Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shopping Season

I love tax time. As soon as we get that money, I start shopping. I hate shopping for most stuff. I don't enjoy shopping for clothes (even when I had the perfect body) or shoes. Actually, I have always had trouble finding stuff that fits, that's a big part of why I don't like shopping for clothes & shoes. I don't like shopping for purses or jewelry. Really the only things I enjoy shopping for are books, school supplies, and kitchen stuff.

Tax time means shopping for school materials, books, and the things we need but haven't had the extra cash to get. See, I have this habit of taking care of bills first, then food, and using what's left for the extra stuff (like replacing the camera that suddenly decided to blow). That usually means that the extra stuff gets put off for months, sometimes longer.

Since I shop so rarely, for anything more than basic household goods & groceries, and since I get to shop for the things I enjoy shopping for, I get this thrill waiting for the boxes to show up. The first box showed up today. It has two of our ordered books, Three Sisters and We Can Do. Three Sisters is one of the novels that Dea will be reading for English in 9th grade. We Can Do is a book written by a boy who started college at 8, earned his A.A. (with a 4.0) at age 11, and is currently working on his B.A. at UCLA. He wrote the book as an inspiration to other kids, that they can achieve anything with hard work, and to encourage parents to be active in their child's life, not passive. I am kind of hoping that it will be an inspiration to Dea, that she'll be encouraged by this story of a boy her age who is doing so much with his life.

The rest of the books I ordered should be here in a few days. Then, school materials will show up. We still have some other things to buy and other stuff we've bought that will hopefully be here soon. Most of our orders have tracking info. So, I check the tracking info each morning, to see which ones are showing up that day. I listen for the UPS truck or for mail to arrive (depending on how they are coming). When I open the boxes, I'm like a child at Christmas. I can hardly wait to see what's inside them, regardless of the fact that I usually placed the order & know exactly what's in the boxes. I love the smell, feel, and look of new books & school materials. I flip through them, feeling the cool breeze on my face as the pages turn & breathing in the new book smell. I trace raised writing with my fingers, slide my fingertips across the smooth covers. I stack them neatly, on a clean surface (seriously, I wash the table or sweep the floor first), before I inventory them. I open every kit and look over each piece within them.

With the boxes appearing on my doorstep over the next few weeks, it should be quite fun around here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Looking Back

Most kids celebrate their birthday. Not many celebrate the anniversary of the day they came home from the hospital. We do, though. Jay was a preemie. He was born at barely 28 weeks gestation (and I do mean barely, when my water broke the docs were still calling it 27 weeks, he was born in the early hours of the morning). He was born by emergency c-section. My water had broken & he had decided that he was coming out. Then, he turned & tried to come out arm first. That obviously wasn't a good idea, hence the c-section. He was 2lbs 14oz and 15in long. He could not breathe on his own. He could not eat on his own. He could not regulate his own body temperature.

He went straight to the NICU. I was allowed in for a few minutes right after I woke up, but then not again for a week. I had a fever. They weren't sure why I had a fever, but they couldn't risk me taking an infection into the NICU. They finally figured out that the fever was from the inter-uterine infection I had. The infection was due to having a bulging watersac for at least 5 weeks. It was also possibly the cause of my water breaking & going into labor when I did. Once they found out that's what was causing the fever, I was allowed to go see my baby (since I wasn't contagious). I wasn't allowed to hold him at first. It was heartbreaking to sit there, only allowed to hold his hand, and only with a glove on.

The worst, most terrifying experience we had in the NICU was his jaundice. Jaundice is not normally detrimental. However, severe cases, when the bilirubin counts get to dangerous levels, can cause brain damage. Jay had a severe case of it. Even with phototherapy treatment (surrounding him with bili lights), his bilirubin levels were not responding. The doctor informed us that they might have to do a blood exchange transfusion. A blood exchange transfusion is just what it sounds like - they slowly remove all of the person's blood, replacing it with new blood. It is rare to require this treatment for jaundice, but Jay almost needed it. He has always been a fighter, though. He fought his jaundice and made an amazing recovery.

The rest of his stay in the NICU was fairly uneventful. As he grew, he had less problems maintaining body temperature, eating, and breathing. His stay in the NICU lasted about 2 months. That was a shorter stay than had been anticipated. They told us that he likely would get out around his original due date, which was St. Patrick's day. As I said, though, he has always been a fighter. He came home 8 years ago today. He was still tiny - less than 6 lbs. He came home on an apnea monitor. We were told to keep him home, unless we really needed to take him out, due to his increased risk of getting RSV.

We had regular appointments with the NICU Follow-Up clinic, to keep tabs on his development & health. They were concerned about his muscle tone. Apparently, his muscles were too tight, which could have required physical therapy. They had us do stretches & exercises with him every few hours & give him tummy time 10 times a day, in hopes of correcting the problem on our own. It worked, and he never needed a physical therapist. They had him evaluated for Occupational Therapy & Developmental Therapy. Neither were needed. They told us that he was too self-directed, and that would cause problems when he went to school. We homeschool, I'm not concerned.

Jay has always done things in his own time & his own way. For about the first year he was home, he only slept for 20 minutes at a time. For months, he ate every hour, because he could only eat small amounts. He likes to prefect a skill before showing it to anyone. He would sit in his room, reading whole books out loud (and I mean reading, not telling the story from the pictures or memory), but would refuse to read more than a few words to me. When he learned to walk, he held onto furniture until he was certain he could do it alone. Then, started running. He spoke one word at 12 months. Then he refused to speak for about 10 months, when he started speaking in complete sentences. This is just how he has always been. He does stuff on his own until he's sure of it, then does it in front of us. I know this from seeing & hearing him do things when he didn't know I was there, things he would not do around us. He has been a perfectionist since birth. He is a joy to raise, despite the challenges involved.

