Friday, August 31, 2007
Pasted from the carnival, for all the writers out there:
Alyssa F. tells us about a New Contest- You Gotta Check This Out! posted at The Shady Glade , saying, "A great new writing contest for all those readers who've ever thought "I could do that!" Submit your own short story or poem retelling your favorite fairytale/legend/myth and be in the running for some wonderful prizes." [Note: the deadline has been extended till Sept. 21st.]
As I posted previously, Crayons is going to be more-or-less following the Miquon First Grade Diary for the first few weeks/months of her grade One math. This past week has been a prep week for the Full Big School Day (and next week will be prep-and-a-half, if you like). One of the subjects we did cover every day was Crayons' math, and this is what we did. She's started calling it "math with Lore" (after Lore Rasmussen, the co-author of the First Grade Diary), since I often pull out the book and say, "This is what Lore did with her class."
So if you have the FGD and want to follow, go ahead.
First day: Lore's class did some free play with the rods. We skipped that. Then she did a demonstration of how her big demonstration Cuisenaire rods corresponded to the students' smaller sets. Obviously we skipped that, especially because (as Crayons demonstrated soon afterwards), she already knows her rods quite well. Lore had the children build "stairs" with the rods (like the picture here), and Crayons did that without any problem. [Oh, I forgot--at this point Crayons decided she also needed to spell her name and her sister's name with rods--which she did, quite well! I gave her a few minutes to do her own "free play" and then suggested we move on.]
Then we did the "half of" exercise that comes next in the book. I asked Crayons what would be wrong if I broke a cookie in "half" and gave her the "little half" and me the "bigger half." We went around with that for a couple of minutes and ended up with her explaining to me that both the halves should be the same size. Aha. So I asked her the book questions: find the rod that is "half of" the purple rod, "half of" the red rod, "half of" the orange rod.
And we examined one of the white rods, which are 1 cm cubes. Kids always like this: you press one face of it into your arm and it makes a square; you press an edge into your arm and it makes a line; you press a corner into your arm and it makes a dot. (Gently!) We figured out that cubes have six faces...that took a few minutes.
Second day: we reviewed what we knew about cubes. The FGD says, "A pile of geometric solids was placed on a table. The children sorted the solids into cubes and non-cubes. They observed that cube has square faces only, while other prisms have combinations of square and non-square faces." Right there we had a bucket of small building blocks, so we dumped them on the floor and Crayons sorted them out into cubes and non-cubes. We looked at the non-cubes and named the shapes of their non-square faces: circles, triangles, rectangles.
Lore then held up numeral cards and the children held up a corresponding number of fingers. That would be an insult for Crayons, so we did something close but harder. She had been given a set of Trend Numbers Match-Me Cards, which have groups of up to 25 objects on them, and either written number words or numerals on the backs. You could easily draw your own on index cards, but we had these handy so I used them. I just pulled them out, showed her some of the groups of objects, and had her count them as fast as she could (encouraging her to count by groups if she could). Then she turned them over to see the numerals or words and check if she was right.
Third Day: Lore played a dice game with her class, which seemed (in her version) like it wouldn't work quite as well with just the two of us. So we played two similar games that worked better for us. First I took two cups, two sets of twenty plastic cm cubes (any small objects like Cheerios would work), and a die. We took turns rolling the die and seeing who could fill up her cup first. Then, just for fun, we played a version of NIM with 21 of the cubes. You had to take turns removing either 1 or 2 cubes from the pile, and the object was to force the other person to take the last cube.
Lore's class also did some tower-building and measuring, but we didn't get around to that.
Fourth Day (Sept. 19 in the FGD): Lore's class played a game of Lotto, using page A-3 from the Orange workbook. Since I still had those Trend cards handy, we played with those instead, and one of the Squirreling siblings showed up and played along with us. There are 2 sets of 26 cards in the box, numbered from 0 to 25; one set has objects on the front and numerals on the back, the other has objects on the front and words on the back, as I explained on Day Two. I sorted them into their two sets and dealt nine cards (3x3), objects up, to each player to make a Bingo card (we say Bingo instead). The extras were put aside. I saved the set with the words on the back and read them out one by one; if you had the right number of objects, you put a counter on that card; three in a row won. We played several rounds, changing the "bingo cards" between rounds just for variety.
We also did Lore's "diagnostic chalkboard session" which she did with a few of her students who seemed to know more about arithmetic than the rest. I just wrote down her addition, subtraction and missing-number questions for Crayons and had her answer them--and she got them all right except that she's still sometimes not sure about what minus signs are.
So that was our math week!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
These are recommended for the 8 to 12 age group? (the focus of The Ultimate Book Guide)
I'll back up a bit. I read Susan Cooper's whole Dark is Rising sequence years ago. Several times. I loved them so much that I even read them to Mr. Fixit. I think I read them to the Apprentice. I may or may not read them to the younger Squirrelings...for the same reasons that I may or may not read them the Wrinkle in Time books. Some Christians I know (conservative AND well-read) don't like the views they put forth on good, evil, God and the universe. But I still love them for their story, their originality (even though they draw on many other legends), and the magical quality of the writing...
The room was at once a cosy cave of yellow light, and he lay back in shame, feeling stupid. Frightened of the dark, he thought: how awful. Just like a baby. Stephen would never have been frightened of the dark, up here. Look, there's the bookcase and the table, the two chairs and the window seat; look, there are the six little square-riggers of the mobile hanging from the ceiling, and their shadows sailing over there on the wall. Everything's ordinary. Go to sleep.Jump to twenty-plus years later, and we have:
He switched off the light again, and instantly everything was even worse than before. The fear jumped at him for the third time like a great animal that had been waiting to spring. Will lay terrified, shaking, feeling himself shake, and yet unable to move. He felt he must be going mad. Outside, the wind moaned, paused, rose into a sudden howl, and there was a noise, a muffled scraping thump, against the skylight in the ceiling of his room. And then in a dreadful furious moment, horror seized him like a nightmare made real; there came a wrenching crash, with the howling of the wind suddenly much louder and closer, and a great blast of cold; and the Feeling came hurtling against him with such force of dread that it flung him cowering away.
Will shrieked. He only knew it afterwards; he was far too deep in fear to hear the sound of his own voice. For an appalling pitch-black moment he lay scarcely conscious, lost somewhere out of the world, out in black space. And then there were quick footsteps up the stairs outside his door, and a voice calling in concern, and blessed light warming the room and bringing him back into life again.
We had one other thing in common, too. Most of us were pretty weird. When you think about it, a normal kid wants to watch TV or movies, videos or computer games: there's something odd about him if instead he's more interested in the stage. And we were all crazy about it; crazy, and confident that we had talent. Arby had made sure of that when he first interviewed each of us, last winter.I'm not sure if I'm reading E.L. Konigsburg or what...but it doesn't sound like Susan Cooper. Or at least it doesn't sound like The Dark is Rising.
