Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Barn House Has Been Eclipsed

Spectacular though the barn house was, it wasn't new, it was expensive and it didn't have a stocked fish pond/skating rink on the property. Yes, I've fallen in love yet again but this time my husband has also and we're in a position to do something about it.

Pics to come!

Fantastic History Read-Aloud

On one of the message boards I frequent a member posted about a book she'd picked up, A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. She raved about it and said it was suitable for secular homeschoolers. On her recommendation I ordered it and since it was one of the few books I didn't pack, I picked it up to read aloud to the kids last week.

What a fantastic book! First written in 1935 this little book is packed with fantastic writing, colourful stories and lots of humour. The author knows how to use an image when needed; the exploration of history is compared to dropping a light down a well where we can only see a parts of the well at any point in the light's descent and eventually, we can't even see the light. That doesn't mean he gets flowery though. This guy is my favourite kind of writer, one that can edit his writing down to the bare minimum needed to get an idea across and yet still leave the reader full images and curiosity.

Gombrich's style makes reading A Little History of the World aloud a real joy. It has a conversational tone that engages the kids and let me relax in a way I couldn't with Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. The sidetracks and explanations in Bryson's book, although also full of humour, sometimes lost us a bit. But that's only to be expected. Bryson wrote a work for adults while Gombrich is writing for children. But "writing for children," doesn't mean Gombrich talks down to kids. It means he constructs a warm tone, doesn't overload the reader/listener with too many dates and frequently draws connections between characters in history so a child can construct a mental timeline.

This book does talk about pre-history and espouses an Old Earth or evolutionary view but it's such a joy that I wouldn't want a YE creationist to skip it just on that account. It also discusses some aspects of biblical history as history (although not to the extent of Wise-Bauer's Story of the World) but again, it's such a joy that it would be a shame to dismiss it because of that.

Gombrich died in 2001 so I can't write the man any fan letters. But I can and will plug his book to anyone who wants a well-written and engaging approach to history for their kids. And I can offer up a thank you to the man for leaving this book behind for us to discover.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

We've Sold

I can breathe again.

Over the last week I've been alternately ecstatic and nauseous. It's been a ride. However, I will not complain because I know that for most people selling a house, their ride is much longer then what we went through.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another House

The houses-I-like inventory in the local market is getting a little thin. Everything I've posted about in the past is sold and there don't seem to be a lot of houses with acreage coming onto the market yet. But there is one house that I'd still be happy with. I actually knew the house a bit as a child.

It's a converted barn:

The kitchen looks just like it did 25 years ago:

The fireplace is huge. Huger then it looks in the picture:

The house is insanely big. It's got 3 levels (one unfinished) with over 1900 sq. feet each. It also has 5 acres. My big concern? How much does it cost to heat that bugger?

Regardless, it's neat. Very neat.

Poetry in the Morning

Catherine thumped out to the kitchen this morning and asked, "Where's my book of animal poems?" There was a, "Nevermind," as she spotted it on the kitchen table. She grabbed it and took it to the living room and that was it for our moring greeting.

Now, 30 minutes later, she and Harry and their cousin are snuggled up watching Looney Tunes and reading poetry on commercial breaks. Both things are inspiring tons of giggles.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Please, Please, Please Update

Here's what happened. We were approached by someone interested in our house. This someone has actually been a posibility all along but we had decided to fix up the house to list it thinking he'd lost interest.

Not so.

We talked yesterday and he wants it. He also wants us to not do a thing more to the house. No painting, no fix ups, no nothing because he's planning to fix it up to rent anyway.

The only slightdownside is that all the houses we were really interested, all the ones I've posted here, are sold as far as I know. There's one I've been looking at all along, a converted barn, that may be a possibility but we may also have to wait a month or to for the Spring listings to start showing up. But that's a tiny concern. The biggest hurdle has been conquered!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Please, Please, Please!

You'll know Sunday.

That is all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Me and My Wandering Eye.

No sooner did the house we both liked sell then I aleady have my eye on a cute little cape cod with enough room for what we want plus a drywalled basement just begging to be finished.

It's been like this for a year. Look at a house online. Fall in love. Watch it sell. Fall in love with another house.

I'm such a slut.


I'm a thoughtless slut. Molytail and Lorraine pointed out that I needed to post pictures. Now keep in mind that our house is two weeks from even being listed so I expect this house might be sold by the time we can make an offer but here are a few shots:

Cute exterior, no?

All that room for science experiments plus a den and livingroom on the main floor!