Anyway, that's his story, the short version of it. Today, we're going to go for a family hike, make homemade pizza for dinner, and maybe play some family games. That's what he has requested as his anniversary celebration.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's in the Fridge?

As part of my efforts to eat healthy & help the kids build healthy eating habits, I routinely review what is filling our refrigerator, freezers, and pantry. This helps me to see what we're buying & eating, so I can make sure that most of our meals are, in fact, healthy. So, I thought I'd do that this weekend. Here's what we currently have:

selection of flours - unbleached white, whole wheat, rye, soy, and corn (I like to use a mix of flours when I bake)
corn meal
white sugar, brown sugar
baking essentials - baking powder, baking soda, yeast, etc.
flaxseed (I buy it whole & grind it myself, then add to baked goods)
selection of oils - vegetable, olive, truffle, toasted sesame
selection of vinegar - balsamic, red wine, rice
selection of tea - Rooibos, Mango, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Lemon Ginger
selection of coffee - Highlander Grogg, Jamaican Me Crazy, Icing on the Cake, Velvet Hammer
various coffee creamers
wheat bread
baby food fruits & veggies (for the dog)
low-sodium soy sauce
brown jasmine rice, white jasmine rice, sushi rice, arborio rice (I've never been a fan of brown rice, but will be getting a rice cooker soon & hope that will be able to cook it to a consistency we like)
variety of noodles
cans of tomato puree & crushed tomatoes
popcorn kernels (we use a microwave popcorn bowl that air pops popcorn in the microwave)
NutriGrain cereal bars (snacks for the kids)
pudding cups (for my hubby's lunches)
corn tortillas
flour tortillas
natural peanut butter
orange marmalade & a few kinds of preserves
almond milk
coconut milk
sour cream
fresh garlic
fresh ginger
tube of lemongrass
unsalted butter (we don't do margarine)
egg roll wrappers
wonton wrappers
bologna & salami (the kids' choices for lunch this week)
variety of fresh & frozen fruits & veggies - apples, oranges, tangelos, carrots, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, corn, green beans, brussel sprouts, lemons, lime, spinach, peas, lettuce, potatoes, cucumber
Jarlsberg cheese and shredded cheese
a few salad dressings (mainly used for dipping veggies, I usually make dressing for our salads)
smoked turkey
ground meats - turkey, pork, lean beef, turkey sausage
several other cuts of meats - lean beef, pork roast, boneless skinless chicken breasts
shrimp, mussels
cream cheese
left-overs (hubby takes them to work for lunch)
and, of course, a large selection of herbs, spices, & extracts/flavors

As you can see, we enjoy variety, and don't eat a lot of junk food or processed food. Whenever I say "we have nothing to eat," my husband responds with some comment about all the food in the kitchen. I always tell him, "that's not food, those are ingredients," and I'm not kidding. If you look at that list, there aren't a lot of stand-alone foods. We don't buy jars of pasta sauce. We don't buy packages of chili, gravy, or taco seasonings/mixes. I prefer to season things myself. We do some store-bought bread & noodles and some homemade. I always keep some store-bought bread & noodles on hand, because I can't always guarantee I'll have time to make them. We don't buy pancake mix. I make my own pancake & waffle mixes. My kids don't even really like boxed mac & cheese or canned ravioli/spaghetti-o's, etc. We start preparing dinner at least an hour before dinner time most days. Breakfast & lunch are usually something easy that both kids can get for themselves, such as sandwiches, bagels, yogurt, cereal, etc.

So, when I look through our kitchen and see it full of foods like the above list, I think I'm doing a pretty good job. There's a variety of foods that can be combined into an even larger variety of meals, and it's not overwhelmingly unhealthy junk. There may be a few things that aren't very healthy, like bacon & Oreos, but most of it is much healthier. We always try to keep quick, easy snack foods on hand, such as popcorn, Wheat Thins, fruits, & veggies. The kids eat snacks twice a day, and I usually eat a snack sometime between dinner and bed (dinner is at 5pm & I usually head to bed around 2am).

Of course, most of our food choices are dictated by preference, not whether or not the food is the healthiest option. We all love bacon & will not ban it, regardless of the fact that it isn't extremely healthy. We will eat turkey sausage & turkey ham, but aren't very fond of turkey bacon, so it's real bacon for us. We prefer the taste of wheat bread to white bread, so would eat wheat bread anyway. We all actually enjoy eating fruits & veggies. I have no trouble getting the kids to eat salads. We buy coconut, almond, and sometimes soy milk, not so much for health reasons, but because I don't like the flavor of regular milk (I never have, unless it's chocolate). I love cooking & baking and truly enjoy trying new ingredients & creating new flavor & texture combinations. I will not eat food, just because it's healthy, if I don't like the taste of it. Food preparation is an art. I believe that meals should be delicious and appealing, as well as healthy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Week in Review 2-24-12

Well, this has been a not-so-happy week. Despite dealing with my grandmother's death, we've forged ahead with school.

Dea did 4 lessons of Math. She did a little Writing and finished her essay for Poetry. She did 6 Grammar lessons. She took some more notes for History and did some supplemental work for Anatomy & Physiology.


