Saturday, December 31, 2011

Exploring Genres: January 2012: Graphic Novels

January 2012 is the first month in our reading challenge: Exploring Genres. The Featured Genre for the month is: Graphic Novels.

I've never been a fan of comic books. I really don't have a lot of experience with them. When I was growing up, all the comic books that the boys were reading were super hero stuff - Superman, X-Men, Batman, etc. I was never really into the super hero thing. The girls I knew, who read comics, all read stuff like the Archie Comics, which weren't that interesting to me, either. So, I just never got into comic books. When I first heard about graphic novels, I had no interest because they are just larger versions of comic books.

Well, with the Exploring Genres challenge, we'll be reading Graphic Novels. So, I've been searching for ideas of some that might be enjoyable. I have also been searching for some possibilities for Jay. I'll pretty much let Dea pick out her own, though may suggest some if I find any I think she'd like.

Finding some for Jay is proving to be more of a challenge than I had expected. The ones for kids all seem so cheesy. They have these goofy sounding stories that really just don't sound like they'd hold his attention. The few that sound like they might interest him, apparently (from what I've found online, anyway) have rather low reading levels (like in the 2nd grade range, even though many of them are listed as books for middle grade students). Now, I don't mind if the kids read some books below their reading ability, but I prefer to have most of what they read at a comfortable or challenging level, not blindingly easy. It is really difficult to find reading level info for graphic novels, though. I might just have to deal with it and let him read the ones at such low reading levels, as long as he continues to read other books as well.

We have picked up a large stack of graphic novels from the library. Both kids are looking forward to the challenge starting & can hardly wait to dig into the pile of graphic novels we have right now.

I found a bunch of Max Axiom ones for Jay. Looking through one, I have to say I'm fairly impressed. It contained actual scientific information and wasn't as dumbed-down as I was expecting. He loves Science and is really looking forward to reading those. I also found the Amulet series and some Goosebumps graphic novels. He's got more on hold on his card, too - more Max Axiom and some Star Wars.

Dea's got the graphic novel version of Twilight and some horror-themed ones. She'll also likely read many of those I check out for me. Jay may be reading some of them, too. The ones on my library cover a wide range, from The Last Unicorn to 300 to Ray Bradbury to Shaun of the Dead.

Of course, we won't be only reading the graphic novels. Each of us also has regular books out that we're reading & will continue to read other books. I'm hoping to post each week with a list of what each of us has read.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Preparing for next year, mentally

Next year is coming up very soon. I am trying to get myself mentally prepared for it.

Since I will be rededicating myself to my fitness goals, I am working on forming the habits I'll need for that. I have been forming the habit of visiting SparkPeople everyday (even if I didn't workout), reading articles, tracking my liquid intake, etc. I'm working on setting aside a time of day just for exercising, so I'll be able to fit it in daily.

I'm also working on getting myself on a schedule for unnecessary internet use. I plan to visit my social places (FB, Google+, forums, etc) only at meal times, when I'm already sitting down & not really busy. That should give me enough time to catch up with people, converse, and play the few games I play. If I get in the habit of visiting those sites at certain times, it will hopefully help me visit them regularly & spend less time at each visit (I often go days or weeks without visiting one or more of these sites, then spend extra time trying to catch up when I do visit).

I also want to try out different schedules for Jay, to see if we can find something that works a bit better than our current one. Right now, I'm brainstorming ideas for new schedules, but we won't try them until next week.

I'm also trying to finish the big purge that I started a little while back. We're mostly done, just need to finish the office, living room, and kitchen. I hope to get them done this week, because I'd really like to start the new year less 'cluttered'. So far, this purge has filled 4 1/2 boxes, deleted over 20,000 emails, removed many no longer read subscriptions, and vanquished some negativity.

I'm also considering a schedule for my blog, to make sure that I do regular updates about all the things I want to do updates for - our 'Exploring Genres' challenge, 'Poet of the Month' challenge, my fitness progress, Jay's schooling & new method of 'no official start/end dates' that he wants to do, Dea's schooling with her having majority control. I'd still do the random posts about daily stuff, holidays, etc., but with a schedule, I could be certain the regular updates I want to do actually get done.

The year is ending soon. What plans do you have for the new year & how are you getting ready?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Should be Doing Dishes...but

I really should be in the kitchen getting dishes done, to help catch up after the many that were dirtied for Christmas. However, I'm not spending my day standing in the kitchen doing dishes, or any other housework, for that matter. My back still hurts. Yes, it's been more than a week since I slipped on the ice, hurting my back. The Fibromyalgia isn't helping any. Plus, I keep doing things that make it worse, like crawling around on the floor cleaning, then spending 1 1/2 hrs standing while doing food prep & lifting heavy dishes full of food, then bending over for 20 minutes while rearranging the fridge. So, I'm taking it easy today.

I've been spending the day working on plans for next school year. Dea' year of taking control of her education starts next week, and Jay wants to drop official 'Start' & 'End' dates for his schooling. I'll still have a specific date that I consider the start of the new grade, but he won't need to know when it is, as it will have no impact on his work. So, I'll be using a new notebook to track his work, starting in January. I spent a few hours last night & much of this morning working on getting the plan laid out in that notebook. I'm almost done. I just need to fill in the pages for the plan for Science. I'll be using the notebook I started for 2nd grade to track his work for the rest of his Science & History that was already planned (mainly because I don't want to re-write all of it into another notebook). Everything else is in the new notebook, though. I even set up a section in back to track his free reading books & what he reads for our 'Poet of the Month' & 'Exploring Genres' challenges. I spent most of the morning working on the plan for History - finding the books we have here on the topics, creating a list of possible projects, creating a list of fun reading & read-aloud possibilities (mostly historical fiction & all books that we own or are carried by the local library). I won't plan the non-fiction books that we'll use from the library, because it's impossible to tell what they'll have in when we need them. I still need to search Netflix for shows/documentaries related to our topics. Then, I need to do all of that for our Science topics.

Once I'm done with my notebook for Jay, I need to set up my notebook for Dea's work. I'll be checking her work every week. So, I'll record what work I checked over each week, in my notebook. This will help me keep track of whether or not she is doing all of her required assignments in Writing & Math, as well as seeing how much work is getting done is other areas & track her progress. I need to write in all the stuff that is required for each course, though, to be considered enough for credit. I'll also set up a section to track her reading for our challenges & maybe her free reading.

So, this is what I'm working on for the next few days, while I take it easy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Advent/Christmas

Here's a rundown of what we did for our December 2011 holidays

.
Advent
Books the kids read:

Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights The Story of the Christmas Symbols




Read-Alouds:

A child's Christmas in Wales


Christmas Poems - we took turns reading poems from this on several nights


The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories - we took turns reading the stories from this, so everyone got in on the story-telling


Miracle on 34th Street


Saint Francis and the Nativity


The Real Santa Claus


The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree


The Christmas Story: From the Gospels of Matthew and Luke - this one has the text from the Bible paired with gorgeous pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Christmas Story


The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories - our library didn't have any other copies of The Gift of the Magi, so we got this book just to read that story


A Wreath of Christmas Poems - this is a rather old issue (1942) from a monthly publication 'Poet of the Month'


Elf Elementary






Movies/Shows:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!




