Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Take a Toddler to a Restaurant

The short answer: Don't!

Whatever effort you think you're saving by taking the toddler out will be spent entertaining and worrying about him.

At the very least you should avoid this situation:

No nap.
A very busy restaurant on a Friday night.
A waitress who forgets ketchup and silverware.
A late dinner and a light snack makes for a hungry and cranky baby.
Putting napkins, paper, crayons, silverware, plates, or food in front of a long-armed crankpot who likes to throw things.

Yes, I am guilty of all of those things--not over the course of the last few times we went out. All of them occurred last night. The good news is that my husband and I met at the restaurant. After he communicated his desire to leave the restaurant by flinging macaroni and cheese at the couple next to us (only close--no actual hit), I took my separate car and hit the road right after I had my salad and long before my food.

The doggie bag was my consolation prize.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Writing Curriculum

I posted before needing to use a writing curriculum in my homeschool. I have decided to choose between these options:

Institute for Excellence in Writing Theme Based Writing Lessons

I know that there are other writing curriculums out there, but I've looked into these enough to see that they are promising enough to consider and there is enough information available for me to make a somewhat educated decision.

Time4Writing is an on-line course. This appeals to me so that I do not need to be the person grading my daughter's writing. The classes are run through forums. There is an actual person who will review the work and provide feedback. The teacher interaction is limited to writing back and forth. The student would log on, read the assignment, write the assignment and hand it in. The available classes appeal to my sense of heirarchy. They properly start from grammar, move to sentence construction, up to paragraphs and then into essays. Each step is progressively harder and builds on the previous knowledge. The eight week classes cost $100 per student which I find a reasonable cost. The content includes some creative writing as well as expository. I am most concerned that my children learn expository writing. Creative writing may be fun and nice, but the writing skills that are hardest to develop and the one that will be of the most use in day to day life (unless you are a novelist) is expository or persuasive writing.

BraveWriter has two availabilities. The Writer's Jungle is a binder that will allow a parent to guide their child through the writing process. According to the summary at the website, the 'brave' part of BraveWriter is to allow your child to become comfortable with letting go, putting words on paper unselfconsciously, and finding a 'voice'. The course talks about ensuring a language rich home, communication, exploring objects using all five senses, free-writing, over coming writer's block, and how to help with revision, rewriting, and critiques. This is very parent-intense and requires time for planning, and/or an additional curriculum from which the writing assignments come, or making your own assignments. It does seem to cover content at all. While the course seems tailored made for creative writing, I am hoping that the ideas would also cover non-fiction writing (my highest priority). This program is $100 for the basic binder.

The second option from BraveWriter is an on-line course called Kidswrite Basic. There are other courses, but that course would be what I would chooose. A real, live person would make assignments and provide feedback in a forum setting (again, no real-time contact) to the parents. This follows their Writer's Jungle book in format and even in coaching the parents and having the parents actually be the ones to interact with the students. It is a six week course that costs $175. That is $30 a week. I guess you could rationalize it by saying that it is almost like a course for both the parent and the student, which would actually make the price reasonable in my mind. Plenty of parents are more than willing to pay that high of a fee since the class is already closed out. Considering that the program is designed to allow kids to get words out there without dealing with style (it seems that would come from the other curriculum you would have), I would have a very hard time paying that high of a price.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing seems to be another 'teach the teacher' course. There are a set of 10 hours of DVD instruction which costs $145. They also offer DVDs that will teach the student as well. That combination of both is around $240. It is far more structured than BraveWriter. It may be that this is one of the currriculums you could use BraveWriter with. There is a money-back guarantee. The Student Writing Intensive can get the students started right away while you learn the course yourself. It also includes material for the lessons so the parent probably does not have to do all of the work at first.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing Theme-Based Writing Lessons are complete writing lessons all planned out. Of course you are supposed to watch the Teaching Writing DVDs first. But these are very detailed and include much of the practical information that is needed including excerpts, etc. The Ancient History Teacher and Student books cost $49.

And no, I have not yet decided though I am favoring the Theme-Based Writing Lessons. I am fortunate that I was able to borrow someone's copy to review and see if I think it would be detailed enough for me and Hanover and/or Flurpee. Hanover likes to see A LOT of concrete examples.

Best of the Objectivist Blogging Sphere for the Week

Yes--that's my extra long title for the Objectivist Round Up! So many posts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Homeschool Life in General

Hanover is entering 5th grade (by the traditional age ranges) and Flurpee is either in 2nd or 3rd grade (yes, it's confusing for me too but it has to do with her very late birthday and the attendence rules in CT). This was our schedule last year and every year before. This year, with the toddler, I'm not sure how things will change.

