Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flip Flip on Math...Again

I know there's an old post from the spring where I say that I think I'm going to make up my own math program this year for Catherine out of the resources we already had. Well no. We're going with Singapore Math 5A and Life of Fred Fractions, Life of Fred Decimals and daily drills (for Catherine, those are the icing on the cake. Weird child). that's because I forgot two important factors: my enthusiasm for buying curriculum and Catherine.

With the Singapore Math I had the 5B student text hanging around from a used curriculum purchase. I kept looking at it and questioning my ability to put something together myself. Besides, wouldn't one structured program be the most comprehensive choice? I mean I could miss something important. OMG, I will miss something important! If she doesn't have some official curriculum thingee she'll be a math idiot! OMG, where's the credit card? WHERE IS THE CREDIT CARD?

I panicked. I hunted down the one Canadian supplier that has the old non-US Primary Math books and now have the complete set for grade 5. Bright side? I think I'll go with the panic plan after all because after flipping through 5A I'm astonished to see that it looks like it will be mostly stuff Catherine is familiar with. And 5B is a lot of geometry. Catherine approves. Her comment when I asked her to flip through the books was, "Looks fun."

The second part of the curriculum was Catherine's request. Life of Fred is a strange curriculum that explains concepts through stories about a five year old boy named Fred. I started looking at it because explaining concepts is where I fall on my face a lot. Sometimes it's because I don't know myself but more often it's related to the hard time I have expressing myself verbally. I stumble, stutter, backtrack...Catherine usually ends up more confused then she began. LOF takes me out of the picture completely. Catherine tried it and isn't simply happy about LOF but is eager for it to arrive so she can get started.

So that's the plan. Since inconsistency is my downfall I am really going to work at committing to both of these programs and the daily drills and not let frustration, boredom or distraction pull us away from them. For a few months at least.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

You'll Never Guess What I Did.

I made a cleaning schedule for the bathroom. No, not for me, for Catherine.

You'll notice she doesn't have the big jobs like scrubbing the tub or mopping. She does get the toilet though. :D

She's been doing the bathroom for our morning chore time (it's a family time where we talk and work together) for a little while now and while I once thought chores were evil I'm now seeing a girl who's starting to take some pride in how she does a job and who confidently tells visitors that baking soda makes a great mild abrasive. Granted, that doesn't mean she's always happy to do her bit but she always does it regardless and with less and less, "Can I do it later?" every day.

Spurred on by this success I've assigned Harry some duties as well and he's taken to them like a fish to water. I think he enjoys the sense of working as an equal with his big sister and me.

So tonight I made up the schedule to hang in the bathroom so Catherine has a guide to consult. And it feels pretty good to be able to trust that she'll use it.

Lorraine's Links

There's a friend that comments on my blog quite frequently. She posts links in the comments and often emails links to me when she finds something useful. She also won't start her own blog for some strange reason (wants to "devote her time to the kids". Pffft). Anyway, her links are too good to not to share so I'm going to post them. I don't want to take credit for finding them though so "Lorraine's Links" is born.

I should also mention that I didn't ask her for permission to start a possibly semi-regular feature in her name but I figure if the emails start getting nasty or dry up altogether, that's my answer. Besides, if this pisses her off then she lives far enough away that there's little chance of physical violence.

First link is Money Sense for your Children. I actually linked to a whole list of files from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension but you'll find the six lessons a little more than halfway down the page (they're all listed alphabetically). There's a goldmine of other files in that list including pdfs on art activities for kids and getting a baby to sleep. Have fun looking!

Next is a bunch of fun downloads from Ellen McHenry. She's the auther of a couple of science curriculum including one on the elements that Catherine is currently begging for (check out the sample lesson!) and she has an excellent collection of resources including a map game of Ancient Greece and cut-and-assemble mineral crystal shapes. Awesome.

Last link is for The Young Scientists Club. This isn't free but also isn't too expensive and involves getting science kits mailed to your door. Pretty cool.

That's it! Whether there's another installment of this feature depends on Lorraine. Please heap praise on her in the comments if you liked the links!

Kitchen Science or We Cleaned Out the Fridge

Yesterday Catherine and I took an hour and tackled the fridge. It's been a while since it's been completely cleaned out so there was lots of interesting stuff to learn and discuss.

Expiration dates. Catherine got a complete education on how to read those.

The glories of plastic. Catherine's been a little down on plastic lately because it seems to be an environmental bad guy but it's also an important player in food safety.

Whipped topping. When it gets old it separates and you can see it's oily component.

Dried out fruit. Some stuff grows mold, some dries out. Interesting discussion about the environment of a closed fridge ensued.