Frosty the Snowman





Movies/Shows for just hubby and me:

Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special

Love Actually


Activities:
Drive around town looking at lights & decorations
Go to the 'Festival of Lights,' a light display our city does each year


Hanukkah
We decided to pick up a few Hanukkah books to read. Dea is currently studying Judaism, to determine if that is the religion she would like to follow. So, we figured it would be a good idea to learn about Hanukkah.
A Confused Hanukkah


In the Month of Kislev


Eight Wild Nights


Hanukkah, Shmanukkah!


The Story of Hanukkah

Eight Winter Nights: A family Hanukkah Book




Christmas
Presents:
Dea: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook;  Pail of Primates symbolic adoption from WWF
Jay: Arabian Nights; Tub of Cubs symbolic adoption from WWF
Hubby: the beginnings of a beautiful Nativity Set (Fontanini, hand-painted, imported from Italy); a Sea Otter symbolic adoption from WWF
Me: a meat slicer; a Grey Wolf symbolic adoption from WWF; a wolf picture
Family gifts: Bezzerwizzer, Rummikub, Blokus

Food: mini turkey meatballs in cranberry bbq sauce, latkes, homemade artisan bread, bagel balls, pork loin stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, & Feta, peanut butter blossom cookies, mini phyllo cups with filling of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, crab meat, pepper, and dill topped with shrimp, mini phyllo cups with filling of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, vanilla, mint, & cinnamon topped with fruit (pineapple, mandarin oranges, cherries), and a cheese tray

Fun: I hid the plush animals, from out adoptions, around the house, and we went on a safari to find them all. Much of the day was spent playing our new games. We watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, again, and listened to Christmas music. It was a fun, relaxing day. We ended the day by having my sister & brother-in-law come over for an evening of playing cards.

Jay's birthday
We do the bulk of his birthday celebration in February, on the anniversary of the day he finally came home from the hospital. He was 12 weeks early, and spent about 2 months in NICU before he came home. We like to do something on his birthday to celebrate, but due to it's proximity to the holidays, it's easier to do the bigger celebration in February (more affordable, too). He got to choose dinner for his birthday. He choose the Chinese restaurant we went to during his study of Ancient China. He got to stay up late and watch a movie on his birthday.

As you can see, December has been a busy month for us. I hope your holiday was as enjoyable.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Starting Over

You know those times when something isn't going the way you need/want it to, so you decide just to start back at square 1? Well, I'm having one of those times. Ever since Jay was born, I've been battling with my weight. It has been very difficult because of my asthma and some other conditions I'm dealing with. I'm in pain, a lot of the time. Exercising make the pain worse most of the time. So, I haven't done a very good job at losing weight. In fact, I've gained more. Of course, the severe weakening of my muscles & immune system by the pneumonia hasn't helped. I've decided to start over with my weight loss plan. I will be starting in January.

I've pulled out the pedometer &n will be getting a new battery for it today. I am also going to pick up some ankle and wrist weights to wear while exercising. I plan to get a stepper. I've got a Gazelle, but it squeaks, loudly. Since it is so loud, I can't use it while the kids are doing school, during quiet reading time, or at night/early morning when everyone else is in bed. That severely limits the hours of the day in which I can workout. So, I want to get a stepper, because it will be quiet, easy to move around, easy to store, and if I get one with resistance bands & wear the weights, it will be a decent workout.

Once I have lost some weight & am in better shape, I will add Yoga & Pilates in. Then, after even more progress, I'll add Belly Dancing again. I'm also going to try to get the whole family to do walks or hikes on a weekly basis, and will get outside with the kids more often when they go out for their outside play time.

I closed my account on SparkPeople (a website with tools to help you lose weight & live a healthy life), and signed up again. That seemed to be the best & fastest way to start over with my progress on there. I set up my fitness goals and will start tracking my goals in January.

This last week, I made another change. I gave up Mt Dew. I started drinking flavored, carbonated water because that's what the kids were drinking when they were sick. After a few days of that, Mt Dew was just too sweet. I'm keeping my coffee & tea, but haven't had Mt Dew in a week. I'll still drink soda occasionally. I enjoy root beer & cream soda too much to give them up completely. I was drinking 4-6 cans of Mt Dew a day, though. That's 680 - 1020 calories just from soda, on an average day! Honestly, Mt Dew was probably my worst dietary habit. Now, I know some of you are thinking "Just drink regular tap water." I can't though. Water has to have flavor for me to drink it consistently. I just can't do glass after glass of boring, flavorless water all day, and flavor packets can get expensive. Plus, the carbonation helps when I'm congested or my throat is bothering me.

I'm also going to be making sure the kids & I meditate daily, and trying to get Jay into Yoga. Next year should be pretty busy & interesting for us, with all the changes we're making.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Week

I know the week isn't over yet, but I'll do a recap of our week anyway. We've done most of what I had planned to do this week. Well, Jay has. Dea is still slacking a bit & I'm starting to get quite irritated. Anyway, here's what Jay has done.

Math - He's right on track this week. He has done everything he needed to do, each day, without a fight. I think we'll change things up a bit in January, though. Right now, our Math looks like this: Mon - 30 min Math games for review & practice; Tues - 1 page Defeating Division; Wednesday - 30 min Khan Academy; Thurs - 1 page Defeating Division; Fri - Key to Measurement. Come January, I think I'll drop Key to from the schedule, letting him go back to doing it whenever he wants, and bump Defeating Division up to 3 days a week. The entire purpose of this schedule was to slow down the use of Defeating Division. He often gets frustrated when he makes a mistake, even if he's just learning how to do something. So, I wanted to have him move slowly for a little while, to ease the frustration. He's doing really well, though, and I think he's ready to speed up a bit.
Writing - His Word Bank and Writer's Notebook are hole-punched and in his binder. He has his topic picked out for the last assignment for this level. We'll get started on his research paper in January. As soon as we get the materials for next year, he'll start the next level of Writing.
Grammar - He's been doing Easy Grammar daily this week and doing great. We had been taking some days off here & there because our school year is longer than the 180 days provided in Easy Grammar. Since I only bought 1 level for 2nd grade, so we could see if it worked for him & if he liked it, that would leave approximately 45 days with no Grammar. It made more sense to spread those days out over the year, instead of having 9 weeks at the end of the school year with no Grammar. We're close enough, to when I'll be purchasing for the upcoming year,  that I think we can stop skipping days. If we finish early, we'll just start on the next level. He's almost done with Grammar Tales, as well. He has one worksheet to do to finish up Sentence Structure, which he's doing today. In January, we'll do the last book, Proofreading.
Spelling - This is an area we've slacked this week. We have done no Spelling at all this week. We use All About Spelling, which is not something he can do independently. I've had a headache most of the week, so we haven't done it.
Science & History - All I had planned to get done this week was to finish reading whatever library books we had & maybe watch some documentaries. We've finished the books, and so far watched one documentary. Since we've dropped Terms & are just moving at his pace, I'm not sure when we'll be done with our current topics. I think that we'll be moving on in Science shortly after we start back. Flight, Forces, and Motion has been a rather light one. Our library is quite short on books about Gravity, Friction, Air Pressure, Lift, etc. I looked through many of the general Physics books that came up in the search, but the parts on the topics we need are very short, all give the same info, and it's not new info. So, I think that once we have finished watching the documentaries and doing the activities, we'll be done. We should finish all of that over our Christmas break. For History, he's really enjoying our current topic and we'll likely continue with it for at least another month or so.
Geography - He's been doing his own thing with this. His thing, however, has been mostly map work, online games, and learning locations of the states. I suggested doing a fun state study, starting in January, and he loves the idea. The plan is basically to study one state each month - capital, symbols, museums, zoos, famous/important people from the state, etc. That will be starting, with Illinois, in January.
Music - He has practiced his flute and recorder almost every day. He's so happy to be able to do them again. He has also been playing the drum he decorated for History.
Art - He has done one page of Creating Line Designs book 3. He can do another if he wants, but I'm not pushing it.
ASL - We should have watched the new dvd yesterday, but didn't. We're going to watch it today, then make sure to practice over the break.
Logo Adventures - We haven't done a lesson in this, either. I think I'll just have him practice previous lessons over the break & start up again in January.