I am a school-at-home type. I like to keep a schedule (flexible depending on other factors). I run through the traditional subjects (math, language arts, science, history, etc.) following curriculums for each. I start homeschooling at 8:30-9 and finish by 3:30. If we're having a good day and the kids don't notice the time, we have rarely just continued doing school until my husband comes home at 6. In the morning, we homeschool non-stop. Since my kids participate in live history classes with Mr. Powell, Hanover starts hers at 11. Sometimes I'll start preparing lunch then and have it ready at 11:30. Once the kids eat lunch, I usually kick them outdoors on pain of death (and sometimes taking their little brother as well) and get 1/2 an hour to check my mail. If they balk at babysitting or the toddler is exploring too far afield, then I'll take him out myself. Once we come inside, I usually find that I need time to myself and I'll get my youngest schooler set up with her history lesson and the eldest will be reading. But then I may need to deal with the toddler.

While the morning is always school time, the afternoons often include activities, such as a weekly park day in the milder weather, or a club I run for the girls that incorporates a little history but is mostly for crafts and friendship time. I also have the kids attending a nature class that can count as science, but certainly cuts into my standard school schedule.

I do not participate in co-ops (at this point). I'm homeschooling specifically to teach my children what I feel is important. For me, it's not an extension of a parenting method or a relaxed, slightly unschooling method, or about learning from everyday life. I know that works for many people, but I want my schooling to be more formal. I haven't found the currriculums offered to fit into our educational plan very well. And for those reasons, and that I don't want to keep the baby out all day, I have not found co-ops to fit in my educational scheme.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling

Here! It's got a lot of style.

Friendship Skills for Children

If you have a child who is having difficulty making friends or a smaller child who you want to make sure has the necessary skills to interact well with others, here are a pair of posts from Parenting Science that give a nice concrete place to start helping.

How to help kids make friends: Evidence-based tips

Friendship in children: How parenting and family life affect peer relationships

Monday, August 24, 2009

Winning Toddler Cooperation

I've had a few good ideas in my day. Not too many, but a few that worked for me and the kids. I was just reminded of a few.

To get the kids to happily hold hands while we crossed the street, we pretended to be a long train (by holding hands), and would then walk across the street saying 'chugga chugga choo choo'. For tooth brushing, I would pretend that there was a small character in their mouth (like Barney or a naughty Sleeping Beauty) and I just had to brush it out--and boy did that character like to run around their mouth--they were so quick! I had to brush every surface before I finally chased them away.

There is always making up songs for every activity as well. We "brusha brusha brusha, brusha brusha brush our hair". And we would do a conga line to celebrate using the potty while singing "pee pee on the potty, pee pee on the potty" or the other depending on appropriateness.

I also was reminded of all of the lapware games that are available. Lapware games are computer games you can play with babies and toddlers while they sit on your lap. And the action occurs generally just by pressing any key--so they get to whack your keyboard and watch cute things happen when they do. Sesame Street and Fisher Price have a lot of selections. Here are some of my favorites:

Sesame Street Peek-a-Boo
Elmo Keyboard-o-Rama
Elmo Potty Time (though my girls were a little sadistic in that they refused to let Elmo go to the potty)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Job Was Done

I did my job. I made dinner for everyone. The main part of dinner was a bacon and American cheese quiche. That Hanover and Flurpee both declared it disgusting was really just not my problem. Thor (or Bamm Bamm or Filthy Little Monkey--I'm still feeling for which is most appropriate and waiting for my husband to annoint him with a silly nickname) thought it was just fine (except for the pie crust). Oh well! You can't please everyone all of the time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Did Some Reading

During my absence (which I may or may explain in a little bit), I was able to read, read, read.

I had bought a number of books for Hanover (10) that she hadn't cracked open yet. Since I had been feeling very disconnected from her reading of late (she's so fast and devotes so much time to it that I don't have time to read all of the same things she does). So I decided to read some of those.

Here's the list: Fablehaven book 1 and 2 (OK--fantasy adventure with similar setting to Sisters Grimm without being nearly as funny), Griffin's Castle (theme was about belonging and involved a little too deeply disturbed main character), Bartimaeus Trilogy Book 1: the Amulet of Samarkand (clever dialogue, interesting story, and unique point of view), Twilight, and New Moon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Preparations for School

Although I'm still feeling like summer just started (thanks to all that rain), I finally realized that I need to start preparing for school. Another reason why I'm doing it this late is because I was trying to convince my husband to send Hanover to public school. Apparently I was not particularly persuasive. He was not moved one iota. Sometimes I think he plays me like a fiddle. I think he figures that some anxiety I feel about the coming school year will pass in a few weeks.

I bought a number of items for this next school year back in May. Over the summer I decided to make a few changes. In math, I'll be having Hanover skip an entire year in Singapore math. Whatever she misses, we still have the previous book, so she can review the material. This make sense for me because a) she's clever and picks up on things easily, b) the non-arithmetic work has been below her level, and c) she had been doing long division and multiplication of multiple digits in second grade.

Flurpee will be moving into the next level of spelling without completing the previous book. Her reading level has improved dramatically so it didn't make sense to continue in the lower level book. Flurpee will also be beginning First Language Lessons level 3.

We are continuing with girls' club. We have a lot of older girls now who are all very nice. It's a great group. Both girls are still in History at Our House with full live attendance. They enjoy it a lot still. This time I will remember to reschedule girls' club so it doesn't interfere with Flurpee's class.

