Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blog starters?

I know I've used this blog more as a daily diary of things that are going on in our little homeschool world, but that gets boring to write about EVERY day, and of course, not every day is worth writing home to Mom about (to borrow a phrase.) Do any of you full-time bloggers have special tricks for topic spark ideas? I know I can save an unpublished post, but that seems cumbersome when I have ideas of, "someday, write about this topic" without actually *writing* about it yet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Short week

As we get ready for vacation, I don't want to start a new unit just to suspend it for two weeks. Well, three once you include the Christmas craziness. So, I was stuck for ideas in how to keep Shannon engaged this week and still "do" schoolwork.

Math and spelling? Easy enough to continue. But how about reading? I decided to keep things pretty light this week, and let her pick one of her regular books that she reads for pleasure. But we mixed things up a lot... SHE is the teacher for literature this week. I told her she'd pick a book, decide how much of it I am to read in a day (and advised her I was a fast reader and could probably read more than her in a half hour), and design questions for me to answer based on that day's reading. Then, we'll do crafts or research projects based on the book. I was hoping she'd pick a Magic Treehouse book, keeping options for the extra goodies still learning opportunities, but did not require it.

She did not. A couple of weeks ago she picked a few "Dear Dumb Diary" books to take home, so that's one that I'm reading for now. She told me to read the first 6 chapters/days, and wrote about 5 questions for me. She is having a BLAST.

Whoops, time out. Brag time... she was doing her math worksheet while I was typing, and just checked her answers. 100% on doing problems in her head instead of with an abacus or on paper. She is overjoyed.

Anyway, she loves being the teacher. We're off to make a guitar I think. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I may have mentioned previously how we've gone to a more traditional "school model" for how we're handling spelling right now. It's definitely not ideal, but until things settle down, it's something that's working for us. So Shannon gets a list of words on Monday to write 1-3 times each, the list comes from suggested words out of MBTP, at least one 'challenge' word, and I've started trying to add vocabulary words out of her literature, science, or social studies unit.

On Tuesday, she writes sentences for each word. Wednesdays she reviews independently and is doing a good job of writing the words she thinks she'll have trouble with. Thursdays we test. Any words missed on test day will be carried over to the following week. Ever since the first week, she has gotten 100% on her tests, and that's great. I think the word lists are a bit unchallenging but we'll ramp it up if we need to. Again, it's the routine I'm working with first until we get comfortable with it.

Tuesdays are her favorite days, as we've found a great way to get Dad involved. She now saves her sentence writing until he gets home, and they sit across the desk from each other. She gives him three random words (or not-so-random, usually objects she can see in the room) while she forms a single sentence out of three of her spelling words. Dad's job, however, is to write a haiku with his words. All of us love this solution. Sean's haikus are usually hilarious (writing for his audience, after all) and his solutions have really stirred Shannon's creative juices to reach for more and more interesting sentences. She often tries to write in haiku herself, and has a pretty good handle on it. Hooray for creativity!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Hooray for crunching wintergreen LifeSavers in a dark room in the name of science!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weird Dreams

(copied and pasted from a Facebook Note I just wrote)

What's the weirdest dream you've ever had? Can you find its roots in your life and see why you might have dreamt that?? Have you ever described a dream without the phrase, "And then for *some* reason...."

I think I've had one of my all-time strangest dreams last night. Here are the ingredients from real life:

1. Study Ben Franklin in both fact and historical (children's) fiction for 2 weeks for daughter's homeschool literature unit

2. Read one of Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" books for 2 hours at bedtime, where the main character is a special agent for crimes against fiction and has the ability to jump in and out of books, usually to fix something that has gone wrong.

3. Stay up until 1:45.

4. Have in your existing back-brain obvious clues pulled from "The DaVinci Code" (book, NOT movie); Hamlet quotation "The time is out of joint. Oh, cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right"; a recent read of fantasy novels centering on a thief posing as a noblewoman; and... not sure where the last ingredient came from, but possibly a reference to the biblical Samson, but it could also be a weird dream alteration of Ben's fur cap.