So, we're on track to be done with most of what I wanted to do this week. The next two weeks should be relaxing, as we read, do History & Science activities/projects, watch some documentaries & some Mythbusters, and bake cookies.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner part 2

I have already posted Thanksgiving Dinner part 1, which had all the dishes we had for Thanksgiving that did not require a recipe. This post will contain the foods that did require recipes. All the recipes that follow came from Spirit of the Harvest. We tweaked some of them. So, I'll put our changes/notes in red with the recipes.

Some notes on this meal:
Whenever oil was used, it was Sunflower Oil
The only sweetener we used was honey
The only flour used was corn flour

Hoe Cakes:
2C water
2C cornmeal
2tsp Salt {we omitted the salt}
2 Tbl butter {we used oil}
1 Tbl chopped fresh dill (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F. bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in Cornmeal, salt, butter, and dill, if desired. Place in a buttered 8-in square pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cut into squares and serve. Serves 6-8.

Dea made this. She made a double batch, I think. It was quite good, basically just baked polenta.





Sweet Potato Cakes:
2 large sweet potatoes, cooked & peeled
2 eggs
1/2C flour
1 tsp salt {we omitted}
1/2tsp ground, dried spicebush berries or allspice {used allspice}
2-3 Tbl bacon drippings, lard, or oil {used oil}

In mixing bowl, mash sweet potatoes. Stir in eggs, flour, and seasonings.
Heat drippings on a griddle of in a large skillet. Drop sweet potato mixture onto griddle with large soup spoon. Brown on one side. Turn cakes & flatten with a spatula. Brown on other side and serve hot with butter or honey. Makes 10-12 cakes.

Dea also made this. She made it a little thick, though, and couldn't cook it all the way through in the pan. So, they were finished off int he oven, to make sure they were cooked in the middle. These were very good. Even Jay, who hates sweet potatoes,  really enjoyed them.


Blackfoot Buffalo and Berry Soup:
1 1/2lbs buffalo or beef chuck steak, trimmed and cubed {used bison meat, think it was between 1 1/2 - 2lbs}
3Tbl bacon drippings or vegetable oil {used oil}
4C meat broth or water {used chicken stock}
1C sliced green onions {didn't measure, just used 1 bunch}
1C fresh serviceberries, blackberries or blueberries, washed and drained {used fresh blueberries and dried blueberries & cranberries for total of 2 - 2 1/2C fruit}
1Tbl honey

Brown meat in hot bacon drippings or oil in a Dutch Oven. Add broth, green onions, berries, and honey. Simmer for 1 hour, or until meat is tender. Season with salt & pepper. Serves 4 to 5.

We simmered for about 2 hours. This was fantastic! It was a great combination of flavors, and everyone enjoyed it.



Sauteed Wild Mushrooms and Onions:
4 strips bacon
3/4lb wild mushrooms - morels, chanterelles, honey mushrooms, or oyster mushrooms {our local stores had a very slim selection of mushrooms. We ended up with shitake, wood ear, and button. Also, we didn't measure, but I'm pretty sure it was more than 3/4lb} 
1/4C sliced green onions
Salt & pepper to taste

We had to get some of the mushroom dried & re-hydrate them.


Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Remove bacon, chop or crumble, and reserve. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Clean mushrooms {I shortened this. In the cookbook, it gives directions for cleaning mushrooms}and slice if necessary
Heat bacon drippings over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and green onions and saute for 1-2 minutes, until just tender. Return bacon to skillet, toss, and serve. Season with salt & pepper. Serves 4-6




So, that was the rest of our Thanksgiving dinner. If you haven't read it yet, check out Thanksgiving Dinner part 1. It has the Cranberry Honey Turkey, Cranberry-Strawberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes with Dill & Chives, Fried Polenta (with & without dried fruit), and Fruit Salad. Though, I don't have pictures for all of it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The coming week

This is our last week before our 2 week Christmas break. It is going to be rather difficult to keep everyone focused.  They will both continue with some school work over the break. Dea will continue her Writing course, because it is online & they have their own schedule, and she'll continue her Algebra. Jay will continue Math, read every day, and we'll likely do some of the Science experiments & History projects we have planned for this year. I'm hoping to also watch some of the documentaries on our current topics of study.

This week will actually be similar to our break, though a bit more work will get done this week (hopefully). Jay is pretty much over his Bronchitis, so we can resume Music, Latin, and Spanish. However, starting Latin & Spanish again right before we take a break seems rather pointless. We'll wait until January to start those again. Here's what I'm hoping to get done this week with Jay:
Math - everyday, our normal plan
Writing - he's almost done with his Writing book. He just finished Unit 9. Unit 10 is 'Discovering the Writer's Notebook' which is nothing more than reference. Unit 11 is a personal word bank. This week, we'll get those hole-punched and into his binder, so he has them. That will just leave Unit 8 'Discovering Research' for which the assignment is to research and write a book. He has requested to instead do a research paper. He chose a topic, but doesn't think he can get a whole book out of it, which is why he wants to do a paper instead. His topic of choice is "Why it is wrong to kill animals just for their fur." He'll start the paper after the break, so we want to have the 'Writer's Notebook' and word bank ready before then.
Spelling - I'm hoping to get through the next one or two steps of level 2.
Grammar - one page of Easy Grammar a day & finish up the Sentence Structure Grammar Tales
Science & History - finish reading all books we currently have out from the library & watch some documentaries
Music - we'll probably work on some Christmas songs, maybe get back to flute & recorder practice
Art - one or two pages from Creating Line Designs book 3
ASL - I think we'll start a new DVD and then practice over the break & do a quick review when we start up again in January
Geography - I'll let him continue doing this on his own.
Logo Adventures - I think we'll do the next lesson, and let him practice all the lessons he's done over the break

We'll also continue reading Christmas books, books about the history & customs of Christmas, Hanukkah books, books about Hanukkah, etc. Plus, we're starting to get revved up for our Reading Challenge that we're starting in January. We'll search the library catalog to get some ideas for our books choices.