The beauty of mold. Most of what was moldy in the fridge was garden variety green and white stuff but then we found this (click on it for a much more detailed view):

White spikes with what I assume are green spores at the end of them. Gorgeous. And a bit of a neat physical parallel to our popcorn rock experiment that we've been growing outside the fridge.

Best thing about this chore? Catherine slogged through an hour of gross hard work and now revels in opening the fridge just so she can see how clean and ordered it looks. Truly one of the most unpleasant tasks in all of housewifery but Catherine committed to it and experienced the joy of accomplishment.

Here's a shot:

NOTE: No, I don't have any shame about revealing how gross our fridge was. You should know I have no shame by now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Popcorn Rock Update

It's been another week of the popcorn rock sitting in vinegar and the crystal growth has been amazing:

If you see one of these little kits for sale they're definitely worth picking up!


I posted about our writing activities last week and mentioned there were some further things I had in mind for future writing activities. Those things I had in mind were things like discussing elements of a the example peice of writing, substituting parts of speech, rewriting the example in different ways...Well, it turns out there's already a method for what I was getting at. It's called classical writing or the progymnasmata. It seems to be an approach where a child learns how to write (and ultimately learns rhetoric) by imitating and reworking examples of great writing.

Now granted, nothing I prduced would be as systematic or well thought out as the progymnasmata so I'm quite happy to substitute my fumbling for someone else's well-thought out program. I've found two excellent resources. The first is Classical Writing. It's rather expensive but I think I may be able to get it used. It's not only a rigorous program but also deals with spelling and grammar. Another excellent resource (and free!) is this page which outlines a two year schedule for covering the fable and narrative portions of the progymnasmata.

Yes, I know. None of that is very unschooly. Catherine wants to write however and she's involved in this process of hunting down a method that she enjoys that will also help her learn the craft. Moving away from wholey original writing into more imitation might be a bit of a relief anyway. Searching for something to say when you've only got 10 years of life experience under you're belt is rather difficult from what I remember. Might be easier to help her develop the skills so that when she does have something original to say, she has the tools to do it effectively.

But of course, this is all me talking as if we'll actually stick with this and I'm not exactly known for my consistency. We'll see.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For I'm Just Sayin'

I'm Just Sayin' is asking some questions of homeschoolers. thought I'd do my part and give my answers.

1. What was your motivation for homeschooling? Was it based on religious reasons? Was is it based on curriculum - did you want more freedom in choosing what your children were being taught? Was it based on socializing - wanting to have more control in the people with whom your children came into contact with? Was it based on logistics - the nearest school being 20 miles away? What made you finally decide to go this route?

Partly that I had a bad time of it in school and didn't want that for my kids. Partly that school is expensive for a low income family and we were hovering above the poverty line when the time came to decide whether to sen my daughter or not. Partly that I didn't want school interupting our family life. Partly that I'm lazy. I mean, I would have had to walk my then 5 year old a good 500 feet to the bus stop! In the morning! And in the rain sometimes! Outrageous!

Nothing to do with socialization though. My children hang around with the kids that go to the small (and excellent) local school anyway and they're all good kids.

2. Don't hate me for asking this. How to you handle socialization? What steps do you take to make sure your children are around other children and adults? Are you active in a home school group? Do you spend a lot of time at church activities? Maybe you utilize the local Y for activities and they meet friends there?

Don't get involved with local homeschooling groups. My kids do meet kids through things like soccer and Girl Guides but mostly I just open the door, shove the kids out and they get swept up by the neighbourhood herd. Public school parents, contrary to popular belief, don't lock their kids in closets so when they go outside they simply get together with my kids and play. It's what kids do.

3. Do you use the public school system for any part of your child's routine? Some children here come to the school for band or chorus, or maybe for science class. Do you send your child to the public school to take advantage of any of their programs?


4. Do your children begin and end school at the same time each day?


Do they have a strict schedule, at least as far as waking up and reporting to the school area of your home?


If not, when/how will you transition your children into following a more rigid schedule - awaking at the same time each day so that they can follow a routine outside of the home like for college and work?

I imagine they'll just do it. That's how I transitioned from school hours to night shift hours to colicy baby hours. I just did it. People adapt quite quickly and generally don't need 13 years of conditioning to deal with schedule changes.

5. How many spelling bees has your child won? Oh, I'm kidding. We all know most of the recent national spelling bee winners have been home schooled children. I just wanted to throw a little funny in there?

Sore spot. My daughter hasn't got a hope in hell of being a Spelling Bee champion in the near future. Or even a competitor. Or even an audience member. Remember vowels? She doesn't!

