Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Link to the New Blog....

The Crafty Thrifter

Forgot to put it in the last post. D'uh. So what's possibly the last post on this blog was written to correct (for those RSS subscribers who might not click to the blog) what I thought might possibly be the last post on this blog but now isn't.

Sheesh. You've got to follow the new blog. How will you guys live without the bumbling?

New Blog

This may be the end of this blog. I can't muster any interest in posting about our homeschooling days right now. Too much reality and right now I need some escapism.

Fear not though. I have a new blog where I'll indulge in fantasy. All about thrifting (buying other peoples junk) and crafting. Pop over if this this interests you. Or if I interest you. Or if it doesn't interest you but you want to see a picture of a puppy eating splattered lasagna.

Hope to see you guys there!

ETA: Oh yes, the link...The Crafty Thrifter (because The Thrifty Crafter was taken).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Lungs are Taking a Break

Just popped in to say that my absence is not going to be a lengthy one. I'm just under the weather due to bronchitis (note: forgo brisk hikes when you have the flu).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Caveman Math

In my last post about our viewing of Walking With Cavemen I forgot to mention something about it that had me thinking.

In, I think, the third episode the narrator pointed to some holes in the ground and commented that how our ancestor viewed those holes marked a huge departure from how every other animal on earth viewed those holes. See, those holes were tracks, prints in the dry soil left by some animal. No other animals sees them as such but we humans sure do. And, he went on, we (then and now) know which clouds for tell rain and understand the turn of the seasons. And why do we?

Before I answer that I'd like to add that to date, most of what I've seen in books in regards to the beginning of math seems to involve a picture of an ancient African stick marked with notches for counting or a story about a shepherd needing to count his goats. The impression being that math began with counting.

But look at these prints in the snow:

Why are those not just holes in the snow?

Maybe it's partly because they're a regular pattern. Maybe we can track the seasons because we understand the pattern.

And if we're talking patterns, aren't we talking math?

Now I'm not saying Homo erectus was capable of multiplication, just that mathematical thinking, if you can divorce math from counting, may have been around longer than Homo sapien and that mathematical thinking may be one of the fundamental things that first defined humans. As much as taming fire. As much as imagination.

Now I realize even as I type this that it's probably FAR from an original thought. It's just one of those personal epiphany things. I also realize Mr. Human Ancestor may have been relying on correlation with the tracks, seeing cat walk and seeing the prints left behind and putting two and two together...But then we're back to mathematical reasoning, aren't we? :D

Anyhow, probably the cough syrup talking but I thought I'd post it anyway.

Walking With Cavemen

A few days ago when we were talking about "cavemen" Harry had the wacky idea that they had cars. Cars? I think he must have caught a few episodes of The Flintstones at some point and it made a greater impression than it should have. Regardless, to give him a better portrait of what those cavemen might have looked like and to help our history studies I thought we'd take a look at BBC's Walking With Cavemen.

Not quite what I'd assumed from the title as it's not a series on Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, the traditional cavemen. It's actually a look at human evolution starting with Australopithecus afarensis and it's pretty darn good. Predictably there's lots of talk about sex and much nudity but given the subject matter that should be expected. None of us were bothered in the least.

It set off yesterday's activity with the cave paintings quite nicely as the last episode concludes with a caveman doing the thing that the narrator maintained was what truly made us human - using his imagination to paint scenes on a cave wall.

We enjoyed it (although since we watched all 4 episodes in one sitting Harry was a little antsy by the end of it) and Catherine has requested Walking With Prehistoric Beasts next. And I'm happy to report that Harry no longer thinks it possible that cavemen had cars.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cave Paintings Discovered in Basement!

This afternoon we followed up on our latest Story of the World chapters with a reading of the first two chapters of E.H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World (my review here - LOVE this book). Both dealt with prehistoric humans so in keeping with the theme we first looked at cave paintings on the internet and then grabbed some brushes and paint and headed for the basement.