Honestly, my favorite thing about this week is the fact that the kids are sleeping upstairs again. They have been sleeping downstairs for about 2 weeks now, pretty much since the Bronchitis diagnosis. It started with Jay sleeping in my bed with my hubby. however, Jay talks moves, and kicks a lot in his sleep. So, we brought his mattress down & put it in the school room. He was still using my pillows, to stay propped up while he slept, so I still wasn't back in my bed (I can't sleep in the bed without pillows). Dea apparently couldn't sleep upstairs because it was too quiet without Jay up there. She slept in the school room, too. They often talked in their sleep; I even heard Dea yelling at him in her sleep one night. I have spent the last 2 weeks sleeping in my recliner, which is not the most comfortable thing in the world. My muscles are killing me (my Fibro really doesn't like it when I sleep in the chair). Sunday, his mattress went back up to his room and the bedding from my bed was washed. So, my bed is germ free again! It's so nice to have my bed back, to have my pillows back!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Eaters of the Dead

In a previous post, I mentioned that our memories can be affected by several things. The associations a memory has have a large impact on how we remember something. In other words, the filing system your brain used when filing away a memory will determine how you view that memory.

I recently re-read Eaters of the Dead. My original memory of this book was that I didn't like it. Ibn Fadlan's name was too long (when he is introduced, his name includes ancestors back to his great-great grandpa), and in my memory, the names were written out that way quite often in the book. I found it slow, boring, and was not impressed with it.

Our minds can play tricks with our memories, and mine did in regards to this book. In fact, Ibn Fadlan's name is only written out in that ridiculously long way one time. My memory said it was much more often, but it was wrong. I'm not sure exactly why I remembered it the way I did. I vaguely remember having conversations with a friend about the name & the fact that some cultures put too much stock in your father was, the idea of a whole family being respected or shunned based on the actions of one person, etc. So, maybe it was these conversations, the extra focus on the name, that caused me to remember it as more prominent.

I think one reason I had such a negative reaction to memories of this book was the association with  school. I did not like school. I loved learning. I loved reading. I hated school. School was a giant popularity contest with some busywork thrown in. I was the brainy girl who preferred my dinosaur models & chemistry set to my Barbies. I was the girl who always had a book in her in hands. I was the student reading a Stephen King novel in class, who the teacher would then call on to answer a question because he was convinced I wasn't paying attention, and I'd get it right. I was the perfectionist who would be pissed about a less than perfect grade on something I cared about, but who would skip a class that I didn't care about. I was the student who would argue about an answer marked wrong, explain the logic behind my answer & why my answer was correct. I was the student being accused of cheating in Math because I could get the answer in my head & my teacher couldn't. I was not miss popularity. I was bored with the work, disliked most of the people, was disliked by many students & several teachers, and saw most of the experience of 13 years in ps as a monumental waste of time. In other words, school doesn't bring up a lot of happy memories. Most of my memories of school are negative.

So, it's not surprising that my memory of this book was colored by my negative feelings about school. When I read this in school it would have been 10th or 11th grade. In 10th grade, I was in high school #2, spent much of my time in the office or ISS, and was being harassed by an assistant principal who wanted to expel me. In 11th grade, I transferred to high school #3. It was one more school at which I would do work I'd done years before, one more school at which I had to start over (high school #3 was school #7, 7 schools from K-12). These aren't exactly positive memories. Combine that with the fact that the teacher didn't tell us anything about the book before we read it and that I was quite disappointed in what it was (I had thought it would be quite different, based on the title), and it's no wonder that my memories of this book weren't exactly warm & fuzzy.

Though, not all of my memories of it were altered by the general negativity surrounding my first reading of it. I remembered there being several mentions of public sexual acts, and there were several mentions of it. I remember it as boring, and honestly I still kind of feel that way. It's not so much that's it's boring & slow (though it is), it's the fact that it could have, should have, been more. It's not a boring topic, being a retelling of Beowulf. The descriptions just aren't that good. They're kind of vague. They don't allow you to truly see it in your mind's eye. I kind of saw it, but not really. I've seen The 13th Warrior several times (it's based on Eaters of the Dead) and just kind of saw that playing in my mind, and even that was only sometimes. I guess, I'm still kind of disappointed, but this time it's for a different reason. This time I'm disappointed because I don't feel that it is as good, as detailed, as well-done as I've come to expect from Crichton.

I'm still glad I re-read it, though. It's not my favorite work by the author, but it is better than I originally remembered it being. There was no negativity surrounding my reading it this time. I went into with an open mind, willingly, and knowing the premise of the book. My opinion has improved, but I still don't think of it as a great book. I do still intend to have Dea read it. She'll read it soon, probably the week after next. I'll be able to discuss it, analyze it, with her with it fresh in my mind. She might even enjoy the book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Featured Poets 2012

Now that I finally got Dea to enjoy poetry again (I accidentally killed her enjoyment of poetry by using a curriculum that teaches poetry forms & elements & was insanely boring) and Jay is also enjoying poetry, I thought it would be fun to do a poetry challenge. Each month, we'll have a featured poet. We will read poems  by that poet throughout the month. We are also aiming to read at least one poem per day, though they may not all be by the featured poet. I tried to choose poets that cover a variety of styles & forms.

Here are our featured poets for 2012:
January: Edward Lear
February: Robert Frost
March: Emily Dickinson
April:Walt Whitman
May: Dylan Thomas
June: Rainer Maria Rilke
July: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
August: Jack Prelutsky
September: Lord Byron
October: Maya Angelou
November: W.B. Yeats
December: Shel Silverstein

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Handing Over the Reins - an experiment

Dea has made huge improvements in taking responsibility for her school work. It also seems to have finally clicked that she has to do the work even if it isn't always fun. So, we have decided that we are going to try handing over the reins and letting her run with it.

We're giving her a list of the courses that still need to be finished for graduation requirements. We're expecting a certain number of Math lessons every week. She has to read every day. She will keep track of all work she does in a notebook. We will look over her notebook records & her work once a week. She will not be allowed to just sit around doing nothing. She will still have limitations on screen time. She will still have to do her chores.

This will only be a one year thing, an experiment. It starts in January 2012 and will run through December 2012. Next December we'll sit down and evaluate to decide of this will continue or not. At her current pace, she's set to graduate at 16. So, even if this experiment doesn't work, she'll still have time to get back on track and graduate at 17 or 18. We fully understand that there is the possibility that this will not work. The full responsibility over her education may be too much and she may crack. However, she might be ready for this. It might be a really good thing.

So, here's hoping that his works and that she's ready for this level of control.

Featured Genres 2012

The kids and I have decided to do a reading challenge in 2012. Each month, we will have a featured genre. Each of us will read at least one book from the featured genre each month. We will not restrict our reading only to the featured genre, because the point of this is to make sure we're reading a variety of genres. I know there are some genres my kids have never really explored or have never read just for fun, so I think this will be a fun way to expand their literary horizons, especially if we do this several years in a row.

Here are the planned genres for 2012:
January: Graphic Novels
February: Action/Adventure
March: Mystery/Suspense
April: Biography & Autobiography
May: Historical Fiction
June: Religion/Spirituality
July: Short Story
August: True Crime
September: Science Fiction
October: Horror
November: Classics
December: Fantasy

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Revisiting Books

Readers fall into two main categories - those who read books once and those who will re-read books. I fall into the latter group. I re-read books, and I do it for multiple reasons. Sometimes, it's because I enjoyed the book so much the first time. Sometimes, it's because someone else is reading and I want to be able to discuss it with them, but may not remember much. Other times, it's because I didn't particularly like the book, but want to give it another chance.