EG2 - day 143 - 147
Writing - started typing his book from his notes
AAS2 - step 14 - 15
Literature elements - setting & mood
Geography games online
Logo Adventures lesson 11
DD p.61 - 64
Key to Measurement bk1 p. 27 - 33
LFC A chap 13 - a review chapter, we plan on spending next week continuing review
Khan academy & fun Math games
Vocab - annihilate, terrestrial, tangible, torpedo, toxic
read from Nikola Tesla's Autobiography
watched Tesla: Master of Lightning and The Viking Age: The Story of Civilization
ASL - ST vol 7 Leah's Farm

We didn't really get any Art, Music, or Spanish done this week. It was just one of those weeks where things were a bit off. Our main computer (the one Jay uses) has been having problems. There's something wrong with the hard drive. It's not caused by a virus, but it does cause some problems using it. We had my brother-in-law (our computer guy) take a look at it. So, he had it for a few days, which restricted Jay's use, obviously. Without the computer, he couldn't do Spanish & didn't get much of the typing of his book done.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Too Late

It should have been different. We should have stayed in touch more. We should have written more letters and talked on the phone more. Our relationship should have been different. Now, it's too late. The past cannot be changed.

My last remaining grandmother died today. She lived half a country away, so we rarely saw each other. I love her & will miss her. Right now, though, I feel bad that I didn't know her better. I feel bad that we weren't closer. I fell bad that my kids didn't get to know her. It should have been different, and I am partially to blame for how it was. I'll always bear that truth. I'll carry that knowledge with me forever, the knowledge that I could have, should have, changed things.

Right now, I am sad. I will watch a sad movie, or maybe a few, and cry. Then, I will watch something that will make me laugh. I may write a poem, if one comes to me. Then, in a day or two, I'll throw myself into my schoolwork, working on it as much as I can. I'll spend the days working with the kids, cooking the food, and doing some housework. The nights, I will spend doing schoolwork, keeping busy. I will be fine. I will cope. It is my way. Some may say this isn't a healthy way to deal, but it works for me. It has worked for me my whole life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time Really Does Fly

This last few weeks, my nights have been spent planning the upcoming school year. First, I had to finalize the broad strokes - what subjects to cover, what topics to cover in each subject, what materials to buy. Once I got the broad strokes finalized, I started working on the detailed plan. We use to have an easy way for all of us to access the plans for the courses, the online resources for each, etc. I use it for most of their courses. For each course, I add links to all the online resources I want them to use (listing less as they get older & better at online resource), list the activities planned for each topic, list the DVDs planned for each topic, and any other required resources for each subject/topic. So, they can check their online courses to see what assignments they have & what resources they need for each assignment. I have also set up some of Dea's courses as full online courses, with online tests, online assignments, etc. so she can get some experience with online courses, though there is no longer a need for that, as she is doing online courses elsewhere. This has really made things easier for us, since it allows me to keep it all somewhere we can all get to it regardless of what computer we are using, even if more than one of us needs to access it at one time, and it is private. We had been using a wiki for this purpose, but this really has been easier.
So, I've been working on setting up Jay's courses on our school site. I can't do all the detailed planning right now, but I can get some of it done. I'm hoping to finish what detailed planning I can do this  week. Then, I can spend the next few weeks focusing on my schoolwork, trying to get as much done as I can before the new materials to show up. Once the new materials show up, I will spend a week or two finishing the detailed planning.

Anyway, working on the plans for the upcoming year has me thinking about our homeschool journey. When we started this journey, Jay was an infant. Dea had just finished Kindergarten & was starting 1st grade. Jay was a handful, sleeping only 20 minutes at a time, eating every hour, and needing special stretches & exercises several times a day. He was about 5 months old when we started homeschooling, and had only been home about 3 months. Dea was convinced being smart was a bad thing and was determined to hide her intelligence. She was refusing to pick up a book, despite being a voracious reader prior to starting Kinder. She complained about everything I had planned for school, not wanting to learn anything (her public school experience was rather traumatic).

Now, things are a bit different. Jay turned 8 years old about 2 months ago, and is finishing up 2nd grade. Dea is in 8th grade, heading into high school. She is a voracious reader again and really only fights about doing Math. She's got more confidence & hides her intelligence less than before, though she still isn't ready to totally accept her intelligence. Jay is flying through his schoolwork, plenty proud to show what he's capable of. He is outgoing, talkative, self-directed, and confident. They have friends of varying ages. Dea seems to be more comfortable with adults than kids her own age. In fact, she's in contact with one of my friends more often than I am & spends time with the mom of one of her friends several times a week. She is social and quite stubborn.

In some ways, they are very much the same as they were when we started this journey. In other ways, they have changed much over the last 8 years. It's so strange to think that we're finishing up our 8th year of homeschooling. The time has simply flown by.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Exploring Genres week 7

This month has been slow for the reading challenge. There's so much going on and so many other books we're reading, it's taking us quite a while to get through these.


to the best of my knowledge, none

still working on True at First Light

still reading The Sea Singer, but should be finishing this weekend

Friday, February 17, 2012

Week in Review 2/17

Dea just handed me this week's work. She did 4 lessons in Algebra, 6 lessons in Grammar, completed Lesson 11 in her online Writing class, and did one of her projects for History. She didn't finish anything for her online Poetry class, but is working on an assignment for it. I would still prefer to see more work from her, but this is a huge improvement! Yay!

Jay did a decent amount of work this week, too, especially since I've been sick & he's got a 2nd degree burn on his arm.

DD p. 56 - 60; Khan Academy; fun Math games, Key to Measurement p. 26

Latin: LFC A chap 12

ASL: ST vol 6 My Favorite Things

Spanish: TMM Spanish 2 days, 30 min each

Language Arts:
Spelling: AAS2 step 13
Grammar: EG2 day 138 - 142
vocab: scald, bonus
discussed Point of View in writing

Music: practice recorder 2 days, practiced Native American flute 1 day

Art: didn't really do Art this week

Computer Programming: didn't get done this week

Geography: started our Geography in Literature project

Science: read The Story Behind Electricity and Amazing Ben Franklin Invention You Can Build Yourself

History: read What Did the Vikings do for Me? and History Dudes: Vikings, did online research on Vikings, played Viking Quest

Well, that's proof that she CAN do it!