6. Do you have a sense of humor? It's probably a little late for me to ask that but...

I have a fantastic sense of humour.

7. Where do you find your curriculum? Do you shop for it and order it? Do you create your own?

I generally buy the math curriculum. I bought my grammar curriculum and the ancient Greek stuff. I bought a lot of stuff I never used. I bought a lot of it new but a lot from used curriculum email lists. Some of it is free like the progymnasmata (yes, yes. there's a blog post coming up about that) page I'm working into my daughter's writing program and some of it is informal like science and history which are increasingly being handled with non-fiction read alouds and kitchen chemistry experiments. I'm am also naughty and sometimes violate copyright by downloading stuff.

8. Do you have any worries at all about teaching your teenagers the higher level math and sciences? I, for one, could not teach chemistry to my children but I could probably teach them calculus. Is this a concern for you?

Nope. I'll either learn it, find a mentor or most probably buy a self-directed curriculum that leaves me and my ignorance out of the picture.

9. What bothers you the most about the reputation home schoolers have? What things do you hate to hear people say about you for your choice? I really hope you don't say that it's my previous post.

Your previous post.


That we're isolated religious nutjobs. Really, that's all. I chalk it up to selection bias. People notice the isolated religious nutjobs and so remember them. The nice family, the one with the Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed boy, the girl absorbed with her nintendo DS, the mom fumbling for her car keys and the dad making fart jokes? They get assigned 'normal' and nobody realizes they just passed a homeschooling family. We don't make it into the mental record.

10. Be honest, do you, at least in your mind sometimes, judge those of us who choose public school? Do you ever think we are making a bad choice for our children? Are you vocal about that disapproval?

Yes and no. Sometimes I get bitchy and rant but I'm generally not vocal about it. Besides, once the fever has passed I look at the school families around me and see it's been a fine choice for them. The trap is always taking something that works for you and generalizing it to the whole population and then judging people on that. Not good.

Of course I do think there are HUGE problems with the system that is public schooling and school in general but I read teacher and school parent blogs and I know that isn't simply a homeschooler thing.

11. Is "home school" one word or two? I've seen it both ways. With spellcheck, it shows it as ONE word when used as a verb, but two words when used otherwise. Please enlighten me.

I was hoping you'd know. I prefer one word myself and if the Oxford Dictionary declared it two words tommorrow I'd still write it as one.

HT to Doc.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

TV Down! TV Down!

The old TV in my bedroom just died in a flash of light. A burnt electrical smell is hovering in the room. It was likely the picture tube and yes, the TV is old enough to have one of those. Built in 1985 in fact.

We are delighted.

I'm happy because it makes our bedroom less of a den and more of a bedroom. My husband is happy because it means we can move the big entertainment system out of the bedroom. My son is happy because it means the VCR now gets to be hooked up to the big TV in the living room. My daughter is happy because it means the Gamecube now gets to snuggle with the XBox on the big TV in the living room.

Monday will mean a trip down to the recycling center where they take electronic waste.

Goodbye TV, you served us well.

Batman: The Dark Knight

My husband is back for a couple of days before leaving for another three weeks of working in Northern New Brunswick. Yesterday he spent the day with the kids but by evening it was my turn for some time with him so we shipped the kids off to his parent's house and went to see The Dark Knight.

Oh wow.

There's so much that's good about this movie (the play with vanishing points in different sets, the actress that replaces Tom Cruise's chick who's plain looks and superior acting make her so much more effective in the role) but the absolute best thing about it is the evil.

This movie is all about evil. The Joker is a chaotic and unpredictable evil. Heath Ledger should get a posthumous Oscar for his performance because there aren't many scenes that involve him where he doesn't elevate what's otherwise a suspense and action movie into absolute top quality horror (ever dismissed horror as a genre? This movie should cure that. It's a powerful genre that can ask questions other genres don't begin to). Trust me, if you're at all squeamish, you might want to wait until you can watch this at home with the lights on.

But the Joker isn't the only evil. Two Face makes his appearance and his evil is absolutely objective. Fates are decided with the flip of a coin. His evil is bounded by an unshakable and completely nonchaotic devotion to chance. Of course the chance itself is chaotic...

Then there's Batman who hangs above evil only by his unwillingness to break one rule. He refuses to kill. But if he broke that rule once...?

There are fantastic scenes where the evil in men's souls is tested. One scene involved two ferries is a terrific example but I don't want to say anything about it for fear of spoiling it. Most of the joy in this movie is the suspense and the building of expectations - fulfilling them sometimes and completely confounding them at others.

