Sunday, December 30, 2012

The oh so Joyous Holidays

The holidays didn't go exactly as planned. The restaurant Jay picked for his birthday dinner closed early that day. He chose IHOP as a backup once we got to the original place & found it closed. The eggs were undercooked & my bacon & my husband's steak were overcooked. My crepes were fantastic, though. Jay & Dea loved their pancakes, which was good. It wasn't the plan, and it wasn't great, but Jay enjoyed his birthday dinner.

We ended up ordering pizza for our Solstice dinner because I wasn't feeling up to cooking. I got that damn respiratory virus everyone else just got over. So, for Solstice, Christmas, and Jay's birthday, I could barely breathe & felt like crap.

We did our Christmas, just us & the kids, on Christmas Eve. We opened presents & looked through our stockings in the morning. Then, my husband headed off to my sister & brother-in-law's house to help my brother-in-law work on their car. He took Dea & the dog with him.

My husband got into a fight, kind of, with my brother-in-law's brother & his wife. They posted a video of their kids performing on Facebook & asked my husband to take a look at it. He did & then he commented on it. He said that they did a good job. He then added a little friendly advice, that one of them would play more fluidly once he relaxed more, and the parents didn't take kindly to that. They deleted the comment & sent him messages, from both of them, chewing him out for criticizing their child. He wasn't rude, disrespectful, or nasty in his comment. They both just seriously overreacted. All they really wanted was praise for their kids. They wanted everyone who watched to tell them how great their kids are. My husband, a musician, did say they were good & was just being honest in his added advice. It wasn't meant to be an insult to the kid, but that's how they took it. Then, after chewing him out for his comment, they unfriended both of us.

On Christmas Eve, we got a Christmas card in the mail from my husband's sister. I wrote a whole post about that one (will be posted soon), so I won't go into detail here. Let's just say it didn't make for a great holiday.

We were going to have cheeseburgers for dinner on Christmas Eve, but the meat smelled funny. So we had stuffed shells in a meatless tomato sauce, broccoli, corn, and waffle fries. My husband & Jay didn't like the cheese mixture in the shells. I bought them pre-made & frozen, only making the sauce & heating the shells (I really didn't feel up to cooking, due to being sick). So, it's not like it was an insult to my cooking or anything, but it would have been nice if everyone could have enjoyed the meal.

Throughout everything that went wrong, I did my best to relax. I didn't expect the holidays to be perfect, but calm & relaxing would have been awesome. I am trying to be more positive, so fought hard to stay relaxed & see the bright side of things as one thing after another went wrong. With most of it, it was pretty easy. I don't care what my husband's sister thinks of me, so am not bothered by the current thing with her. I am bothered by its effect on my husband, though, and wish I could do something to make it easier for him. I am also not bothered by the unfriending on Facebook. I have spent many years dealing with petty, immature behavior from various family members (along with a serious dose of crazy from many family members), so adding some more petty, immature behavior isn't a big deal. I do feel bad about Jay's birthday dinner & our Christmas & Solstice dinners, though. I will have to try harder to make sure things go as planned for holiday & birthday meals next year.

Christmas day was fantastic. Yes, I was still sick, but we had a great day anyway. We did Christmas with family. They aren't technically related any more, it was at the home of my ex-step-mom, but we still consider them family. My dad is on wife three. We spent Christmas with wife 2, her husband, and the members of her family that live here. She & my dad divorced shortly after Jay was born, but we have maintained contact throughout that time. I truly enjoy spending time with them, and have never stopped thinking of them as my family. We had a great time. We opened presents, ate good food, played games, sat & talked. It was just such a nice, fun day. The only problem I had was the recurring issue of our dog & one of her dogs not getting along. It was so great to have a day where nothing went wrong.

Days after Christmas, we had our last Christmas party. It was Christmas at my grandpa's with my mom's side of the family. There was some drama, as usual. There was some tension, as usual. There were issues, as usual. There was insanity, as usual. However, much of the insanity was directed at other people, instead of at me, which was nice. It ended up being a rather enjoyable evening. I got to see many of the people who matter to me. I got to hold my cousin's baby, she is gorgeous. My kids were fairly well behaved & weren't among the children who got screamed at to shut up by my mother. Much of the drama was understated, as well, which is quite uncommon in our family. It is usually out there, front & center, loud, and obvious to all. It was still fairly obvious, but much quieter & low-key than usual.

Honestly, the only thing that would have made my holidays better is seeing my dad. We got a card, an ecard, a box of presents, and a few emails. I would really have loved to see him, though.

Well, my holidays are over. I am going to spend this next week focusing on getting the house clean, holiday decorations put away, and making sure everything is set for school next week. I hope you all had wonderful holidays! If you celebrate New Year's Eve, I hope that is also a fantastic & safe celebration.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Break Time!

We're done with school & ready for a break! Dea has finished 8th grade, pretty much. She's doing an Anatomy & Physiology course through Universal Class, to make up for not passing the one we planned. I told her she has until Jan 7th, when we start up again. If she has finished it by then, with an 80% or higher, I'll add it to her transcript. With the possible exception of adding another course to her transcript, I am done with her 8th grade year. So, I'm making sure we have everything set for 9th. I'm pretty sure we do, but I will go over it all once more just to be certain.

As for Jay, he still has a few months left of 3rd. I've been spending a lot of time planning out details for his 4th grade year. With the budget being so small next year, I have to work so much harder to make sure he will be getting as good an education as he has been getting. It takes a lot of planning, searching, & creativity, but I will make sure his education does not suffer one bit from this budget cut.

Anyway, instead of doing a regular Week in Review post, I thought I'd give a general update on where he is right now. So, here goes.

We'll start with what he has finished:
LOF Decimals & Percents
LOF Fractions
Perfecting the Point (Mastering Mathematics Decimals & Percents)
Finishing Fractions (Mastering Mathematics Fractions)
Logic Safari 2
Key to Measurement bk 1, 2, 3
Key to Metric Measurement bk 1, 2
Science: Meteorology
Science: Water
History: Middle Ages & Renaissance
Word Winks
LFC Primer A - started last year, but finished last 10 chapters or so this year

Of course, he still has plenty to do. He's more than halfway done with EG3 & EG4. He's working in LFC Primer B. He might not finish it this year, but it's fine if it runs over to next year. We've started AAS4. He's working in FTD, the next book in the Stack the Deck series for Writing. We've barely started on Geology. He'll be starting Pirates & Explorers after the break. We've watched all the Signing Time dvds, and moved onto some other ASL dvds from our local library. We'll continue with dvds from the library, possibly doing some more than once (as review), to finish out the year. Basically, there is not a single area where he has fallen behind schedule or that I am concerned about.

This last few weeks, we've done very little school. They caught a cold. The cold turned into croup for Jay. Then, Jay got a sinus infection & Dea managed a double ear infection. Then, we got hit with a stomach bug! Both kids got the stomach bug, as did I. My husband finally had to take a day off last week because he got the respiratory virus the kids had & he felt awful. So, it has been difficult to get school done through the coughing, vomiting, pain, and fighting over the only bathroom. For the next two weeks, we are on break. I won't post much, if at all over our break. We have the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Jay's birthday to celebrate over this break. Plus, I've got prep for Dea's 9th and planning for Jay's 4th to do still.