While some parts of the basement walls are finished some are still bare cement. This makes them perfect for cave paintings! I poured out black, red, orange, yellow and white paints (in keeping with the colours we saw in the real cave paintings) and we got to work.

Catherine did an awesome job:

Harry had a whole story to go with his involving cavemen tumbling off waterfalls, mystical artifacts and a Beast God of Doom:

And here's the finished product:

My contributions are in the upper right hand corner: the gamer in red, the orange hand outline and our three pets. Harry's turned out great but I thought his creepy red handprints were fantastic. I LOVE Catherine's scene with the mammoth hunt on the bottom left. The three hunters have it backed up against a cliff while a fourth hunter is ready to drop a boulder on its head.

Tons of fun!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Unschooling Latin?

My daughter has been interested in learning Ancient Greek and Latin since forever. We've approached Greek in fits and starts because I haven't really found anything that seemed to work well. She worked through the Greek Hupogrammon years ago but that's just learning the alphabet. Beyond that there's not a whole lot of interesting Greek homeschooling stuff. Or rather, there's some but her real interest is Attic, not Koine or New Testament and in the homeschooling world that limits the already narrow options even more.

Latin has been easier. There are a ton of interesting programs. Ones that have caught my eye have been Lingua Latina and Cambridge Latin which seem more focused on getting a person reading the language from the get go rather then spending time memorizing stuff. The memorizing stuff is valuable but intimidating for a mom who only speaks English and a desperately tiny amount of French. But those two programs are rather pricey.

I ended up ordering Getting Started with Latin by William Linney. It's under $20 and everything I'd read about it seemed to be good. A gentle and not too rigourous introduction to the language. And it is. It's also great buckets of fun. So much fun that even Harry (now 8) loves to sit in while Catherine and I go through the lessons.

What's fun about GSWL for us is also the thing that would make it great for unschoolers. It's easy to do orally while flopped on the sofa eating nachos. I read a lesson, the kids play around with it, we go off on a tangent...It's in the same vein as the Michael Clay Thompson poetry and grammar materials I touted in an earlier post and Philosophy For Kids. Open the book, read a bit, discuss. Come away looking at things differently then before.

And you will look at things differently. Not just word roots and grammar. Shucks, when I learned that sum meant, I am, I couldn't stop thinking about the weight it seems to have in Latin as opposed to modern English - except when we use sum as a mathematical term. I am in English always seems to have to be followed by something while the mighty sum seems to be a statement in an of itself. Rather like how sum in math is a definitive state of all that came before so that, "I am both a sailor and a farmer," seems to just be a statement about what roles you play while, "Ego sum et nauta et agricola," seems to imply that you're the sum of those two roles.

And no, I have no idea if I've got the right impression on that or not. Probably not but it was still a fun thought and Linney's text inspired it.

For the unschooler it would be a great way to gently introduce Latin, to let them stick a toe in the water to see if there's an interest. If your child has an interest then it's a fantastic and inviting bridge to the more intensive programs.

At the very least, for $20 it makes fantastic strewing material!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Should've Installed Ubuntu

I wiped my hard drive yesterday and did a fresh install of Windows XP. Now my damn computer is running slower then before.

I think that's because I tweaked things with the last install to make it run faster but now I can't remember what I did! It's because of Google. With Google I never have to remember anything. I find what I need, use the information and then dump it.

Darn it.

There was something to do with the cache I think...Oh, the hours ahead of me.

The Book Pile

I must be freakin' crazy.

And that's not all of it either. Getting Started with Latin hasn't arrived yet and neither has Oxford's The Medieval and Early Modern World (no, I didn't pay that price! Got it on sale for $95).

I haven't got a clue how it will all work. I have a vague idea that math and much of the English stuff will get done first each day while the rest will be consigned to a loop schedule. That is, there will be a list with all the rest on the stuff on it and a certain amount of time to work on that list. If time is up before we get through the list then when we get to that blocked off time the next day we'll simply pick up where we left off on the list. Maybe. Possibly.