Clean and pretty kitchen with no 60's counter top or mysterious scorch marks. Love it!

Three bedrooms and two baths, a large eat-in kitchen, dining room, den and living room and, as I stated before, a basement ready to be finished. Probably a good 2500 sq. feet of space. And it looks so deceptively tiny.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting the Homeschool Clutter Gone

Today I packed away the last of the homeschool curriculum and stuff I've accumulated that we aren't using within the next few months. It took awhile because there was a ton of it. It occured to me that having so much homeschool crap, even if the crap IS of exceptional quality, can choke off real learning.

With so much in front of me and at my disposal I'm much less likely to take a walk, discuss something, play a game or do something else in a similar vein to learn with the kids. Instead, if I recognized an interest or an area that needed a bit of work I'd to reach for the homeschool hoard and pull something from there. Bad habit to have.

When we get a new house I want a library. Somewhere where a person can go where the walls are covered with books, curriculum, resources and all the papery goodness that we can fit on the shelves. But also a place where we can walk out, shut the door and appreciate the big, wide world that doesn't exist between two covers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cleaning out the Junk Drawer

I cleaned today. Went through half a bottle of super-duper cleaner and realized that I have never really known what clean really was. All this time I thought my house wasn't too bad. Ha ha.

I managed to defeat the junk drawer early on. It started out stuffed with various bits of nothing and I managed to reduce it to one bag of film that needs developing and one bag of assorted things I'd like to keep.

Before I got to that point however I discovered a stash of dog food under all the junk. Our little furry tennants were busy working on a winter hoard.

One last treasure was discovered as I cleaned in places I'd never cleaned before. Ascrap of the wallpaper that was on the wall when we bought this house almost 10 years ago. It was hopelessly dated back then.

Today was a lot of work but I have to admit, it was fun making a few little discoveries and I do keep looking over my shoulder, not quite believing how clean and sparkly the one section of kitchen that I scrubbed today looks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Selling the House

 First - Remember the house I loved last post? SOLD. Two days after we viewed it. Ah well. It let us know what we really wanted in a house and lit a fire under our asses to get our house sold.


Okay. I'm over it. 

We're fixing up the house so we can list it next month. Mostly clearing out most of our belongings to a storage unit, scrubbing and painting the walls and finishing a few repair jobs. Our real estate agent was ruthless in letting telling us what had to be done. No dust laden ceiling fan or crappy drywall patch escaped her notice and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

So if my posts for the next few weeks are about the virtues of various cleaning products or paint chips or living without 80% of our stuff, forgive me and be patient. 


Saturday, January 10, 2009

So Here's the First Pick



A bit of a monster, eh?

It's 2800 sq. feet with four bedrooms, three bedrooms and a ridiculous amout of space. The bedrooms are all relatively small which is actually what I was hoping for because I don't want us cloistered away on our own spaces.

It has work that needs to be done but nothing we can see so far is beyond us. The roof is ready to be replaced and the windows will have to go as well at some point. The kitchen is wonky and dated and none of the drywall seems to have been taped at the corner joints but really; roofs are easy, windows can be covered with plastic and replaced one at a time, the kitchen cupboards work and taping drywall is easy. As far as we're concerned, it's move in ready.

And heck, it's actually quiet attractive in parts:



Oh yes. It's a foreclosure so if we're serious about wanting this house we need to sell ours NOW. The banks don't accept offers conditional on the sale of a buyer's home. Now, that's actually not impossible or even improbable in our situation so keep your fingers crossed for us.

The husband (who swore he wanted nothing to do with a fixer upper) and I are in love with this house. We understand that it's quite possible we won't get it so we did talk about maybe not getting so excited but decided, screw that. Frankly, house hunting should be a roller coaster, should have big ups and gut wrenching lows and if we're going to take the ride we should commit to it. If we lose this, we'll live and no doubt fall in love again in short order.

And now I must get back to cleaning and packing. We've also decided that whatever happens, we should be ready for a move so we're renting storage space and clearing out the house of non-essential clutter. You have no idea how much clutter a 780 sq. foot house can hold!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Looking for Houses

It starts today.

Sadly, the house I was in love with sold. The husband and I resolved that we could absolutely not make an ofer on any house until he had a permanent postition in Nova Scotia. We received offical confirmation that he had such a position yesterday. And yesterday we learned the house I wanted had sold.

Oh well. It is a gorgeous house but didn't have the land we wanted.

Still, darn it.

Today we're looking at three. A boring bungalow on a hill with a spectacular view and awesome winter sledding potential. A former B&B with a barn with awesome hobby farm potential and a spilt entry with an apartment which means an extra kitchen/potential science lab.

