Saturday, August 30, 2008

Get Your Mind Off the Weather

Ever since I started planning for school, I've lost track of summer! If you too are ready to start seeing the leaves change and apple picking (if they do that sort of thing in your neck of the woods), then you might want to stop by Marth Stewart. They've started Halloween planning with some cute ideas. Now, it is Martha Stewart, so only about 1/10 of the ideas don't involve massive amounts of prep work. But I've always enjoying window shopping!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two Movies that I Enjoyed

Now you all know that I have a baby at home, so I don't get to go out often. But I do rent movies frequently. I belong to Blockbuster online and that's worked out well for us (as long as you think having a constant stream of movies to watch is OK). I've tried renting movies for adults (and by that I don't mean what you're thinking--I mean movies that would not generally be suitable for the kids) and just never get time to watch them. There were two movies I rented recently that I enjoyed very much. Now these were rentals that were probably in the movie theaters, but that I never heard of or wasn't sure it would be OK for the kiddies. I hope you'll forgive me if it's old news!

Penelope and Stardust I found very enjoyable. Penelope is about an heiress born with a pig's face after her family was cursed. Similar to Ella Enchanted, but modern, more sentimental, and a good ending. Stardust is about a boy on a mission only to discover his true desires and himself along the way. Both movies have a lot of star power.

Stardust is a bit more risque, has elements of a steam-punk influence in one part, and is a bit violent. I did let my 9 year old and almost 7 year old watch it, but that may not have been the wisest choice. There's magic, a quick tryst which leads to the main character, humor about stereotypical foppish behavior, death, death, and more death (though no blood and most done in an over-the-top theatrical way), humor about death, three witches, a little more innuendo of sex, etc. There is no explicit sex (kissing and hugging and then waking up in bed together).

I really recommend both of the movies. Penelope is much more acceptable for younger kids, but the movie Stardust was good and I think you may want to share it with your older children.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's Round Up Time

I've been remiss, but here's your latest Objectivist Carnival with fun for all people hoping to keep religion and government separate and also some reasoned articles about lots of other great stuff!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

School in Full Swing--Curriculum and No Curriculum

The kids have been mostly cooperative with my back-to-school sneak attack. Since I'm combining Ambleside Online reading lists with our usual work, I feel like I'm doing more useful literature and also biting off a lot of work. Six hours is a very full day without touching on the extras (art, music, etc). So our curriculum this year:

9 year old (nominally 4th grade):
  • Language Arts:
    Grammar: First Language Lessons 3 (finishing up what we didn't do last year)--Thanks to LB for the recommendation! First Language Lessons 4 (on order)
    Writing: Writing with Ease (she actually hates this because it's not instructive enough. She really wants to know 'how to write' and narration, copywork, and dictation are just not cutting it. If any of you guys know a good 'this is how you write a sentence, this is how you write a paragraph, this is how you write a better paragraph, this is how you write an essay' let me know in the comments!)
    Spelling: modified lists based on Spelling Power with practice from Montessori-like spelling command cards I developed based on workbook exercises, Spelling Power practice recommendations.
    Vocabulary: currently she's writing words she unfamiliar with from her literature and I write the definitions and she copies them into her vocabulary notebook. I also have Vocabulary from Classical Roots 4.
    Cursive: writing little stories using a model alphabet we got at the Target dollar spot. I never actually had to teach cursive to this girl because she was highly motivated when we started homeschooling two years ago and taught herself through example and with only a few instructions on joining high-ending letters like 0 and b with the next letter.
  • Math: Singapore Math 3A (yes--we switched. I was very non-compliant on Saxon--I gave up on it by December and just flew by the seat of my pants for the rest of the year.) I purchased the textbook, the workbook, the home instructor's guide, and the intensive practice workbook. That's pretty much everything you can buy. I don't know yet if anything is redundant.
  • History: History at Our House: Ancient History upper elementary full live attendence
  • Literature and Poetry: Booklist from Ambleside Online
  • Social Studies: Books from my library or the public library to cover the social studies topics at World Book for grade 4.
  • Science: Books from my library or the public library to cover the science topics at World Book for grade 4 and the science course I'm running for physics through history for elementary students.
  • Foreign Language: I have Minimus for latin, but we really don't do it. Another great recommendation by LB, because if I'm going to do it at all, it'll be this book that makes it possible.
6 1/2 year old (nominally 2nd grade):

Note that I don't even plan for art and music. We have some great beginning piano books that lead you through reading music. If we have time, I'll try to do that for music. I also like to put on the Classical Kids radio program. For art, I'd definitely like to reinforce the color wheel and observation (sketching from nature or classic paintings or following the work here).

For reading comprehension I make sure to ask questions while I read aloud, have the kids act out specific actions from whatever story I'm reading, or have the oldest tell me about the story she's currently reading on her own. I find some of the most important points to touch on are descriptions of body language and facial expressions that convey meaning in the story. For instance, if the book says 'he shuffled down the hall with his head down,' I'll have the kids act that out and ask them why they think he would do that and what they think the boy was feeling. If they're really off-base, I'll let them know the author wants you to know the boy was sad, or ashamed, or whatever fits the story at the time.

For memorization, I've implemented the system described here. I use it for writing down parts of speech (like helping verbs for my oldest or common and proper nouns for my youngest) and plan to use it also for math facts, harder spelling and vocabulary, and poems (being an atheist, I don't have to worry about filling it up with scripture).

Too Important to Miss

The Coalition for Secular Government has posted its first issue paper. It's a frightening look at the consequences of ensconcing religious morality into law. This particular paper deals with a state constitutional amendment to give a fertilized egg full legal rights. Just as a reminder, McCain has always been a strong anti-choice legislator.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to School

We started school today. I didn't even warn the kids. Just told them to get out of bed and start working. They were even game for it (mostly).