Right now, I'm reading Eaters of the Dead for the second time. The first time was for High School English class. It is a retelling of Beowulf and is written by Michael Crichton. Dea is currently reading Beowulf, and Eaters of the Dead is next. I want her to compare the two. I figure, if I'm going to be able to converse with her about the book, it should be fairly fresh in my mind.

Now, I will admit that I was not fond of this book when I first read it. Here is how the main character is introduced:

This is the book of Ahmed ibn-Fadlan, ibn-alAbbas, ibn-Rasid, ibn-Hammad...........

That sentence then goes on to explain who he is, and the sentence is a full paragraph in itself. Now, in my memory, that is how the names are written quite often in the book. Though, upon recent reflection, I realized that may not be the case. I think my disappointment in the book's content colored my opinion a bit much. I also think that my dislike of the book made me remember it different than it actually is. That's actually quite normal. If an experience is negative, we tend to remember the negative things more prominently.

You may be wondering why I was disappointed in the book when I read it in High School. To be honest, it just was not what I was expecting. A few times in High School English, we would get a choice of books - you can read book A or book B, or sometimes even book A, book B, or book C. This was one of those. I don't remember what our other choice was, but I remember that I had already read it. We got no explanation or description of the books, just titles. Eaters of the Dead was a great title and sounded like it might be a horror book or something about a cannibalistic tribe or something along those lines. Plus, as I said, I had read the other book. So, I chose Eaters of the Dead. Then, I start reading to find out that it is nothing like I had thought it might be. I was truly disappointed. Here I was, expecting something with horror & gore or at least a suspense/thriller, and instead I get a retelling of Beowulf with a main character who is introduced with his bloodline back to his great-grandfather. I was disappointed. I was irritated that there were so few options from which to choose. I was bothered that the teacher hadn't told us anything about the book when offering it as an option. If I had known what to expect, my opinion might have differed greatly.

I recognize that my original opinions of this book were colored by the situation surrounding my reading it.  So, I chose to read it again, to gain a fresh perspective (one not biased by a negative situation). I have to say that I am glad I decided to read it again. I'm only about 60 pages in, but it is much better than I remember it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner part 1

There has been some interest expressed in the recipes for our Thanksgiving menu. I was hoping to have time to sit & type them all out and add all the pics. However, with Jay being sick, the puppy recovering from surgery, the house a disaster, the ongoing purging, the Advent tree activities, etc., I'm not finding that kind of time. So, I figure I'll try to do it in multiple posts instead.

I'll start with the dishes that I had no recipe for:

Cranberry Honey Turkey:
23lb Turkey
Chicken stock in bottom of roasting pan
1/2 jar of Cranberry Mustard mixed with a few Tablespoons of Honey - smear over Turkey
cover with aluminum foil & cook for about 4 hrs, remove foil & cook for about 1 hr









Cranberry-Strawberry Sauce:
2 bags of fresh cranberries
1 bag frozen strawberries
honey
cook cranberries in pot of water until almost done, drain 3/4 the water from pot
add strawberries & a few squirts of honey
cook 5-10 more minutes, then mash


Mashed Potatoes with Dill & Chives:
Red Potatoes - cut, boiled til tender, drained
add in chopped fresh dill & chopped fresh chives
add chicken stock as needed
mash


Fried Polenta:
in pot, boil 2 3/4C water
in bowl mix 1 cup cornmeal & 1 cup cold water
add cold mixture to boiling water, stirring constantly
return to boiling & reduce heat to low
cook 10-15 minutes more, or until thick
pour in loaf pan, cover, put in fridge overnight
remove from pan, slice, and fry in butter in frying pan

We did 2 batches, one plain and the other with dried fruit. We added the dried fruit before pouring into loaf pan.

Fruit Salad:
fresh strawberries, halved
fresh blueberries
fresh blackberries
fresh raspberries
1 can pineapple chunks


There will be another post for the other 4 dishes we had for Thanksgiving.

Christmas Plans

We're doing all our Advent stuff - read-alouds, movies/shows, family activities. We've been good about choosing one every night. There are a few that have specific days or times for us to do them, but movies & books are great for during the week. We've really been enjoying it all so far.

I don't know what our plans are for Christmas with anyone else. I don't know if we'll be going to the big family Christmas this year. I have most of our Christmas at home planned, though. I have purchased all the presents:

For Dea: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, Pail of Primates bucket adoption from WWF
In her stocking: socks (they always need more socks), candy

For Jay: Arabian Nights, Tub of Cubs bucket adoption from WWF
In his stocking: socks, candy

Our big present for both kids was that we were redecorating their bedrooms. We had some unexpected expenses, so the bedrooms won't be done until next year.

For my hubby: He really wants a nice Nativity set, so I've decided to buy him one. However, I'm buying it in pieces, especially since I'm getting him a Fontanini set, which are slightly pricey. This year, he's getting the stable & the Holy Family pieces.
From the kids: Sea Otter adoption from WWF

For me: I don't know if I'm getting anything from my hubby.
From the kids: (yes I know what I'm getting from them, since I bought it) a Wolf adoption from WWF

We're not doing much for decorations. The house is a disaster due to the ongoing purging & I just don't feel like all the decorating this year. We have our stockings up and the cheap little Nativity scene that we have is being put out. The kids are hanging garland in their rooms, as well as the ornaments they made at their grandparents' house. They have also been told they can use the window markers to decorate their windows. That's it. No tree. No lights. Nothing big.

I'm going to get a new shelf put up in the living room sometime before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, after everyone has gone to bed, I will put the pieces of the Nativity I bought for hubby on the shelf. That way, he'll see them when he first gets up. I will also be hiding the plush animals that came with the 'adoptions' throughout the house. Then, on Christmas morning, I'll present everyone with their adoption certificates, and we will take a safari through the house to find all the animals.

I'm not going to do the big dinner for Christmas. We're going to do finger foods instead. I still have to figure out the exact menu. Other than the menu, I am done planning our Christmas. Though, I might pick up a few more things for the stockings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Learning Through Illness

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that you can tweak it to fit whatever is going on in your life. You can school in the evenings if you need to work in the mornings. You can do school on weekends instead of only Monday - Friday. You can do half of your school in the morning and the rest after dinner if that fits your schedule. You can schedule schoolwork around the seasons, doing more when it's too hot or too cold to spend  much time outside. Whatever your schedule, you can still manage to plan school around it.

That is especially fantastic when someone is sick. When one of my conditions flares up and I'm in excruciating pain, the kids can get some school done while sitting on my bed & curl up with me to read. When one of the kids is sick, we can do school around their illness or skip school completely.

Last week and the week before, Jay wasn't feeling great. He had a cold and was so congested that he could barely breathe. So, he spent his days in my bed reading and watching educational DVDs. Some of the books he read were free reading and some were on our Science & History topics. However, sitting in bed all day can get rather boring, especially when you are a 7 year old with ADHD.

Saturday, he was diagnosed with Bronchitis. So, now he's sleeping in my bed at night, since it lets him sleep at more of an angle (so the crap draining from his sinuses doesn't gag him in the night), it's closer to me, closer access to drinks (he is not allowed to have drinks upstairs), and warmer (his room is inexplicably the coldest room in the house). Yesterday, in addition to lots of time in my room reading, he also did fun Math games on the computer, Geography games on the computer, Writing, Grammar, and Spelling. His hope is to read all the books on our History & Science topics that he possibly can, so that when he's better he can focus mostly on the experiments & activities.

