Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaching Textbooks

I recently bought Teaching Textbooks Math 6 from a fellow Canuck blogger. It's a program I've been curious about for awhile for a few reasons. The first is that I sometimes find it really hard to explain concepts, even simple ones, to Catherine in a way she understands. TT has a software component with lectures and worked problems so that seemed like it might be a good solution. Second, Catherine loves software programs. Third, TT keeps track of progress for the software portion making for easy record keeping when you're a lazy homeschool mom.

Last week I installed the program (which requires registering the product with TT, something that can only be done on two computers apparently before it will refuse to install again and you need to have further discussions with the TT people) and Catherine eagerly checked it out. Demos can be tried on the TT homepage but the basic routine is that the child chooses a lesson, listens to a lecture, tries some practice problems then goes on to complete an exercise on the computer consisting of about 20 questions. The results are logged into the printable "grade book" for later review. Nifty. There's also a full text/workbook but after the first few lessons Catherine didn't bother with it. She was getting between 90 and 100% right on each lesson so why bother when she's mastered the lesson?

There was a reason Catherine was doing so well though. Although Math 6 is meant for a grade 6 level the initial review lessons were on things like place value, addition and subtraction; stuff she's had a firm grip on for several years. Looking at the table of contents I didn't notice anything that would be particularly challenging for Catherine or any reasonably skilled grade 4 or 5 math student. At this point it will simply be review and practice for Catherine and at the speed she's going I don't expect it will take more then a couple of months to complete.

Another problem I had with the program was the very reason I was interested in it in the first place - the explanations in the lectures. At one point Catherine was given a quiz with a question on long addition that went something like, "Carrying is when part of the sum is carried to the next column: true or false?" Catherine called me over, not happy with the question at all. She knew that according to her lecture, "true" was probably the right response but she also knew, from her Singapore work, that the whole concept of carrying, especially with that definition, wasn't a good description of what actually goes on in long addition. In fact, it covers up the truth of what happens in terms of place value. I think I'd rather muddle through explanations on my own thank you very much.

Regardless of my complaints, Catherine enjoys it. She wants to work through it and I can't see it taking up too much time so we'll stick with it for now. I'll probably add in Singapore or Key to Decimals again fairly soon though for real work. TT Math 6, with Catherine, basically amounts to easy fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Internet Freedom

In being away from the cluttered, compressed mess that was our former house I've made a discovery about me and my use of the internet. Formerly, I was pretty much an addict. When I didn't need to be doing something else I was surfing the web, visited forums or reading blogs. Now? If I don't get on the internet for a day or two or more I'm absolutely fine. And when I am on I do what I need too and then get off.

Now there's no doubt that having dial-up has had some role in my breaking free of the net. Surfing just isn't what it used to be when it takes tens of seconds for web pages to load and when some, like the real estate search engine and YouTube are essentially inaccessible. But that's not the only factor and not, I think, even the most important one. The biggest change has been having space for me.

See, I think I used to retreat to the internet because there was simply no where else for me to go in the house to be alone. There was no room where someone else wasn't doing something or even a corner where the noise of a home didn't intrude. Now I have tons of it. Our living room has become a quiet place for reading. The dining room is only occupied at meal times. My bedroom is pleasant and has a working door. There's peace and quiet and alone time potential all over this house. I've been reading and drawing more in this house in the last month then I had for the last 6 months in the other one.

If I don't post as often now, well, apologies but know that it's because I'm enjoying life away from the computer screen again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More Than Just Owls

The previous owners of this house dumped a pile of parsnips about 20 feet from the back of the house to feed the local deer through the winter. This parsnip pile was actually one of the things we were most excited about when we moved in. Imagine, sitting at your dining room table and watching deer feed just a few feet away.

Sadly, our dog arrived and scattered collections of poop and pee all over the back yard. No deer showed up and we decided the dog scents probably scared them away.

Last night we were eating supper at the table and what should poke her nose out of the forest but a White Tail Doe. She picked her way through the snow to our parsnip pile and fed for a marvelous 30 minutes. The kids were over the moon. Harry couldn't get over how beautiful she was and Catherine thought it was the neatest thing that we were so close we could watch the food travel down her throat every time she swallowed. We've seen deer up close before and even fed them but that was at our local wildlife park and there's no comparison between observing lazy, tame deer and alert, wild deer.

This morning, as we ate breakfast, she returned and ate her breakfast. By this time she was old news for Harry but Catherine was still amazed and after the doe left Catherine decided that maintenance of the parsnip pile was her job. She braved the rain and went out to free up some parsnips by chipping away at the frozen pile.

We've decided that between the owl and the doe and considering all the birds that visit our backyard bird feeder (that Catherine also cleans off and refills with joy) it would be a good time to start some sort of nature journal. Imagine that. We can fill up a nature journal with stuff we can observe from our living room.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Sighting

At dusk tonight I was sitting in the living room playing Mahjong on the computer. I looked out the window and there in ine of the telephone poles that lines our driveway was an owl. He was huge and I think, a Barred Owl.

Barred Owls are apparently very common but it was the first time I'd seen one and it felt rather akin to looking out and seeing a griffin or sphinx. I can't think of another bird, except perhaps for ravens and I see them all the time, more steeped in mythology and story. It was very cool.

The kids and I took turns observing him through the binoculars as he in turn observed the field below him, looking for a meal. Eventually the kids left to watch a movie. When darkness was just about to settle, and of course, in the moment I choose to look away, he disappeared. I'm hoping he's one of my new neighbours and I get a chance to see him again.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I'm back. It's taken forever to get hooked up to the internet again for a variety of reasons I won't get into except to say that I still can't get on on MY computer which irks me to no end because I hate pounding on this stupid laptop keyboard.

But...The house is fantastic. Having the room to spread out has done some wonderful things for our family life. Confining the TV to a den in the basement has done some wonderful things for our family life as well. Having an air exchanger has been a blessing for everyone's health. And I can't emphasize enough what a joy it is to have a house I can invite people into for supper or tea or whatever.


For the good stuff:

Harry loves, loves, loves the truck bed.

The view out front is gorgeous but the view out back, where out house backs on forest, is darn neat as well. I saw a bobcat a few morning ago.

Having a dining room is amazing.

I can dry clothes without hanging them over doors.

A bigger house is soooo much easier to keep clean then a tiny one.

We haven't turned on the electric heat once. The wood stove heats the house and when I can't be bothered to keep it going the sun coming in the french doors in the dining room keeps the main living space nice and toasty.

The bad stuff:

Corner jacuzzi tubs aren't my cup of tea. I'd rather just have a regular soaker tub and save on water and energy.

Dial up sucks.

The road we live on is a dirt road so full of potholes that an SUV is very likely going to be our next big purchase as my poor little Hyundai Elantra is getting the living crap beat out of it every time I go somewhere.

The bad stuff isn't all that bad though and it's definitely outweighed by the huge leap in quality of life we've experienced by moving into this house.