I can't wait!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Something that Works

Here's something that wokrs for us...The magical combination of Singapore Primary Math and the Key to series. This fall Catherine chugged through most of Singapore 5A learning the concepts behind operations with fractions. When we finished however it seemed that she wasn't recalling a lot of what she'd learned. We went back to Key to Fractions and now she's almost done the last book, consistently gets almost all the questions correct and can recall how to divide fractions or add mixed numbers at the drop of a hat. When we're through KtF I'll use the Singapore Intensive Practice for review and call fractions mastered.

It feels so damn good for both of us to have something so solidly learned.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Systems are Made for People in the Systems

So this mom asks her doctor for a refferal to a public speech/hearing clinic for her son. Nothing big, just some speech issues she'd like some advice about.

The doctor sends in the refferal to the clinic and gets a response saying that the clinic only accepts refferals through school boards.

The doctor sends in a note explaining that the boy is homeschooled. Clinic responds by saying they don't care. Their policy is their policy.

The doctor calls the mom and asks what school board oversees her homeschooling. Mom explains that her homeschooling isn't overseen by a school board but rather by the provincial Department of Education.

The doctor and the mom groan. Both see many frustrating phone calls in the future.

Happily the doctor thinks of an alternate solution. Check with your private insurer, she says, and see if they cover speech assessments and then I'll give a local private clinic a call. The mom accepts the solution.

Off the phone, anger builds. A public health service that's supposed to be availible to the public has a built-in flaw that they refuse to be flexible about. The flaw is also incapable of acknowledging the possibility that a local school board might not be so willing to help a homeschooler. The mom vows to write letters to the appropriate ministries.

And then she goes and writes a blog post about the whole frigging mess.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Unschoolers and Textbooks

When I was a radical unschooler my position on textbooks was that I would have nothing to do with them. Textbooks were dry, boring and rigid accounts of things better learned through experience or good books.

Now I have about a couple of dozen different textbooks and my collection grows every time I visit the thrift store or our local used bookstore. Sometimes I bring them home and realize they do indeed suck. Sometimes though, especially when I've chosen a textbook with some care, I find that they're interesting and engrossing and catch the interest of the kids. One of the first I picked up, Mathematical Ideas, sort of a general college text for kids not headed into math and science, is one I've worked through in parts and still enjoy taking down and reading. The Oxford Canadian geography and history texts have fantastic illustrations and lively writing. Catherine's Singapore Math texts constantly make me think about math in new ways. The art textbooks may weigh a ton but are still fun to flip through. The high school biology text doesn't turn my crank but Catherine loves the pictures and illustrations.

It is my opinion that, like any genre, textbooks have their stinkers but also have their masterpeices.

I was recently following a discussion on textbooks on an unschooling list (which I joined hoping to rediscover my unschooling roots) where the general thinking (or my interpretation of it anyway) seemed to be that textbooks weren't capable of being good learning tools and perhaps really had no business in an unschooling house. It surprised me although, considering that was my own opinion a few years back, it shouldn't have.

But are there unschoolers out there, honest-to-goodness radical unschoolers, who love a great textbook? Who see real value and joy in sitting down with say, an algebra text and working through it? Who clap their hands and squeal with joy when they see a copy of Campbell's Biology in a thrift store for a dollar?

Because I do love a great textbook. I'm sort of wondering if that love means I've taken an irreversible step over into the dark side.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Martian Matter Science

One the big Christmas hits this year was Martian Matter. Harry requested it after singing the commercial jingle for several months so when he opened it on Christmas morning he was thrilled. Here's the commercial for those who haven't seen it.

We've been producing aliens since the 25th. Great fun. There's lots of opportunity for variety since you choose the the head and body seperately and since (if you buy the refill kit as we did) you have a choice of 5 colours to use.

The really great thing about the martian creations is that when the goo hardens and you take them out of their mold you can feel the water that they've shed in order to harden. Leave them out for a couple of days and they shrink to less then a quarter of their original size. Pour goo on the table rather then in the clay mold and they don't dry any where near as fast. Put the dehydrated matter in a container of water and they regain some of their former size. Store them in an air tight container and they retain most of their moisture although they do seem to get slimy.

I looked at all kinds of fancy and sophisticated science toys when I was Christmas shopping. Martian Matters was one of things things that didn't even make the list as a science toy but, in my mind, was rather what the Classical homeschoolers label twaddle. Useless fun but not much more. How wrong I was.