Mix well and sleep. You'll find yourself a time-traveling agent needing to fix history. It turns out that Ben Franklin is also an agent, but has gone rogue. This is evidenced by the inclusion of the Hamlet quote in Poor Richard's Almanac, long a sore spot for historical scholars, why would he try to take credit for such a famous quote that predates him by so many years? (No, it's not really in there!) Your dream centers on the need to jump into history and retrieve his hair from a famous haircut (???WTF?) before it gets buried and discovered again, altering history. You go to 1780's Philadelphia, and stealthily swipe the hair which turns out to be cut from a wig. Upon returning to the present time, it turns out that Ben is a good guy after all, but it's still important that the hair does *not* make it into the historical record until "discovered" in the 1960's, so you have to go back and re-insert the hair under the barber shop just before it burns down. All the normal sci-fi strictures apply: you can't be in the same time twice, Ben can't go because he's alive in that era, you have to go back after you left from your first trip, you can't overlap those times. You'd already cut it quit close getting the hair out in the first place, and had nearly been discovered.

Well, there was a lot more to the dream, too, but that's the 60-second summary. Definitely one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had, with a "plot" that spanned several weeks of apparent time lapse. Tell me about your weirdest dream!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I have a sensitive child. Under most circumstances, other adults see her as a great, confident kid with a mind of her own. But once in a while, her feelings get hurt, and you have no idea ahead of time what might set her off.

This week was a good one for not being terribly upset if she missed a math problem. It's too soon to rejoice, but perhaps we've made it through that block. But I'm still trying to work around it when possible... her issues of sensitivity and crying because of hurt feelings on things that should be able to roll right off her back. The days where it manifests itself I alternate between being so frustrated I want to pull my hair out and so grateful she's actually not in public school where tears make one a target. Then of course I start second-guessing myself and wonder if it's not just a show for Mom, maybe if she were in "real school" she wouldn't be a target after all, but would have learned how to deal with all this crap by now. But of course I go back to remembering what kids are like, and her feelings are so genuine, I know it would be the same thing there, only with a larger audience.

I never spent much time making Shannon do repetitive letter worksheets when she was learning how to write. She didn't have the patience or interest, I didn't have the patience. Plus, my own handwriting ranges from merely embarrassing to completely illegible, it's even hard enough for me to slow down to make "good" letters for her to copy. Or so I justified myself back then. It shows in her writing, though. She's simply not one for big round loops and tall backs, even spacing and proper capitalization. Every unit we do in literature where she has to write in her journal, I've been adding one more "rule" to follow. Every time so far, she has resisted the implementation of the rule, but by the end of the three weeks, she has (completely on her own) compared that week's questions with the ones from the unit before, and remarked how much easier it is to read, and how I was right. ;-)

Today I was planning for next week's tasks, and I thought we'd spend a day working on her handwriting a bit, which is why I bring this all up. Last week at Staples, I picked up a "Third Grade Handwriting" book, with the specific intent to teach cursive. Instead, I wrote out the whole Aa Bb Cc alphabet in good old block printing. Well, I made the mistake of leaving it out on my desk, and as she was getting ready to say goodnight tonight, she spotted it. "What's this?" Mistake #2 of the night, I told her. Apparently an offhand "We're going to spend a day for reading working on your handwriting a bit," wasn't soft enough for her. Mistake #3, I expounded, waxing poetically on my own mother's handwriting, wishing that mine were like it, and maybe with a little work, Shannon's could be; that if I'd practiced more as a kid, I could have, but since I didn't, well, she's seen my writing. Was that enough? Nope, she still took it as a direct criticism of her writing (which, truth be told, is pretty bad for a 9 year old) and went off to get her pajamas on in tears. She came back out for her last hug, and told me I'd made her sad.

So all you education types out there, what specifically am I doing wrong? Is it just because I'm Mom? Or would she be this way for anyone? How can I get her to make a goal to be better at something without her hearing it as she's not good enough?

Friday, November 18, 2011

What a week!