Until he's better, foreign languages, computer programming, and music are on hold. We're also holding off on Science experiments, P.E., Home Ec., and activities. He really needs to rest right now so he doesn't get worse (after all, it was his refusal to rest all day that led to his cold turning into Bronchitis). The beauty of homeschooling is that it's fine if we put those subject on hold while he's sick. We can get some Math & Language Arts done, read books & watch shows for Science & History, and we'll be fine. We can get back to the other stuff when he's better. We don't have to worry about falling behind or catching up. We don't have to try to push through all our school work even though he's sick.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our Week

Last week, Jay got no school work done. He hasn't been feeling well lately. He spent the week in my bed, reading and watching a few educational dvds. That is also what he did yesterday. Apparently, he's quite over this bug. He likely won't do any school this week. So, next week we'll start up again.

Dea, didn't get all of her work done, either. She did some, but was not able to all of it. She is having very bad cramps right now. I know that many wouldn't allow this as an excuse to not do school, but considering family history, I'll accept it as a legitimate reason.

With Thanksgiving this week, I am not expecting much school to get done.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Planning

Thanksgiving is later this week. I have finalized the menu (which I will post, with recipes, later) and bought the groceries. We have 2 Thanksgiving this year, one with family, one just the four of us. On Thursday, we have Thanksgiving with family. I am baking Banana Bread, Pumpkin Bread, and Apple Bread. I also plan to make homemade cinnamon butter to go with the bread. Friday will be our Thanksgiving, just us. This is the one that will be American Indian themed. I finally finalized the menu last week, after poring through books & websites to find the right recipes. We have just a little cleaning left for the holiday, and the cooking, of course. So, this will be a fairly busy week.

Even with the week being so busy, I'm already planning for the next month or so. Advent will be starting soon, so I'll have to get stuff together for that. In case you don't know, a year or two ago, we started celebrating Advent, as well as Christmas. My husband is Christian, so it is mainly for him. However, both my husband and I despise how commercial Christmas is. So, we use the celebration of Advent to keep things simple and keep the focus of the season on things other than material possessions. Even though the celebration of Advent is a Christian thing, it is not completely religious for us. Many of the activities we do are Secular. While we do want to kids to understand Christmas - what it really is about, why it is celebrated (even why it is celebrated in December), the symbols, etc., we really want them to spend the season focusing on the joys of giving rather than the joys of getting.

Throughout the month of December, we read books, watch shows/movies, and do various activities that remind us what the season is about, to us at least. We also read about the history of Christmas and how it is celebrated in other countries.
So far, the books we hope to read this Christmas season include:
 A Child's Christmas in Wales
The Gift of the Magi
Las Posadas: an Hispanic Christmas Celebration
Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights: The Story of the Christmas Symbols
The Family Under the Bridge
Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters

These are just the ones I found while searching the library catalog online. I have them all on hold, and will hopefully be getting many of them this week. We'll, of course, also read A Christmas Carol. We also plan to read Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, in Latin), and maybe even the English version, too.

We're still deciding on movies/shows. Here's what we know we'll watch:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - the old one, narrated by Boris Karloff, of course
Frosty the Snowman
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A Christmas Carol - the one with Patrick Stewart
the episode of Animaniacs about the Nativity story

Other than those, we aren't sure. We might watch The Bishop's Wife. Maybe Miracle on 34th Street. We also might just search Netflix and see what we can find for Instant Streaming. We really aren't big on Christmas movies. My husband hates A Christmas Story. I have never enjoyed It's a Wonderful Life & my husband has no interest in watching it.  My husband loves National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, so we might watch that. I might watch The Nightmare Before Christmas with the kids. Gremlins is a possibility, too. We'll probably watch Love Actually one night after the kids are in bed.

We'll also make some donations - local food bank, maybe a toy for Toys for Tots, maybe the local shelter. We haven't decided yet exactly where we'll donate. We also drive around and look at the lights & decorations. We'll go see the light display our city does each year, and maybe the ice sculptures.

I've also pretty much finished shopping for Christmas. We're not doing much for presents. We've been working all year on redecorating the kids' bedrooms. That is their main gift this year. I have ordered a book for each of them. I have also 'adopted' animals for each of us through the WWF. I did bucket adoptions for each kid, $50 each and each one will get a bucket with 3 plush animals, a picture, and an adoption certificate. For my husband and myself, I did $50 adoptions of just one animal each, which also come with plush animals, adoption certificates, and pictures. All I have left to do is wrap the books when they come. As far as presents for anyone outside our household, we either aren't giving any or we're making them. I'm still undecided on that.

On Christmas Eve, after the kids go to bed, I will hide the plush animals around the house. On Christmas morning, we'll do a safari to find all the animals. I think the kids will enjoy that. I've also decided that our Christmas dinner will only include finder foods. I don't know why, it just sounds fun. As far as I know, Christmas will be pretty low-key for us this year.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Changes, again (shocking I know)

I had completely forgotten about a conversation that Jay & I had some weeks back, in which we decided to drop the Terms for his school year. When Dea was younger, there were no time limitations on her studies. I planned out the work for the year, with an estimation of how long we'd spend on each, but it was all very flexible. I was still planning on being flexible with the time we spend on things, even with the year planned into 3 Terms of 15 weeks each. However, Jay sees the Terms as limits and it stresses him out that he might 'fall behind' schedule if he decides to dig deeper into a topic and spend extra time. So, we're dropping the Terms for his schooling. Dea will continue with her Terms, because she is doing all High School level work and therefore needs to get used to deadlines.

I will soon be updating the page for Jay's Curriculum to reflect our changes & showing all the work to be done in each subject.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Secularizing Curriculum

Being a Secular Homeschooler can be a bit tough sometimes. I know that many Secular Homeschoolers have issues with being in the minority, feeling left out & isolated. I really don't have a problem with that, since I have never fit in anyway & have always been in the minority.

No, my problem is with finding the right curriculum. You see, sometimes the best curriculum, for a specific subject, is a religious one. It's unfortunate, but it's the way things are. There really is such a limited selection of high-quality secular materials. So, some use religious materials and secularize them. Others stick only to secular materials, even if it means lower quality. Still others piece together their curriculum with whatever secular supplemental materials they can find or create it themselves.

I do a combination. There are some subjects for which I will not use a religious based curriculum, no matter what. The main ones are Science and Social Studies (I know that some homeschoolers have issues with the term Social Studies, but I consider it to be an umbrella term that encompasses History, Geography, & Cultural Studies). For Social Studies, we don't use much formal curriculum anyway. Geography is the only part of Social Studies for which we use formal curriculum. For History & Cultural Studies we have a plan, a formula, that we follow. We use a huge variety of supplemental materials, including some I create myself. For Geography, we use a formal curriculum as a spine & add tons of supplements. I think I do that because I feel that the Geography education I got in school was so lacking, I want to make sure that my kids get better. Geography, though, isn't an area that is difficult to find secular curriculum.

For Science, we don't use formal curriculum until high school level. Before high school level, our Science is done the same way our History is, I piece it together with supplemental materials (including some I create myself). Once we do use formal curriculum, I would rather choose a lower quality secular curriculum, that I can supplement to make more comprehensive & higher quality, than get a high quality religious curriculum that I will have to edit, omit things from, and supplement to make up for all the stuff I had to remove from it.