But as much as it seems like a little too much we're all looking forward to it. Harry loves the idea of having his own workbooks rather then some copyright-infringing photocopies. Catherine already dipped into Grammar Voyage and A World of Poetry and has been asking when we can go back to it together (seriously, those are books unschoolers should look at. It's hard to explain but they're less a program and more a dialogue). I can't wait for the routine that will ground me and the kids.

Soon my children, soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The New Addition

This is Blue. She came from a Labrador rescue and is a lab/pit bull mix. We've had her for a couple of weeks now and can't imagine how we did without her. Even our old lab/rottie mix is having a great time with her.

My brother died at the end of February in a car accident that he should have walked away from. I may post more on that later but for now I'll just say that since he left puppies have invaded our family. Granted, my sister adopted her puppy in December so she already had Olive. When we arrived at my aunt and uncle's house (they live in Ontario, close to where my brother and his family was living at the time) we found that their Shih Tzu had given birth to four puppies just days earlier. When we got back to Nova Scotia my other brother adopted a puppy, Bella, from the same rescue my sister had. A month later one of the shih tzu puppies, Jazz, made the journey east to join my mom and dad. And two weeks ago my daughter and I fell seriously in love with Blue who was being fostered by my sister.

Now I don't mean to imply anything spiritual or mystical with any of this. I don't view see the sudden influx of puppies as mysterious or purposeful. All I want to say is that puppies are wonderful little things and that sometimes they have awesome timing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Summer/Fall Lineup

Me gone? Not at all. I've been posting all alone. You just missed it I guess. Maybe you need your eyes checked? Your browser's wonky perhaps? Because we both know I would NEVER be so irresponsible as to just abandon my blog for extended periods of time.

Anyway, on to the curriculum.

Catherine (who's now 12. And won't listen to me when I tell her to stop growing)

Math - Singapore Discovering Mathematics. I choose it because I'm too much of a chicken shit to try Singapore New Elementary Mathematics. We've had a discombobulated year and as it is we may need to go back to Primary Mathematics 6.

English - Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Voyage. Grammar as Socratic dialogue...Right up our alley.
- Michael Clay Thompson's A World of Poetry. Because I'm all wrapped all in the trendy love all the Well Trained Mind homeschoolers are feeling for Mr. Thompson's materials.
- Megawords (yes we did this once before. Now be quiet)Jensen's Vocabulary and Jensen's Punctuation.
- Remedia Outlining

Handwriting - Peterson Directed

Science - Singapore's Interactive Science for Inquiring Minds

History and Geography - Canada; A People's History and maybe Oxford's The Medieval and Early Modern World set because I got a smokin' deal on Amazon. And it's very trendy at the Well Trained Mind forums.

Latin - Getting Started With Latin. Excellent choice I think since we're just getting started with Latin.

French - L'Art de Lire. Again. But we'll finish it this time. I promise.

Art and the other stuff - I'm sure I'll find something suitable in my pile of Curriculum Bought With Good Intentions in the next week or two.

Harry (who's now 9 and transitioning out of unschooling freedom)

Reading - We'll finish How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and go on to Dancing Bears.

- Apples and Pears.

Handwriting - Peterson Directed.

Math - Primary Mathematics 2.

Science - Singapore's My Pals Are Here 3/4. Yes, I went to town on the Singapore stuff. But it's heavy on skills, not just content. And it's trendy.

History - Story of the World Volume 1.

Art and the other stuff - Not sure yet but it will likely include improvisation with macaroni and glitter glue.

There's the list. It represents a lot of money but it also represents little work in terms of planning for me which, considering some events in the past year that I'll likely mention in a later post, is very much for the best.