Ending on a high note, so therefore it's been a great week. :)

Electricity has been all I hoped it would be for inspiring fun and intellectual curiosity. Sure, there's plenty of boring vocabulary and reading, but the key for this age is to get the "Wow, this is cool" factor. We had fun yesterday, I went to buy a Kindle at Staples, and Shannon brought her own money to spend for ... wherever we might end up going. She found a remote control helicopter just like Daddy's, and decided that's what she wanted to get (making my afternoon easy, I won't deny it.) But I told her that since that day's discussion in electricity was all about batteries and motors, she absolutely deserved to get that toy demonstrating both ;)

"Ben and Me" has been a great read, too. She finished the book itself today, though we still have a few more days of discussion on the topics it introduced. Then she gets to do some creative writing of her own based on "independent" research.... pick a new event from Ben Franklin's life and write about it in such a way that it could have been included in the book that she read. This one might be a struggle, as I've never really had her do more than a few sentences on stuff before, a full story might be tough. But I acknowledge that's been my failing... I fail to take some of these assignments and adapt them to what I think will work better for us. I've looked at many of the "paragraph" assignments over the last year and thought to myself, "That's really dumb, who'd want to write a paragraph about *that*?" I need to stop pre-judging assignments, because while I'm definitely right about most of the things I think she'll enjoy, I have been wrong on a few things that I've thought would be chores and she turns out to say how easy or fun it is. I'll get better. :)

So it's one short week with Thanksgiving coming up, then another week of chaos before vacation. We go on 2 weeks of vacation in December, so I don't plan to start another full unit until we get back. That last week of November/first week of December will be chaotic enough on its own, but we'll still do math and spelling at the very least. I think I'm going to challenge her to pick one of her books that she's never read before and teach me for that week. :-) See if she's caught on to the types of questions that get asked after her chapters ... she loved the one day that she got to be the teacher for math.... I gave her the parent guide and she had to explain what was going on to a very confused student. Definitely a repeatable approach.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


So Shannon comes into the office last night at 11PM, carrying a green sign in her hand. "Mom? Can I tape this up on the wall in here tonight in case I forget to give it to you in the morning?" I give a very pointed glimpse at the clock, sigh, and allow her to do such.

"Today let's set a timer to count up and see how long it takes to get done with school. 
Oh, and let's start at 8:00 or 8:30 like we used to. 
PS, how about a shopping spree if we get done by 12:30 or so? 
PPS check one of these: ___yes ___no ___maybe.  
PPPS this is for Thursday"

Let's take this line by line.

Timer? Sure. She's definitely a competitive person and loves to play "beat the clock" games. I'm OK with that line.

So... "8:00 like we used to" ... that's funny. We did that for about 3 days. Remember when I was bragging about a few really good days for attitude and motivation? Yes, those days. Remember how those days stopped? Yeahhhhh. See, it's apparently my fault she's not getting out of bed, I seem to give up too easily, despite going in her room every ten or 15 minutes, despite being growled at (hey, I get it, I'm not a morning person), despite resorting to threats and increasing the volume of my voice after 90 minutes of attempts to get her up. But yes, it's my fault. OK, whatever. ;)  She told me the other day I should try harder by shaking her or letting the dog lick her face. You know, the same dog who's not allowed in her room, much less the top bunkbed where she sleeps, of course I can pick up a wiggly thrashing dog to do that. I told her she's a big girl and able to take responsibility for her own body. She countered with "it's not my fault when I'm out cold." Seriously, I'd love to start school before 10:30.

A shopping spree? Um, OK, totally NO, not going to set a precedent with this one. . I may take her grocery shopping this afternoon and say it counts, hmmmm. Darn it, she does need shoes, and today's the only day until after Thanksgiving with nothing on the calendar. She may win after all.

 Sadly, she's on to my shortcut of "maybe" generally meaning "No, but I'm not willing to be drawn into a debate about why or why not" ..

And I really find it funny that her original plan was to give it to me in the morning, at a time where it would have been too late to get her up to start work at 8AM had I not known that was her goal.