Oh, I did figure out what Jay will be doing for Math after the break. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he will play online Math games for 30 minutes. Tuesday and Thursday he will do practice problems on Khan Academy for 30 minutes. He will watch videos on MathTV every day. He loves that site & has already started watching the videos. I told him to start at the beginning, with Basic Mathematics, and go through them in order. He will also watch a few videos from Art of Problem Solving each day. He also enjoys these videos. He still has 3 Key to books left, and will be doubling up on those, doing 2 pages a day. Plus, I have scoured our library catalog for fun Math books for him. I've got a list of ones that I think he'll enjoy. I did try to find ones that aren't too young for him, but it's difficult to tell without seeing them. We'll be picking up several each week for him to read. That's the plan. Hopefully, it will be enough for him until we get the next three levels of LOF for next year. He'll start Elementary Physics as soon as it gets here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pre-Break Eval

Our Christmas break is fast approaching. Just prior to planned breaks, I assess how things are going. Actually, I assess regularly throughout the year, especially whenever something needs changing. I actually plan to evaluate prior to planned breaks, though. At these times, I look at not just what isn't working, but also what is. I generally do it internally. I don't bother with formal assessment, writing it down, etc. I just do it mentally. That works for me. This time, though, I thought I'd give you all a peek into my thoughts. I don't separate it as what is working, what isn't working, and what needs to change. Instead, I just go through subject by subject, evaluating each program, plan, etc., see how they are working, and decide what, if any, changes should be made.

I'll start with Dea. She is finishing up 8th grade & will be starting 9th when we start back up in January. This will make her schedule even more drastically different from Jay's. There are no major 'moving into high school' changes, since she started high school level work years ago. So, it's just normal year end evaluation.

Schedule: Letting her have full control over her own schedule has obviously not worked. That is why it took her a year and a half to get through 8th grade. So, we have worked together to plan a new schedule for next year. She will still have say in her schedule and will take over more control as she is ready, but she won't have full control.

Grammar: We used Easy Grammar Ultimate series this year. I knew she didn't love it, but figured not many people really love Grammar, so I wasn't concerned that it wasn't her fave. As long as there hadn't been tons of complaints about it, I didn't see any reason to change. Well, this year I got tons of complaints. I guess she finally got tired of it. This is slightly inconvenient, since I had already purchased the next level for next year. We will be changing programs, though. I don't know what we'll be using at first. I won't be getting the new program until I purchase for the next year, which will probably be in February. So, I need to find something to use prior to that showing up. When I purchase for Jay's next year, I will be getting Giggly Grammar for Dea.
Writing: She did two writing classes, through Universal Class, as the Writing portion of her English this year. This was okay. I don't feel the classes are especially challenging or thorough. However, they did have one aspect that was vastly more important this year, someone else grading her writing assignments. She gets seriously overemotional & takes any criticism from me as a personal offense.When someone else critiques her writing, she is fine & accepts whatever they say with grace. I would prefer a better Writing class, so next year she'll be doing one at Saylor.
Spelling/Vocab: We didn't do anything formal for these this year. In fact, we tend to go back & forth between formal study & life for these. Next year, we'll be putting a little more focus on Vocab. I think it will mainly be through games, and continuing to look up unknown words when she comes across them, of course. For Spelling, we are going to start working through All About Spelling, but only reading the lessons together & reviewing with the cards. I think she needs a little refresher on Spelling rules, and AAS will giver her that.
Literature: She typically loves Mythology, which was the theme of our Literature selections this year. So, I thought she'd enjoy the choices. However, she really did not enjoy reading The Iliad, The Odyssey, or The Lord of the Rings. I don't know if this was her natural dislike for anything she is being required to read or if she just legitimately didn't enjoy the books. She helped to pick out the books for next year, so hopefully there will be no issues.

Math: This year, she used the book my sister had from the Algebra course she took for college. That worked fine for her, though we haven't had a lot of luck with textbooks in the past. For Geometry next year, we're sticking with the more traditional textbook approach, which will hopefully continue to work. Maybe she has finally gotten past the desire for her Math to be fun and is finally more appreciative of thorough & understandable.

Science: She had planned to do both Anatomy & Physiology and Intro to Psych this year. However, she never even got started on Psych. So, we're moving that to next year. She hasn't been doing well with the A&P. In fact, I told her it was not going on her transcript because of the total lack of effort she has displayed & the lack of work she has to show. So, she has decided to take an A&P class on Universal Class instead of finishing the planned course. If she finishes before we start up again in January & finishes with an 80% or higher, I'll put it on her transcript. I think the problem was mainly that she was expecting it to be a lot more fun.

History: I think the main problem here was the schedule. If she had been forced to stick to a strict schedule, I think she would have done better work. Luckily, that will be changing next year.

Latin: She has, again, started Oxford Latin. I don't think there is anything wrong with the program, and I don't think it is a bad fit for her. I think her only problem is that she did not specifically choose Latin as a language she wanted to learn, so she does her best to not learn it. There really isn't anything we can do to fix this, unless I let her drop Latin. I really want her to study Latin, though.

Well, that's really all that she was supposed to do this year. I think the most important thing is for us to take care of the scheduling problems.

Okay, now onto the eval for Jay's school year. He still has a few months left to his 3rd grade year.

Math: Mastering Mathematics has worked for him for years, and this year has been no exception. Of course, he'll be done with it before we take our Christmas break, which means I need to find something to fill the gap.
I was pretty sure he'd like LOF. It moves fast. It doesn't waste time on massive amounts of review & repetition. It's fun. I figured he enjoy it. Luckily, I was right. He has done quite well with LOF this year. As with Mastering Mathematics, it will be done before our Christmas break, so I need to find something to fill the gap for it also.
The Key to series has worked great for measurement & metric. He will continue with these books until he has finished them, which won't be before Christmas break.
He had asked for more story problems, which was why I bought the Tall-Tale Math books. He isn't really enjoying them, though. The first section is review & has no actual story problems. The rest of the books, while there are some story problems, aren't really interesting to him. He had taken a break from them a little while ago. I thought about having him do more from them after Christmas break, to help fill the gaping hole finishing 2 programs will leave. I might do that, but am still unsure.

Language Arts:
Writing: We've been using the Check the Deck series, and he really enjoys it. I like that it is thorough and incremental. It is a program we will definitely continue with. Unfortunately, we'll be taking a break from it for 4th, due to budget cuts.
Spelling: He has been really enjoying using AAS. We will definitely continue with it.
Grammar: He has been using Easy Grammar. He seems to enjoy it, and we will not be making any changes to Grammar after the break.

Latin: He is still enjoying Latin for Children, and we will not be making any changes here, either.

ASL: He has finished all the Signing Time DVDs, as well as a few others we found at the library. I hope to continue using DVDs we find at the library to finish out this year.

Logic: He has enjoyed all the logic books we've been using this year. We'll continue using them to finish off the year. The Logic Safari book was too easy for him, but we will still be getting the next one anyway. He really enjoys the Logic Safari books, and since we only have one more, I figure it won't hurt to let him finish the series.

Muisc: He is still practicing drums & NAF, though not as often as I'd like. He hasn't yet started the music theory program. I will likely have him wait until next year to start that.

Art: He has been enjoying his Art this year. He likes all the materials I got for art work, and enjoys studying works of art. I see no reason to change how we are doing this.

Geography: He has been doing fine with Map Corner. Though, we haven't been very good about doing a state study. We need to work harder at doing the state study, or we'll never get done.

Science: There have been no problems here. He still loves the semi-formal, hands-on, fun way we do Science. There will be no changes to this after the break.

History: Again, there are no changes to make here. He truly enjoys the way we do History, and has enjoyed the subject matter greatly.

So, that's more or less what I've been thinking. There are only minor changes to Jay's schooling that need to take place to finish off this year. For the most part, everything we're doing & using has been a success.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Week in Review 12/9/12

This was not a full week for us. Last weekend, my husband went over to a friend's house. His friend's whole family was just starting to get over a virus. By Tuesday, both kids were sick. I'm pretty convinced that my husband brought the virus home to us. I had a migraine on Wednesday & Thursday. By Friday morning, Jay's virus had turned into a severe case of croup. He woke me up at 5am with that awful barking cough. We spent three hours in the ER. Later that morning, Dea had an appointment with her psychiatrist. So, very little work was actually done.

We're on quarantine until further notice. I am sleeping in my recliner, so Jay can have my side of the bed. I'm not sleeping much at night, since I hear him cough every time I start to doze off. Dea is quite upset with me since I haven't allowed her to spend time with friends or do her volunteer work this week. I just don't want to risk getting anyone else sick. The last time Jay got croup, I got a case of infectious laryngitis that came & went for an entire year, with doctors totally baffled as to what the hell was going on.