Yesterday, Dea spent a good part of the day doing volunteer work. She was helping get stuff ready for a rummage sale at the Dyslexia center. Here's what I heard about her volunteer time yesterday:

She was wonderful and well-behaved. There were no attitude problems, whining, or complaining. She worked hard and got a lot done. She worked with almost no supervision or direction.

She did not need anyone to stand there reminding her to get back to work. She did not need constant direction. She did not need someone checking her work every 10 minutes. She was self-motivated and a self-starter.

This is exactly what I'm trying to get her to do in her schoolwork & chores!

Well, now I have proof that she can do it. I just need to figure out how to get her to do it with her school & chores. I talked to her today about it. I told her how proud & happy I am about her work yesterday. I then went on to explain that I would love to see more of that attitude, behavior, and work ethic around here. I told her that's exactly what we're aiming for with this year of her taking the reins.

Final plan for 2012-2013 school year

Material plans for the next school year are finalized! Of course, I'm not sure exactly when Dea will be starting her new year, as it depends on when she finishes this year's work. Jay has chosen April 15th as the official start date of his school year. However, he'll likely be ready to start some of his new materials before then. This is the final broad plan for what they'll be doing when they finish their current work.

I've included links for many of the items. Most of the links are to the publisher website. The reason for this is that I'm not trying to push sales for any of these or for any supplier. We'll buy most of our materials at Rainbow Resource, but I'm not pushing for anyone else to buy from there. I know there are some Secular homeschoolers who refuse to shop there because of the large number of Christian materials and not knowing where the company spends their money. While I understand not wanting to give money to a company that may then donate money to a cause you don't believe in, I have to do what is best for my family. Buying most of our supplies from RR saves me a good chunk of money, not to mention time, and allows me to get more for the kids than I would otherwise fit into our budget. So, I shop there. However, I won't just link to their site for each item, because I wouldn't want to push shopping there. Maybe it's my irritation at posts that have a ton of linked items and all links go to Amazon, a place I don't shop. Maybe it's my irritation at people who are part of affiliate programs, but don't tell you that's why those links are on their page/in their post. Whatever the reason, it would likely irritate me if I was reading a post, and in following the links was repeatedly sent to the same site, which I do not like or use. I try no to do things that would bother me. So, I linked to the publisher site whenever I could. If I could not find a publisher link, I linked to the item page at RR (also linked to RR for small stuff).

Dea 9th Grade:

Geometry - Geometry: Seeing, Doing, Understanding, the teacher book, text, tests, and the Geometer's Sketchpad
Accounting - online for spine, LIFEPAC Accounting to supplement (I couldn't find any other program that had a good business simulation with it)

Grammar - Easy Grammar Ultimate grade 11
Writing - online classes (at least one at all times, starting a new one each time she finishes one)
Vocab - 2 words a day
Literature - Lord of the Flies, Three Sisters, Dracula, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Poseidon Adventure, Time Machine, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Lovely Bones, Life of Pi, Pet Semetary

Foreign Languages:
Oxford Latin  - if she doesn't finish it this year
The Joy of Signing - the 5-DVD set & the Complete Language Pack, which contains The Joy of Signing book & 2 puzzle books; also continuing with Signing Time DVDs (if she wants), the ASL Interpreter DVDs from the library, and free online ASL course
Tell Me More Spanish - continue

Art: Photography

Government: online for spine, supplement with additional materials as needed

Economics: online for spine, supplement with additional materials as needed

Science: Geology - online for spine, supplement with additional materials as needed

History: Middles Ages & Renaissance - a course designed by us, no specific required materials

Computer Programming: Logo Adventures & Logo Works

Music: She's decided she wants to learn to play the flute. The problem with this is that she has a metal allergy. We've decided to try a crystal flute.

Geography: The Power of Place, project of Geography in literature

Jay 3rd Grade:


will be doing the books on Fractions and Decimals & Percents in Mastering Mathematics (the program he's currently using), will also add Life of Fred Decimals & Percents and Fractions books to do simultaneously
Tall-Tale Math book 1: Number sense (because he enjoys doing story problems) & book 4: Data & Measurement
continuing with fun Math games, Khan Academy
continuing with Key to Measurement & Metric Measurement

Language Arts:
Grammar: Easy Grammar grade 3 & grade 4
Spelling: All About Spelling levels 3 & 4
Writing: Check the Deck and Flip the Deck
Vocab - word a day
Reading: continue reading books of his choice and books related to studies in various subjects (such as historical fiction set in time period we're studying)

Art: leather work, charcoal, wood burning

Music: continue learning about styles & genres of music, continue Native American flute, continue Recorder, start drums (not sure exactly when we'll get him a drum set)

Geography: study of the States, various resources, continue with Geography games, continue with self-directed Geography study, project of Geography in literature

Foreign Language:
Latin: Latin for Children B
ASL: continue with Signing Time dvds, start ASL Interpreter DVDs & Joy of Signing if ready
Spanish: continue with Tell Me More Spanish

Computer Programming: Logo Adventures & Logo Works

Logic: Logic Safari book 2

Science: Meteorology, Geology, Water/Oceanography
experiments, activities, narration, lots of books, dvds, internet resources, Netflix, etc.
we're getting a Science kit, some fun stuff (like snow & solar beads), and still deciding on which weather station I want to get him
notebook, journal, or some other long-term project for each topic (book, museum exhibit, video, etc.)

History: Middle Ages, Renaissance, Pirates & Explorers
activities, narration, lots of books, dvds, internet resources, Netflix, etc.
building a castle, trebuchet, pirate ship
notebook, journal, or some other long-term project for each topic (book, museum exhibit, video, etc.)