I did get her out of bed on the third attempt at 8:15, the first attempt having been at 7:35. It's now 9AM and she's curled up in her fort/nest under her desk writing in her literature journal. So we're off to a good start anyway. I still dread math today, we had to skip it yesterday, and I think I've gone into what happens when we do that. Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ogre Mom

So despite our progress in a few areas so far this week (4-digit subtraction is now "easy") I've been turned into the Ogre Mom to try to keep focus and stay on task. Shannon is a quite typical 9-year old in her mind's ability to flit from subject to subject, rarely staying on one task for long. Part of "school" is to teach focus and ability to finish tasks. OK, great. Her distractions are getting more and more elaborate, her sidetracked discussion becomes more and more obvious ploys to get out of doing work. Yet, like myself at that age, being called on it turns to outrage. "I wasn't stalling!!!!" OK, fine, you weren't. It doesn't matter, just get back to work.

Right now she's in full offended tantrum. She stormed off to her room to sulk (at least she brought her workbook with her) and piled things blocking the door so I wouldn't be able to open it. I know this because I could hear the chair and other things being piled on it. The noises continue, because I haven't gone down there. It's very frustrating to be a kid and tantruming if the adult fails to notice you're acting out. I'm going to make lunch in a few minutes to get her out, and all will be well.

That is, if she's done any of her work in the past half hour.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Any questions?

Another day of posting just to keep in the habit of posting as well as keeping me from playing Bejeweled Blitz online while Shannon does her reading. Now that I've actually "outed" my blog to people, I of course have no idea if anyone actually is reading. But that's OK, I'm used to talking to myself. It's something I'm good at.

 I'm stuck for subject matter again. I have no idea if there's anything you want to know about Homeschooling in general, how my state handles it, or the curriculum I've chosen. Maybe you've tuned in just to hear my witty banter. Ha. But anyway, feel free to leave a comment if you have an idea for what I could write about other than a simple diary of "here's what we did today."

It's currently my goal to get back to a schedule of "2 months on, 1 month off" and homeschool over the summer. However, to do that, I'd like to be ending the school year in May instead of starting the year in October. So this year we'll be cramming a bit extra in. I've talked to Shannon about it and she thinks it's a mighty fine idea. I think she's matured enough over the past year to take a bit more control over our learning goals and understand that when it's "school time" we have a job to do, and even if we've been on vacation, when we get back it's time to just get back to work. We'll see.

(edited to restore paragraph formatting, which for some reason completely disappeared on a whole pile of posts) 

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Case of the Mondays

Today, I really have nothing to blog about. I apologize for the lack of a quality post... but I wanted to keep in the habit of writing daily even if it's random stream of consciousness. Today's musings include the possible introduction of cursive writing to the curriculum soon (truth be told, she's not ready) and my own reminders to get her writing more. Still dreaming of remodeling the kitchen, our home refinance should be going through next month (hooray!)

So here I sit. I've been waiting for Shannon to get some work done. Today is a day where I'm having a hard time walking the line between patient/encouraging and impatient/taskmaster. Shannon's having a hard time staying focused, as we all get on Mondays, and I'm trying to let her take charge of her work more and more... but it's hard. Some days I feel like I have better things to do than sit and wait for her to get some work done. I want to go do laundry. I want to empty boxes in the guest room. But, instead, I need to stay here in the office and supervise her work.

The good news is that it's partly by her request. She has said she finds it distracting and hard to stay focused if I'm out of the room doing other things. It makes her feel left alone and ignored. OK, I'm fine with that. The bad news is that truly, when I am out of the room, she avoids work indeed. So I'm mostly trapped. I watch her wrestling with staying focused. I wonder how much I need to be an ogre mom. I know from my own experience that the only way to learn to focus is found from within... but ::argh:: I'm ready to pull my hair out.