Later on I think Cooper gets past some of the initial awkwardness, especially when she does the scenes between Nat, the main character, and his new friend William Shakespeare. (I think I see a bit of TDIR's Will and Merriman in this.) The slanginess and monotone of the first scenes are replaced by more enthusiasm and something real that made me at least interested enough to see it through to the end.
As for Will Shakespeare, he was King of Fairyland of the whole world, as far as I was concerned. He wasn't a great actor; he didn't have that indescribable special gift that Richard Burbage had, that could in an instant fill a theater with roars of laughter, or with prickling cold silence. But as Oberon he had an eerie authority that made me, as Puck, totally his devoted servant. When he sent me offstage to look for the magic herb that he would squeeze on Titiania's eyes, it was my own delight--me, Nat Field--that put spring into my cartwheeling exit.Parts of King of Shadows remind me of other books: Penelope Farmer's Charlotte Sometimes (another somewhat disturbing timeshift book that was a bit ahead of its time), and Geoffrey Trease's Cue for Treason, which isn't a timetravel book at all but has a lot of the same plot elements: a young boy who's part of a theatre company with William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage, the detail of boys playing all the female parts, performing something for Queen Elizabeth, and a backdrop of political intrigue, spies, treason and so on.
When I thought some more about Cue for Treason (which some people would consider dull and old-fashioned--I doubt it's even in most public libraries now), I recognized one big difference between these two books about hanging out with Shakespeare, and why I would read my 10-year-old Trease's book but not King of Shadows. Cue for Treason is an adventure story. Stuff happens, and more stuff happens, and people even get shot at, but overall it's just kind of a ripping yarn. King of Shadows is way more psychological than any 10-year-old I know would be able to handle. It's about grief, unhappiness...it's about a beautiful friendship and the fascination of acting...it's got all kinds of details in it about the Elizabethan theater and A Midsummer Night's Dream...but it's also about bearbaiting, suicide, maimed beggars, and birds pecking at severed skulls. It also has a few instances (in the present-day scenes) of what I'd consider unacceptable language in a book for this age group.
My 10-year-old is just coming off of a several-month trip with me through the Borrowers' series. She's just come beyond the Magic Treehouse books (not my own idea of awesome, but something she enjoyed reading to herself), and is starting to look for something a little more. I was thinking of starting a couple of Ellen Raskin's mysteries with her, which also have the occasional dark side but have enough humor to balance things out. And that's the other thing I think I'm not liking much about this odyssey into 10-to-12-ish fiction of the last several years: these books seem to take themselves oh so seriously, and the world oh so sadly. There's not enough delight in them. In The Dark is Rising there's evil and scariness, but it's defeated, full tilt. (And Will's life isn't all that bad to start with--he's summoned to help fight The Dark, but otherwise he's just sort of a normal boy.) In Cue for Treason the bad guys are caught and the worst of them are sent to the Tower (to await their turn with the birds, no doubt, but Peter (the boy) isn't there to see it). In King of Shadows there is some closure for Nat's emotional wounds, and it even turns out that there was a purpose for his timeshifting adventure, but it doesn't seem like enough to set things straight. In a way one wishes that Susan Cooper, and Anne Fine, and their ilk, weren't such good writers, because when they choose to do raw emotions, they do it too well for this age group. It's a throwback to what somebody called "the gray books" of the 1970's young-adult genre: a too-adult, too-depressing world that Ponytails, for one, isn't ready for.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Crayons and I made these last night for a surprise dessert. The idea was from Family Fun, and the impetus was a late-summer pint of strawberries from the farm stand (and the fact that we've had about as much shortcake as even we can eat for awhile). Check out these adorable micies, and use your imagination and whatever's on the shelf to improvise their faces and tails. We used chocolate chips for both the noses and eyes; bits of dried fruit (from a bag of trail mix) for ears; and pieces of chow mein noodle for tails. For fun, we arranged them on a plate around a wedge of cheese (with a "bite" taken out of the side).
We made about a dozen, and served a bowl of the extra berries and sliced-off bits on the side.
(Thanks, Ponytails, for the photos.)
So this year--it's finally on the menu. We have other drawing resources too--quite a few books, actually. But there's something about her simple approach that I like.
I'll let you know how it goes!
Check out Barb's list at Heart of Harmony. And you can also see the clock entries in last week's drawing challenge. (Two of our Squirrelings participated.) Next week's challenge: drawing school supplies. (Details on Barb's blog--deadline is Monday of every week.)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Have you ever made...
A crawfish trap
A balancing scooter
Computer (I won't take the credit for this, but Mr. Fixit puts his own computer combinations together)Camping gear
Barometer (yes, out of a beer bottle--it was very successful)
Cosmetics (not really my thing, but the Apprentice has experimented a bit)Vitamin water
Hats (we once made a very nice wrapping-paper Easter bonnet)
Baby food (okay, now you're finally more into my territory)
Fried green tomatoes
Wind generator tower
Weather station (well, mostly just the barometer)
An heirloom tablecloth (I've made doilies and placemats, but that's as big as I get with thread. You didn't mention afghans, though--I've made a few of those.)
Stencils for painting
A rocking chair
Cradles and cribs
An electric car
Rock candy (what homeschooler hasn't tried this? Many have attempted...few have succeeded.)
Graham crackersA surfboard
A tiara (do princess crowns for a birthday party count?)Egg cream
A corsage (Years ago. Girl Guide Flower Arranger Badge.)
Gingerbread houseStick horse
Salt and pepper shakers
An apron (Uh--what's an apron?)
I took French through high school and into university, and even won a dictionary once in a competition. My grammar isn't bad, although it could use a good review; my accent isn't bad (I think I pronounce French better than a few politicians I've heard); but I'll be the first to admit I am nowhere near bilingual. I can browse through Lettres de mon moulin without looking up too many words (hey, I even figured out what a chèvre was just by thinking about cheese), but French commercials throw me completely.
Still, somehow The Apprentice managed--either under her own power or because of her marvellous French tutor, moi--not only to succeed in first-year high school French but to elicit a question from her teacher as to whether she'd been enrolled in French Immersion. (Choke, sputter.) So I guess whatever we did wasn't that bad.
Um--what did we do?
Well, starting from the end...she had been doing an older version of Powerglide, mostly on her own...we had gone through one beginning grammar textbook, although I was doubtful about whether she'd retained much...she had read some Snoopy cartoons and some of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in French...she memorized one of the Fables de la Fontaine...we had sung quite a few folk songs and church choruses, read quite a few French easy-reader books (I sometimes made up my own Ruth Beechick-style lessons to go with those)...we had gone through some of the old grade one Aux Yeux curriculum I have (which I'm still going to post about later, since Crayons will be using it this year)...used several little tape sets from the public library...read some of an online story about Christians in Romania...made a poster showing Arthur the aardvark and his different feelings (Arthur says J'ai mal (I feel sick), J'ai faim (I'm hungry) and so on)...used a couple of Usborne-type illustrated French/English word books...used an old workbook about learning French with a kangaroo...did some copywork...used some online fun French sites that aren't around anymore. Occasionally even watched T.V. Oh, and one year when she was six she did "J'étudie avec Mimi" with a group, although I don't think she learned a whole lot from that.