As of Monday, we will be doing school again, even if we don't get everything done. Jay can still do at least some of his school work, and I think we've watched too much TV already.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Week in Review Dec 2

Snow may not have hit us yet, but the colds & other viruses that come with this time of year have. By Thursday, both kids were feeling kind of yucky. They're ok, nothing seriously wrong with either. They're just a little congested, coughing a little, and sneezing occasionally. They also get an occasional headache, and the muscles in Dea's upper back have been a bit sore. So, our schedule has been a bit wonky.

Dea is almost done with her work for 8th grade (about damn time, too). She just needs to finish her Anatomy & Physiology and Grammar. Christmas break is coming up in just a few weeks, and we are all working toward finishing up a few things before then.

So, here is what Jay got done this week:

FF - p.136 - 145
LOFF - chap 28, 29, bridge
Meas3 - p. 23 - 28

Language Arts:
AAS4 - step 1
FTD - chap 1
EG3 - p.88 - 97

LFC B - chap 8

ASL - Getting Started in Signing section 3

Logic - MWW, FWL, Mensa Whodunnits

Art - charcoal drawing

Geography - online Geography games

Science & History - read books

Our deal with Dea, about her being in charge of her own schedule, was only for the year of 2012. We said that we would revisit it at the end of the year & decide if she had proven capable of managing her time efficiently or not. Well, she has not proven ready to take full charge of her schedule. So, I will be much more involved in her scheduling again, starting in January. I won't be planning her days for her, but with her. So far, we have come up with a weekly schedule for how often & on which days she will do each subject. Jay and I came up with a weekly schedule for his 4th grade year, too. We also came up with a daily schedule that should allow me to work with both kids on the subjects they need me, give them both time for independent work, give them both free time, and allow time for chores. This was just slightly challenging considering the number of courses & expected number of hours planned for each.
Since she'll be sticking to an actual schedule, I'll be including Dea's week in my Week in Review posts, starting in January.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Freaking Holidays!

Ok, this will be a bit snarkier than originally intended, at least at the start.

It is that time of year again. Do I mean Christmas time? Nope. Do I mean the joyful holiday season? Nope. Do I mean winter, with its snow, ice, and frosty mornings? Nope. I mean the time of year when some people do their absolute best to ruin the joyful holiday season for everyone else.

It actually started in October, when Christmas stuff was already in stores before Halloween! Why can't they wait until one holiday is over before throwing the next one or two in our faces? Wait until Halloween is over. Then, put out Thanksgiving stuff. After Thanksgiving, you can put out the Christmas stuff. There is no reason I should turn the corner & run into Christmas garland, ornaments, and tinsel when I was just looking at Halloween makeup and skull candle holders in the previous aisle.

Next comes the Black Friday sales & all the advertising that comes with them. I delete every single email I get that mentions Black Friday in the title, without reading them. We don't watch regular tv anymore, so at least we're spared the commercials. Flyers come in the mail & go directly into the recycling, without being opened. I have to skim over Facebook posts about them. Sale, sale, sale, sale, sale! That's all people can talk about.

Finally, once the Black Friday mess is over with, we get the utterly ridiculous "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" rubbish. Really? Do you people have nothing better to do with your time than over-analyze other people's holiday greetings? How freaking egotistical can you be to honestly believe that anyone who says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is intending it as an insult to you & your religion? Does it not occur to you that maybe, just maybe, you are the one being insensitive & insulting?

Honestly, I think many people say "Merry Christmas" because that is the holiday they celebrate, and most of us grew up saying "Merry Christmas." I don't think  most people who say "Merry Christmas" are doing it to be insulting to other religions. However, those who throw fits about people saying "Happy Holidays" instead, those who post messages on Facebook yelling about how "IT IS MERRY CHRISTMAS! NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!," I kind of think they do it out of spite & to insult others.

How can you honestly be offended by people trying not to be offensive? Oh wait, it's because they are trying to be inoffensive to people who believe something different than you, and you are intolerant. "Happy Holidays" is not an insult. It is not an offensive statement. People who say "Happy Holidays" are doing it out of respect for the fact that not everyone is Christian. They say it in an attempt to include everyone in their wishes for a wonderful holiday season. They say it because they don't assume that everyone else is the same religion & celebrates the same holidays. It is not an attack on Christmas or on Christianity. It is an attempt to include EVERYONE!

You do realize that there are other holidays in December, right? In fact, here's a list of them:

Advent - 4 weeks leading up to Christmas
St. Nicholas Day - December 6
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe - December 12
St. Lucia Day - December 13
Las Posadas - December 16-24, though now mostly condensed to just one night (usually Christmas Eve)
Yule/Winter Solstice - December 20-22
Soyaluna - December 22
DongZhi - December 22
Christmas - December 24 & 25
Chanukah - 8 days beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev
Kwanzaa - December 26 - January 1
Boxing Day - December 26
New Year's Eve - December 31

People may celebrate one or more of these holidays. Would you prefer that someone go through all of them, instead of just saying "Happy Holidays," to make sure they have covered them all and aren't offending? Oh, that's right. You don't care if they leave out all the others, as long as they say "Merry Christmas" because Christmas is the only that matters, right?

Some of those holidays listed are cultural, though most are religious. Those of us who say "Happy Holidays" say it to include all of those holidays, even those we don't celebrate. Some of us realize that a holiday isn't  unimportant, just because we don't celebrate it. When I say "Happy Holidays," I say it because I actually do respect every person's right to their own religious beliefs & their right to celebrate whichever holidays they choose. I say "Happy Holidays" because I don't assume every person I meet celebrates Christmas. I say "Happy Holidays" because I celebrate multiple holidays in December. I say "Happy Holidays" because I want everyone's holiday(s), whichever one(s) they celebrate, to be happy! I don't say it to insult or offend anyone, and I don't know anyone who does.

I also don't care if you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." If you want to say "Merry Christmas," that's fine. Just make sure that it is sincere and not you trying to make some point about how holiday greetings should be said. What I do find offensive, though, are posts on blogs, Facebook, etc. complaining about people saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I find it offensive that so many people refuse to acknowledge that there are other holidays in December, holidays that are just as important, even if they are less commercialized. Stop taking people being respectful and trying to include everyone as some kind of attack on you. You are not the center of the universe! Your religion is not the only one (it's not even the only major one)! The holiday you celebrate is not the only or most important holiday in December! Get over yourself!

By the way, since only Christians seem to have an issue with this topic (I have never heard/seen someone complain that someone said "Happy Holidays" instead of "Happy Chanukah" or "Blessed Yule," etc.), let me remind you of something. Your religion teaches tolerance & acceptance of other people, their cultures, and their beliefs. So, maybe you should stop being so freaking hateful, self-centered, intolerant, and disrespectful to everyone who isn't exactly like you.

Exploring Genres: November: Classics

This one was actually fairly difficult.  I wanted to keep in mind books we would be reading soon. Dea has some classics on her list of books for English next year. We're including required reading in Jay's Language Arts next year, and the list includes some classics. Plus, there are also the historical fiction we have planned for them next year. So, we wanted to stay away from the ones we have planned for next year. Since I'll be reading the books just before or with the kids, I didn't want to read them myself, either. Plus, I just wasn't in the mood for reading classics the month. Life has been so stressful, I am really just in the mood for quick, easy, fluff.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh

The Scarlet Letter

Poet of the Month: November: Yeats

Yet again, our library is sorely lacking in the works of this month's poet. They did have one book, though.

The Yeats Reader


We celebrate Advent in our own way. We haven't yet done the wreath, candles, and weekly reading of the Nativity, though we do read the Nativity story each year & plan to get (or make) an Advent wreath. We use it as a way to keep the Christmas season from becoming stressful, overwhelming, & making us not want to celebrate. We read Christmas stories/books, watch Christmas movies, donate to local organizations, do fun, family activities, and keep the focus on what Christmas is to us & not on the commercialization we're bombarded with starting before Halloween. So, the whole month of December is basically a celebration of Christmas, for us. We also celebrate the Winter Solstice. However, that is generally more of a low-key thing, since there seems to be a shortage of Solstice themed movies, shows, and books.