Of course the flip side of this is that there's a great examination of good as well. Batman isn't the shining white knight of this picture. That's reserved for D.A. Harvey Dent. And the qualities of good that each 'good' character exhibits is different. Dent's varies from Batman's. Gordon's varies from Dent's. Vigilante citizens' varies from Batman's.

This would be a great film for a philosophy class.

So along with Spiderman 2, Batman Begins and Iron Man (what a great year for comic book geeks!), The Dark Knight now occupies my list of Best Ever Superhero Movies. It might even be number one.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cut it Out Already.

For those who haven't followed the latest PZ Myers drama there's a good post at Lynn's blog that will update you. The short story is that PZ said some unkind things about the communion wafer following in incident where a young man got himself in trouble by pocketing a wafer rather then eating it at a Catholic service. Some Catholics objected and proceeded to embarrass themselves and all Christians with the way they went after both PZ (calling for him to be fired) and the young man who started the whole mess. PZ is rightfully done with the whole thing.

I just want to say shut up. Shut up to those who've chosen to do violence to PZ through threats and character assasination. Shut up to those who can't seem to wrap their heads around the whole, "turn the other cheek", idea. Shut up to those who, like James Dobson or Bill Donohue, choose to pitch a fit worthy of a spoiled 5 year old whenever there's some criticism of Christianity in the media. Shut up to those who blindly follow the orders of those men and men like them rather to think critically about the issue. Shut up to those who provide support for the increasingly common belief that Christianity is a narrow-minded, intolerent, intellectually challenged and emotionally stunted religion.

"Thou shalt take offence at every possible opportunity", is NOT one of the commandments.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cursive and Art

Yesterday we did some copywork and in the comments I said I had a few ideas for keeping with the theme of that work.

Today I took out her sheets from yesterday:

The words she had wrong I added to a short list of badly spelled words from an activity on Monday. I printed out some penmanship paper, copied those words out in nice cursive and gave them to Catherine. She wants to learn cursive so I thought this might be a way to practice it and spelling.

After that I sort of deconstructed her evil ring picture and set her up with paper, pencils and my wedding ring. For about 45 minute she drew, shaded, closed her eyes and sketched and got to know the ring pretty well. It occured to me yesterday that, of course, drawing is a skill like writing and it can benefit from criticism and revision so I told Catherine what I liked about her picture (the structure and planning) and then decided to use some of the elements of it as the basis of art activities for the rest of the week. My hope is that once we're done that part she'll go back and redo the original picture and be able to compare and see improvement.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Getting Back in the Groove

Catherine likes copywork. I want her to get a little practice with her grammar. The result today was that I put a quote up on the dry erase board and she copied it down.

One Ring to rule them all,
one Ring to bind find them,
one Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them

Who doesn't know what that is from?

Anyhow, Catherine was delighted and copied it down quickly. I have hidden motives of course. If she's doing copywork I figure she can't help but get more familiar with spelling and since her spelling is absolutely horrible, that's a good thing.

After that, the activity seemed to grow. There was a space for a picture so Catherine drew one. She planned it out on scrap paper and designed it to reflect the mood of the quote. Then I had another idea. Why not copy the lines again but this time find the verbs and substitute other, sillier verbs? Then draw a picture that reflected the different mood of the result? She thought that sounded like fun.

We haven't got to the second part yet though. I have to make a run for the laundromat to dry clothes (It's been three days of rain now and I have no dryer) but she'll finish it up this afternoon. It's got me wondering if that might be a good repeat activity. Find a quote for copywork, have her do it then have her do it again after isolating one part of speech and replacing it. We can cover handwriting, punctuation, spelling, grammar and art all in one activity.

Alasandra's Blog Awards are on!

Alasandra is now accepting nominations for her 2008 AHBAs. Although it's just begun there's already a horrible injustice. I'm not nominated.

Something needs to be done about that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Help With Chemistry

About a week ago we popped a rock into some vinegar. Today, this is what we have:

That's a horrible picture but my cheap little digital camera isn't so good with close ups. Anyways, the rock has now grown crystals. Crystals also line the 'high vinegar' line of the bowl.

The rock is from a Popcorn Rock kit we bought at a museum. the packaging says the rock is argonite but has no information on the process of the crystal growth. Some Internet searches have turned up little.

Anyone familiar with this and have a good explanation or link I could use with the kids?

Too Many Books

I had my bookcases lined up against one wall. The problem with that was the wall had formerly not had a floor attached to it but a staircase. At some point the previous owners had taken out the stairs and done a good-enough job of a patch. Good-enough for walking on and playing on. Not nearly good enough for hundreds of pounds of books.