Mainly, I think, we just kept working at it...never too heavy on the grammar, she picked more of that up this year at school.
This past year with Ponytails, I mostly used one of two storybooks we have that were written in English and translated into French--100 contes familiers des bonnes soirées, and 100 contes familiers des jours heureux. Bedtime stories and happy-day stories. OK, they don't sound too challenging, but that's the whole idea: they're just one-or-two-page stories about this and that: birds who try to paint their feathers different colours, children who go to the zoo and get their lollipops eaten by a hungry elephant, a stuffed dog that gets lost, and so on. Not great literature, but great for vocabulary and hearing how sentences get put together. We're going to continue with the other book this year. What do we do with them? Sometimes I pre-teach a bit of vocabulary, especially if it's really important to the story. Then I read; sometimes I use toys or pictures to help show what's going on. I try not to translate into English if I can help it; I want her to understand the word in French, not just translate it.
I usually have Ponytails narrate, but not always in French. Usually I ask her to tell what happened in English but encourage her to use any French words she can remember.
Sometimes I'll make up a phonics lesson to go with the story; for example, if there are several words in the story that have the vowel sound used in "le" and "de," I'll list them and we'll practice reading them; then when I read the story again I'll point out those words or have her read them too. Sometimes, if we extend the story over a few days, I'll make up a worksheet--usually it's a page divided into about six empty boxes, each box with a word or phrase at the top, and she illustrates each box. I might also just give her the empty boxes and have her copy the words in herself before she draws the picture.
Sometimes I copy out some of the story, cut up the sentences, and we make new sentences.
Or I might ask her questions, have her point to things in the room or in an illustration. Where is...show me...touch something that is....
And we sing too. This year I'm figuring on one folk song and one Christian song per month. If we can find tapes or CDs to go with the songs, I like to use those because sometimes (even for me) the phrasing on a song is a little tricky, and we might as well learn to sing them "right." Even though, just as in English, there are many different versions of some songs--so the CD might not always match up with our book. But we've usually worked it out.
Oh--and the other thing I have to look into is the free-with-library-card version of Rosetta Stone. We have an old demo CD of Rosetta Stone, so I know how it works, but I would like to see how well the free version works. In my mind that would be a great program to alternate with the Mom-lessons.
I have the stories and songs figured out through March--not exactly what we're going to do with each one, but the general idea. After March I'm not sure, because early in April we have a local conference here and I might look at investing in a commercial program that I can use with both Crayons and Ponytails, starting in the spring. I like the sound of the one that Coffeemamma has been using. But until then we're going to do our "chez nous" version.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
This book-of-books doesn't have the Christian base of Books Children Love, or Honey for a Child's Heart. But it also doesn't have as much commercial "attitude" as I expected...or, to be more accurate, it fits a particular kind of "attitude" that, although I'm not totally in tune with it, I do "get." This is a British book, and it expects that if you enjoy Jerry Spinelli and J.K. Rowling, you might also have the intelligence to try out Mistress Masham's Repose, Rosemary Sutcliff's historical novels, and Black Beauty. There are witches here; there is weirdness and fantasy and time travel and a lot of Roald Dahl, and a few other things that might not be my particular cup of tea. But there's also an obvious love of books and stories that would make this guide worthwhile browsing for both the 8-12's (with a bit of guidance) and their parents.
The best part--and it's very creatively and thoughtfully done--is the "Next?" box beside each main entry. If you liked this book, you might like this (same author) or this (similar theme). The Just-So Stories lead to Jacobs' English Folk Tales, Alan Garner's A Bag of Moonshine, Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, The Jungle Books, and Ted Hughes's Tales of the Early World. King Solomon's Mines suggests the sequel Allan Quartermain, and then Treasure Island, The Coral Island, Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, or William Nicholson's The Wind Singer. You'll find out why Helen Cresswell related to What Katy Did, and what Margaret Mahy thinks about Winnie-the-Pooh. It's like walking around with a very experienced librarian who, although she may not share all your tastes, can nevertheless point out all kinds of books and authors, new and old, that you might have missed.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
And it all turned out just fine--I think stuffed shells are even tastier sometimes than lasagna. If I'd had some parsley (still out of that), it would have tasted even better mixed with the ricotta cheese; what I did add (to one batch of cheese) was some salt, Parmesan cheese, and a beaten egg; also a bit of store cottage cheese because I had gotten the ricotta a bit dry and I thought it needed a bit of moistening. I cooked the shells (20 shells served us along with a salad) until they were flexible but not mushy, stuffed them, and put them on top of a layer of sauce, in a greased casserole. I covered them with some shredded cheese (sharp, uncoloured Cheddar, but Mozzarella would have been fine if we'd had some) and most of the rest of the sauce recipe--it made a bit more sauce than I wanted for the pasta so I just kept the rest.
And I baked the whole thing with the lid on for about half an hour. I sprinkled a bit of Parmesan on when it came out of the oven.
Thank you, Miss Maggie--couldn't have done it without you!
I can't comment much on the third one, Discovering the Heavens--but I am very impressed with the other two: Discovering Spiders, Snails, and Other Creepy Crawlies; and Discovering Insects: Ants, Flies, Crickets... There's enough in each of these to keep elementary-age naturalists busy for quite a long time--if they can find samples of the required critters to do the experiments with. (Sample activity: snail race.) There's also quite a bit of vocabulary worked in fairly painlessly. I like the fact (although kids might not care) that the critters in question are divided up by groups: under Annelids, we get to study earthworms; under Molluscs, we look at slugs and snails; under Arthropods, we get Arachnids (spiders), Myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), and Crustaceans (sowbugs).
These look like a great resource, and they're also a good reminder that subjects for nature study can be as close as your own backyard.
(Update, December 2010: Thanks to Ann at A Holy Experience for continuing to post the nature calendars on her blog--and welcome to visitors coming from HE!]
For all the would-be Miss Staceys out there...
I bought a book this spring from someone in our local homeschool group, and it turned out to be such a treasure for anyone doing nature study that I have to tell you about it. The only problem might be getting a copy: there are only seven right now on Abebooks, so it seems a bit scarce. But once you know it's out there, you might find some other copies floating around, especially if you're in Canada.
The book is Natural Science Through the Seasons: 100 Teaching Units, by J.A. (James Arthur) Partridge. It was published by MacMillan in 1946 and 1955 as a year-long teacher's resource. Each month has a variety of activities that might be suited to what's growing or hatching during that time (at least in Ontario). Each month has a sample day-by-day calendar with natural things to look for that you can build up "on your blackboard" (or on a regular calendar, for homeschoolers). Each unit has suggested activities, divided into those that are especially suitable for younger and older grades. There are experiments, questions, little verses to learn (or maybe to use for copywork), charts for identifying evergreens, and more things to draw on the blackboard.