A Season of Gifts
A Child's Christmas in Wales
Christmas Treasury
The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas
The Gift of the Magi
The Family Under the Bridge
A Christmas Carol
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
T'was the Night Before Christmas
The Christmas Box

A Christmas Carol
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Polar Express
A Very Merry Pooh Year
Seasons of Giving
The Bishop's Wife
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Frosty the Snowman

Drive around looking at Christmas decorations/lights
Go the the Festival of Lights our city does each year
Christmas Scrabble
Holiday Word Puzzles
Buy food to donate to the food bank
Read holiday poems
Learn some Christmas Carols
Make Christmas & Solstice decorations

We haven't actually decided on Christmas or Solstice dinner, yet. All I know fir certain is that the meals will be simple. Our year has been pretty stressful and we've had some financial struggles. So, we have decided that our goal for all the holidays this year is simplicity.

In keeping with our goal of simplicity, we went very light on gifts this year. The kids are each getting 2 things, and my husband & I are each getting one. I also picked up some candy for our stockings. Not one things cost more than $10. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get my husband more pieces for his Nativity scene, but I will get him one next year. The kids aren't upset at all about not getting much. Luckily, we have some pretty un-materialistic kids.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Going it alone

According to popular belief, you cannot homeschool without a whole community to help you. You must join a local homeschool group, be part of online forums, join play groups, have tons of other homeschoolers as friends, etc. One of the first things listed on almost every single list of 'How to Homeschool' is 'find a group.'

I guess this makes some amount of sense. Humans are, theoretically, a social species. As a society we have been trained to not think for ourselves and to follow in the footsteps of others, instead of taking our own route. So, we seek out those who went before so we can learn from them & follow their path. We often feel safer & more sure of ourselves if we have someone to look to that has been where we are now or is currently taking the same journey. For those reasons, it kind of makes sense to find a group, online or in real life, to join.

I, however, am done with groups. I have spent some time with a local group, only to decide I didn't want to join (for several reasons). I have joined several online forums/groups only to leave them again. I've tried making friends with local homeschoolers, only to find that we had nothing in common except being homeschoolers. Basically, in over 8 years of homeschooling, I have not found a single group that I want to be part of.

I've stayed on forums & other online groups, sometimes for years, before finally getting tired of dealing with them & leaving. I have never found a place where I truly fit in. On Secular boards/forums, there is often a condescending attitude about all religions & a belief that Atheists are more intelligent than anyone who could believe that there is something out there greater than we are. On other boards, that are 'inclusive,' there is a feeling that they are only inclusive if you are some brand of Christian or can leave your lack of Christianity at the door. Some boards are mainly unschoolers & relaxed homeschoolers. These are often full of criticism for anyone who 'forces' structure on their kids, even if the kids require structure to be able to function. They also seem very condescending to anyone who 'forces' their kids to learn anything that is not the child's choice. There are boards that are mostly school-at-home types. These are often full of ridicule & criticism for anyone who doesn't plan every second of the day, uses informal methods, or does not use textbooks & workbooks for every subject starting no later than 1st grade. There are boards that have constant pissing contests over who has the smartest kid or who is the best homeschooler. Entire threads, usually ones that started with someone asking for help, end up devoted to people trying to one up each other, often exaggerating or outright lying in order to do so. There are boards where people do nothing but complain. There are boards full of people who have diagnosed their kids (as in no professional involved, just mom's usually uneducated opinion) with everything from Aspergers to OCD to ADHD to Autism to being Profoundly Gifted to SPD to Bipolar and more. Many of these people claim that they won't take the child in for a professional diagnosis because they don't want the child to be 'labeled.' I truly believe that most, if not all, just don't want to find out that their child is average.

Basically, I've stayed on these forums for ideas on curriculum or for curriculum reviews & opinions. However, I simply don't feel it is worth it to have to deal with all the crap that comes with it. I am respectful of religions & don't care to be in an environment that isn't. I am respectful of of the various methods of homeschooling & don't care to be in an environment that isn't. I am tired of seeing people treat parenting & education as if they are competitive events. I am tired of reading posts that are obviously exaggerated or full of lies. I am tired of people diagnosing their kids with conditions they don't even understand, and then telling everyone that their kid has those conditions. There is a huge difference between the opinion of someone who is totally or mostly uneducated about a condition & the opinion of a professional who has spent years studying Psychology. I am tired of the disrespectful attitudes, the derision, the condescension, and the bullshit that so many homeschool forums/groups are full of.

So, I've sworn off all homeschool groups, both online & in real life. I mainly only wanted opinions & reviews of curriculum/materials and to find out about new curriculum/materials. I think I'll do fine with that without having to actually be part of any group. Most reviews & opinions I was finding were from places other than homeschool groups/boards anyway. I have found some new & interesting materials from posts on online groups/boards & am grateful for that, but I just don't think it's worth it anymore.

Part of it is my general anti-social attitude. While mankind may be a social species, I am not social. I have never fit in & gave up trying long ago. I much prefer to be alone than to be around those I can't be myself around. I also prefer solitude to dealing with other people's drama. I am very hermit-like and have become more so as I've aged. I simply no longer have the patience for people who are so busy trying to gain people's admiration, acceptance, and envy that they cannot be true, honest, and authentic. While I have met a few people on homeschool boards who seem to be authentic and who I like, the ones that annoy me far outnumber them.

Therefore, I am done with all homeschool groups. I follow a few homeschool blogs, though I never comment, just read. I will continue to follow those. That will pretty much be it for my interaction with other homeschoolers, aside from my own blog. I've never really gotten much support from any group I was part of; I wasn't there for support. So, I have really always 'gone it alone' on our homeschool journey. From now on, though, I will be truly alone in the homeschool community. I'm fine with that. Actually, I welcome it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Black Friday

I hate Black Friday. I do not participate in it. I did one year. My sister had a lot going on & asked me to go with her & my mom, so I could act as a buffer. I went, for my sister. I hated every second of it. We went to Starbucks to get coffee. I don't do Starbucks. I find them overpriced and really prefer the coffee I make at home. We went to several stores I don't shop at. It was freezing out, and I hate the cold. I wanted to punch the idiot that was standing in line outside Toys 'R' Us, with her infant, at 4 am, in freezing temperatures. I will never go again. I only went as a favor that time. You couldn't pay me to do it again.

I have photosensitive eyes. They have gotten more sensitive as I've aged. This makes driving in the dark very difficult for me. I have to wear sunglasses when in a car at night, because the headlights coming toward me hurt my eyes so much. It is dark when Black Friday sales start.

I hate crowds. I have never liked being in large groups of people. I feel claustrophobic in large groups. I like my personal space and hate when people invade it. Stores are seriously overcrowded on Black Friday. They are full of people with no concern for the personal space of others. You can't walk or move without running into someone. People standing in line leave no space between them & those in front of them, so nobody can cut in line. If I can feel your breath on me, you are too damn close & need to back the hell off before I hurt you. People ignore this basic courtesy on Black Friday.

I normally go to bed anywhere between 1 am & 4 am. I would have to go to bed early on Thanksgiving, so I could get up when I'd normally be heading to bed, to go shopping.

Did I mention that I'm not overly fond of shopping? I despise shopping for me. Shopping for other people is somewhat better, but I often would prefer to just get most people a gift card instead of having to pick something out for them.