The floor has gotten a bit soft, the bookcases were dangerously wobbly. Yesterday I moved them.

I know you guys know the work involved when moving books in a homeschooling house.

Here's about forty percent of them in various piles before I culled them and put away the keepers:

I should mention that the cull isn't an honest one. I simply took out most of our scifi and fantasy paperbacks to put into storage since no one is reading them at the moments. Better to stick to what we're actually using.

I am not looking forward to when we have to pack all the books up when we eventually move house.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mastodon Days

Our community has an annual event called Mastodon Days. A few years back a Mastodon skeleton was dug out of the ground somewhere roundabouts so of course we built a life size replica, a little museum with a mini-golf course and have a weekend with fireworks and soccer tournaments. What little community wouldn't?

Today was the soccer tournament and Catherine played twice. Harry isn't in soccer so he he just played at the nearby playground. The list of injuries?

Catherine - A soccer ball to the jaw. She was out of the game for about five minutes with a few tears but was soon playing again.

Harry - A preschoolers knee to his eye which is know decorated with a nice bruise.
- A finger imprinted with a cleat mark.
- Another injured finger though this time just from a sneaker.

He's going into soccer next year. Much safer.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Addicting Horse Blog

I found the FHOTD (Fugly Horse of the Day) blog sometime ago thanks to COD and it caused me to neglect my children for a good day or two. Recently I rediscovered it and predictably, my children are coming up to me again with big sad eyes asking, "Momma? When will you find us?"

You know a blog is good when you dive into the archives for days on end despite the cries of your starving children. *

Anyhow, enough about my parenting. A FUGLY horse is a *SWEAR WORD ALERT!!!* fucking ugly horse. This would be a good example:


Even to my extremely untrained eye that horse does not look right. Or pretty. Or healthy.

Granted, I am not a horse person so I look at half the pictures posted on the blog and think, "It's sooo purdy!" I then read the author's run down of the animals faults and realize why my daughter's future in 4H will involve chickens and bunnies. I would go out to buy her a horse and come home with the Equine equivilent of a K-Car

Before anyone goes to the blog and gets offended thinking she's simply a snob ragging on ugly horses be advised that she rescues and owns and loves fugly horses. Her problem is that these unsound and unwanted horses are being bred all over the place when there is already a huge glut of unwanted horses that go to slaughter or are shipped to Mexico for horse-tripping. There's much more to it for her but I will tell you she's made me completely rethink my own ideas on pet ownership.

I am now firm in the resolve that my own fugly dog (and any future cat or dog) will never have babies. The world does not need more puppies. It simply needs people who will love their fugly dogs.

Back to FHOTD.

She doesn't just go after backyard breeders in the horsey sense. She also goes after human breeders who have children and then do stupid things with them. Like this:


Makes you gasp in horror, doesn't it?

* This is just me going for the laugh of course. I am a good mother. The proof is the frozen pizzas and chicken fingers I keep in the freezer for just such a blog emergency. Quickly toss in the oven between page loads and you're off the hook for charges of neglect!**

** This is just for the laugh too of course. My husband is slightly afraid because one day he thinks someone will take my slightly dark humour seriously and call in CS because think think I was really serious about tying my kids to the flagpole and feeding them baby carrots with a slingshot.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cosmic Wonder for the Kids

I now have five kids in the house. My two, my nephew and niece and the new one, the daughter of my sister's roommates. I love it. All of them are good, intelligent, curious kids. The ages are 10, 7, 6, 6, and 4 and it seems to be a magical range. When I want to leave them to play they split up peacefully or tumble around in one group. When I want to do math or science (I've just decided to involve them in our homeschooling) then again, they either split up easily or tumble together in a joyous group.

Having this mix finally gave me the perfect opportunity to try out The Great Story curricula available at The Great Story.

This curricula is aimed at giving kids a real sense of the age of the universe and of the role evolution plays in our lives and cosmic history. It involves some ceremony and is aimed at a religious audience but it's not specifically Christian and doesn't seem to posit any Creator or God. It definitely has something of a spiritual feel but has lots of room for believers and atheists alike.

I read through the first lesson, collected the children, found a comfortable chair and went to it. The first lesson starts with a glass of water and a picture of a water molecule. The aim is to talk about the hydrogen, move on to discuss when hydrogen was formed (the Big Bang) and then, through understanding that it's in water and we are made of mostly water, that a part of every person is 14 billion years old. It's big stuff but all the kids seemed equal to at least the wonder of it, if not always the facts.

One of the best things about this program is that it's discussion based. Activities involve movements and song and there's not a worksheet in the whole thing. No tests either. Just wonder and fun which seems exactly the right approach when dealing with the creation and evolution of the universe and life.


The Carnival of Canadian Home Educators is up! If you're a Canadian homeschool blogger PLEASE consider submitting a post to next week's carnival. It doesn't take but a minute and it helps build the online Canuck homeschooling community.

The Carnival of Homeschooling is at Red Sea School.

The Carnival of Education is at Steve Spangler Science.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who Woulda Thunk it?

Right now the kids are watching an animated fantasy movie with much killing and hacking off of limbs. My 6 year old is hooked and every time the good guys jab another goblin through the skull with a dagger he cheers.

We're watching that movie because the one I had put on just before it scared the bejesus out of him. Want to know what it was?

Flatland. Yes, a movie from that book about two dimentional shapes living on a plane-world.

See, there's a scene in which the leader of the shapes is talking to the senate. According to his sinister plan, soldiers (acute triangles) invade the senate and begin slashing apart senators. Despite the hokey voice acting, music that doesn't quite fit the scene and the fact that we're dealing with animated circles and triangles, the scene is gruesome. Scarier is when the senate makes a run for it and the violence spills out into the streets where innocents get killed. While Catherine and I were jabbering on about how Roman this all seemed, Harry was cuddling into me. He finally spoke up and said that he couldn't watch the movie anymore.

I think part of the scare for him was that he couldn't sort out who was good and who was bad. It seemed that squares were being torn apart at random. Not only that but they were almost always fleeing from the slaughter. They weren't deserving of death in any way.

So we're watching the movie with goblin masacres. Goblins are very clearly bad and so are fair game.

And Flatlands. A little weird (I've never read the book) but Catherine is eager to watch the rest when Harry isn't around. The strangeness of it, the drama and the feeling of familiarity (to what we've read about the Romans) all seem to have her hooked.

A note: There are two recent Flatland movie releases. The one we watched is not the version some may have heard of with Martin Sheen and some other big names. This one is supposedly more faithful to the original. Regardless, Catherine and I have enjoyed what we've seen so far.

Are you a Firefly/Joss Whedon/Musical Fan?

Today the first act of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog was launched. This is a weird thing, a production by Joss Whedon starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion and ONLY broadcast on the internet. And it's good. Very good. Enjoy this now while it's free because after it's over it'll be up on iTunes and will cost money.

Excellent Element Resource!

Want some fun videos to spark or enhance your child's interest in the elements? Try these videos produced by some wonderful people at the University of Nottingham. They're informative and engaging but the best part is when the guys demonstrate some experiment, like dropping sodium into water, and break into giggles when the explosions start.

Giggles should be absolutely mandatory in any video about the elements and chemistry. There's nothing so effective when you're trying to infect people with curiousity.

They haven't got all the elements done yet but if you, like me, get addicted to watching and want an update the moment a new one one appears then you can subscribe to their channel at YouTube.

Many, many, many thanks to Michael who posted about these on an email list we're on. And yes, I know you love me for this Lorraine.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What Will the HSLDA Have to Say?

Just read Elisheva's post. A homeschooling dad is being dragged through the wringer because he's, "not normal."

I really do wonder about what the HSLDA would have to say about this though. The man in question sounds like he's pretty far out of their comfort zone and I doubt he's a member but if the HSLDA ever wanted to put truth to their claims that they're out there protecting homeschoolers rights, this would be a great way to score some points with us sceptics.

Weekend Summary

The husband left for northern New Brunswick early-early Saturday morning. I should see him in a month...For a few days before he flys to Toronto for a course and then in a couple of weeks after that...For a few days before he goes back up north for an unguessable amount of time.

Catherine's party at the local wildlife park happened Saturday. It went well. We were right behind the guy feeding the animals and so we got to see most of the animals up close. The bobcats were fighting and we were all awed by their fierceness. The moose was right up next to the fence and we were all awed by his size. The bunnies were mating and we were all...Giggling.

Saturday night the kids and I bummed around at my sister's house until her Saturday night Texas Hold Em game started. Though I'm a committed 45's player I joined in and bumbled around until almost 1 am. The kids ran around and watched movies on the HUGE plasma TV in the basement until they fell asleep. Excellent night. Lots of dirty jokes and swearing. We're doing it again next weekend.

Sunday I went back to my sister's to collect my children where I left them the night before. Had coffee and leftover birthday cake for breakfast and had a great gossip session with my sister and her roomates.