And then each one also has a reading list, including suitable pages from Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study; books such as Parker's Golden Treasury of Natural History and Dorothy Shuttlesworth's Exploring Nature with Your Child; and books by other authors whose books are still available: the D'Aulaires, Milicent Selsam, and Roger Tory Peterson. How cool is that?
Keep your eyes open! (The book has a green spine with red printing, it's 9 x 6 inches, and it's over 500 pages long.)
A few posts I've noticed:
Ann at Holy Experience shares her Planning Days--and a day planned out with Ann does (seriously) sound like a Holy Experience. Also some talk about the book Authentic Parenting.
Tim's Mom, a very veteran Amblesider (I didn't say venerable), posts book lists for senior year of high school, ninth grade, and more.
I think Coffeemamma is going to need a large double-double to get through her to-do list, but I hope she gets everything crossed off soon so we can go
Cindy is asking for some feedback in Teaching the Taught.
The Headgirl returns to college. And Fa goes off for the first time...
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
(Hat tip both to the DHM and to the Carnival of Homeschooling.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
This is what we did with them. It's a recipe I clipped from Vegetarian Times a long time ago and adapted tonight to use what we had. (This is the adapted version.)
About 10 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste (and some cayenne pepper if you like; I don't)
1 tsp. each dried oregano and basil
(The original recipe called for frozen peas and a chopped green pepper in addition to the other vegetables, as well as fresh garlic. Since I had finished all the garlic, I used a bit of garlic powder with the other seasonings.)
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water, for about 8 minutes, depending on how small you cut them. Add in the chopped broccoli and cook for a couple minutes more, until the potatoes are done. Drain them well in a colander.
A few minutes before you're ready to eat, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the chopped pepper (and garlic, if using) and cook for a couple of minutes before adding all the other ingredients. (Pick out any stray bits of potato skin.) Cook for several minutes, stirring gently (you are not trying to mash the potatoes).
If you need to wait a few minutes for supper, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan until you're ready to eat.
I needed something to go along with this and didn't have any small protein-type things handy; but I did have a bag of pre-cooked wieners in the freezer (that is, the last wiener left in the pan, multiplied several times--we just store the leftover ones in a freezer bag for snacks or hot dog famines). I pulled them out, drizzled them with barbecue sauce, and baked them in a covered casserole for about half an hour. So much for our healthy dinner, I guess; but the flavour seemed to go well with the potato mixture.
Dessert was Fruit Crisp (yes! it was cool enough to use the big oven today!). We had bought--very rare occasion--some mixed frozen fruit when it was on sale at Price Chopper. I poured about half the bag of mixed berries into a small pan and added several stalks of chopped rhubarb. Actually I should have chopped the rhubarb smaller because it came out with a bit of crunch left, but we like it that way anyway. (One Squirreling did ask why I put celery in the dessert...)
Anyway--one other experiment here. In the Tightwad Gazette there's a mention of using baking soda in fruit crisps and other desserts so that you can cut back on the sugar. Well, a lot of times I don't add sugar anyway except in the crumble part, but I figured I should add some today because of the rhubarb. So I tried 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp. baking soda along with the fruit, and then added our regular crumble topping. I baked the dessert along with the wieners, and there were no complaints.
Check it out--lots of ideas!
Sunday, August 19, 2007
But I did try this recipe for a sort of anywhere-but-here pasta salad that I saw in the paper this week. The article said:
"But here's a mouth-watering exception that's perfect for a hot day: a centuries-old dish from the Jews of Italy.The fresh tomatoes sold me--I decided to try it. The only thing I forgot to get was parsley, which is probably heretical and I'm sure it would have tasted better with it included; but I did have a zucchini which I grated up into the pasta instead. I used whole-wheat spaghettini.
"This sweet-and-sour sauce, from the Venice Ghetto, was served at room temperature on Saturdays. Observant Jews couldn't cook on the Sabbath, so food was prepared ahead of time and served cold.
"The recipe, adapted from Claudia Roden's comprehensive and detailed The Book of Jewish Food, is a wonderful way to use fresh tomatoes."
Mama Squirrel admits she is probably the only one in the Treehouse who really liked the sweet-and-sour-pasta idea, but it was a nice change anyway.
Next week's Carnival of the Recipes will be hosted at The Common Room, and the theme is Let's Do Lunch.
If you're hosting an open house at a potential new Treehouse that has Really Strange-Looking Curtains, you don't exactly increase my enthusiasm by pointing out that all the draperies are included in the already high price. Even if they are custom made.
Also, having "Specious Family Home" in big letters on the fact sheet isn't real reassuring either.
Just thought you'd like to know.
(Specious: 1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: a specious argument. 2. Deceptively attractive. http://www.thefreedictionary.com)
Saturday, August 18, 2007
We had a fun Saturday morning shopping around.
First stop was an estate sale with a lot of vintage books; the late owner of the house had been a French teacher and her collection went way back, maybe to her own school days. I picked up a few books just for interest, mostly vintage school editions:
Corneille: Le Cid (Hachette's French Classics)
Beaumarchais: Le Barbier de Seville
Daudet: Lettres de mon Moulin (Siepmann's French Texts)
Les 100 Plus Belles Chansons (a school songbook from the 1940's)
Notre Histoire, by Brown, Harman, and Jeanneret, translated by Charles Bilodeau. This is a real treasure: a French translation of George Brown's Story of Canada, which is an out-of-print textbook that some Canadian CM homeschoolers like to use. (Ponytails will be using our copy this year.) I didn't know a French version existed (I can find no mention of it online), and I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with it. I know a couple of bilingual CM mammas who might like to have it.
There were some books in English, too:
The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott
An Everyman's Library book of Modern Plays
The Little Minister, by J.M. Barrie
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
Mr. Fixit took away a few records, too.
Second stop was a rent-a-table sale at the community centre. I found a small dolly for Crayons and a few somewhat tattered Scholastic paperbacks for a quarter apiece to add to our collection: Just Plain Maggie, Ghost Town Treasure, Snowbound in Hidden Valley, and Vicki and the Black Horse.
And a couple of the Squirrelings found earrings.
The community centre sale had a snacks table, but we weren't up for pop and hot dogs at 10:30 in the morning. So we all got back in the 2000 Rav4 (yeah, that's what we're driving right now) and drove to a cafe we had been wanting to try out that opens and closes at weird hours and keeps being closed every time we go there. This morning it was open. Grandpa Squirrel (that's Mr. Fixit's Dad Squirrel, not my map-collecting Dad Squirrel) was in the neighbourhood so he joined us for some coffee, juice and homemade strudel.