In other words, I dislike every single aspect of Black Friday. There truly isn't a part of it that I enjoy. I will venture out to go grocery shopping, though I'm not fond of the excessive traffic, and contrary to what some have said, grocery stores are still just as busy as usual (the least where I shop). I refuse to set foot in any other kind of store on that day, unless absolutely necessary. So, while so many people I know are out shopping, standing in lines, freezing, getting knocked around, and fighting for the items they want to buy, I am at home, snuggled in my bed, happy & relaxed. I think it takes a certain kind of crazy to enjoy Black Friday shopping, and I have an entirely different kind of crazy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Week in Review 11/23/12

This week was a short school week, of course, due to the holiday. We took Thursday & Friday off because my husband had those days off work. Due to only doing school 3 days & holiday lack of focus, we skipped a few subjects that I prefer have more time & attention than we could commit this week. It's a good thing we went easy this week, as he had a horrible headache on Tuesday & did almost nothing. We skipped Geography, Art, Latin, ASL, Spelling, History, and Science. Thanksgiving was fantastic, fun, and relaxing. We played a few games (over 6 hours of them), watched a little tv, and ate delicious food.

FF: p.132 - 135
LOFF: chap 25 - 27
Meas3: p.17-20

Langauge Arts:
EG4: p.217 - 220 Punctuation test
FTD: chap 1

Logic: MWW, FWL, Mensa Whodunnits

Monday, November 19, 2012

Next Year Science & History

As I said in my posts about how I plan the school year, I don't usually plan out a complete list of library materials that I plan to use for these subjects. However, I am this year. With the massive budget cuts I'm making for this next year, I want to make sure I have everything covered. Plus, we were going to have spines for History & Science next year, a first for Jay. Anyway, I have been planning out lists of all the materials our library has that we may want to use. It's been a huge pain trying to figure out a level for most of them. Some we may end up not using, because I can't guarantee the level of the books, and therefore I may have picked a few that are too young. My other problem is that they don't all have descriptions, which makes it a little more challenging to decide if it is right for what we'll be studying.

Of course, I will still run into the possibility of needing to put them on hold because someone else has them or they are at the wrong location. I deal with that now, even without a list, though. I'm still unsure if I like this new method or not. I'm also unsure if it will turn out to have been a pointless or useful exercise.

I do think the plan is coming along nicely, so far. I have a list of over 200 books & videos/dvds I hope to use for History. I have just finished the list of materials I hope to use for Science, and it also is over 200 items long. So, we should have plenty of material. I still need to do a little more searching for websites for both subjects. It does suck that we'll have less labs & hands-on projects than usual, but we'll deal. I've come up with a few project ideas, but am hoping to come up with a few more.

Hopefully, I have some time this week to work on planning for next year. With having to cut & reorganize so much, I still have a bit of planning left. We're doing light school this week, skipping a few subjects, and taking a few days off, for Thanksgiving. With any luck, all that time off will be plenty to finish any planning for the upcoming school year for both kids (I think I'm done with Dea's 9th grade year, but will double check).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week in Review 11/17/12

This has been a long week. Let's start with Tuesday. Dea had an appointment with her therapist. At this appointment, we were informed that her current therapist is leaving & we're getting another therapist. Fantastic. We've been working with this one for less than a year. So thrilled that we are, yet again, being forced to switch to a new therapist. We're also told that we need to come back in on Friday, at a very inconvenient time, to meet the new therapist. Wednesday, we had to say good-bye to one of our cats. It was the oldest one, the one we had the longest. My husband had him before we ever got together. He hasn't been happy for a little while, now. He doesn't like the other cats or the dog (the cat, not my husband). So, he decided to show his displeasure by peeing everywhere except the litter boxes. After taking him to the vet to rule out medical issues and trying to correct the behavior, we finally decided it was time to let him go. My husband's sister agreed to take the cat. This is good because he will have run off the whole house (except the kitchen, where the chihuahuas stay) and will not have to deal with the stress of the other, younger animals harassing him. It was hard for us to say good-bye, though. It was a very tearful morning. Friday, we had yet another appointment with Dea's therapist. It was at a very inconvenient time & threw off the rest of the day. So, it was not a full week of school for us.

Jay finished his study of Water this week. We cut it short because much of what we were going to cover in this study will be covered next year in Marine Biology. He also finished AAS level 3. Last week, he finished CTD. This week, we didn't get to either Geography or Art, since we do those on Wednesday which was a really hard day.

FF: p.121-131
LOF Fractions: chap 21-24, bridge
Meas3: p. 12-16

Language Arts:
AAS3: step 27, 28
EG4: p. 207-216
FTD: chap 1

LFC B: chap 7

ASL: Getting Started in Signing section 2

Logic: MWW, FWL, Mensa Whodunnits

Science: watch dvd, read books, visit websites

History: read book

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Water Grade 3

This unit actually turned out to be even shorter than I had planned. It was going to include the differences between fresh & salt water and the animals that live in each, bioluminescence, and a review of the tides. However, he has decided to do Marine Biology next year, so that will all be covered then. It ended up being just a bit of review of surface tension, states of matter, the properties of water & what it can do.

Do You Know Where Your Water has Been?
Properties of Water
Why Why Why Are There Schools on the Sea?
Oceans & Seas
Survivor's Science in the Ocean
Diminishing Resources Water
Water: Opposing Viewpoints
The Solid Truth About States of Matter with Max Axiom
The Water Cycle

Science for Kids
Science Kids
States of Matter
States of Matter
States of Matter
The Water Cycle
The Water Cycle
Surface Tension
Surface Tension

Water: The Great Mystery (Netflix)

The 8 activities/demonstrations/experiments on water, in the Elements of Science kit

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Week in Review 11/9/12

I'm starting on this week's Week in Review post on Friday night. I'm rather proud of that. Lately, I haven't been very good about doing these posts at all, much less getting them done on time. It won't get posted until Saturday, but still.

Well, this hasn't been an exciting week. Really, not much happened. Dea had an appointment with the eye doctor & is getting glasses. The doctor said the prescription is really mild, even optional. We figure it's better to get them than risk her eyes getting worse because we didn't. Other than that, all that happened this week was Dea finishing her Algebra. She redid all the lessons she lost before the grades were entered, and then took her final (which she aced). So, onto Jay's school work.

Math -
FF: p.111 - 120
LOFF: chap. 17, 18, 19, bridge, 20
Meas3: p.3 - 11

Language Arts -
AAS3: step 24-26
EG3: p.197 - 203, punctuation test
EG4: p.205 - 206
CTD: chap 8 finished major writing assignment, is now done with the book
FTD: chap 1

LFC B: chap 6

ASL: Getting Started in Signing - section 1, chap 1 - 5

Logic: MWW, FWL, Mensa Whodunnits

Art: Leather work bookmark

Geography: MC - Bird Migrations

History - built castle

Science - read book, 8 activities from Elements of Science kit

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week in Review 11/5/12

I completely forgot to do this post at the end of last week. So, here's the Week in Review for last week. We took Wednesday off for Halloween. Halloween is a big holiday for us, and we always take off for it. We skipped ASL last week, while we decided on what we would use next. Since Jay does Geography & Art on Wednesdays, we skipped those last week, as well.

FF: p.97 - 110
LOFF: chap 14, 15, bridge, 16
Metric2: p.39 - 42 (finished
Meas3: p. 1-2

Language Arts:
AAS: step 23
CTD: chap 8
EG3: p.189 - 196

LFC B: chap 5 This was a review chapter, so we spent 2 weeks on it.

Logic: MWW, FWL, Mensa Whodunnits

History & Science: read books

Halloween was fantastic. The kids had a great time. We played pumpkin bowling & pumpkin darts. We played Halloween Scrabble, Halloween Bingo, and other games. We watched The Haunting. The kids dressed up. It was a fun day for all of us. After the day off, I kept forgetting we were in the middle of the week & kept thinking we should be doing Monday's work on Thursday.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

The plan for Thanksgiving this year is simplicity. We will be having a simple menu and simple entertainment. My husband doesn't seem to think my menu is that simple, though.

Grilled/Smoked turkey - we will get a few drumsticks & a turkey breast and hubby will either grill or smoke them
Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon or pancetta
Baked brie with artisan bread
Loaded mashed potatoes
Mushroom gravy
Corn on the cob
Cherry or apple pie
Spiced pumpkin angel food cake with citrus glaze

This is the original menu, decided on before I decided to scale back my holiday meals this year for financial reasons. So, I'm not sure what of this will get cut.