Monday? We're all beat. It was go-go-go most of the weekend and junkfood at nearly every meal. The stress of Daddy leaving finally kicked in the bickering was on. I summoned the Terrible Mommy Voice (that deep rumbling one that the neighbours a mile down the road can hear, you know that one) to stop the bickering and the fighting dissolved into tears. Then we all glowered at each other for half an hour. Then we smiled a bit. Then we had carrot sticks and cheese and read together and now, balance seems to be coming back to the house.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I ordered some books yesterday. It was an event that wouldn't have happened a year ago because boy, did I order books. The total was just over $125. And I didn't need, I just wanted them. A year ago that purchase would have been unthinkable. This year I could do it with a stress free smile.

Anyhow, this is what I'm waiting for:

*sigh* Isn't that a fantastic list of books? Some of those have been sitting on my wishlist for a couple of years.

Now I just have to wait.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Clock is Ticking

Yes, that clock. The biological clock that I never really believed in. For the past several weeks my hormones have been waging an all-out assault, trying to convince me that I need another child. Their argument is compelling.

Me: But I've got things I want to do now. A baby would put those goals off.

Hormones: But babies are snuggly!

Me: Sure, but what about my current kids? I want to devote this time to them.

Hormones: But babies are snuggly!

Me: Look, I'll grant you that but my husband and I are really starting to reconnect lately and a baby would definitely put that on hold.

Hormones: But babies are snuggly!

Me: I really don't think I want to do diapers and nursing for another two year...

Hormones: Look bitch. We don't really care about what you want. Your eggs are almost 35 years old. OLD, got it? This is it woman. You don't have that baby now and that's game over. Understand? Now ditch the friggin' birth control, grab the husband and go procreate!

Reason amounts to little in the face of hormones.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One Simple Activity, Lots of Rewards

Over on Welcome to My Brain, I noticed that Christine has a thingee in her sidebar that links to Goods 4 Girls. Curious, I clicked through and found this:

Goods 4 Girls was started to seek out donors to sew or purchase new, reusable menstrual pads for donations to areas of Africa where these products are needed most. Providing reusable supplies not only provides a more environmentally friendly alternative for these young women (in areas of adequate water supply for washing), it reduces their dependence on outside aid organizations to continue providing for their monthly needs.

How neat is that?

It occurred to me that this would be something I could easily do with the kids and in doing this there was a lot we could discuss. Menstruation, social justice, sewing, feminism, cost of materials...It goes on and on. Never mind the virtue of making something with your own hands that will directly impact that life of someone half a world away.

Check out the site. If you're interested they post links to patterns and tutorials.

One question for the sewers though. I don't have a serger (a lot of the patterns call for the use of one). Would a tight hand sewn blanket stitch be a suitable substitution?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Wore a Swimsuit in Public

I have a new kid I'm looking after. She's a great girl, seven years old and gets on really well with my almost 5 year old niece. She also has a great mom who's been giving me an actual local social life by stopping in early with coffee and coming over for lunch.

Yesterday she said we should take the kids to a local park today. Fantastic! To swim in the lake. Oh no. But that would mean wearing bathing suits I said. Yes, she said. Oh God.

I thought I had an out. I said I didn't have a suit. Didn't faze her though and I eventually agreed even if it meant wading in with cutoffs and a t-shirt.

But this morning I found a bathing suit. I thought I had thrown it in a charity bag. Nope. It was there, old and a little ugly. I could lie. I could still wear the cutoffs and a t-shirt. Darn it, of course I couldn't.

See, this mom had told me about a class trip to the local pool she'd had to attend with her daughter. She is like me in body shape, wonderfully ample. The other moms were not. Yet she swallowed the fear, put on the bathing suit and went swimming with her daughter. How small it would make me if I couldn't manage to be inspired by her story.

So we all went. And we all swam. And boy was my friend right. There are a few moments of nervousness as you waddle into the water but after that, after you remember how wonderful it feels to be swimming and how fantastic it is to be able to share that fun with your kids (Catherine swam today, something I never knew she could do!) all the bad stuff disappears.

I spent years away from the water because I didn't want to be seen in my bathing suit. What a waste!


The Carnival of Canadian Home Educators is up!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up too!

Monday, July 7, 2008

On Getting Marks for Swearing

Over at Why Homeschool there's a post on a story I've been seeing around lately on:

A British high school student received credit for writing nothing but a two-word obscenity on an exam paper because the phrase expressed meaning and was spelled correctly.

Now, every post I've seen and every comment on this issue has involved some sad head shaking. People are dismayed that swearing on an exam could be worth some credit.

I'm thinking there's some classic dry English humour being lost in the American translation here. As a Canuck who was reared on British humour (The CBC and my parents loved it) I have to say, I think you're all getting this wrong.