I should be ordering in about 2 weeks. Once the materials get here, I'll do the more detailed plan - where I figure out how it all meshes together. I can't believe there's just under 2 months before Jay starts 3rd grade.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I have no specific topic in mind for this post, so feel free to ignore it. I think I'm mainly writing it just to help keep me awake. The kids are on break for the next 40 minutes, and I'm exhausted. If I don't do something, I'll be asleep before our afternoon school session. I had hubby pick up some Taco Bell last night (we haven't had any for months & I was too tired to cook). Mine tasted bad, and within 30 minutes I was in the bathroom. My body spent the next few hours expelling every bit of my dinner.

Today, my stomach is cramping, my back hurts, I'm exhausted despite the fact that I was asleep by 11pm (insanely early for me), and am just generally feeling miserable. However, I haven't vomited since last night & have kept down the scrambled eggs & toast I had for breakfast, which is good. So, writing this post is really just to stay awake, not to give an update, rant, or spout 'wisdom' about anything.

We've started a new project. It has its own page. We're tracking the locations in the books we read, not the non-fiction for school, but the read-alouds, historical fiction, the books for our reading challenge, and our personal reading. I also added a page for info about our holiday celebrations. I also moved the list of pages to the side.

I would love to go bed, right now. I could let the kids take the day off and sleep, but that's not the best idea. I dozed during the day one day last week (I've been fighting a sinus infection, too), and Jay burned his arm by overheating water for tea. I'd rather not have a repeat of that (or a similar experience), especially since we're still treating that burn (it was pretty bad). Plus, Dea needs to keep up on her work this week. She is doing some volunteer work today (and I think tomorrow) at the Dyslexia center my sister works at and has a birthday party for a friend next weekend. She has been told that she needs to keep up with her schoolwork or those things don't happen. There's also the fact that we are getting our taxes done today & I need to stay awake so I'm functioning when we go to the accountant.

Well, I think I'm done rambling. I'm going to ready for this afternoon's work with Jay.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Who are they to judge?

I regularly visit homeschool forums, ones that I'm not a member of, to read threads about curricula. I like to read other people's opinions of curricula & learn about what other's use. While at these forums, I often skim through other threads as well. I do that to try to get an idea of the kinds of people on the board, how they homeschool, their methods, views on education, etc. That way, I know how useful their opinions on curricula will be to me. Now, it's not unusual for me to come across threads that I find irritating. Recently, while looking into ideas for the up-coming year, before doing my last finalization, I came across some threads on forums & some posts on blogs judging anyone who uses a rigorous method or curriculum. Now, I know these people aren't talking about me, specifically, but I've had plenty of people make snide, rude, disrespectful comments about how we homeschool, because of our rigorous course of study. So, this resonates with me. I find it insulting to assume that anyone who uses a rigorous curriculum or method must be an overbearing control freak who is pushing their child, aiming for bragging rights, or taking away their childhood.

I would call our homeschool rigorous, yet relaxed. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but that's how I see it. I would say that our course of study is rigorous, yet our schedule is fairly relaxed. Ergo, rigorous, yet relaxed.

Yes, my kids learn foreign languages in elementary school. It's been scientifically proven that it is easier for a child to learn foreign languages prior to about age 12. If a child has been exposed to foreign languages at a young age, they will have an easier time learning languages throughout their life. I choose to take advantage of that and not make them wait until it is more difficult for them to learn languages.

Yes, my kids learn Latin. Just because it is considered a 'dead' language, that doesn't mean it is not useful. It helps with understanding English Grammar. It helps with vocabulary. It sets a foundation for the 'romance' languages. It is the language used for scientific names.

Yes, my kids are learning more than one language. Being multilingual can't do them any harm, but may open new opportunities down the road.

Yes, my kids are learning computer programming. They both requested it and look forward to it every week.

Yes, my kids are doing advanced work in many of their subjects. This is not because I push them. It is because I allow them to work at their own pace.

Yes, we spend more than 2 hours a day doing school. School usually runs from 4-6 hours a day. However, we never do more than they can handle and they both still have plenty of free time.

Yes, my daughter is likely going to graduate early. This is her goal.

Yes, my daughter is on the road to college. This is also her goal. I am simply making sure that she is prepared for whatever her future holds, be that community college, the ivy league, or straight to work.

I am homeschooling my children for educational reasons. I homeschool to give them the education they deserve. I do not homeschool for religious reasons, to shelter my kids, or to prevent bullying. I am homeschooling to give them a well-rounded, thorough education that will prepare them for adulthood. Given my reasons for homeschooling, I would be remiss if I didn't do my absolute best to provide them with an excellent education.

My kids have a lot of input in their schooling - materials, topics, types of work, and schedule. They work at their own pace. Their goals and future plans are regularly re-examined and incorporated into our schooling plans. They are working toward what they want out of their lives.

This is not a case of a control freak mom pushing her kids beyond what they can realistically handle. I make no apologies for the level of rigor in our studies. I feel no shame or grief about the amount of work they do or the difficulty of the work.They're exceptional kids. I'm simply supporting them - their needs, abilities, and interests - as best I can. I'm sure we aren't the only 'rigorous' homeschoolers in this position, either.

I'm so damn tired of people passing judgment on us for having a rigorous course of study. I'm tired of people thinking that they know what motivates us to do things the way we do. Very few people truly know, I mean really know, me. So, who are they to judge? The same goes for all these forum threads & blog posts trashing rigorous homeschoolers. If you don't truly know a person, know their mind, know their motivations, your judgments are shallow & uninformed.