Knitting club meets at my house tomorrow so I must be off to bed to rest up for the morning of panicked cleaning. Ta ta for now!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hallelujah! I Have a Math Geek!

We were driving home from Catherine's violin lesson today when Catherine started telling me about an article she'd read in one of her old Yes Mag(an excellent Canadian science magazine for kids). It was about prime numbers and included a bunch of neat tricks and facts about the number 13.

"I think 13 is my favourite number," she said when she was done.

But then, to my delight, she added, "Prime numbers are awesome."

I glanced back at her. She was staring out the window with a goofy smile on her face.

"Be careful," I said, "You're starting to sound like a math geek."

"So? That's not a bad thing you know"

My turn to wear the goofy smile.

She's a math geek and she likes it! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

One of Those, "Here's What We Do in a Day," Posts

We've actually managed to settle into a homeschooling routine here. I've not been eager to write about it because it sometimes seems as if when I do mention here it's not too long before I shift gears or something comes up to spoil it all. But this is a homeschooling blog and every so often it's good to give people an idea of what our day looks like so here goes.

I get up and check email. I'm working towards getting up with the husband to make his breakfast and lunch (else he doesn't eat right and comes home irritable and ravenous) but I'm not there yet so email it is. I then make breakfast for the kids and call them out. When we're done that we all do a few odd jobs to tidy up and then the schooly stuff begins.

Catherine practices her violins first thing. Part of that is actual playing but now she's also working through an ear training book and doing a music theory workbook. All stuff her teacher expects of her and all stuff she's generally glad to do. While she practices Harry and I work through a few pages of Math Mammoth Addition. Sometimes we do drills on the Nintendo DSs, sometimes orally, less often he writes out the answers. After that we move on to How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I think I mentioned before how, due to some issues I realized Harry has with pronouncing and even hearing certain sounds so we've gone right back to the beginning regarding phonics. 100 Easy Lessons is heavily scripted, repetitive and seemingly very boring but Harry enjoys it and he's making good progress.

Generally Catherine is still playing when Harry and I are done math and reading so we whip out one of the children's poetry anthologies and read several poems. Usually he has a favourite and we also spend a little time on memorizing it. It sounds old fashioned but helps in a few ways. Harry gets a means to put on a performance for any appreciative relative which is something he enjoys and we have another chance to work on his grammar and pronunciation.

After that Harry runs off and plays for a bit. Catherine moves on to either Math Mammoth Geometry or review sheets on multiplication, division and operations with fractions and/or decimals. When she's finished there then she's got KISS Grammar.

By this time it's lunch so we eat. After that some more tidying. That's generally the end of anything formal. Things like read-alouds, outings, crafts, experiments, etc. happen anytime after that but not every day.

And that's pretty much it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Catherine was playing her violin today. I say playing rather then practicing intentionally because she was taking such joy in it.

She started by playing her favourite exam piece at a ridiculous speed for Harry and laughed at how the new tempo made some parts of it sound amazing and others fall apart. Her new piece was punctuated by comments like, "Wait a minute," and, "Oh! That's so cool!" as she read the music, noticed things she hadn't before and incorporated improvements. Never once did she glance at the clock and after a good 45 minutes put her violin away while chatting about how she loves a piece that ends on the same note it begins with.

Meanwhile, I'm just about ready to burst with pride and awe. 16 short months and she's made amazing progress. 16 long months in and she still loves her instrument and puts in practice sessions that far exceed her teacher's expectations. How cool is it that I get to witness an 11 year old pursue her passion?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Problem in the Basement

There is currently a big, brindle, pit bull mix puppy in our basement workroom. It's almost 3 in the morning and I can't sleep because the poor baby/dratted beast is whining to be let into the rest of the house with us. It can't be because a) I don't know what it might be infected with and have my own dog to worry about and b) it does not seem to be housebroken.

And there, I just had to run away from the computer because it managed to get past the elaborate blockade I've constructed to keep it confined and was wandering around the basement. Ugh. Blockade is now reinforced.