Thanksgiving Scrabble
Thanksgiving Bingo
Thanksgiving word puzzles (word searches & cryptograms) - found some online to print

Each November, we put up something dealing with what we're thankful for. This has included posters & an oil pastel cornucopia. We would then write what we were thankful for on the poster or on pieces of paper we then stuck to the cornucopia. The problem with that is that they always end up on the wall my calendar hangs on, meaning the calendar is taken down for the month. So, I've decided to go a slightly different way this year. I made us a Thankful Can. I took an empty oatmeal container, peeled off the label, and painted it. I cut a hole in the lid. Then, I cut several sheets of computer paper into pieces. I placed the pile of paper & the Thankful Can on the entertainment center. This way, everyone can get to it & add to it whenever they want. Plus, it's reusable, which is always a bonus. On Thanksgiving or at the end of the month, we'll go through & read all things for which we are thankful.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween! I hope you all had a great day yesterday. We did. We always take Halloween off school, since it's my favorite holiday. We took yesterday off & had a blast. We did Halloween Mad Libs. We played Halloween Bingo, with 3 sets of bingo cards, each a different theme (Halloween words, horror movie titles, & Stephen King books). The kids made mummy fingers & pumpkin brownies. I made bat wings. We had swamp water punch with a touch of toxic waste:

We had pumpkin bowling:

We had pumpkin darts (which was throwing knives, not darts):

Then, there was the great Pumpkin Massacre of 2012 - just look at that carnage:

We also watched The Haunting and played Halloween Scrabble, Scattergories, Wildcraft!, & Pass the Popcorn. We had a great day & hope you did, too!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Million Minute Family Challenge & Halloween

I posted previously about us participating in the Million Minute Family Challenge. We set a goal of 1000 minutes. We have passed that, and are currently at just over 1500 minutes. We would have far more, but I have set certain requirements as to what qualifies. I won't count any games that we're playing for school. I also won't count any that aren't being played by at least 3 of us. Tomorrow should up the amount quite a bit. Since it's Halloween, we're taking the day off school and playing games all day. Not all of our games will count, like pumpkin darts & pumpkin bowling. However, we plan to play several board & card games. It should be a really fun day. I've been working on preparing for days now. We have some word searches for down time. We've got Halloween themed Mad Libs. We've got a good sized pumpkin for knife throwing (pumpkin darts), and two pie pumpkins for pumpkin bowling. I started working on the food today. We'll play Halloween Bingo, Halloween Scrabble, Halloween Scrabble Slam, and some non-Halloween themed games, too. We'll also watch at least one Halloween movie. It should be a fun day, and we're all looking forward to it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Next Year

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have to cut next year's school budget by a large chunk. I will be buying materials for Jay for a few subjects. For Dea, I will only be picking up the new Grammar for her 9th grade year. When she finishes her 9th grade work, she can work on the 10th grade courses for which we don't need to buy materials.

I will be buying the next 3 levels of LOF - Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1, & Pre-Algebra 2. I don't think he really needs them, but I also don't think he needs to be doing Algebra in 4th grade, either. Especially considering how fast he speeds through Math, I would prefer to make sure we don't miss anything and give him a very solid foundation. At the speed he's going (he'll be starting those new LOF books as soon as they get here), he'll be doing Trig by 7th grade as it is. Plus, with a heavier focus in a few other subjects, I want to go lighter in Math. I will be buying LFC Primer C, because we do not want to take a year off in Latin. I will be buying Spelling, but only one level of AAS (level 5). I wanted to get 5 & 6, but we'll have to make it work with just one. I will be buying a few workbooks for Logic. Hopefully, they will last the year. I will be buying little to nothing for Science & History. For those subjects, we'll rely almost entirely on the library & Netflix.

I had planned to buy Joy Hakim's The Story of Science. Our library carries the books, so I thought I'd just borrow them. Then, I found out that 2 of the 3 books are Reference books, therefore can't be checked out. I don't understand this at all. Trying to plan out a History of Science course this late in the planning process, without a spine, and make it cohesive would be a lot of work that I simply don't have time for right now. So, we have decided to change the focus for the year. He will now be studying Dinosaurs, Herbology, and Marine Biology. I am now working on planning those. We won't be buying too many resources for Science, but I will see if I can pick up a few fun things. I don't know why, but I feel very strongly about having History & Science thoroughly planned for next year. I guess it's because I was planning on actually having spines for those subjects.

I won't be buying Easy Grammar for next year, but am planning to pick up some new books of Mad Libs. I think between Mad Libs & Latin, Grammar should be fine. I will also be incorporating more games into our days, games for Vocab & Spelling for a fun addition to Language Arts. We have every thing we need for Music. Art will be Art Appreciation for the year, and we have plenty for that. Since we always have art supplies on hand, he will get to do some hands-on Art. We already have the materials we need for Geography, so we're good there. For ASL, we'll either continue with free resources from the library or use The Joy of Signing, which we already have. Since he won't have a formal Writing program, I will just add writing assignments to his other subjects. We do have a few levels of Writing Strands still, so maybe I'll have him use that for the year. So, basically, I just need to figure out what materials we can use for History & Science. I have already come up with a good plan for History. I have found over 200 books & dvds from the library, Netflix, and what we have here. Plus, I've started a list of activities he can do for little to no cost. So, History is pretty well taken care of. Science is the only one left to really need work still.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week in Review 10/27/12

Let's get the school stuff out of the way first. We almost got a full week of work done. We skipped Geography, and he still hasn't start that Music theory program (we keep forgetting about that).

FF - p.81 - 96
LOFF - chap 10, bridge, chap 11-13
Metric2 - p.34 - 38

Lang. Arts:
AAS3 - step 21, 22
CTD - finish chap 7, start chap 8
EG4 - p.58 - 64, Verb Test & Cumulative Test (done with Verb section, moving onto Punctuation in EG3 next week)

LFC B - chap 5

ASL - I Want to Learn Sign Language vol 2

Logic - MWW, FWL, LS less 28, 29 (this is done now), Mensa Whodunnits

Art - Color Your Own Van Gogh

History & Science - read books

Friday was the best day of the week. Latin was Latin Bingo, and Spelling was Scrabble. The kids carved the Jack-o-Lantern. It was supposed to be a cat in front of a full moon, but, in the process of carving, the cat lost it's head, tail, and a foot. Using a knife & some toothpicks, I tried to turn it into an eye. It is either a cyclops' eye or the eye of Sauron, depending on who you ask. It doesn't look great, but it's better than nothing. We also made chocolate chip cookies. Dea got to go to her grandma's for the weekend. Jay watched Jaws for the first time. Some may think he's a little young for it (seeing as he's only 8), but he's a few years older than I was the first time I saw it. He loved the movie. He seemed a little scared once or twice, but mostly was just riveted to the screen. At the end, he was crying a little. I'm still not sure exactly why; all he would say about it was that the movie was kind of sad.

This week we played Wildcraft! for the first time. I bought it last year, but we haven't gotten around to playing it until now. It is a cooperative board game that teaches about the medicinal uses of some herbs. It's not a real comprehensive teaching tool, but it's fun, educational, and enough to get the kids more interested in using herbs medicinally. They get some exposure to the medicinal use of herbs because I am studying it & use them. They really enjoyed the game and have started asking more questions about using herbs.

Our house has been invaded by a giant centipede. Honestly, I haven't seen it & have no idea how big it is, but the kids say it huge. Today, we picked up some diatomaceous earth to kill it. We bought 2 bags so we could do inside & outside the house. It is safe to use around kids & pets, but will kill the nasty creepy crawlies. It should also get rid of the earwigs & silverfish, too.

One of our cats is sick. He has a urinary tract infection. One of the other cats just got over an infection, which required 10 days of liquid meds 2 times a day. I have to admit, I'm getting a bit tired of having to give cats medicine. This time we got pills, which are slightly easier than liquid, but we need to give them to him 2 times a day for 20 days.

While filling Jay's binder for next week, I realized a few things. One is that he will be almost completely out of Math by our Christmas break. Unless he slows down (which I doubt), he will be done with Life of Fred Fractions & Finishing Fractions by Christmas break. That will leave just Measurement, Metric measurement, and Tall-Tale Math (which he took a break from a while ago, because pretty much everything required fractions & he hadn't formally studied them yet), until we get the materials for next year. I could just let him go straight to Algebra. I don't doubt that he could it. I'm certain that all the Math in LOF Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1, & Pre-Algebra 2 (the three levels we plan on having him do next year) will be review, but I really wanted to give him a lighter year for Math in 4th. I would rather he do a year of fun review, with a program he loves, allowing time for everything he's learned to be cemented, than rush into Algebra and find out there's something we missed or something he still needs to work on. However, his current work isn't likely to last him til the end of 3rd. I really don't think the Meas, Metric, & TTM will last to the end of the school year, even if he waits until after Christmas break to pick up TTM again, especially since he's about to start Meas3. That means only 2 books left for each measurement series. Plus, he finished most of one of the TTM books & did some work from the other one, which means that combined there is maybe one full book of work between them. So, I'm going to have to figure out something for him to do to finish out the year.
The second thing I realized is that his Writing might not last the whole school year, either. He's in the last chapter of the first Writing book, which means he'll be starting the second one soon. The second book only has 6 chapters. If he works consistently, not taking days or weeks off in Writing, he will likely finish it before the end of the school year.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week in Review 10/20/12

I know. I have been horrible about doing these lately. This week wasn't exactly great for us. Our car died. Well, actually the transmission died. Anyone who knows anything about cars will know that is a very expensive issue. It is just one more unexpected, very expensive expense in a year that has been filled with them. In fact, things have been so tight for us this year that I have to cut the school budget for next year, by a huge amount. Luckily, we already have just about everything for Dea's 9th grade year, which will start in January. The only thing I don't have for her is the new Grammar program I planned to get. Unfortunately, it means that Jay's 4th grade year will require mostly free resources. I am working on replanning the year. We will still be buying materials for Math, Spelling, and Latin, but that's probably it. It means less projects & experiments than usual. It means less fun stuff. It means no formal Writing or Grammar. I will make it work, though.

Anyway, onto where we're at this week. With the car blowing up, my husband taking a few days off work (because of the car), and having to have people give us rides to all appts/errands, we did not get a full week of work done. We didn't do too bad, though.

FF: p.70 - 80
LOFF: chap 6 - 9
Metric2: p. 26 - 33

Language Arts:
AAS3: step 20
CTD: chap 7
EG4: p. 48 - 57

LFC B - chap 4

ASL: I Want to Learn Sign Language vol 1 & 2

Logic: MWW, FWL, LS less 27, Mensa Whodunnits

Art: Color Your Own Van Gogh

Geography: MC travel

Science: read a book, visited websites

History: watched documentary on Islam

Science & History are the subjects that took the biggest hit. We do those in the morning, which is when all the phone calls had to be made, the errands had to be run, and the appts were. So, mornings were very busy & we didn't get a lot done for Science & History. I was really just glad that we got anything done for them, considering how hectic & crappy the week was.

Monday, October 15, 2012

BzzAgent Review: Glade Expressions

As I've said before, I am a BzzAgent. Through BzzAgent, I have tried some awesome products. The most recent product has been Glade Expressions Fragrance Mist & Oil Diffuser. So, since I've been using them for a few weeks, I thought I'd share my opinion of them with you.

I'll start with the Fragrance Mist. I got the Fuji Apple & Cardamom Spice for this one. I love this scent. It is simultaneously familiar & different. This is because it is very reminiscent of apple & cinnamon, the usual combo, but the cardamom makes it a little different. I keep forgetting that it isn't cinnamon, until it is sprayed. The great look of the container makes it blend in so much more than a plain can of air freshener. You could easily hide it within plain sight. It is also insanely easy to put in a canister, so easy a child could do it. Plus, since you squeeze it to release the air freshener, instead of pushing on the top, you don't get that shot of air freshener on the tip of your finger or nail. The scent lasts a surprising length of time. The first time I sprayed it, I was astonished to note, about 30 minutes later, that the scent was still quite obviously there. I do have one issue with it, though. It didn't pass the bathroom test. We have four people in this house. One is a teenager. Two are male. We all share a single bathroom. We tried the Fragrance Mist in the bathroom, but it was not able to handle it. Like other air fresheners, it did not get rid of the odors, but merely tried to mask them. The result was not pretty smelling. However, it seems to work fine in other rooms of the house. We have cats & a dog, so pet odors are something we deal with. The Fragrance Mist does not seem to trouble handling them. So, while I wouldn't recommend it for bathroom use, I would recommend it for other rooms.

Now, onto the Oil Diffuser. I adore the look of this one. Ours is a brown bamboo, not white. The only start kit for the Oil Diffuser, that was available at the Walmart we got it from, was Pineapple Mangosteen. This is a nice tropical scent. I would prefer the Fuji Apple & Cardamom Spice for this time year. However, the tropical scent of Pineapple Mangosteen would be great for spring or summer. This one is also very easy to assemble and claims to last a full 30 days. I can't yet say if it lasts a full 30 days, but we've had it a few weeks & it is still going strong. The Oil Diffuser did pass the bathroom test. It doesn't prevent the odors, but does shorten the length of time for which they stay around. I enjoy being able to walk into the bathroom and smell the tropical scent, as opposed to the dirty laundry and other common bathroom odors. We normally use a candle for the worse offending bathroom odors, but young kids can't really light the candle on top of the cabinet after they make the room stink. This provides a child-friendly, safe way to deal with those odors.

Both are also decently priced and widely available. Plus, they have the added bonus of not bothering my very sensitive sinuses, as so many others do.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

So Frustrated

We've been working on building a castle. Well actually, we've been making the plaster bricks to build a castle. It has taken us a few months, because we could only do a few batches of bricks at a time, and only a few days a week. So, we finished the bricks and were ready to build the castle. The glue that came with the kit had solidified, so was useless. We tried using Elmer's, and that was pointless. The glue simply wasn't strong enough to hold the bricks together. I am so frustrated right now! I feel like we have wasted so much time & money on this project, only to get nothing out of it but a ton of irritation. The instructions for making the bricks gave the wrong measurements of water & plaster, so we had to tweak that to find the right mix. Then, we couldn't do enough batches (so theoretically don't have the right number of bricks), due to the amount of plaster wasted using the instructed amount & trying to move down to the right amount (the instructed amount was way more than would fit in the mold & wasted tons of plaster). Right now, I have tons of glue covered bricks just sitting on the table, as I try to figure out if there is something we can actually do with them now. I will wait awhile to make a decision, since I might get an idea once my frustration has diminished. My husband suggested using a stronger glue (actually, he suggested 2 part epoxy), but I want Jay to do this, not me, and I don't trust him with something like that (he got glue all over his hands & all sides of the bricks, I don't want him doing that with 2 part epoxy).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Lately, I've been giving some thought to our reading & poetry challenges for next year. We've had fun with them this year, and I feel they have served their purpose (to expose the kids to new genre's, authors, and poets). We haven't posted what we've read for every month, but we have read poems from every poet & books from every genre planned so far. While we've enjoyed the way we did these this year, I am planning to change them for next year. You see, there are only so many genres that have good books appropriate for kids. We could start digging into sub-genres, but that may also make it difficult to find good kids books as it will limit the options so much. We have enough problems finding good books for Jay, since they need to appeal to a child his age, have appropriate content for a child his age, but be written at a reading level far above that for his age. As for the poetry challenge, I just don't want my kids to limit themselves to only certain poets or styles of poetry. So, I'm planning some changes

I ran through several ideas for the reading challenge before finally settling on one. I thought about continuing the way we did it this year - a different genre each month. However, I decided that it's just too difficult to find 12 genres for next year, that we didn't do this year, that would interest a 9 year old boy (he will be 9 by January), would have a decent selection of books with content appropriate for a 9 year old boy & written at a level that is appropriate for him.