Also, unless you personally know the family, you can't really determine just how rigorous their homeschooling is. I've seen some people who post about the 10+ subjects their kids are doing, and many people then think they are quite rigorous. When they gave more detail, though, some of those subjects were only focused on sporadically, and only 2 or 3 were daily subjects. They also said they only spent 15-20 minutes per subject per day. That isn't near as rigorous as it originally sounded. I've also seen others post that they only focus on 4-5 subjects per year, which many view as being quite relaxed. However, when they went into more detail, they said they spent 1-2 hours per day on each subject, and all subjects were daily. That sounds more rigorous to me than the first one.

So, before assuming that someone is controlling, overbearing, pushing their kids, taking away their kid's childhood, etc., please remember that every family's situation is different. Just because their course of study, curriculum, or schedule wouldn't work for your kids, it doesn't mean that it isn't what's best for their kids.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week in Review Feb 11, 2012

Well, we've survived another week.

Dea is getting better at getting her work done. She's finished the required number of Math lessons. She has also done Grammar, Writing, and has worked in her Poetry class. She's been taking tons of notes for History & is almost ready to start her projects.

Jay got most of his work done, too. He didn't get any Spanish done, only did Native American flute practice 1 day, and hardly did anything for History. He had a hard week, though.

DD p.50 - 55, Key to Measurement bk 1 p.19 - 25, Khan Academy, fun Math games

Language Arts:
Spelling: AAS2 step 11 & 12
Grammar: EG2 day 133 - 137
Writing: online research for Giganotosaurus book
Vocab: Stegosaur, Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus, ideology, extraterrestrial, Velociraptor
Discussed Characterization: Protagonist/Antagonist, static/dynamic character, character traits portrayed by characters in books we've been reading

Music: Recorder practice 2 days, Native American flute 1 day

Art: didn't really do anything for Art this week

Logo: none

Foreign Language:
Latin: LFC A chap 11
ASL: ST vol 6 My Favorite Things
Spanish: none

read The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin, read & narrate Electricity: Turn it On!, read Electricity & Magnetism
did 5 experiments on Static Electricity, from the MSB Electricity kit - covering how static electricity is made, how to get rid of it, and what it can do

read Every Day Life in Viking Times, read some Viking/Norse Mythology
wrote in Runes

Friday, February 10, 2012

Exploring Genres Week 5 & 6



She - didn't finish, just couldn't get into it
True at First Light

As Read-aloud:
The Mysterious Island - didn't finish, the kids couldn't stop fighting long enough to listen to it
The Sea Singer

Sorry, for got to post last week, so this is for 2 weeks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Field Trip Pics

Here are some of the photos from our field trip last week. It's not all of them (I took a few hundred), but it should be enough to give an idea of how our trip was. I got many more pics at the natural history museum, because it was less crowded & there's not much hands-on stuff. The science museum, though, has a lot of hands-on activities & there were more people, so we were in constant motion going from one thing to the next, and there were always people in the way. Plus, the cameras were already acting up quite a bit by then (both our digital cameras died that day).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In a mood

I've been in a mood lately. It's kind of an anti-social mood. I just really have no desire, right now, for contact with other people, even online. I've barely visited my forums. When I do visit them, I only lurk, looking over recent conversations, but not finding any that I care to join. I don't even bother to sign in. I've been to G+ even less. I'm stopping by FB daily, but only to play some games & check on a few family members that have been posting updates (mainly about medical stuff going on with other family members). I haven't even been reading many of the blogs I read.

I'm not entirely certain what has caused this mood. I've always found dealing with people (in real life) to be rather exhausting. It takes a lot out of me to get through a family holiday or birthday celebration for a friend. Normally, online communication is much less exhausting, since I can end conversations faster, leave the site if someone is irritating me, etc. Lately, however, online is taking just as much out of me as if I were around all these people face to face. So, I'm being a bit of a hermit.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Busywork is NOT Universal!

One of the great things about homeschooling, is that we can streamline our children's education - keeping what we feel is important and/or useful and leaving out the busywork. However, what many people don't seem to understand is that busywork does not mean the same thing to everyone. What is busywork to one child is necessary for, or greatly enjoyed by, another. I've seen many people get offended by someone saying that 'X' is busywork, because 'X' is something they do a lot of & their kids enjoy or need. Just because 'X' is busywork for family A, that doesn't mean that it is also busywork for everyone else. Family B might find it quite useful.

So, what is busywork? Simply put, busywork is work that does not enhance or improve the person's learning experience and only takes up their time. In other words, anything that your child gets something out of, isn't busywork. If your child enjoys and learns from applying the knowledge they've learned about mummification, by mummifying something, it is time well spent, not busywork. If your child learns best with worksheets, they are not busywork. If your child needs lots of review, those extra pages of Math problems are not busywork.

Now, for us, excessive practice of concepts is busywork. My kids grasp & master concepts quickly. Once they master something, they don't need or want much review. So, we don't do extra pages of Math problems, unless they need it. I often have Jay do only part of a page of his Math, once he has proven mastery of the concepts covered. If he doesn't do a good job on the page, he has to redo the incorrect problems and do extra problems for the needed practice. As long as he's doing them properly, though, I see no reason to make him to unnecessary work. Dea only has to do the odd numbers on her Algebra assignments (it's a college text, so the lessons have anywhere from 70 - 130 problems).

Science experiments may be extras to some and busywork to others, but to us, they are an important part of the learning process. We do a lot of hands-on projects, especially in the lower grades, like making pyramids, making mummies, building longhouses, making dreamcatchers, building castles, etc. Now, some people might see that stuff as silly, stupid, busywork, etc. However, with my kinesthetic learners, that stuff is an opportunity for them to apply their knowledge, prove their comprehension/mastery of a subject/topic, and enjoy the learning process. We make models. We make posters. We create things. We design things. We take things apart to see how they work. We experiment with new ways to do things or new materials to use. We like to get involved, get our hands dirty. That's how they learn best. So, this stuff works for us.