What happened is some kid wrote a snotty response thinking he was going to shock whoever was marking the paper. The examiner saw this and with an arched brow and the faintest of smiles gave an absolutely useless grade. Shock me child? I don't think so.

If you've got this picture in your head then the examiner's comments will send you into giggles.

"It would be wicked to give it zero because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for, like conveying some meaning and some spelling," Buckroyd was quoted as saying.
"It's better than someone that doesn't write anything at all."
Buckroyd said the student would have received a higher mark if the phrase had been punctuated.

I can't wipe the grin off my face. That guy is brilliant.

The English sense of humour at it's subtle best.

Are You a Trained Teacher AND a Homeschooler?

There's been a lot of debate about certification for homeschooling parents but one group that hasn't been heard from, at least in any organized way, is the group of homeschooling parents who are or have been professional teachers. The media hasn't asked question of this group. The CTA certainly hasn't. And there's been no collective response from those of us who had education degrees.

Why not?

What if the teachers among us wrote some posts about how their degrees and teaching experience has been helpful, harmful or not an issue at all? What if the posts were collected by someone (just a meme?a wiki page? a blog?) so that when the question of qualifications comes up we have a resource to point people towards? It seems to me that the experiences of those of us who are teachers is absolutely key to the discussion.

I think this is important. Anyone interested in heading this up? Or at least in writing about their experiences and linking back here?

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Small Break

I'm going to take a small blogging break over the weekend. I haven't been enthusiastic about writing and my recent posts sort of suck so it's time for one of those breaks where I force myself NOT to write and then end up with half a dozen ideas.

Besides, the husband is probably leaving next weekend so I've got to supervise his days off and make sure he gets certain things done.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Arctic Adventures

Here I am with more hard to find and out of print book recommendations.

When Catherine was still a baby I was shopping at a bookstore and notice piles of remaindered books that were part of a series by the God of Canadian history writing, Pierre Berton. Each paperback was a dollar and they dealt with everything from the building of the railway to The War of 1812 to Arctic exploration. And man, they were good. At the time I read the book on William Edward Parry and it sparked an interest an enduring interest in books on arctic and antarctic journeys (As proof, I offer up my knowledge of scurvy and cannibalism).

Monday I pulled out that book on Parry and declared that it was my next read-aloud. Catherine rolled her eyes. History was exciting only when it involved the ancients she thought. I got through chapter one and she wasn't convinced. I got through chapter two and she was saying that I could go on if I wanted. I got to chapter three and she was telling me not to stop. Tonight we finished the second book in the Arctic series (on Robert McClure, discoverer of the Northwest Passage) and tomorrow we'll start the last one. Unfortunately, I'm missing the fourth book, on Franklin. Such a shame because that's easily the saddest and spookiest chapter in the saga of the search for the Northwest Passage. I'll find it somewhere. I'll have to. Catherine's eyes now light up when I mention Inuits or hummocky ice.

The nicest part of this though is that I love the subject, Catherine is wrapped up in it now, Harry will listen and my husband, who also loves history, will find an excuse to come sit with us while I read. It's turning into a real family activity.

The series is called Adventures in Canadian History. I bought individual paperbacks but I think I've seen a collection of all 16 books before. If not, Pierre Berton also has a book, The Arctic Grail, which covers much of the same territory but in, I suspect, more detail.

Another favourite of mine is Barrow's Boys by Fergus Flemming.

It covers much of the same but with a different perspective. In fact, when I worked at a bookstore I once sold a copy of that book to Simon Winchester who really enjoyed it as well (he had to come through a week later and told a co-worker to thank me. I so loved that job).

Ships marooned for years, people dying of scurvy and starvation, the constant threat of crushing ice, the thrill of undiscovered peoples...History doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Isn't it Always the Way?

I lost a filling yesterday. A large one from a front tooth that's left me with a nice hillbilly gap until I can get into the dentist. Feeling shlumpy this morning and being a little pressed for time I threw a kerchief over my unruly hair, didn't bother with makeup, grabbed an old T-shirt and pair of pants and headed out with the family for the local Canada Day parade confident that my appearance didn't matter too much as I'd only be seeing family.

So of course one of the people in the parade would be the Member of Parliament for the riding, Scott Brison, who I'd worked with in the riding association years ago and who I'd worked for on his first federal campaign. And of course he'd recognize me and chat me up a bit about what I was doing now. Ah well, Scott is a fantastic guy and always a pleasure to talk to.

Lesson learned. Always make sure you're presentable because you never know who you will meet.