I thought about us each making a list of books & series that we wanted to read, and just work our way through our lists. However, he changes his mind too much for that. His list would change too often to keep up with it.

I thought about choosing a certain number of books to read for the year. There are 2 problems there. One is that going just by number of books read does nothing to help expand their horizons or make sure they read from several genres. They could easily hit the number while staying in a rut of just one genre. The other problem is that it would have to be a pretty large number in order to be challenging. Jay's already at almost 140 for this year, not counting books for school. Dea hasn't been very good about recording her books, and her list is at about 74.

When we were at the library last week, it hit me. I was wandering through the fiction section, slightly annoyed that Romance, Westerns, Mystery, and Sci-fi each have their own section, but horror does not. I went to the Fiction section (all the fiction that don't fit into any of the previously mentioned categories), started at Z and worked my way toward A (don't ask why, that's just the end I started at). I was walking down each aisle, looking at the shelves, just hoping to find a few good horror books for October. That's when it hit me. We will read our way through the alphabet. We will go to the Fiction section, start with A and read our way to Z. Then, once we hit Z, we can start back at A and just make sure we choose different books for each letter. Of course, we'll be going by author's last name, not by book title (that would be much more difficult). This will encourage us to read authors & books we've never read before.

So, that is next year's reading challenge - Read Our Way Through the Alphabet.

For poetry, we will simply choose a different poetry book each week, never choosing the same poet 2 weeks in a row. I may even alternate between books from the kids section and books from the adult section.

Dea has asked to participate in the reading challenge next year. I told her that was fine as long as she actually recorded what she read. She is theoretically participating in this year's reading challenge, but never gets me a list of what she has been reading. She has her own blog, so I will encourage her to post on it with her list of books read for the reading challenge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Good-Bye School Room

Our school room is no more. It was never really used for doing school in anyway. The school stuff was stored in there. Sometimes, Dea would do school in there, mainly because she didn't want to clear off the table in the office to work there. It was mainly used as a play room for the kids, though. However, I am tired of the mess (they don't clean it several times a week as they are supposed to, so it is always trashed & virtually impossible to walk through). Plus, Jay hasn't been practicing his drums. I know, those two things - a messy room & Jay not practicing drums - may sound totally unrelated, but I assure you, there is a connection being made here. I am convinced that the reason he has not been practicing is that the drums are in the basement. He doesn't like being down there by himself. I refuse to go into the basement due to the spiders (I am deathly afraid of spiders). Hubby can't be down there every time Jay practices. Dea won't stay down there for long. So, his time down there is very limited. I truly believe that he would practice almost daily, if the drums were on the main floor of the house (or in his room, but that is NOT happening). So, I am turning the 'school room' into the 'music room.' I took out the arts & crafts materials that were in there & returned them to the arts & crafts room. I moved the school cabinet into the closet. I moved the school bookcase into the office, next to the computer desk. I moved the filing cabinets out of the office (they were next to the computer desk) and into the music room (one in the closet, the other where the arts & crafts cart had been).

The drums haven't been brought up, yet. That is hubby's job. They will be brought up, though. Dea already used the music room to practice her flute yesterday. That will be its new main purpose, for the kids to use to practice their instruments. Their tv is still in that room, so they may watch tv in there. However, the main purpose is now music. Hopefully, Jay will prove me right & practice his drums much more often once they are brought up.

Meteorology Grade 3

This is a list of much of what was included in our study of the weather.

Jay is really interested in Meteorology. So, he read pretty much every book our library had that wasn't ridiculously below his level. I'm sure I missed many of the books, as he keeps forgetting to give them to me before they go back to the library, so I can record them. I'm sorry, I just never get everything we use & do recorded. This should be a fairly accurate record of the more important parts of our study, though.

Main Topics:
Winter Storms
Rain, Thunderstorms, Floods
Weather Forecasting
Weather Instruments
The Job of a Meteorologist

Why is the Sky Blue
NOAA Research
Web Weather for Kids
The Weather Channel Kids
Tornado Guide
Interactives Weather
Weather Wiz Kids
Sky Diary
Climatologist's Toolbox
The Weather Dude
BBC Natural Disasters
Fact Monster Natural Disasters

Why Why Why do Tornadoes Spin?
Weather Explained
Extreme Weather
Hurricane & Tornado
Forces of Nature
Restless Skies: The Ultimate Weather Book
The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane
Twisters and Other Terrible Storms
Anatomy of a Hurricane
Tornado! The Story Behind These Twisting, Turning, Spinning, and Spiraling Storms
Eyewitness Weather
Is Our Weather Getting Worse
Extreme Weather
Cambridge Guide to the Weather
Tying Down the Wind
The Weather

Bill Nye: Climates
Eyewitness: Weather
The Weather discs 1 &2 (BBC)
Storm Chasers: Perfect Disaster
Raging Planet
National Geographic Nature's Fury
Hunt for the Supertwister
National Geographic: Killer Wave: Power of the Tsunami
National Geographic: Tornado Intercept
Storm Chasers

Make a tornado

Cloud poster
8 Experiments/demonstrations from Elements of Science kit on Heat
9 Experiments/demonstrations from Elements of Science kit on Air
7 Experiments/demonstrations from Elements of Science kit on Light
Poster of safety rules for a tornado
Track weather, both forecasts & actual
Forecast the weather

Friday, September 21, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween is a big holiday in our house. We celebrate it pretty much all month. Here are the plans we have come up with for Halloween this year.

Books (read-aloud):
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Three Good Deeds
The Restless Dead
All Hallows' Eve
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep
The Gargoyle on the Roof
The Haunting of Hill House
We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Movies: (There's no way we'll get to all of these movies, but these are the ones that have been requested & approved)
All -
Silver Bullet
Gremlins 2
Sleepy Hollow
House on Haunted Hill
Monster Squad
It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Ghost Busters
Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Birds
The Mummy
Jurassic Park

Dea & me -
Night of the Living Dead
Day of the Dead
A Nightmare on Elm St.
Pet Sematary
Graveyard Shift
Secret Window
Friday the 13th
Shaun of the Dead
Children of the Corn

Soul cakes
Panna cotta brain or brain cake
Bloody popcorn
Mummy fingers
Pumpkin bread
We'll likely add some other foods to the menu, but this is how it stands right now.

Halloween Bingo
Halloween Scrabble
Word Games (word search, crossword, cryptogram, etc.) I have found several online. I'll print them & hide one each day. The kids will have to follow a clue to find it, so they can do it.
We'll do these throughout the month. On Halloween, we'll either do a family movie night or game night (or both), since we won't be having a party this year & don't do trick-or-treating.
Of course, throughout the month, we'll make various autumn & Halloween themed crafts/decorations/art.
We'll likely start putting up autumn decorations on the Autumnal Equinox (Sept 22). Halloween decorations start going up on Oct 1st.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pumpkin Paintings

Last Wednesday, we started multi-media pumpkin pictures, but we didn't get to finish them that day. I have something else I hope to do for Art this week, so we finished them over the weekend. We started by sketching the pumpkins. We then traced over those sketches with black glue (regular Elmer's glue with black acrylic paint added to it). The glue took a little while to dry.
The small one on the far right is the first one Jay tried. It didn't turn out the way he wanted, but he decided to keep it in case he messed up painting the other.

I had originally planned to then use oil pastels to color them in. However, I ended up giving the kids the option - oil pastels or watercolor. They chose watercolor.

This one is Jay's. It is a very colorful, rainbow pumpkin. The brown is a tornado, which is going to pick up the pumpkin.

This one is Dea's. She chose to go for very dark & vibrant colors, instead of the lighter pastel colors more often seen with watercolor.

This one is mine. It's nothing special & was just done as a demonstration of what their project was going to be.