Last stop of the morning was Giant Tiger, which sounds like a funny place to pick up groceries, but we only needed bread, milk and a few boxes and cans, and we were planning a trip to the farm stand later to pick up the fresh stuff.
So...phew. That was our Saturday morning. How about yours?
But The Space Between My Peers has it all sewn up here. Of interest to the Squirrelings: check out the upside-down cardigan.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Well, even my dad's boxes have gotten a little full from time to time, and he's often passed some of his treasures on to us. That would include a whole stack of National Geographic maps, the kind that come folded up inside the magazines. Only these are mostly from the 1950's.
Um--pretty useless, right? Unless you're actually studying the geography of the 1950's?
No! We've used that stack a lot and have plans to continue using them this school year. For instance, there's a map of the "United States, Washington to Boston" from the August 1962 issue. For our purposes, we don't care if new interstate highways have been built or some names of towns have changed: at least the states were still in the same places, last time I looked, and the rivers and the oceans were the same. We're not aiming to drive there, just wanting to get a look at where some of the places we're reading about are in relation to us.
Even better is "Historical United States" from June 1953. This one has little notes and symbols all over, showing where the battles took place, where "Benedict Arnold crossed from Kennebec to Chaudiere waters enroute to Quebec", and where "Henry Hudson ascended river to site of Albany." There's also "A Map of New England, with Descriptive Notes" (June 1955).
For Plutarch and mythology we have "Greece and the Aegean," December 1958. For Paddle-to-the-Sea we have a map of Ontario from December 1978. (The Great Lakes haven't moved either.) We also have "British Isles" from July 1958 and "Shakespeare's Britain" (May 1964).
The best thing about these maps? No, not that they were free; that they're big! You can unfold them all over the floor or stick them up on the wall. Occasionally (since we've had several maps of the U.S. given to us) we've even traced a route or marked places on them. (We used one to move a little paper Minn of the Missisippi all the way down the river.) This beats little Internet printouts hands down.
Now I don't know if you're going to be able to track down any of these maps, unless you have an absolute National Geographic fanatic around. (Hope for a forgotten closet with shelves threatening to collapse from the weight of gold-coloured covers.) The trouble is, even if you get your old NGs cheap at thrift shops, the maps are usually not with the magazines anymore. But SOMEBODY took them out, right? So maybe SOMEBODY hung on to them--just in case--and maybe SOMEBODY would let you at some of their stash, if you ask nicely.
Oh--and a postscript about old NG magazines. They're not just for cutting out pictures of Masai warriors anymore. If somebody offers you some, check carefully for offbeat and literary-type articles; and then store them somewhere where you'll remember to use them. Our copy of Timothy Severin's The Brendan Voyage shares the shelf with the NG from December 1977, which had an article promoting the book (including a two-page diagram of Severin's boat). (We also have another of his articles, "In the Wake of Sindbad," July 1982). We have "A Walk Across America," April 1977--stored with the book of the same name (and the photos in the magazine are way clearer than those in our paperback book). We have treasured articles about Dickens' England, life in Jerusalem, Willa Cather's country, and Viking ships--stored with books on those topics. Of course we can find those subjects online too--but why pass the real thing by?
Keep your eyes open--you might literally strike gold.
Crayons' sand art
Mama Squirrel and Crayons contemplating Lake Huron
[Photo of our backyard deleted at Ponytails' request--she says she will personally take another one that doesn't have any Squirrelings in it.]
Check out the nice birdbath there--remember our big maple? The stakes in the ground show where--just after we took these pictures--we put in a small Crimson King Maple (by the birdbath) and a magnolia (by the apple trees).
By the way, we put in those apple trees maybe eight, nine years ago; and this is the first year we've ever had any real apples from them. They, at least, don't seem to lament the missing maple. The finches have also suddenly decided they like our yard--at least the birdbath.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
As Meredith said, it does make one think twice about some of those yard-saled toys. Our Squirrelings (those who will still admit it) are partial to plastic trolls and Polly Pockets (no magnetic ones that I know of), but they have also spent their yard-sale money on Barbie odds-and-ends. It's not like they're at the stage to be chewing on toys ("Oh come on, none of us would chew on a Barbie," says Ponytails), but I think it's the idea of having all that stuff--and who knows what else--around in the first place that bothers us. Again, we're not at a stage where it would make sense to go back to unpainted building blocks (Ponytails snickers), and one of these days all the Pollies around here will hang up their little cell phones for good ("and we'll play with our makeup," Ponytails suggests--obviously been taking lessons from the Apprentice). But it's the general problem of what's out there, all the plastic and painted stuff, the dyes, the recalled food products...where it's all coming from...who lives right on top of those factories...what will be the next thing to go, and it might be the last thing we bought. Or yard-saled.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The deadline to submit recipes is this Saturday, Aug. 18, at 12 p.m. CST.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Pull up a shopping cart and help us stock up on school supplies and other necessaries for the children...and their teaching parents.
Check your coupons first: any good sales on? At Home With The Kids offers the latest sales and coupon codes related to schooling.
Moving on into the store--are you ready to reorganize your learning space?
Consider A BIG COMFY COUCH...OR TWO
Ann at Holy Experience presents Preparing, with photos of her family's Learning Nook. What a wonderful way to display books!
You could dress up the walls if you get
A WHOLE PACK OF STICK-TACK--OR MAYBE SHE USES PUSH PINS
Mother Auma presents School Supplies: I Hung A Few Things posted at CM, Children and Lots of Grace.
Or go all out with A HAMMER AND NAILS
Denise presents Living with history posted at Let's play math!.
How about A GOOD CD PLAYER?
Lindafay presents The Opera posted at Higher Up and Further In. Whoah--free opera CDs and lessons!
Head over into the BOOK SECTION
(How can you homeschool without books?)
Bending the Twigs presents "The Dumbing-Down of the Summer Reading List," "a discussion of how public schools are bumping literary classics off summer required reading lists in favor of recently-published books of dubious value and why students should read 'great works.'"
Mommy Brain presents Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a Christian's perspective on the final Harry Potter book.
The Daily Planet presents It All Started With A Girl: An Anne Frank Biography Essay. "We did a WWII study. During that study, we each got to pick a specific topic to talk on. I chose Anne Frank. Here is an essay about her life."
No fighting, no biting! presents Smart Babies: why reading books is so much better for little ones, apparently all those "smart baby" videos actually retard language development.
And you could pick up A HOMESCHOOLING MAGAZINE (this store has everything)
April presents How to Read Curriculum Reviews posted at Lunablog. "I wrote a summary of the factors I take into consideration when reading user reviews of homeschool curriculum. I've learned them by noticing my own tendencies, and those of other homeschoolers, and they help me when I'm trying to decide how helpful a particular review is to my own situation. "
APMFormulators presents Trivium Pillar, discussing how "The Trivium method of learning possesses eminent degree of excelling in any subject for students. "
DeputyHeadmistress presents The Common Room: The Seven Liberal Arts and a Classical Education- a Parents' Review article cont. posted at The Common Room.