There are some subjects, though, where I am willing to secularize a religious curriculum, if it is a better fit & requires less tweaking than any secular material I've found. Math is one of these. Both my kids have used a non-secular curriculum for Math. Life of Fred is technically not a secular curriculum. However, it's not preachy and doesn't push religion. It doesn't have Bible quotes throughout. Plus, it made my daughter, the Math hater, enjoy Math & see that it really is useful in everyday life. That is something no other Math curriculum ever did. Mastering Mathematics isn't peppered throughout with Bible passages, but does have religion in it, especially in certain sections. However, it is a Mastery program, a true Mastery program (one that actually focuses on just ONE concept at a time). Most of the programs people call Mastery programs don't focus on mastery of just one concept, they introduce several concepts in each grade & cover them repeatedly in each grade until you have them, this is the way a spiral program works, not a mastery program.    The few others that actually could be considered mastery, I don't like. So, even though it is a religious program, it is the best program to meet our needs & my requirements. I would rather skip the religious comments, use something else for Graphing (it's most religious area), and supplement with the Key to series for Measurement & Metric Measurement (an area I think is lacking a bit in Mastering Mathematics, at least so far), than go with something that doesn't allow us to focus on one concept at a time or that teaches Math in a way we don't like.

In a foreign language program, I don't mind the occasional translation of a Bible passage or story. I also wouldn't mind the occasional religious reference in an English/Language Arts program. Maybe it's because so many of the people in our life are Christian, or maybe it's the cultural relevance, or the fact that we make sure they learn about all religions & allow them to choose their own religious path (or lack there of),  but I don't expect my kids to avoid all religious references. So, an occasional reference isn't a big deal to me. Constant references, Bible passages in every lesson, expecting you to graph things from the Bible, explaining that you should be frugal with money because that is what God wants you to do, those are the kind of things I don't want in our materials. Those are the things I will skip over. Those are the things that will cause me to not purchase a material, even if it means going with something less comprehensive or lower quality, if it is too pervasive to skip over.

What it comes down to is this: I homeschool to give my kids the best education possible. If the best material for a certain subject is a religious material, that I can tweak to fit our needs, I will use it & secularize it. I would rather have to tweak or supplement something than give my kids a half-assed education. I will not use a material that doesn't work for us, just because it is completely secular, if there is a religious material that will work better with just some tweaking or omitting the religious content. That would be doing my kids a disservice.

So, that's where I stand on secularizing curriculum.
 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Purging!

I am purging. By the end of the year, I hope to have completed a healthy purge, of many things, from my life. I am purging material possessions that are no longer needed or used. I am purging the many various subscriptions I signed up for, then forgot about, and have yet to unsubscribe from, that are cluttering up my inbox. I am purging online communities that I do not enjoy using & no longer find helpful, including blogs I no longer enjoy/have time for. I am purging projects, tasks, and work that I no longer have time, energy, money, etc to deal with. I am also purging people - people who bring or breed negativity, those who make disparaging/negative remarks to me about other people or about me to other people, those who have/need constant drama that they then dump on everyone around them, and those with whom maintaining a relationship is simply more effort than it is worth - in short, those who do not improve my life by being part of it.

If my purging impacts you, I am sorry. Please do not take it personally. If you gave me something that is being purged, just know that I am sending it to a home where it will get more use. If your blog is one that I purge, it is not meant as a n insult. If you are part of an online community I purge, know that there is no one person causing me to leave. If you are one of the people I purge, see it as a good thing. Most likely, you find the relationship as strained & stressful as I do.

Taking Offense

Don't you just hate it when someone takes offense to something you said, when you were not trying to be offensive?

This happens to me quite often. I am a very opinionated person. I have my opinions of things, and they often differ from the opinions of everyone else around me (and often differ from the so-called 'experts' on the topic). I also have a tendency to get very passionate about things that I care about and my view of things. I can also be rather competitive & stubborn. I mostly stay away from debates with people because of these reasons. I offend enough people just by voicing my opinions, debating them just makes it more likely that I will offend. I've learned that people can only be offended by you so many times before they really don't like you.

Once, I was talking with some friends, and a local temp agency came up. This temp agency was very near the office where I worked. From my desk, I could see the people show up at the agency looking for work. Many of them looked unwashed & unkempt. So, in the conversation, I had stated that were I in charge of hiring, I would not be likely to hire someone from that temp agency. I happen to believe that you should put your best foot forward, be clean, well-dressed, and well-groomed when looking for a job. If you don't respect yourself enough to bathe & brush your hair before going for an interview, why should the interviewer believe you will be responsible & put the job as a high priority? I mean really, if the interview wasn't a high enough priority for you to jump in the shower & do a load of laundry, it's not likely that the job will be important enough for you to do those things regularly. Anyway, one of the people in the group I was talking with got very angry at me. Apparently, she used that temp agency. So, since I had commented that most of the people they dealt with looked unwashed & unkempt, she took that as a personal attack on her. Now, I didn't mean to offend her. I had no way of knowing that she used that agency, and I had not said that the agency only dealt with dirty people. However, that was exactly what she took from it. I still stand by what I said. People don't hire you if they need to spray air freshener the second you leave the room. You would think that the temp agency, in order to uphold their reputation, might mention something to to those who come in looking like they haven't had a bath in a month.

Ok, the point of that story was to illustrate how easy it is to offend someone with no malice intended on your part. Trying not to offend someone online is even more difficult than in person, especially when you don't know the person in real life. You don't know the person's situation, history, personality, etc. So, it's very easy to say something, meaning no harm, and accidentally offend someone.

I have offended people by giving my opinion on curricula. I have offended people by telling a story from my childhood & saying that I had been bothered by my parents' belief that I was stupid enough to believe the ridiculous lies they told me (apparently, by stating how I had felt as a child, I somehow insulted the intelligence of every child in the world who believes in Santa). I have offended people by stating that my standards & expectations are different from theirs, not better, just different.

I don't voice my opinion to cause offense to others. I don't say what's on my mind in an attempt to hurt other people or make them feel inferior, insecure, etc. When that happens, it really isn't the intended outcome. When I voice my opinion, it is just that - my opinion. When I say what I think about something, it is what I think, based on my experiences. I fully understand that others see things differently than I do. We each have our own experiences, our own opinions, and we need to be allowed to voice them without someone jumping down our throats because their opinion differs.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Quick update

Last week, Dea was on break between terms and I was sick most of the week. Jay got very little school done, since I was sick.

This week, Dea started Grade 8 Term 2. Her courses this term:
English - Still doing her online Writing course & will do another online Writing course when done with this one. Continuing with AAS to help with her mild Dyslexic symptoms. Continuing with Easy Grammar, since the online Writing course has very little Grammar. Literature - Myths & legends from several cultures, including Ancient civilizations, American Indian cultures, and American Tall Tales. She will also be reading Beowulf & watching at least one movie version of it and Eaters of the Dead & watching The 13th Warrior.
Latin - continuing with Oxford LatinCourse
History - Ancient Civilizations: A Comparative Study. This is a course that we designed together.
Algebra - Continuing with the textbook we borrowed from my sister
Computer Programming - continuing with Logo Adventures when/if wants to
Spanish - Continuing with Tell Me More

So far, she's doing her work & enjoying it.

