wanting to play Europa Universalis while I'm trying to write a blog post. Despite the fact that I now how my own exclusive computer I'm still a bit jealous though. His latop has twice the RAM and twice the hard drive space.

I should note that his heavenly computer/TV time last night wasn't perfect. Philly lost to the Penguins. For the second time in the series. Hee hee.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Importance of Mathematics

Over at Math-Blog there's a post with a lecture from Timothy Gowers about the importance of mathematics, not simply in terms of practical application but also in terms of culture. It's fantastic and will give you an itch to start colouring nodes and play with prime numbers even if you don't think you're a math person.

Pick a time when the kids are gone or asleep and grab some chocolate, a cup of tea and listen. You'll enjoy it.

Why We May Need to Consider Sending the Kids to Public School

3 accused of using corpse head to smoke pot

The headline (no pun intended) says it all except for the fact that the three boys are all homeschooled.

I'm convinced. I'll be enrolling the kids in the fall. I can't have them going through life not knowing how to construct a proper bong.

One of Those Brag Posts

Catherine drew a picture of a mermaid for a project her Guides troop is working on. She lost it and drew another picture. We later founf the mermaid picture but we're both pleased that, for a time, we couldn't find it because here's the second picture:

Pretty damn nice. It's got depth, focus and composition. The colours are good and the facial expressions on the beasts hint at a story.

Just awesome.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Request From My Daughter

Catherine has eagerly started Key to Algebra and was working away at factoring this morning when she asked me this:

"Do you know what I would really like? I'd like a book like The Story of Science but all about math and that I could read myself."

Um. Yes. That would be really neat. Unfortunately I don't think I've seen a book like the around. Certainly The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way itself is pretty heavy on math history. If anybody has any suggestions of non-fiction books that talk about the history of math, please let me know!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Unexpected Evolution of a Lesson

It's been a while since we actually did an honest to goodness science experiment. I set out to fix that today by suggesting a realy simple one that will also go towards one of Catherine's Girl Guides badges - Invisible Ink.

I googled invisible ink and found quite a few different ideas. While it was the old lemon juice one I needed I also found ones involving baking soda and corn starch so I think we may have to explore this a little more over the course of the week. had a good page on the matter so Catherine read it and gathered what we needed. Then she and Harry got down to business with paintbrushes and lemon juice.

After the juice had dried I lit a candle and we applied heat to the pictures. The lemon juice turned brown as expected. Lesson learned. But of course then we saw the swirls of soot on the underside of the paper. Harry stuck his finger on one dark patch and found it was just a thin and fragile layer of soot. Catherine wanted to try more soot pictures so we held paper above the candle and moved it around to get interesting patterns. As we did so we watched the way the smoke from the flame rolled up and off the paper.

I think that's a good thing to remember with kitchen experiments sometimes. What you may set out to do may be neat but given some fun materials the kids will explore and experiment and reach farther.

There's another way to make lemon juice ink appear with salt and crayons and I think we'll try that tommorrow. I'll also take down the litmus paper and strew a few more interesting things on the kitchen table and see where the kids take it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The 10 Year Old Tutor.

My daughter had a friend, I'll call her Annie, over today. Annie is a great kid and lives right next door (although it took them a year to finally get to know each other). I've been thrilled because although she has other friends around, this girl is special. She likes Bratz and Barbies, painting and reading and even, and this is the best part, grabbing the butterfly nets and magnifying glasses for extended bug hunts.

Today they came in and after some playing Annie asked Catherine if she could write cursive. Catherine said she couldn't. They both decided to play school and Annie would be the teacher with the dry erase board.

Ten minutes later I came into the room and Catherine had done more work on cursive writing in those ten minutes then she had ever done before. And it was legible too. Annie simply wrote examples on the dry erase board and asked Catherine to copy them which she happily did.

She is now Catherine's cursive writing tutor. That's what I told her anyhow. Catherine offered to teach her the ancient Greek alphabet. Kids teaching kids. Hopw fun and sane is that?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Move to Wordpress?

I like Blogger, I really do. It's suited me for quite some time...Except when I worry about what would happen to all my posts if Blogger went down for good, or simply lost my blog. Or when I think of the security measures I can't have that Wordpress users do.

But I do find Wordpress a little intimidating. I have not the first clue what to do and I'd have to (I assume) pay for hosting.

Anyone want to help me out on this one?

I Guess I Took a Break!

It's been overcast and cloudy for the last few days. I'd get up feeling lousy and tired, have a nap halfway through the day and still feel horibble and sad. I could barely manage a smile. I managed nothing blog worthy. I think I've been in a bit of a depression.

However, today I woke up early to a bright sun and blue sky and holy cow, what a difference. I've got energy and good spirits and my brain is now running at a decent speed. Apologies for not posting but I think I'm back in my groove now.

More posts to come!