Dewey's Treehouse presents Back-to-Homeschool Week: Curriculum. Mama Squirrel quotes T.S. Eliot: "We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time."
Silvia presents What Do These Things Have in Common? Choice. posted at Po Moyemu--In My Opinion.
Judy Aron presents Paying Kids To Stay In School posted at Consent Of The Governed.
Nissa Gadbois presents Making Charlotte Simple for Our Family: Part 2 - Getting Organised posted at Renaissance Academy.
Janine at Why Homeschool explores problems with Teaching to the Test, and lessons she learned in testing her daughter while homeschooling.
Don't forget to fill up a pencil case with the smaller items:
Jimmy Atkinson presents 150 Useful, Educational, and Inspirational Blogs for Aspiring Writers posted at OEDb: Online Education Database.
Erasing myths and misconceptions
Alasandra presents Top Myths About Homeschooling: "7 Myths perpetuated by non homeschoolers and my response to them."
Tricia at HilltopHomeschool presents I Can Do It All...The Myth. "I believe in learning right along with my children. If I don’t know how to do it, then we look it up. If I can’t figure it out even after looking it up, we ask for help." This is Tricia's first carnival submission, and she did a super job.
Andrea presents a video post, People who don't know... criticize, posted at Notes From A Homeschooling Mom.
HowToMe presents How to Teach your Visual Learner to Study (3 of 4) posted at HowToMe.
Very important: A BIG STACK OF PRINTER PAPER
Waldorf Our Way presents English As A Second, Or First, Language: "an online resource for students learning English as a second language is also handy for primary grammar review."
Day by Day Homeschooling presents Free Grammar Workbooks.
Consider some LAB EQUIPMENT
Karen presents Thomas Review: How to Think Like a Scientist posted at The Thomas Institute.
All Info About Home Schooling presents They Blinded Them From Science.
Or a NATURE NOTEBOOK AND MAGNIFYING GLASS
Stephanie presents Queen Anne's Lace, posted at Stop the Ride!.
A BIG BINDER FOR THE HIGH SCHOOLERS
Jocelyn of Lothlorien presents Young Entrepreneurs. "Take a minute from your busy life and see how a few homeschooler-teens have begun their own businesses and how they're seceeding. Come and relax. Have a laugh and share in the excitement of these 'Young Entrepreneurs.'"
Living In Grace presents plans for the coming year's highschool at home in Homeschool Open House 2007.
SOMETHING HI-TECH FOR THE COLLEGE STUDENT
Ted Reimers presents Must have Tech Gadgets for Students, posted at College Blog.
Scott presents 18 Overlooked Things Everyone Should Bring to College, posted at College and Finance. (Earplugs, flip-flops, and more.)
AN APPOINTMENT BOOK
ChristineMM presents Nailing Down the Extracurriculars posted at The Thinking Mother.
And maybe a COFFEEMAKER
(A present for Mom...)
Summer presents Learn Something New Every Day posted at Wired For Noise.
Cindy at Life Without School asks and gives her personal answer to the question: Should we martyr ourselves to motherhood? in Womanhood and Homeschooling.
Competent homeschool moms find themselves much in demand. Do you Know When to Say NO? Check out the further adventures of Wonder Woman at Mother-Lode.
Life Nurturing Education presents "Idols and Effigies." Renae says, "This post is about struggling with the stereotypes home school moms face from others and from themselves. "
[Updated to fix link] Karen's History Project presents My Favorite Homeschool Subject: "A few ramblings of a long time homeschool mom on how homeschooling has benefitted me personally."
(Of course, some of us aren't into shopping at all)
Broken Homeschool presents Hang On To Your Hats—It’s Not Back To School Time For Homeschool Families.
And don't forget: Memories are made of the things we DO, not the things we BUY, posted at Millionaire Mommy Next Door.
Ready for the checkout? Pick up A PACK OF BUBBLE GUM.
Melissa presents "From the Archives: Bubble Gum Math" at The Lilting House.
AND WHILE YOU'RE WAITING IN LINE, YOU CAN FLIP THROUGH YOUR MAGAZINE:
Dana at Principled Discovery presents Building a Reflective Homeschool, The Grace of a Hippo
Jacque Dixon at Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths presents Cookies - A Moment in the Day of A Homeschool Mom. "Here I am sitting at the computer at 3:30 in the morning again... my quiet time. Really. What do I do in times like this? Well, as I walked in here after picking up the Little Raspberry Pixie Muffin, I noticed the rabbit in the cage in the office (read: room where the computers are). That led me to notice the dried grass and clover all over... on the floor, in the boxes of books next to the table the cage is setting on. My thoughts: I love homeschooling. I love having all of these fabulous children!"
KA-CHING. Your total is...
(Now you know this is just a story.)
Thanks to everyone who participated this week, and to the Cates for their support! Next week's Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted by HomeschoolBuzz.com. You can submit your posts to the next edition of Carnival of Homeschooling using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.
UPDATE: Since you have to wait in the car for the rest of your family, you get yet another chance to look at your magazine (or, in this case, the posts that got missed or caught in the spam box):
Scraps of Home presents Go Your Own Way. "Being a "typical" homeschooler really means being "a-typical."
Aduladi' & Co. discuss "The Unspoken Homeschool Sin."
Small World presents Back to Homeschool Week.
And Pajama Mommy Community considers Plagiarism Checking.
Monday, August 13, 2007
But don't expect anything else here today. Go read somebody else's blog. How about Jane Doe Jenn? She's just started and could use some visitors.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The Apprentice has a post on her If Blue Eyeshadow's Illegal blog that she would like you to read, because it's very interesting and because it's all about how you can actually take something interesting like hairstyling and aesthetics in a public high school, which makes up for some of the other nonsense you have to put up with in the other boring classes. (I said that, she didn't.)
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
You want me to talk about curriculum?
Oh, you really don't know what you are getting yourselves in for with that one.
This will be our ninth year using Ambleside Online, which is a free online Charlotte Mason curriculum project. Add in our usual large splash of thrift shop/dollar store/contrived/recycled, and we could go on talking for a long time.
But this post is going to be about where we're going with this year's homeschooling. First is something I've paraphrased from another AO user and blogger who goes by ShilohMom and is well known (by her more usual name) to AO list members for her many helpful suggestions and musings.
"We learn best
by exploring relationships to one another,
to the world around us,
and to our Creator God.
Things impress themselves upon us
and we form a relationship to them.
We explore the world through our senses
and through books.
The world becomes our textbook."
With a fifth grader (doing Year Four) and a first grader (doing Year One), our curriculum at first glance looks like it's going to be a mishmash of the American War of Independence, early British history, Robinson Crusoe, Paddle-to-the-Sea, and assorted natural history, geography, Bible studies and all the rest. No sense at all (and wouldn't it make more sense to try to keep two girls homeschooling together on the same page? and why would a first grader need to learn any British history?). We've also had to/wanted to make personal adjustments and accommodations to the "as written" years, so at first glance it looks even more muddled.
