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


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.