Some people prefer worksheets. After reading about something, instead of building it, testing it, etc., they prefer to answer questions on a worksheet about it. To them, the stuff we do might be busywork.

Some people use penmanship programs, expecting their kids to do pages of penmanship workbooks daily. Some chose to work on penmanship through dictation & copywork. Others don't do anything formal for penmanship, because that kind of work would be busywork for their kids. That is not meant as a slight against those who choose to work on penmanship formally. It's simply a difference in style, preference, and needs.

Some use flashcards & drill Math facts. Others see rote memorization as busywork and choose more entertaining ways to help their children master Math.

It's not that one is superior to the other. It's not that one is right & the other wrong. It's nothing more than the fact that people are not all the same. We don't all have the same interests, tastes, or needs. We don't all learn the same things at the same pace. We are different. Therefore, when it comes to education, no method or material will work for everyone. There is no universal 'perfect' scope & sequence. There is no universal 'correct' method. There is no universal 'best' curriculum. Not even the meaning of 'busywork' is universal, because there are so many differences among us.

Remember, just because someone says something is busywork, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it or that it is useless/dumb/pointless/unnecessary/etc. It just means that it isn't useful to them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Plans for next year

It's coming close to time to purchase our materials for the 2012-2013 school year. So, I've been working on finalizing the purchase list. I'll do one more finalization of it, after we get our taxes done, when I know exactly what my school budget is. I don't intend for it to change much. If anything, we'll be able to add a few things that we want, but will raise the total quite a bit. So, here's the current plan & what we hope to use/do for the next school year:

Dea (9th grade)
Geometry - Geometry: Seeing, Doing, Understanding (Jacob's Geometry)
Accounting - online at UniversalClass for spine, supplementing with LIFEPAC (I know AOP is a Christian company, but this was the only Accounting course I could find that has a real business simulation with it), we also have multiple Accounting textbook here that she can reference

Grammar - Easy Grammar Ultimate grade 11
Writing - online classes at UC
Vocab - 2 words a day
Literature - World Literature, 12 books (we have a list of 24 for the next two years, she chose which to read each year, though the list is subject to change) Lord of the Flies, Three Sisters, Dracula, To Kill a Mocking bird, The Count of Monte Cristo, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, The Divine Comedy, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Lovely Bones, something by Stephen King (undecided as to which book)

Government: online at UC, supplemented with various materials as needed

Economics: online at UC, supplemented with various materials as needed

Science: Geology - online at UC for spine, supplement with various materials

History: Middle Ages - course designed by Dea & me, no specific materials required

Art: Photography

Foreign Languages:
Latin: if doesn't finish Oxford Latin this year, will continue with it next year, also using free online course
ASL: will continue using Signing Time dvds & ASL Interpreter dvds at library, if fits in budget will also get Joy of Signing 5 dvd set & Complete Language pack (Joy of Signing book & 2 puzzle books)
Spanish: continue with Tell Me More Spanish
Irish(Gaelic) - if in budget will get Rosetta Stone v3 Irish level 1-3, also using free resources at BBC Languages

Computer Programming: continuing with Logo Adventures & adding Logo Works

Geography: The Power of Place, project of Geography in literature

Music: possibly learning flute

Jay (3rd grade):

will be doing the books on Fractions and Decimals & Percents in Mastering Mathematics (the program he's currently using), will also add Life of Fred Decimals & Percents and Fractions books to do simultaneously
Tall-Tale Math book 1: Number sense (because he enjoys doing story problems) & book 4: Data & Measurement
continuing with fun Math games, Khan Academy
continuing with Key to Measurement & Metric Measurement (if doesn't finish this year)

Language Arts:
Spelling: All About Spelling levels 3 & 4
Writing: Check the Deck and Flip the Deck
Vocab - word a day
Grammar: Easy Grammar 3 & 4
Reading: continue reading books of his choice

Geography: study of the States, various resources, continue with Geography games, continue with self-directed Geography study, project of Geography in literature

Logic: Logic Safari book 2, various logic puzzles from books of logic puzzles

Art: leather working, charcoal

Computer Programming: continuing with Logo Adventures, adding in Logo Works

Music: continue learning about different styles & genres of movement and different artists, continue playing recorder & Native American flute, possibly start drums

Foreign Language:
Latin: Latin for Children B
ASL: continue with Signing Time dvds
Spanish: continue with Tell Me More Spanish

Science: Meteorology, Geology, Water
experiments, activities, narration, lots of books, dvds, internet resources, Netflix, etc.
we're getting a Science kit, some fun stuff (like snow & solar beads), and still deciding on which weather station I want to get him
notebook, journal, or some other long-term project for each topic (book, museum exhibit, video, etc.)

History: Middle Ages, Renaissance, Pirates & Explorers
activities, narration, lots of books, dvds, internet resources, Netflix, etc.
building a castle, trebuchet, pirate ship
notebook, journal, or some other long-term project for each topic (book, museum exhibit, video, etc.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Week in Review Feb 3, 2012

Well, it's really more like 2 weeks in review.

We'll start with Dea. She is still working on finding a schedule that works for her. She is getting a little better about getting her work done, but is still not doing everything that's required. This week, she did get more than one Math lesson done, and that is an improvement. She also did work in her online Writing course and signed up for a Poetry Writing course at the same place. She has been spending a lot of time working on History, but still has nothing to show except notes. She's putting in a bit more effort in Latin & ASL, and seems to be finally enjoying the languages. She has finished reading Eaters of the Dead & watched The 13th Warrior. Next, she needs to read The Lord of the Ring Trilogy. She's got about 10 library books out right now that she plans to read. She's been really enjoying our reading challenge, Exploring Genres, and our Poet of the Month. This week was a bit strained for everyone. So, I'm hoping to see more improvement next week.