But put together, it does make sense, especially taking the general theme of exploring as our year's focus. Please pardon the number of times the word "explore" is going to have to be used in this post.
"We explore through our senses": the first several weeks of science will literally be a study of the senses. In the rest of the curriculum, we also incorporate the senses of sight (picture study, careful nature observation, drawing lessons); sound (music--singing, listening, and playing around with instruments, listening to stories, listening to our backyard birds, practicing attentiveness in other ways); touch (handicrafts); and taste and smell (cooking--something Ponytails enjoys--and tasting, especially when we try foods from other countries during our geography explorations). Like detectives, we learn to observe and pick out clues from what we see and hear; and detective stories may even make an appearance in some of the extra reading we do (Emil and the Detectives, Tintin, Encyclopedia Brown).
Like Benjamin Franklin, we explore the world of ideas and inventions. Like Robinson Crusoe, we explore what's around us (natural history) and learn to use what we have. Like mapmaker David Thompson (geography lessons in the spring term) and Viking explorers (Leif the Lucky) we start to make sense of our terrain and explore and map what's out there, including our close-to-home Great Lakes (Paddle-to-the-Sea, Year One).
Going further afield, we'll Explore the Holy Land. And starting in late fall, we'll be Exploring Creation with Astronomy. (Coincidence? I didn't make up those titles.)
"We explore the world....through books": We explore other lives, other times, through biographies, history, literature. We explore the world of imagination through plays, mythology (Padraic Colum's The Golden Fleece this year), poetry, Fifty Famous Stories Retold (Year One), stories of dragons (because, unlike Cousin Eustace, we would like them to recognize a dragon if they ever see one); brave and foolish animals, fables, and American fairy tales (Year Four).
We explore George Washington's World (Year Four) and that of Alfred the Great (Year One). We look at shadowy worlds of the past where truth and fairy tales sometimes get mixed (the early chapters of Our Island Story). We look at history that includes our own family story (some of our family lived in Pennsylvania during the 1700's, although as pacifists they had a slightly different perspective on the war). We learn about life in other times: the candle making, spinning and printing presses of colonial days.
And as for the rest? Oh yes--the "3 R's." We explore the world of numbers and mathematics...Miquon Math is very much an exploring curriculum, and our Year Four is also going to be exploring some new areas in math, after some work to figure out her mathematical Global Position.
We explore our own language through reading, discussion, narration, copywork, and a bit of grammar work (not something we spend a lot of time on at this stage). We begin to be aware of other languages as well (in our house, that includes French, and one of these days we might take a crack at Latin).
We explore God's Word, the thing that ties it all together for us--"the end of our exploring." Do you know where that quote comes from? It's from T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding," and the rest of the stanza looks like this:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I found "Little Gidding" discussed here (I'm sorry, I can't figure out the author's name). I thought his/her comment was appropriate to what I've been saying:
"Every time I read this I imagine a man exploring some place like Iceland. It is barren and beautiful and unexplored. He then travels and ends up where he started. But when he comes back, that place of beginning is of so much more meaning. Spiritually speaking, our place of beginning is also our place of end; though it is not the same place. Or, as Eliot might put it, it is the same place but we are not the same people. "
Thursday, August 09, 2007
(Reposted from October 2006)
Things I’ve learned from homeschooling
1. How to get laundry in and start lunch between math and geography.
2. That there's no such thing as too many bookshelves.
3. That the thermosphere is hot but it's not.
4. That hymns are a good way to start the day.
5. A lot about my kids, my husband, and myself.
Things I’ve learned about homeschooling
1. Trust your instincts and your memories. If your gut reaction to something is “ugh” or “why?” or “I would never inflict this on my kids,” you’re probably right. I’ve felt an instinctive “no” about many things. One was a kindergarten math outline that consisted of making a booklet for One, a booklet for Two, a booklet for Three…a booklet for Seventeen…uh huh. Another was the long vowel-short vowel reading approach—that gave me some BAD flashbacks to a first grade class where we circled pictures of pigs and pails and pins and and pens (always fountain pens, for some unexplained reason). The Squirrelings seemed to approach learning better by getting a good running start and then jumping over as much as they could at a time.
2. But stay open minded, too. A book that a bad teacher ruined for you; something you think is too hard for kids; a subject you never thought you were good at—those things can become real and fascinating when you read or study them with children who come without those prejudices. Sometimes opening the door to a new passion is all it takes; sometimes you need a little more perseverance; but the rewards are great. You may witness the beginnings of the world’s next great artist or scientist or missionary.
3. It's okay if every school day isn't perfectly balanced. Most homeschoolers expect and deal with interruptions; and some days you just get more done than others. But you can also plan things to be a bit unbalanced so that you get other things done. The Hillbilly Housewife touched on this in something about menu planning:
"Monday is a big work day in homeschool, so something relatively easy is in order. Dirty Rice with ground turkey or beef will be nice, but I'll have to use celery instead of green pepper because it's out of season and outside of my budget. Wednesday is a slow day at school and I'll be baking anyway so beans will be good. While I'm at it, I might as well make enough for chili the next day. I have time for making chili on Thursday morning while the kids are doing their independent reading."4. You are always adjusting and retooling, because your children and learning and changing; because you have more or fewer of them to teach as they grow and graduate; because new books and materials come your way; and because you are learning and changing too.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Boiled new potatoes
Corn on the cob
Romaine lettuce salad with Havarti cheese (we didn't have any Swiss) and cashews, with poppy seed dressing
Fresh whole wheat bread
Blueberry shortcake with whipped cream
Most of the meal came from our favourite farm stand; the tomatoes are from our garden; and the sausage is from the Polish deli. Eet Smakelijk and Smacznego!
And today's answer is going to be short and sweet: I detest the idea of "out there." "Out there" seems to say that "in here" is surrounded by walls, locks, maybe even bars. The truth is, even if our kids don't play organized sports or go on a lot of field trips (they don't), they're not locked in either.
Please understand: I don't avoid getting the Squirrelings involved in anything that's useful, fun, and possible for us to get them to and home from. If you want my list of what different Squirrelings have been involved in, it would include (at one time or another) Pioneer clubs, other church activities, dance lessons, voice lessons, summer library events, a homeschool social/crafts/gym club, homeschool bowling. ..The Apprentice has also had job-shadowing experience at her dad's office.
I just don't like differentiating between "in here" and "out there." I know exactly what's meant by the question, and it's not meant to be controversial or guilt-inducing. We're just supposed to share ideas we've used for getting our young ones involved in the bigger world. The image is something like Wombles leaving the burrow for the day with their collecting bags, to bring back what they can find or (sometimes) to give something back instead.