How did we get this puppy? A neighbour found it outside a local store. It had been hanging out there several days and no one knew whose dog it was (and it was someone's dog. It has a beautiful collar to prove that). She went to leave and it jumped in her car and she brought it to my house. Because apparently my house is where strays should be brought. Over the summer we took both a baby skunk and a hummingbird with a concussion in to the appropriate centers. Now we have a "reputation".


But it's really my fault I have the dog now. I offered to take it in until she could take it to the SPCA. Which she said she won't be able to do until Wednesday. And I don't think I can take another night of whining, walks, pooping and peeing.

I may just run it in myself tommorrow although I'd prefer not to risk doggy byproducts being deposited in my new car.

If I sound rather cold-hearted and resentful about the whole thing keep in mind that it IS now 3 am. I'm sure that once I get a bit of sleep and then go down and take a look in the puppy's big brown eyes I'll be as smitten as I was yesterday evening when I took him in. Now however? Not so much.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Violin Exam

Yesterday was Catherine's Second grade violin exam for the Royal Conservatory of Music. This is something she's been nervous about for weeks.

No worries now. Although we haven't got the results yet her teacher, who was present in order to accompany Catherine on a couple of pieces, thinks she did really well. Catherine herse'f came out of the examination room with a big smile, partly because she also thought she did well and partly because she had actually enjoyed the experience. Now we simply have to wait. I think that will be harder for her teacher and I then Catherine who's simply happy it's all over with for awhile (until a theory exam in the spring).

I'll post results when I get them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nintendo DS Drills

Harry got a Nintendo DS for his birthday last week. That means we now have two in the house and the Pictochat feature that lets the kids communicate over them has become a favourite. Even with me. It makes math drills ever so much more fun and has opened some doors to reading practice with Harry.

I'll sit in the living room while Harry sits in his room. I'll write or type something like, "3+4=" and Harry will type in his response. This goes on for about 10 questions and then the responses start getting silly. I'll get, "777777777", instead of 7 or scribbles rather then the proper answer.

And then I'll hear the maniacal giggles.

Still, if I just retype the question then I'll generally get a proper answer...For about another 10 questions.

But that's about Harry's limit. After that the scribbles, and the giggles, start coming faster then I can post my questions. So I get silly myself and start drawing pictures of disapproving cartoon animals or sending insults like, "butt face," or "poop butt."

Yes, I know calling your son a, "poop butt" probably isn't something you should admit to but when he reads that on his screen the giggles explode into full blown laughter. And notice the part when I said, "he reads that," because Harry doesn't read yet. But when it comes to a scatological insult he make the effort to read it and then he will painstakingly type that insult so that he can send it back to his mother.

So the math drill transforms into a stealth reading lesson.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The New Baby

We've actually had our her for just over a week now but you how busy it is with a new baby...Running around to show her off to all the relatives and such. So here is a picture:

She's adorable, isn't she?

She's a 2009 Hyundai Tucson. She had 17,500 kms (almost 11,000 miles) and she has lots of great options like AC and heated seats. She's only a 2.0 litre and FWD but with 4 new snow tires on her she handles our back roads like a pro. We're thrilled.

I have to admit that buying this car was a pile of fun from start to finish and we learned a lot that will come in handy next time we purchase a vehicle. Thought I'd share what we learned in case anyone is interested.

-Research. We started researching about a month or two before we planned to buy. We watch new and used car adds in the paper and on the internet so that we got a good idea of what fair prices were for various models, years and mileage. When we finally made our choice we knew we got a great deal because of all that research. We also, despite a huge Hyundai bias, checked out safety and reliability ratings for lots of different models.

-Math. The is an "of course" thing but I'll mention it anyway. We were tempted to buy new because of some wicked interest rates offered by dealers included 0%. However, in the end, the insane depreciation of a new car (especially my beloved Hyundais) generally meant much more in terms of savings then the low interest. A new 2009 Tucson with the options on our used one and all taxes and fees in would have pushed $30,000. Ours, after everything, was just a touch over $20,000. We'd had to have had a negative interest rate on a new car to compare with that.

-Buy out of town. We're close to Halifax, the "big city" for Nova Scotia and even for the Maritimes. Once we started looking for cars outside of Halifax we saw car prices drop and thousand or two for comparable models. We eventually drove a couple of hours to pick up our car.

-Set your limit and walk away when it can't be met. We fell head over heels in love with a 2007 Hyundai Sante Fe that had every option under the sun and leather seats. It was one swanky truck. But the dealership either couldn't or wouldn't meet our price. To be fair we were only separated by a thousand dollars and they'd come down several already but we knew what we could afford and had to move on. I can't tell you how good it feels to absolutely love something but not let that love take away your good sense.

-Have a great bank and get pre-approved for the loan. There's nothing so frustrating as having a saleman that insists on talking monthly payments when you want to talk final price if you've let on you may want to finance through them. Once we went through our bank negotiating was much easier.

Anyhow, I hope some of that is helpful to the next person who's car shopping.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Geek Generation Gap

One of the gifts my daughter got this Christmas was a box set of manga (essentially Japanese comic books) called .hack//Legend of the Twilight from my mother-in-law. I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law had no idea what she was buying and, if she'd opened the books up, would have been horrified at some of the almost naked ladies that were featured in the book. Regardless, I sat down to read through the books to make sure, almost naked ladies aside, that they'd be okay for Catherine to read.

I was also looking forward to reading them myself. I'm a comic book fan from way back and in fact still have several boxes of bagged comic books in the linen closet that I or the kids take out and read. It's mostly Marvel - lots of X-Men related titles as well as Namor, Alpha Flight, Avengers and so on. I am not a comic book newbie. I know Marie Severin designed the classic Spiderwoman costume, understand who influenced John Byrne's art and who he influenced and can annoy the hell out of my husband by explaining all the references in comic book movies.

This my first real read of manga but hey, aside from the big dopey eyes and weird expressions, it's still a comic book, right? I know how to read a comic book.

First thing I noticed was that they were bound wrong. The cover was on the back! Maybe my MIL picked them up in a discount bin? Regardless, I opened the book at what I knew was the start, flipped past the first couple of pages and started reading. I have to tell you, I had no real worries about Catherine reading this because I couldn't make head nor tales of the story and I doubted she would. Comments seemed random, the art was disconnected. Nothing made sense. I put the book down and went to check online reviews. I'd heard good things about manga, maybe this was just a dud?

Nope. The review were pretty good. People enjoyed this series. Maybe I just wasn't getting it? Maybe the way it told stories was beyond me and fans of manga just picked up on stuff that left me confused?

I picked up another book in the series, flipped to the beginning and started again. It was still incomprehensible. I went to put the book down but as I did I noticed in huge letters on the very first pages of the book the word STOP.

The proper way to read manga that page went on to say, was from the back forward. The exact opposite way one would read a western book. The book wasn't bound wrong. The cover really DID belong on the "back".

Feeling like an idiot I grabbed the first book and started again. This time from the proper place. But the story didn't get much better. Things seemed to have a bit more of a flow but the story still eluded me. I went back to the instruction page and took a closer look at the instructions. Read the panels backwards too it said. Not only that but read the word balloons in reverse order as well. D'oh.

The book made sense after that. And it was a good read. I never put the books down until just a little while ago and now Catherine is also reading them. It makes a difference when instead of blundering in, thinking you know it all, you actually take a minute to learn about what you're doing.

I honestly feel like an old fart now because all I was thinking as I got frustrated with the seemingly incomprehensible story was, "These kids today and their stupid manga. When I was a kid they knew how to write and draw a proper comic book!"