(edited to restore paragraph formatting, which for some reason completely disappeared on a whole pile of posts)

Friday, November 11, 2011

On independence and exhaustion

I'm starting to leave Shannon alone for small amounts of time during the day. By her age, my folks were leaving me for entire football games to go see the Seahawks or Huskies. Of course, I had the neighbor kids to go to if necessary, but I remember how I felt when left alone on a Saturday afternoon. Proud. Proud that I was trusted enough to handle the house. Confident enough to fend for myself for lunch, competent, and grown-up. With that in mind, and yet an acknowledgement that "times aren't exactly what they used to be" ... she's being left for small chunks of about an hour while I run an errand, go to the chiropractor, things like that. I'm also trying to let her do more and more of her schoolwork on her own when possible. Most of the activities right now are not conducive to that, but from what I read, next year's package (assuming I stay with Moving Beyond the Page) is a lot more child-directed and independent. Rather than make a sudden switch, she's learning how to take charge of what we do.

Today, I had a chiropractic appointment. I told her that if she wanted to stay home instead of coming with me, she'd need to keep working while I'm gone. Reading is the subject easiest to do unsupervised, so I gave her my expectations as well as hopes for how far she'd get while I was gone. She happily agreed that she should be able to accomplish most of what I wanted in the time allotted. When the time for me to leave came, she grabbed her book, journal, and a pillow, and crawled under her desk to her latest cave/fort, complete with "no dogs allowed" sign. I departed. Today was a treat day, (aka the fridge is nearly empty) so I went out to our neighborhood Taco Time on the way home to grab lunch for us. When I got home, something was missing. The dog greeted me at the top of the stairs in his usual fashion, but I did not get the merry "hello" that I was expecting from my student upon my return. I called out that I had lunch. No response. Not yet concerned, I went into the office, aromatic bags in hand.

I wish I'd taken a picture of what I found. Sweet napping girl curled in a ball under her desk, book clasped to her chest. So, she didn't actually accomplish my demands, never mind the hopes. But it was so cute, I didn't get mad. How could I?

So now lunch is over, and reading begins anew. One of our discussion topics for today is going to be the power of the written word: what does it mean to be literate? Why was Ben Franklin's first job running a printing press for his brother, as well as everyone else that ran a small newspaper in the 1760s and 1770s so important to the development of the colonies? Easy questions to ponder as I sit and write.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Second post today!

In a rare glut of posts, I had to brag while it was still fresh. We decided to go ahead and get our park time in early, and saved math for the late afternoon. (see earlier post) I was worried, we ended our park time with Shannon in a horrible mood. She was thirsty, she'd been hit in the ear and gut by our dog, I was taking too long to leave, and was in tears. Full-on "life hates me and the feeling's mutual" mode. I feared for the scene at home when we'd attempt math.

A side note. We're... well, a couple of months "behind" on math. Last year was not a good year and we did very little formal schoolwork. So be it. So she's still working on her second grade work, we should start third grade math by March.

Anyway, we're working today on 4-digit subtraction. I'm worried because Right Start Math teaches it in a method that's supposed to be easier, but it's different from how I learned it. We're actually starting the subtracting at the thousands, instead of ones. The book says it'll be easier in the long run, but it's going to be slow going for teaching, because I need to get used to the method, hard for me to teach "trading" instead of "borrowing." Today's lesson is scheduled as a 2-day lesson, a visual representation of what we're doing.

Shannon? Nailed it. Immediately. Instead of breaking the lesson up, she plowed straight through it, and when she got to her worksheet, did the whole thing even when I told her that she could save half for tomorrow because it was "supposed" to be a two-dayer. Bam. Two days "worth" of math done and completed in 40 minutes. No errors. Easy-peasy. If you read my post from a week or two ago about the math block she's trying to build... Boom, down it comes today. We celebrated, and she positively GLOWED over her new-found ability and confidence in the subject.

And that, my friends, is why I homeschool.


What a glorious day. One of my favorite types of day, late fall, bright blue sky, and 55 degrees. I gotta get out of the house, you know? I'm totally stir crazy right now.