So here is the current (because it could change at any time anyway) curriculum:

  • Language arts:

  • spelling: Spelling Workout
    vocabulary: Vocabulary from Classical Roots
    grammar: First Language Lessons
    handwriting: Essential Learning Products handwriting practice book
    writing: ???
    reading, reading comprehension, and/or literature: I make this up as we go along.
  • Math: Singapore math, Building Thinking Skills from the Critical Thinking Company
  • History: History at Our House, along with geography
  • Science: Participating in a two hour every-other-week nature class. That will cover some biology. The rest I will be making it up as I go along if I don't run specific classes. I'll be doing physics and chemistry with experiments. Biology (botony and zoology) will mostly be covered through reading and the occasional experiment. At the very least we will be covering classification.
The observant may notice that there is nothing listed for music, art, or foreign language. I consider these topics to be nice, but not necessary. We do crafts in girls' club, which I count toward art. History at Our House also has an art appreciation class once a week which I consider art as well as history. We have Rosetta Stone for spanish, but the kids just aren't that interested. If we have time and the kids have finished the rest of the their work, I have a beginner piano book which includes information about reading music and rhythm. We could also listen to Classics for Kids radio programs, but we generally don't. I don't have the budget to support private music lessons. Once/if we finish the main curriculum, we don't generally have enough time for these other things.

I am still struggling with writing for my oldest. A new acquaintance of mine is bringing an example of her writing curriculum. It sounds more my speed than the Institute for Excellence in Writing, which sounds nice with the exception of the heavy reliance on the parent learning everything. This one is more guided. I can't wait to see it.

I'm still struggling with whether I'll be doing science for people outside of the family. If so, I still have a bit of research to go. That goes for the middle school science I was thinking of as well. Though I've talked to enough parents of 12 year-old boys to know that many are unhappy with the existing choices for science or are doing science classes that don't include physics or chemistry. Perhaps those choices are also driven by the ease of finding information or curriculum for those options. Chemistry is particularly difficult for homeschoolers because of the need for proper ventilation and the danger of using acids and storing the chemicals properly. Middle school chemistry, however, would be good even without dangerous acids and bases.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is College Worth the Cost?

There has been talk lately of whether a college degree is worth the cost of tuition. And a lot of the consensus has been that it's not. Ultimately what it comes down to is major. Certain majors will ALWAYS be worth the price of admission. Certain other majors have almost never been.

Objectivist Round Up!

Some of the best posts of the week from Objectivists around the web.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Excellent Homeschool History Curriculum--Your Chance to Learn More!

If you've been wondering how History at Our House works (for children and adults!), Scott Powell, the teacher, is offering a wonderful opportunity to ask him questions personally. You can also get more information by signing up for the History at Our House Yahoo group and subscribing to his newsletter. To find out about signing up for the conference, you can find his e-mail address at his blog.


Do you have questions about the HistoryAtOurHouse program or the new History Through Art for Adults program? Are you joining the program this year, and you'd like to see how easy the conference calls are?Are you thinking of joining the program this year or next, and you'd like to know what's in store at HistoryAtOurHouse?Want to know about my plans to offer the history of East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea), India, the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, and more? Want to request curriculum offerings for the coming years?Give me a call!

On Friday August 21, I will be hosting three open conference calls for students, parents, and prospective clients. The conference calls will be at:

  • 11:00 am Eastern (8:00 am Pacific)
  • 1:00 pm Eastern (10:00 am Pacific)
  • 3:00 pm Eastern (Noon Pacific).

The calls will be driven by your questions, and will last however long they need to, so come prepared. Ask anything! Please encourage your kids to participate and ask questions as well, especially if they are using the program for the first time this year.To register for this conference call, simply REPLY to this e-mail and state the time slot you would like to use, and I will send you the call-in number and conference code.

I hope to talk to you Friday!


Scott Powell

Creator and Teacher, HistoryAtOurHouse

Everyone is welcome!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Visiting Astronauts

I am so excited for my girls! Hanover and Flurpee went with daddy to listen to two astronauts from the STS-125 Hubble Servicing mission. The astronauts were touring some of the companies responsible providing systems and support for the Hubble Space Telescope. The STS-125 went up last week and just returned 4 days ago. They were up for 16 days. (Corrected for dates and length of trip.)

The astronauts who spoke were the Mission Commander Scott Altman and Mission Specialist Drew Feustel. The kids each got the photo from the link (the entire crew on backed by one of the most amazing Hubble photos) signed by each crew member and with biographical information on the back. Apparently PhDs are quite common, test pilots slightly less so, and then you hit your aerospace and mechanical engineers.

The kids listened to a short presentation and then got to watch videos of the astronauts during their mission. Afterward the astronauts accepted questions. The whole presentation lasted almost two hours! Hanover was so inspired she (almost) wanted to be an astronaut. Except for the part where the commander explained that during take-off it feels like three friends just jumped on you.

And the final good news is that there may be an opportunity for the Hubble to be boosted to a higher orbit where it would not be serviced any longer but still afford some additional information as long as it stays functional. That certainly sounds better than putting it into a degrading orbit to disintegrate on re-entry.