Jay has finished AAS Level 1 & has started Level 2. He has finished his Logic Safari book. He is continuing with all of his subjects except Logic. We had tried having Dea & Jay do Logo Adventures together, but that didn't work out. They rarely did it and fought whenever they did do it. So, I have taken over doing his lessons in Logo again. He's moving rather slowly through Latin right now, but I'm fine with that as long, as he's learning it.

We didn't get a full day of school in on Wednesday and did no school on Thursday or Fri. There was a death in my husband's family on Wednesday. My husband came home early from work, and we simply weren't able to finish our work. Thursday nothing got done because Dea & my husband were at his parent's house and I was having a Fibro flare up, so was in too much pain to work with Jay. He spent the day reading, watching Mythbusters, and playing. Wednesday night, we also found out that my grandpa's dog died a few weeks ago, and Dea is rather upset about it.

Friday morning, my husband & I got up very early (ok, I didn't actually get up early, since I didn't fall asleep Thursday night) to be Maid of Honor & Best Man at the wedding of my sister & her fiance. It was broadcast live on the radio. It was a truly memorable experience and I am so honored to have been a part of it. My sister has never looked happier or more beautiful than she did during her wedding. I am absolutely thrilled for them. My brother-in-law is a wonderful man, a great dad, and makes my sister truly happy. She has been through a lot & deserves this so much.

After the wedding, we all went out to breakfast with the happy couple. Friday afternoon, we went to the library and then did our shopping. We picked up the 2-disc special edition Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows part 2. After dinner, we had family movie night, and watched the new movie.

So, that is a quick rundown of our week. Now, I have to go get ready for a funeral. It's not the best end to a week, and it sucks that the funeral is the day after my sister's wedding, but that's life for you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Double Standard

I don't often talk about just how awesome my kids are. I really just don't feel comfortable doing it, because so many people have a negative reaction to it. I know that their reactions are their problem, not mine, but I don't want that negativity associated with my very positive moments. I choose not to do it that often, so I don't have to deal with those who are incapable of being happy for us.

As a society, we tend to connect more over challenges than positives. It's easier to deal with our own shortcomings if we are around others who share the same challenges. Go to pretty much any homeschool forum. Look at the threads where someone has posted a challenge - child struggling in Math, Spelling problems, Writing woes, not yet reading, etc. There are tons of posts in these threads - advice, posts from others going through the same thing or who went through the same thing, commiseration. Now look at threads where someone is posting about an achievement - child reading on their own for the first time, good scores on standardized tests, portfolio assessment going well, child finally getting something they've been struggling with. These threads often have many less posts. A few people respond with congratulations, sometimes there are a couple of comments about how great homeschooling is. It's not uncommon for a thread about an achievement to have only one or two pages, while those about challenges may be up to ten or more pages. Some people will decide to start a 'bragging' thread inviting everyone to brag about their kids. These tend to have more posts than the average 'Yay! Look at what my kids did' thread, but often still have less than a challenge thread. This seems to say that talking about our kids accomplishments can be hard for all of us, whether they are average, above-average, or behind.

I find that it is especially difficult with kids like mine, though. People tend to react very negatively, sometimes violently, toward parents who talk about their Gifted or 2E kids. Not even bragging, though. Many people react negatively just to simple comments about what they're doing. I've been accused of bragging just for mentioning something my kids were studying, interested in, or had done that day/week.

It's a double standard. Parents of average kids can talk about what their kids are doing and brag about their kids' accomplishments. Parents of kids with disabilities are pretty much expected to brag on their kids when they do something cool. Parents of Gifted or 2E kids, though, that's another story. People don't even want to hear about the regular daily stuff of the Gifted, much less the outstanding things.

Anyway, this is my blog. So, I will talk about my kids if I want to. I appreciate those who read this blog, and haven't experienced much negativity here. I do still sometimes post warnings, though, in an attempt at being proactive about the negativity that could ensue. This is one of those times. I don't lie about my kids. I don't exaggerate their accomplishments or abilities. My kids are NOT average.

I will not tolerate negative comments here. I will not allow any comment that questions my honesty. I will not allow any comment that is negative toward either of my kids. I do not post to start a pissing contest. I just want a place to mention things that make me proud of them, things they are doing or have done that I think are just great, without other people being jackasses about it. So far, I have not had to deal with this kind of thing here, and I hope that continues. I deal with this kind of crap enough at other places. Quite honestly, I've dealt with this stuff since long before I had kids, being 2E myself. It's been over 2 1/2 decades of dealing with other people's issues, prejudices, and doubts, etc. It's so damn irritating as a child or teen to have adults (family, teachers, etc.) doubt that you can do something because they can't do it or their kids can't do it. Being constantly accused of lying, when you are being totally honest, is annoying as hell. Being the mother of 2E kids, having other people call you a liar or become vicious when you talk (completely honestly, at that) about your kids, is quite frustrating.

These things are a big part of the reason that I don't post as much about our schooling as I would like. However, I plan to change that. This blog should be my haven, the one place I can say anything I want, talk about anything my kids do. So, I am going to try to talk  more about my kids & how amazing they are. I am so damn tired of this stupid double standard.

I know that there are people who don't believe me when I say my daughter would be doing Trig this year, if she hadn't put up such a fight about doing Math. Or that my son, who is 7 & in 2nd grade, consistently reads books at a 5th & 6th grade level. Or that my daughter was reading at a high school level in 3rd grade. Or that my son can multiply, add, and subtract any positive numbers you give him, including decimals but excluding fractions & percents, and is currently mastering long division. I honestly don't care that some people don't believe me. I do feel that those people need to keep their opinions to themselves, though. If you think I'm lying when I talk about my kids, don't read my posts. However, unless you have proof that I'm lying, you don't get to challenge my honesty.




Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

We tend to eat a bit less healthy at Halloween. I'm big on balance and allowing anything we enjoy eating, as long as it's in moderation. Since we eat pretty healthy most days, I don't worry much if holidays have some less healthy foods. Here are the Halloween themed foods we've had this year:

Bloody popcorn:
None of us react to red food dye, so I mixed some into the butter before pouring it on the popcorn. Then, I put some food dye on a paper towel & wrapped it around my finger. When I carried the kids their bowls of popcorn, with the paper towel wrapped around my finger, I said "I guess some of the the blood from cutting my finger ended up in the popcorn. You guys don't mind, do you?" They responded with "Of course not! After all, we are vampires." Not quite the reaction I was looking for. It was a fun treat while we watched a movie, though.



Broiled mummy fingers:
Mini sausages, chopped bacon, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, and a sprinkle of brown sugar.




Minotaur brains:
Steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce (with a little red dye in the sauce)


Fried maggots with dragon eyes:
Fried rice, sliced jumbo black olives, and halved fresh mozzarella balls (cherry-sized)



Blood Punch:
A 2-Liter or 7Up mixed with a bottle of Pomegranate Juice

We also had zombie flesh tacos, but I didn't get pictures of those. The tacos were made with thin sliced meat instead of ground meat.

Here's our pumpkin, we still need to roast the seeds:


We don't Trick-or-Treat, but we do dress up. We did spooky Mad Libs and played Harry Potter Scene It. The kids jumped out from behind a tree to scare passing cars. The kids will be going to bed soon, and tomorrow all the Halloween specific decorations come down.


Happy HALLOWEEN/SAMHAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!