So Shannon and I decided we're going to the dog park after school. Yes, with the dog. And I'm having a hard time sticking to that. I've become the 6-year old, I don't WANT to wait until after school, I want to go RIGHT NOW! ::stamps foot::

I'm very good at justifying things. It's exercise, right? Every school needs PE and every kid needs good fresh air. It'll recharge us. It's going to rain tomorrow, the only way I *know* we can enjoy the park today is to just go. The work will be waiting for us when we get back, we can just do it late afternoon and evening.

But, I know what happens when we do that. Somehow, we just never get back to sitting down and doing the reading or project, or whatever it was that we left until later. Days have rhythms, and we tinker with them at our peril. So I'm putting on my big girl panties and waiting. And casting moon-eyes out the window, hoping *someone* will be done with her worksheet soon. ;-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The attraction is magnetic!

Having a blast with magnets. The kit we have came with 2 bar, 2 ring, and one ball magnet. They are OK, I suppose... they're doing mostly what they should. But today, we went to one of my favorite local shops. Children's Bookshop and Teaching Supplies. It's about 20 minutes away, and while it is indeed a children's bookstore, it is primarily geared towards the teacher, homeschool or otherwise. Lots of posters, kits, charts, decorations, you name it. One could easily go broke in this place. What did I buy today?

I bought rare earth button magnets. Super strong, these guys.
I bought iron filings. Iron dust would be more descriptive, but again, the kit that the curriculum supplied had a demonstrator that they called "filings" but really, picture clipped staples. A bit heavy in conjunction with the weak magnets they sent, and very hard to make the magnetic force lines appear. You really had to know what the end result was supposed to be before you could make the experiment work. But with the stuff I bought... aha! It became very obvious.

I bought a globe. Really, I had planned on saving a globe for this Christmas as a suggestion for a friend/family member to buy... but then I realized I was very picky on what type of globe I wanted. So I just bought one. Earlier this week I had already bought a bunch of map posters on Amazon (several for $0.99 plus shipping) so I didn't go crazy for the maps like I could have. When doing Shannon's 13 Colonies exercise for the Ben Franklin book, I realized how low we were on maps. Ta dah, not any more!

I bought art supplies. Mostly stuff we needed anyway, so nothing particularly exciting, just posterboard, tempera paints, and such. I also bought clay, not to be confused with PlayDoh. Again, one of the things that you see and wonder how you've managed to raise your child to this age without having any in the house.

I bought a Scholastic book, "If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution" to go with our current Ben Franklin book.

But back to the magnets. Today's "fun" activity was using magnets to paint. Take one 7x12 tupperware style container, line the bottom with a piece of paper. Best to tape it on each end to hold it in place. Place a few blobs of paint in strategic locations. Drop in ferrous items: paper clips, nails, screws, washers, ball magnet (her favorite), things like that. Then, while mom holds the bin in the air, daughter holds a magnet under the bin and slides it along the bottom, causing the ferrous items inside to slide through the paint and across the paper. Voila, instant abstract art. Truth? It looked like a 2-year old's finger paint job. Not the best or prettiest art Shannon's ever made. But she had so much fun making it, playing with the magnetic forces. And thus is the connection made.

Tomorrow we make our own magnet out of an iron nail and find two ways to demagnetize it, test the effect of temperature on magnetism, and make a magnet-powered boat.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And the beat goes on...

So one day (oh, maybe a month or so ago) I noticed that I wasn't getting my emails from my homeschooling support group any more. Technically, I'm on two lists, but one is a subsidiary branch of the other, and they both were no longer getting through. It took me quite a while to notice they were gone, because for the hectic summer that this household went through, I confess that I completely ignored most of the mails.

So when it finally occurred to me to notice they weren't coming, I dug through my emails to see when my membership in this group lapsed. All I could find was a single email from March saying it was "due soon." I'd heard rumors of subscriptions getting crossed up, renewals not always processed, and the email list not necessarily reflecting reality. I assumed the worst, of course, and that I was no longer a member, dropped without follow-up emails, because I certainly wasn't organized enough to remember to renew off of email. I even found a blank membership form in my "big ol' pile of papers to sort and file" so it was obvious I'd never sent it in. So I did last month. About 2 weeks later, I get it back in the mail. I had indeed renewed. Apparently. Great! But why was my email off the list? She had no idea, it all looked fine to her.