Monday, August 11, 2008

6 Things...

Thanks to Lynne, I have a reason to post!

Thanks also to Lynne, now anyone still visiting can find out 6 things people don't know about me. Woe unto you. I think this is going to be really hard, but let's see what I can come up with.

1. I can't entertain adults. I host the most awful parties imaginable. One was a sit down dinner. I cooked a roast beef that was hardly cooked at all. I had an 'open house' type Christmas party with those buffet-style sterno trays and everything dried out. We had a few new people over and I forgot to move my daughter's potty chair out of the living room (it seemed like a logical location at the time since she was just getting the hang of it) and she pooped in the living room with everyone around (she was a stealthy one--she tried on her own and I didn't even know she was going because I was talking to someone)--AND MISSED THE POTTY! We had a retirement party for my husband's mom and the dog was apparently having a hard time with his food and he was stinky and gassy for the whole party--and I didn't even realize I should move him out of the room so all the guests suffered. I hosted a Halloween party (for me and a few of my single friends) and someone brought a South Park tape and the party was no longer about socializing and everyone sat watching the TV for two hours.

2. In middle school, we had a social studies unit that involved doing a presentation of a current events article in front of the class. I chose articles from the Weekly World News (better known as the tabloid that reports on 'bat boy,' UFOs, and aliens). I should point out that I did it deliberately as a joke.

3. I'm oddly incredibly organized in minutiae. The hangars in my laundry room are currently arranged in groups: hangars with clips, wood hangars for pants, plastic hangars with rounded shoulders for knits, plastic hangars with rounded shoulders that also have rubberized ends so wide-necked tops don't fall off, straight-shouldered plastic hangers for my husband's work shirts, kid-sized plastic hangars without breaks for regular shirts or pants, kid-sized plastic hangars with breaks for sleeveless tops, kid-sized plastic hangars with clips to hang shorts and skirts. For another example, I have separate compartments on my desk for ball-point pens, gel-ink pens, pencils, mechanical pencils that use 0.7 mm lead, mechanical pencils that use 0.5 mm lead, dry-erase markers, high-lighters, and erasable pens.

4. I made two batches of wine from a kit.

5. I waste money by not being together enough to return things. I've paid for and then never used a baby carrier, outfits for the kids that were the wrong size, shoes for me that were uncomfortable when I brought them home, anything that I bought in the wrong size or model. I just never remember to save the receipt or can't find it and sometimes even if I have the receipt, I just hate the hassle of taking it into the car, making a special trip to that particular store, etc.

6. I cry easily. I cry very easily. I cry at most any sad part of a movie. Hello? I cried during the new Journey to the Center of the Earth movie. My family used to tease me about it all the time. When I was pregnant it was even worse. I think the true low point is that I cried when Bobby Brady was injured in a car race during the Brady Family Reunion TV show.

That seems like more than enough for now! And now you all know to never accept an invitation for a dinner party from me!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

No More Worries

Here are 10 things you don't have to worry about. I have to say that because I'm a reader of I didn't worry about them anyway.

1. Killer hot dogs.


3. Forbidden fruits from afar.


5. Evil plastic bags.


6. Toxic plastic bottles.

Read the reasons at the article. Perhaps people will take it seriously since it's in the NYT.

Objectivism Rounded Up

The weekly round up of Objectivism is posted here! More great thoughts. NoodleFood has a few good posts. One by Diana Hsieh talks about the secular constitution. She has also started a group to fight to keep religion out of politics called Coalition for Secular Government.

Jo-Ann's Discount Card for Homeschoolers

Jo-Ann's fabric and crafts has a 15% discount for homeschoolers. You can go to this page to fill out the discount form. Jo-Ann's will accept a registration number from Parent's Educating at Home (PEAH) which is free here. I use my discount card a lot!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm still around!

We've been working hard reorganizing the school room. I need to fit in all the new books I bought from library sales and clear out four shelves. Why clear shelves? So I don't have to watch the baby remove book after book after book from the bottom-most shelves while I'm trying to teach the girls. We've hit the mobility stage! He started crawling about two weeks ago and over the last week has bloomed into a real mover and shaker. Boy, do I have to vacuum more! Not that I do, I just should.

He's too quick for me. I have woefully underestimated his desire to get around.

I hope I can actually do as much as I planned.

Homeschooling-wise I've made a big change this year. I switched math curriculum. I have been using Saxon for the last two years. Correction! I've used Saxon for the first four months of the last two years and then stopped using it altogether and relied instead on intermittent instruction from me and a lot of worksheets (thank you SuperKids). I bought Singapore Math this year. My eldest will be 'entering' fourth grade this year and my youngest daughter will be 'in' second grade (though only in Connecticut and New York--any other state and her age would make her a very old first grader). Because Singapore Math introduces subjects on a different (more advanced) timeline, I ordered all of the required books for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. Starting each of the kids a year behind seems like it might be a good fit. This worries me a little (label-wise and going backward, not forward) but overall I'm more concerned with their understanding and I believe that Singapore will advance them more quickly in the long run even if they stay a level behind.

I did order the homeschool manual for first (1A) and third (3A) grade (to get an idea of what it contains, figure out if it does help me--since I'm pretty comfortable with teaching math, and decide if I really want it for the others). So far I've seen some things I like (the emphasis on concretes early on) and some things I don't (all of the attention mental math gets--I couldn't gave a rat's ass if my kid can subtract three-digit numbers in her head).

I also ordered the Writing with Ease book by Susan Wise Bauer. Apparently I ordered it three times. Yep! THREE times! I must have had one of those mommy-moments and pressed the 'buy' button a lot. And then I didn't notice the cost was wrong. And then I didn't bother checking the quantity in the order confirmation. So I've got a lot of copies.