However, I still have an issue with what that's all about--not the giving back or exploring, but reasons some people would like to see homeschoolers do as much wombling free (and away from home) as they can. A lot of it has to do with that dratted Socialization thing, which was trounced very nicely in something that went round a few years ago:
To those who can manage a lot of clubs and activities--I often envy you, and I salute you and your minivans. To the rest of you--try not to sweat it too much. The right opportunities will come along (especially when the baby doesn't need to nap any more). Our Squirrelings may not have a long list of "socialization opportunities," but they're quite adequately sociable, thank you.
"What people refer to, as socialization is NOT an issue! I think it has become a word made up among the official home school naysayers. When someone asks you the question (”What about SOCIALIZATION?”), I begin by asking him or her, “What do you mean by socialization?” They will more than likely proceed with some variation on the following theme: “You know, having your kids spend time with other kids their age. Hanging out with their friends, stuff like that.” At that point I will no longer respond with the usual, “Oh Kelsey can get plenty of socialization while being home schooled! She can be in 4-H and Awanas, and Sunday school and Home School band and she can volunteer at the nursing homes etc.etc. In fact she has so many opportunities for socialization that she never had before that I would probably be “socially” busier than I am now. YaDa YaDa YaDa.” Why not? Because I did research on what socialization was and believe me that is not what socialization really is!"
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
The stress you put on certain words in that question can give it a whole different meaning. For instance, "How do you homeschool?" Kind of a general question, usually asked by a non-homeschooler who really wants to know how to do it. Or "how do you homeschool?" More specific and asked by someone who knows there are all different shades of homeschoolers: are you one of those by-the-buzzer types, or do your kids run amok; have you written a detailed schedule for the whole year and searched for every out-of-print book in The Well-Trained Mind, or do you just smile and pass out the workbooks, or the hammers?
Or there's the third option: "How do you homeschool?" Said with the kind of unbelief I usually reserve for those who try to swim across Lake Ontario. These are my answers to the third question.
1. With support from other homeschoolers: real-life and online. Going it absolutely alone would be very hard. Even Samantha Whiteside had people alongside her in the boat.
2. With support from my husband, a.k.a. the school principal, professor of technology, bus driver, treasurer, and head cheerleader (hairy legs and all).
3. With the help of the public library: a great resource for books and CDs that we need only for a short time. Also with the help of our support group's resource library.
4. With the help of some of the great old and new books, old and new magazines and websites written by and for homeschoolers. Whatever you want to ask, read or print out--it's probably out there.
5. By keeping away from too-cluttered books, curriculum & projects. Time is too short and space is too tight for plastic counting frogs.
6. By not comparing ourselves too closely to other families, other children, even some of our nearest and dearest other homeschoolers whose examples fill us with awe. We have our own circumstances, talents and problems; we do the best with what we have and let the rest go.
7. By using the public school grade expectations only as a rough guideline for our academic goals. Samantha Whiteside set a time goal for her swim comparable on what others had done, but it was based on her own capabilities, not just trying to break someone else's record.
8. By not expecting/requiring the kids to learn everything at a consistent rate or in the same way "everybody else" does. By patiently repeating someone's troublesome spots like telling time, while also understanding that the same student is capable of learning how computers work.
9. By keeping God's truth as the cornerstone of our homeschool, while not expecting that every book and resource we use will come from that understanding.
10. With the intention of eventually working myself out of this teaching job. We work toward maturity, independence, and a lifetime of learning. The goal is to eventually cross the lake, right? One of these days!
Monday, August 06, 2007
No, I'm not completely crazy and I will explain.
When I was first expecting our Apprentice (now a teenager), we were still newly married and I had never had reason up until then to find myself a family doctor. I think we picked someone out of the phone book, and right from the first visit I was uncomfortable with her. (Doctor: "What can I do for you?" Me: "Well, I think I'm pregnant." Doctor: "Is that a Problem?" It took me a minute to understand what she was asking, and when I did figure it out I was horrified.) Anyway, it turned out that Doctor Friendly could do prenatal checkups but didn't deliver babies, so we would have to go with whoever was on call at the hospital, or hook up with an obstetrician, or something.
We took a hospital tour and were also less than impressed. "This is the triage area." (Thought bubble: Triage? Like on MASH? Come to think of it, the decor kind of reminds me of the army as well.) "Here's where we put you first, then we move you here, then we move you here..." (Thought bubble: Sounds like an assembly line.) "Is there a rocking chair in the labour room?" "Uh...maybe we can find one somewhere..."
Several weeks later, almost too late in the game, we talked with a local midwife and asked if she would come to the hospital with us. It turned out that that wasn't possible due to hospital-midwife red tape at that time (it's changed since then), but that we could have a home birth. We took a collective deep breath and never looked back.
A couple of years later, we realized that what we learned through the homebirth process was much the same as what we needed to know to homeschool.
1. We took responsibility for the decisions that needed to be made. Although the midwife was the birth expert, we said yes or no to tests, we helped make a birth plan, and we were responsible for making the choice to "risk" a home birth.
2. We did it together, the same way Mr. Fixit and I had done a lot of other things. It wasn't just my decision, it was both of us doing our homework and making it happen.
3. When things got tough, we prayed, got help, and survived. There were several tough points before, during and after the Apprentice's birth, which I won't go into in detail here; but we got through it, and we survived all the usual first-time parent jitters plus some. If we could handle that--homeschooling sounded like a snap.
4. We were reassured by the example of others who had homebirths and/or were homeschooling. This was very helpful in countering the naysayers, including a dentist who told me we were taking too big a risk in having a homebirth (while my mouth was full of stuff and I couldn't talk back).
5. We were spurred on by many small, incidental reasons that made sense to us. Around the home birth, we thought of the facts that we liked our own big bathtub (I don't think labouring in the tub was possible at the hospital), that it would be more private and quiet at home (nobody else's babies crying), and that we could take our time, not be on someone else's schedule (and be pushed into having procedures that would speed things up). We also liked the fact that the midwives took a lot of time and talked to us, unlike Dr. Friendly. We felt responsible and capable.
When we considered homeschooling, we thought of small/big things such as Mr. Fixit's frequent shift changes; the fact that the school wasn't very close and that I didn't drive; the idea that our Christian faith could be an integral part of what we were doing; my background and interest in children's books and curriculum (I had already done many things that you do when you homeschool); and the fact that we were already used to being a "threesome," and enjoyed spending time together. We felt responsible and capable.
So I guess I will always be grateful in some way to Dr. Friendly; because if she had delivered babies, we might never have discovered how empowering it was to give birth outside the hospital box; and if we hadn't done that, we might not have jumped into homeschooling with both feet. But she didn't, and we did, and that's that.
Important P.S. This post is not meant, in any way, to criticize those who choose hospital births, any more than it is to criticize those who have honestly considered the alternatives and have chosen public school for their own good reasons. It is simply the process we went through ourselves.