Long story short (heh) the Yahoo group has pretty tight bounce controls, it just takes a very few bounces from a list to get yourself automatically unsubscribed. It took me about an hour to figure out what happened and fix it.

Just in time, too. In today's email was an opportunity of the type that a lot of the homeschool moms forward to the list. "Hey, my kid's in this great group for dance/choir/drama/music/sports lessons and they have openings, thought someone else might be interested..." This one was for Irish Dancing. Shannon adores dance. I thought it might be right up her alley. But, when I broached the subject to her on the way to ballet in the car this afternoon, she pooh-poohed the thought. She does enough dance during the week. It doesn't sound very fun. She wouldn't be interested in the competitive side. "OK," I said. "But remind me to show you a sample of what Irish Dancing is on YouTube when we get home, it's hard to judge based on my description."

Can I get a 'Mom Was Right?' I showed her everything from 5-7 year old beginners at a recital to the flashy Lord of the Dance to the World Championships for 17-21 year olds. She fell in LOVE. That's just what she wants to do. Wow.

So, an email has been sent to the admissions guy for the school I was first pointed to. We'll see how it goes. Just what we need, right? Yet one more hour of dancing a week? ;) Yup. Can't hurt to try.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I'm very much looking forward to this next unit of Moving Beyond the Page curriculum. We're done with the first concept of Interdependence, and now we're moving into Force and Power. The first book we're reading is "Ben and Me" by Robert Lawson, a historical fiction novel told from the perspective of Ben's good friend Amos, who just happens to be a mouse. The corresponding science unit jumps into magnets and electricity. We're touching on everything from Ben's inventions to the 13 colonies to even parts of the French Revolution. What does it mean to be an inventor? How do you start a new nation? What is diplomacy? The science kits with many kinds of magnets, the circuits and resistors, lighting a fluorescent bulb with a balloon.... What a fun filled next couple of weeks.

I know Shannon will be thrilled, Science is her favorite subject. In fact, she was very saddened last week at Girl Scouts because she was the only girl in the troop to say it was her favorite subject. "What's wrong with liking science, I ask you?" she demanded of me. I was worried, did anyone make fun of her for liking it? No, just apparently they all stared at her when she said it was her favorite. Ah, well. This will be a great hands-on unit, more exciting than the plants and ecology units we've been covering so far this year.

We'll be doing this three-week unit, then going on vacation. When we get back, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" will be waiting, as well as studies of the power of people, voting, and citizenship.

I'm still happy with this curriculum. It's working out so much better to have the notebooks in hand rather than the online version where you activate one unit at a time. I love browsing ahead late at night to see what's coming up. It makes such a difference to go into depth with these topics, I love the social studies and science units being inspired by the literature we're reading. Shannon is so sad to see our Native American stories go away, they really inspired her.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Picking battles

Ah, the joys continue. Today's topic, lying to your children to protect your sanity (and quite possibly theirs, too.)

Math is not generally considered one of the 'fuzzy' subjects. Things are either right or they're wrong. Shannon is currently having difficulty with basic math. We're starting to get into more and more advanced concepts, and she's sailing right through those. Fractions? Simple, she loved them. Geometry? Well, not her favorite, but she plodded through and was bored silly. Last week though, we started adding large columns of numbers. Suddenly, her mind seemed to reel... no longer able to add 5 and 7 together. She's building a block that 'math is hard' ... and I'm doing my best to bust that block down as fast as she can build it. That's why I loved that she took to fractions like a duck to water. But this column thing... yeah, it looks scary, so therefore it must be hard.

The introduction technique we've done is to look for easy numbers, like groups of tens in each column before you just start adding the ones, tens, hundreds like we were all taught. I'm struggling with terminology, trying to teach the way this curriculum wants. It actually makes more sense to teach the way they want it, but when you grew up "carrying" a one, suddenly "trading for a ten" is hard to get to come out of your mouth. So we worked on this lesson for two days. Today was definitely a case of two steps forward, one step back. She finally got it... the concept of *why* she was doing things a certain way made sense and she was no longer totally bogged down by the actual adding part of it. Boom, her mood soared. Then, on the next practice problem, (adding a column of eight 2-digit numbers) she made a simple notation error, failing to make a 'dot' for one of the tens she found. This led her to have one fewer hundred to "bring down" ... making her final answer wrong by a value of a hundred. Or one, if you're simply counting how many hundreds you're adding, as we were.

Discovering the error led to tears. She's at the stage where ANY mistake is the end of the world. OK, she's been at that stage her whole life, it seems. She insisted she did it right. She wailed that she hates being corrected. I calmly fell back on my "relaxed" mom persona. Explained for the hundredth time that mistakes are a part of learning, we analyze what the mistake was and determine how serious it is, why did we do it, how do we avoid it. I told her (again) that in NO way should she ever feel bad about making mistakes while learning. I explained (again) that if you never make mistakes, you're most likely only doing the things you already know, and are not stretching your brain, not learning, not accomplishing. She finally settles down, and we make another attempt. It goes slowly, but well. I load up the last problem for her to work... and this time a straight math error while adding the ones position has her final answer incorrect. But, this time I was watching her, and she genuinely made progress on understanding the technique, the why, the how. So, luckily I was able to read her answers upside down, and when she asked me the answer, I lied. I made the answer match what she had written. I felt that in this case, the technique I was teaching was more important than the actual math follow-through.

Then, I put in my notes to add more time for card games. With repetition will come mastery without thought. Eventually. :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So how do you like homeschooling?

It's inevitable. You mention to someone that you homeschool your kid(s) and they respond with, "Oh, really? How do you like that?" I know that most don't do it intentionally, but for some, you swear you see a gleam in their eye hoping to catch you lying when you say you love it.

Really, it's a lot like any other job, there are good days and bad days; anyone who tells you different is delusional. The key for me is starting to figure out what the bad days have in common, there are usually triggers. I'm the first to acknowledge when the triggers come from me. I'm in a bad mood, my back hurts, there are issues with parents or in-laws in the back of my mind. These days make me short with my daughter, and some of her sense of humor or, "I just want to have fun" moments are not well tolerated. I'm also adept at seeing patterns based on known issues in her life as well, how much sleep she's getting (she'll deny it's a factor), how well she ate breakfast (she'll deny it's a factor), how her mood reflects mine, and a lot of other things that while somewhat controllable, are starting to fall under her influence, not mine.

Last week, we had a run of really good days. There were still bumps, but overall the attitude was productive. She made progress, and more importantly, KNEW she was making progress, and on her own was able to identify some of the factors that helped her. We were on a roll. Then this week I threw my back out. I couldn't teach well between the actual pain and the chiropractor visit. Today instead of bouncing out of her top bunk at 8 ready to "get school over with sooner and make her free time longer," like last week, I was in her room every 20 minutes from 8:30 to 10AM. I tried to give her some slack due to last night being Halloween. But enough is enough, right? Finally at 10:30, I couldn't prod her with false cheer any longer. I had to resort to the parental "yelling and threats" ... I heard martyr mom words coming out of my mouth. I heard self-fulfilling prophecies of doom. I was frustrated with myself, because I was "failing" again. And yes, my back still hurt.

This is the biggest pattern. One bad day leads to another. One good day *usually* leads to another, but a bad day really tends to build on itself. A day where she consciously (or not) realizes we don't accomplish all we set out to do seems to make it OK in her book that we don't accomplish things. I really don't want to keep being the ogre mom, but ... I can't keep her in at recess, I can't take a school cupcake party away, I'm running out of things that can be consequences without actual punishment.

So this week.... yeah, today is a day I glimpse the yellow bus drive by and think, "there but for my stubbornness go I."