Friday, August 31, 2007

Weekly wrap-up

The last smatterings of sun might actually allow us to finish getting the deck painted!!! I primed the stairs and lower deck earlier this week, and painted the stairs and a portion of the lower deck yesterday afternoon. Supposedly rain is in the forecast for tonight, so I'm debating about whether to go any further with this project today. The weekend should be clear though. The darn dog keeps looking at me as he walks over the newly painted area while I'm sitting here typing on the computer. He's like a kid who is doing something he knows he probably shouldn't, and keeps their eye on Mom to see what she's going to do about it. Now he's gone to go lay down - I think he's figured out that I'm not inspired to do anything but type this blog entry! LOL!

The kids finished their summer of swimming lessons yesterday. The instructor and I were talking about how much N. has progressed over the summer. Her skill has greatly improved, but more notable than that is the increase in her confidence. N. is asking to continue with swimming, and is conjuring up fantasies of competitive swimming and a future Olympic debut ("Mom, if I improved this much in just a couple of months, think how good I'll be in a few more months!!!"). LOL - who can stand in the way of that kind of logic? In his final lesson, A. put his whole head in the water three times on his way across the pool! That was his big progress for the summer - well, that and the fact that he'll apparently swim to the side if he falls in fully clothed. *wink*

Our second week of school went really well. N's attitude was soooo much better than last week, and she agrees that it takes less time to get it all done if we're not arguing about it. She's taking a lot of pride in her work, too. The handwriting took less time, and we were able to do extra math this week with me doing the writing while she dictated answers to me. History has been fun this week, and I think we've all learned a lot. My world geography skills aren't the greatest, so I'm enjoying studying small areas at a time and making mental connections. I can't remember if I mentioned last week about how disturbed I was to realize that the cradle of civilzation (the Fertile Crescent; Mesopotamia) lie in what is present day Iraq. How sad that the area continues to be a place of such unrest. Anyway, the kids learned about Egypt, the first writing, and the early Jewish people. We packed a lot into this week because I accidently placed a hold on a dvd too early, and it was due back to the library before we were going to get to it. The dvd was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the kids LOVED it. They're suckers for a good musical, so this was right up their alley. We've been talking a lot about what lessons the story of Joseph and his brothers can teach all of us (about parenting, sibling rivalry, faith, "power" - this was an interesting one because A. was talking about how powerful the Pharoah was, so we talked about power that comes out of respect vs. fear). A good week overall.

Oh, we also finished a book this week that the kids enjoyed (N. in particular) - Whittington, by Alan Armstrong.

Now we've started Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling (same author who wrote Minn of the Mississippi that we read a few weeks ago). Hubby remembered seeing the movie of Paddle-to-the-Sea as a kid in grade school, so I did a quick library search and sure enough they've got it. I've put it on hold now, too.

Off to go rescue a super-villain from behind the bookcase!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This is why we take swimming lessons...

N. had a make-up swimming lesson today since she had missed a week when she was gone at girl scout camp. A. and I were sitting in plastic chairs along the side of the pool watching - until he hopped out of his chair and tried to climb back into it again. His chair flipped forward, causing him to fall backward - right into the pool. He reacted just what he is supposed to - surfaced, and then tried to reach the edge. Of course at that point I was already grabbing him up out of the water. He didn't cry, but was surprised, cold, and embarassed. Because he wasn't supposed to be going in the pool today (!) I didn't have any change of clothes or a towel for him, so I wrapped him in N's towel and we sat in the sun. He was exceptionally quiet for the last 20 minutes of sister's class, and just snuggled with me the entire time. I wonder if this will make him think twice before goofing around in the chairs again?

N. reminded me that this is the second time in his life that he's fallen into a body of water while completely clothed. The first was a couple of years ago at the pond on MIL's property. That time his quick-acting uncle jumped in after him. Apparently A. is making a habit of this, so I'm really glad the swimming lessons are paying off!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weekly Wrap-up

(From my post on the ivillage homeschool message board, where I've been a member for 4 years now...)

We're wrapping up our first week of the new year today. This is our first year where I've actually mapped out my own lesson plans, and have structured our school time. Prior to this we were *very* relaxed hs'ers. After a lot of reflection, talking to dh, and listening to dd, I decided it was time for us to try something different.

For the most part, the week went well. The kids are enjoying the TOPS Primary Lentil Science, and are both using it together and helping each other out. They like having the freedom to go pick any activity they choose each day. It was a LOT of prep work for me to have all of the experiments ready to go at a moment's notice, but it's definitely been worth it to have that flexibility.

A. is blazing through Singapore Earlybird 1B. I remember that Natalie had done the same thing with these books. We just go until he stops asking to do more, LOL! He's doing 6-8 pages/day. I've also started him on Handwriting Without Tears. His concentration when he's forming his letters is so cute. Sometimes I'll hear him under his breath saying "Focus, focus" - I think he's been listening to me talking to dd!

N. and I had a harder time this week. Actually, the first three days in a row she ended up crying during handwriting and math. The first day, I tried to just let it go (not let myself engage in it), but the second day I found myself bringing up the option of ps. I hate doing that, but it really showed me the desperation I'm feeling about where some of her abilities are at - mainly with writing and reading. Day three was worse. She takes forever to finish her writing (in handwriting or math), and her whole overall attitude during these subjects is just so negative. Slouching, pouting, slamming her pencil down. I hate it. I told her that if she's going to fight me on this stuff, than I rather she fight someone else (ie. a teacher) on it so that she and I can enjoy our time together.

The reality is that she's just like me and dh were as kids (daydreamers, easily distracted), and I have a pretty good idea how things would go for all of us if she did go to school. I imagine she'd have an even harder time keeping focused with all the distraction of a full class of kids, wouldn't get her work finished during school, and then I'd *still* have to fight her on it at home in the evenings, when that would be our only time together. Dh and I agreed that ps isn't the answer. Dd and I had a more calm, rational talk Wednesday night about the importance of both Attitude and Effort. Apparently some of it sunk in, because yesterday went MUCH better. She did her two pages in HWT without complaining, and even self-corrected herself on a couple words and went back and re-wrote them before I even looked at it! For math, I noticed she was having trouble focusing again, even though she was determined to get it done. After only getting four problems done in five minutes, I offered to do the writing for her if she told me what to write - she ended up finishing the next 15 problems in under five minutes! Why it is that holding a pencil, or the act of writing, is blocking up everything else is a mystery to me, but if we can work around it, then I will.

We have parkday with our hs group at a local lake today. Two days ago it looked like summer had abruptly come to an end, so we're now trying to soak up all the remaining rays of summer sun we can find!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Speaking of history...

This was right in line with what we were discussing today in our homeschool (What is history? What do historians do? What do archaeologists do?). It's so nice to have such a timely example!

Egypt discovers what may be oldest human footprint Mon Aug 20, 12:24 PM ET

Egyptian archaeologists have found what they said could be the oldest human footprint in history in the country's western desert, the Arab country's antiquities' chief said on Monday.

"This could go back about two million years," said Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. "It could be the most important discovery in Egypt," he told Reuters.

Archaeologists found the footprint, imprinted on mud and then hardened into rock, while exploring a prehistoric site in Siwa, a desert oasis.

Scientists are using carbon tests on plants found in the rock to determine its exact age, Hawass said.

Khaled Saad, the director of prehistory at the council, said that based on the age of the rock where the footprint was found, it could date back even further than the renowned 3-million year-old fossil Lucy, the partial skeleton of an ape-man, found in Ethiopia in 1974.

Most archaeological interest in Egypt is focused on the time of the pharaohs.

Previously, the earliest human archaeological evidence from Egypt dated back around 200,000 years, Saad said.

First day of school!

1 day down, 179 to go (more or less).

Things went fairly well today. I had our schedule all laid out, but it's going to need some tweaking I can tell. History took way longer than I'd allotted, and science took less (though they were begging to do more science, but I held them off - leave them wanting more, I say!). A. did three times as much math as I was expecting ("One more page?" does a page "Can I do one more page?" does a page....) He even did a page in handwriting, which I wasn't expecting. I'd figured we'd alternate math and handwriting for him so he'd only be doing focused work for no more than 10-15 minutes/day (trust me - I've seen plenty of learning happen in the past 8 years that didn't require sitting down to a desk - 10 minutes is enough for my 4 year old). At any rate, I certainly wasn't forcing him into anything today, so that was cool.

N. dragged her feet on handwriting this morning. She and I have been having a lot of heart-to-heart talks recently about what my goals are for her, and what her goals are, and whether we're on the same track or not. We seem to be on the same page - she wants to read better, and be able to write more/faster - but disagree about how to get those results. I think she'd like the abilities to magically appear. Last I checked, that's not likely to happen. If you want to become a better writer, you're going to have to sitdown and write once in a while. Same goes for reading. I'm not into torture - I think that 15 minutes of handwriting (OMG - can I tell you that it took her that long to do two pages in HWT today???? Thank goodness two pages is all I have planned for her each day for the next three months), and roughly that amount of daily reading aloud is not unreasonable. I almost broke out the "If you won't do this work at home, than I have to send you away to school" (ie. public school), but I've kind of promised myself I wouldn't use those tactics this year, and definitely not on the first day. Nothing a few deep breaths on my part couldn't take care of, LOL!

The kids LOVED working on History Pockets today! Very glad I found those. They also totally loved doing Lentil Science. Today was more of an introduction to the materials, and making observations, but they of course took it further and started creating their own experiments. That's pretty much what I was hoping would happen with the science this year. N. has been so eager to have her pail filled with knowledge, where science is concerned - which is fine, not awful. I'll still read to her and give her the facts she's after, but I really wanted to find something that would get her wheels turning on their own a little more - light the fire, so to speak. We'll see if this does the trick.

Timing-wise, the day went something like this...
9am - Natalie does two pages of Handwriting Without Tears (Andrew did one page)
9:15 - History (SOTW, Encyclopedia of World History, narration, History Pockets)
10:20 - short break
10:40 - Science (TOPS, job card A/1)
11:00 - lunch/break
12:15 - calendar/math (computer game and workbook)/read-aloud (narration)
1:10 - Done! (though Natalie will need to read to me this afternoon)

I think I'm going to swap history and science. History required too much sitting and listening after N. had just struggled with handwriting. I think it would have gone better if they could move into science after that, and then put history on it's own with a big break afterwards. Total time to get all that covered: 2 hours, 35 minutes. Shhhh.... don't tell! :P

Saturday, August 18, 2007

So unbelievably uncalled for!

I was out with N. this morning, running errands, and driving the corolla (we try to use it whenever we have the option in order to save gas - anywho...). We stopped at Kinko's and as I was getting out of the car, N. was getting out her side and I hear a "thud" as she accidently opens her door into the car we parked next to. This was followed by the sound of a sharp intake of breath by that car's driver (who was seated in the car at the time) as I'm running over to take a look at her door. There was a little ding/scratch/dent thing in her door, but her SUV wasn't new, and there was really no way to know if it was our car that did it.

So this "woman" (and I use the term loosely because I'm fairly certain she's a relation of the Wicked Witch of the West) gets out of her car, and asks me if there's any damage. I point out the ding-thing, and she agrees that she can't prove that "she" (meaning N.) did it. I apologize profusely, and then explain that N. isn't use to opening a door like that because we're usually in a van with doors that slide. Rather than a comment I might expect, like "Oh, I understand", she raises her voice and starts totally laying into N!

"Well aren't you spoiled?" (I'm like "huh?" - this was her response to being told N. usually uses sliding doors).
"Just let this be a lesson to you!"
N. meekly apologizes.
Lady: "I'm sure you won't be doing *that* again!"

What the...? She acted like my just-turned-8-year old had keyed her SUV and then run off. Her reaction was completely uncalled for, and she had no right to call my kid spoiled! I was floored, but didn't engage with her because that's not my style. My style is to let it fester inside me, and then write a blog entry about it! LOL! So the entire time I'm making my 10 billion copies at kinko's, I'm thinking about this crazy lady, and what I should have said. By the time we were leaving, I was wishing she was still sitting there in her car because what I really wanted to say to her was "Wow, I'm really impressed that you've made it all your life without ever having opened your door into another car. Hat's off to you... Bitch. Next time consider taking your broom - they take up less parking space."

But, alas, she was gone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What makes the earth spin?

We were driving N. to camp this morning when A. exclaimed "The sun keeps following us!" N. corrected him and explained that the earth was revolving around the sun, and spinning at the same time.

A: "Oh." (pause) "What makes the earth spin?"

Me: "Wow, that's a good question. I know that the earth revolves around the sun because of gravity (we fall around the sun), but I don't know why it spins. We'll have to look that up when we get home."

A: "Okay." (another pause) "Mom? Why don't cars and people spin off the earth?"

Man I love this kid! He asks such awesome questions for a 4 year old! Such insatiable curiosity, and a natural love of learning. He's gonna make a terrific homeschooler, and I'm going to have trouble keeping up with him!

Why does the Earth orbit the Sun?

The basic reason that the Earth orbits the sun is because the Sun's gravity keeps it in place. Just as the Moon orbits the Earth because of the pull of Earth's gravity, the Earth orbits the Sun because of the pull of the Sun's gravity. The Earth travels about 595 million miles around the sun in 365 days (a year). Like all planets in our solar system, Earth travels around the Sun in an elliptical orbit.

Why does the Earth rotate?

Our everyday experience teaches us that an object must be "pushed" by a force in order to keep it moving. Otherwise, it will slow down and eventually stop. But this intuition is absolutely wrong. If an object is moving, then a force is required *to slow it down or stop it*, not to keep it moving. (Hence, "Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.") In our everyday experience, it's the force of friction that tends to stop Earth-bound objects from moving forever. But for the Earth rotating on its axis, there is no force working to counteract the rotation (except the tidal effect of the Moon, but that's working very slowly), so you don't need to have any input energy to keep it spinning.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Brag time!

Managers Add Three Days to Shuttle Mission

Mission managers decided Sunday to extend the STS-118 mission by three days. The decision came after the successful operation of the new Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS).

The first power transfer unit (PTU) went up on this shuttle mission, and hubby was one of the design engineers on the project back when we were living in CA. Here's a link to an old article about it http://www.boeing. com/defense- space/space/ returntoflight/ vehicleupgrades/ sspts.html (he's the guy in the photo wearing the white lab smock "supervising" , LOL). And a link to a more recent article that came out after the units had been assembled by the contract company. The PTU is a huge safety advancement for shuttle/space station because it dramatically increases the amount of time the shuttle can remain docked without draining station's power supply. You can also do a search for "SSPTS". I don't often take the time to pat him on the back, but this is pretty cool stuff!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Checking in.

Just a little update:

The planning for the coming school year is coming along nicely. I've got lesson plans entered into HS Tracker up through the middle of October, with notes left to enter that take us through the end of that month. That's as far as I want to go with this at this point - in mid-September I'll see how we're progressing, and then proceed from there.

This morning was my SparkPeople weigh-in (link located on the right), and I've lost 12 pounds so far (since July 8). Yay, me! And that was with me falling off the wagon with my food tracking this week. I guess my intake was okay. Phew!

We had a great parent meeting this month with our hs group. Janice Hedin was our speaker - I just love her! She was such a help to me when we were fighting our local district on changes they were making to their Alt-ed/Parent-Partnership program. We didn't get the results we were after on that, but at least now I know I'm not the only one who thinks this system is completely screwed up. Anyway, Janice is a veteran hs'er whose children are now grown and off in successful careers. Her enthusiasm for homeschooling is contagious, and hearing her speak about the benefits of hsing, and even singing the praises of our hsing law, was really inspiring. Perfect way to start out the homeschooling year!

My term as president of our group begins September 1st. I've got meeting topics planned through at least November, and three others in mind for future months. That leaves me only four more to plan! I'll be glad when that's done. I HATE planning stuff like this. Fortunately it's coming together much faster and easier than I had expected. I'm tapping into our members, both as speakers, and for ideas, and they are really coming through for me. Thank goodness. I had let them all know that I am just fine getting up in front of the group and running meetings, but if they wanted anything decent to be there to talk about, they were going to have to help me out. I guess they heard me, LOL!

N. goes to Girl Scout day camp next week! She's super excited. We've got most of her stuff ready, but I still need to put her name on a few things, and find her a water bottle to take along. One concern I've been having is that the kids are going to be completely exhausted and impossible to wake in time to have her at the bus stop. They haven't been going to sleep until 10:30 most nights, and have been sleeping in until 9-9:30, which just isn't going to work for camp week (or from there on out, since we'll be starting in on our homeschooling the following week). So to get things moving in that direction, I had them in bed by 8:30 last night. You know that saying "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink"? Well, they were still awake at 9:30. But they didn't get out of bed during that time! My threats must have worked, LOL! I'm going to wake them up earlier this morning, and hopefully shift their internal clocks a bit.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Yay! Mom's making tacos for dinner!"

WHOA!!!! Hold on there kids - dinner's not quite ready. I just need to take the taco shells out of the box. You know - the ones we bought at the grocery store today?

What the... ??? This is what I found when I opened the package:

In case you can't tell what you're looking at, here's a closer look:
I don't think there was a single taco shell that was in fewer than 3 pieces. I estimate that most of the shells were actually closer to the 10-50 piece range.

You can undertand my confusion, I'm sure. I mean look here:

I assumed this meant 12 taco shells, which we could then put our taco ingredients into. It does kind of look that way from the picture displayed on the box:

What you can't tell from that picture is that what's really inside the box are simply
Lots and lots of pieces of shells.

I should have suspected something was up when the true highlight of the photo on the package was this:

Thankfully, the kids rolled with it well, and enjoyed dipping the taco shell bits into their blackbeans and cheese. The grown-ups improvised by having taco salad, which was actually quite good, just not what was on the menu.

I learned from this that I do not handle unexpected events very well, particularly if they appear to be designed by some higher power that is having a laugh at my expense. I seem to be getting worked up more often as I'm getting older, over really lame stuff that shouldn't be a big deal - stuff like an entire box full of broken taco shells. Again, as is usually the case, the husband finds this quite amusing. Whatever.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

MN Bridge Collapse

The images from the collapse of the bridge through Minneapolis are heart-wrenching. It's so hard to imagine something like this really happening. Such a terrible tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with all the families there.

One kind of weird coincidence about the timing of all this is that we just read about this section of the Mississippi river last week in Minn of the Mississipi (that I wrote about in my last blog entry). We read about St. Anthony Falls, and the twin cities area. Before last week, I don't think I even knew that the Mississippi River went through Minnesota, let alone began there. As mine and the kids' world grew to include the Mississippi riverside through Minnesota, this tragedy occurred. Makes it all the more real.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Home again

The kids and I went to Neskowin with my Mom and Grandma for 4 days. N, A and I all agreed that it was one of our best vacations ever, and that the only thing that would have made it better would have been to have their Daddy there too.

Our first order from Rainbow Resource Center arrived! I went ahead and ordered enough to get the free shipping, throwing in a couple of things that I know we won't need until later in the year, but it was worth it to save $15. I'm really excited about the TOPS Lentil Science Kit that we'll be using. I love that it's inquiry-based, and fairly open-ended, and especially that it's something the kids can work together on. I must admit that upon first glance, the prep for it is a little confusing. I think I just need an hour to sit down and focus on which supplies we've received, what we still need to gather, and how I want to proceed from there. I'm debating about whether to photocopy all the job cards. It would obviously make sense to do that if we were a classroom of students, but I'm thinking that the two of them can just use the book - though it may be more cumbersome that way. Still thinking on that one.

I'm also really excited about using Ambleside Online's booklist for our literature this year. So many wonderful works there to expose the kids to, and it will be nice to spend time reading aloud to them each afternoon. Not so different from what we do now, but I appreciate the resource for ideas. I'm really looking forward to the Holling C. Holling books. I'd purchased Minn of the Mississippi at Value Village for .69 cents a few months back, and we'd recently been reading it at bedtime. It looks deceptively like a simple picture book, but it's depth is impressive. We only read one or two of the short chapters per night - the language and content is somewhat challenging. N. is really enjoying the story of Minn's journey down the Mississippi, but A's attention is more fleeting. I love how geography and science are woven together into such a captivating story. There are four of his other books on our list for the coming year: Pagoo, Tree in the Trail, Paddle-to-the-sea, and Seabird. I'm sure I'll have comment on this in the months to come.

I keep plugging things into our homeschool tracker lesson plan. Husband actually asked last night if I was worried about being overscheduled. LOL - he's about the last person I was expecting that question from! He's been politely quiet about the quantity of visible work our homeschool produces, and I thought he'd be delighted that I'm attempting a more structured approach this year. I think his real concern is that after all the planning and scheduling, I'll burnout before we've even begun. I hope I won't. I really want to make a commitment to our plan. Of course, the schedule doesn't take into account the weekly parkdays, occasional fieldtrips, and the gymnastics class I'm about to sign the kids up for. Sigh. I need more days in my week!

Oh - almost forgot: N's swim teacher recommended she be promoted to the Advanced Beginner class for the next session! I'm so proud of N for all she's accomplished and how far she's come since the beginning of summer. 8 weeks ago she was crying and clinging to the wall, with a pile of floats on her back, and now she's one of the fastest swimmers across the pool. I love watching her long arms coming up out of the water as she zips along. Now I'm trying to figure out where to find year-round swimming for her, LOL!