Now onto Jay.

Math: DD p.44 - 49, fun Math games,Timez Attack, Division Attack, Khan Academy, Key to Measurement bk1 p.16 -18

Language Arts:
EG2 day 124 - 132
AAS2 Step 9, 10, and review of steps 1 - 10
Writing - online research on Giganotosaurus and organizing notes
Vocab words (we missed several days): Action, Monotonous, Zoology, Mythomania, Tyrannosaurus, Exclaim

Latin: LFC A Chapter 10, Headventure Land

ASL: ST vol 4 Family , Feelings, Fun, and ST vol 6 My Favorite Things

Spanish: TMM Spanish 2 days

Logo Adventures Lesson 10 & 10A

Music: Recorer & Native American Flute 3 days each

Art: CLD3 activity 19 & 20

Science:  read I've Discovered Electricity!; Ben Franklin: His Wit & Wisdom From A-Z; Circuits, Shocks, & Lightning; The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin; How Does a Waterfall Become Electricity
did narrations on 3 of those books
studied & drew the parts of an atom

History: read: Viking Longship; The Gruesome Truth About the Vikings
did narration on one of those books
did map work showing where the Vikings lived & some places they traveled, will continue adding as we learn more
Who Am I? activity on Viking explorers & settlers
read from Learning Through History Viking issue
watched Leif Ericson: Voyage of a Viking

Now, this week was a bit light on schoolwork for two reasons.
1) Monday was a day off for us. My husband took the day off work and we took a field trip. We visited a Natural History museum. We had a great time wandering through it, looking at the exhibits, visiting the paleontology & biology labs, petting a live snake, and taking tons of pictures (both my digital cameras stopped functioning properly & we went through 8 batteries in 2 museums). We visited exhibits on Geology, Native American, Dinosaurs & other prehistoric animals, local flora & fauna, and the traveling exhibit on Ice Age Mammals. The kids bought rocks in the gift shop, to add to their rock collections.
Then, we went home, had lunch, and walked the dog. After lunch, we went to a Science museum. We spent the next few hours playing with electricity, air pressure, lasers, farm equipment, a flight simulator, virtual reality sports, simple machines, magnets, bubbles, and puzzles. We assembled a human body(well, its organs, anyway), typed Morse code messages to each other, watched a cyclone form from smoke, looked at our fingerprints, and looked at optical illusions.
After all of that, we went out to dinner at a local sandwich shop we'd never been to before. It was a great day & we all had fun.
2) The second reason wasn't so fun. On Tuesday, Jay poked himself in the eye. He has really sharp, thin nails. Apparently, he gouged his cornea, not scratched it, gouged it. The doctor was really worried about scar tissue causing permanent damage to his vision. Just what every parent wants to hear - "Your child has a gouge in his eye and the resulting scar tissue, that may form while it heals, could impair his vision for life." He prescribed antibiotic drops and said to give him Tylenol or Ibuprofen for pain. We had to take him in the next day to check how it was healing. He surprised the hell out of the doctor when they looked and saw it completely healed. It's common for minor corneal abrasions to heal in 1-3 days, but more severe ones (you know, like a gouge instead of a scratch) should take longer to heal. Not in the case of my son, though. They said to continue the drops for a few extra days, just to be safe. After all, the eye is not a good place to get an infection. His eye hurt quite a bit, even after it healed, so we eased up on the amount of reading he does. I let him take it easy this week, doing less than a full week of school, and much less reading & writing than usual.

Friday, February 3, 2012


For the last few weeks, Jay has been fighting about doing narrations for History & Science. I don't really understand why, since he naturally narrates to me about almost every book he reads for fun. Somehow, though, having to narrate for school is different. So, we discussed narration and what our possible alternatives are.

Narration does a lot of things. If the parent/teacher is reading aloud, it improves the child's listening skills. If the child reads & then narrates, it improves reading for information (as opposed to reading for fun). Oral narration improves public speaking skills - volume, talking speed, and diction. Written narration improves writing skills. Any narration improves attention, comprehension, and memory. Narration uses (and thus improves) multiple study/note-taking skills, such as organizing thoughts, focusing on the important parts of the text, and putting the information into their own words.

That is a lot to be covered by one simple process! So, we discussed these benefits of narration & why they are needed. Then, we discussed the alternatives, which basically comes down to doing a lot of extra work, because I can't think of anything else that covers all of those things at once. So, he still isn't thrilled with doing narrations (and I still don't know why, since he can't/won't give me a real reason), but he has decided to continue with them, anyway.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February is

*Note: This is not a comprehensive list.

Black History Month/National African American History Month
National Snack Food Month
Responsible Pet Owner Month
Creative Romance Month

1 Imbolc
2 Groundhog Day
13 - 21 Parentalia - Roman celebration of the dead practiced in ancient times, we're bringing it back (at least for our family)
14 Valentines Day
20 President's Day
22 Ash Wednesday
22 Washington's Birthday
27 International Polar Bear Day
29 Leap Day

Phases of the Moons:
7 Full Moon
14 Last Quarter
21 New Moon

2 James Joyce
3 Norman Rockwell
4 George Romero
4 Charles Lindbergh
4 Rosa Parks
6 Axl Rose
7 Charles Dickens
7 Garth Brooks
8 Jules Verne
10 Lon Chaney Jr.
11 Thomas Alva Edison
12 Ray Manzarek
12 Judy Blume
14 Jimmy Hoffa
15 Galileo
15 Susan B. Anthony
18 Alessandro Volta
19 Nicolaus Copernicus
19 Tony Iommi
20 Ansel Adams
21 Alan Rickman
22 Frederic Chopin
23 George Frederic Handel
25 Pierre Auguste Renoir
26 Levi Strauss
27 John Steinbeck
27 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow