Wednesday, December 29, 2010


My secret to listening to audiobooks when I'm home with the kids? One earbud in, one left out so I can still hear them. If they need more than momentary attention, then I just rewind the portion I missed. Obviously this only works on those days where they are happy with their own company while I clean or prepare food.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Science! Must Have for Density

I purchased density blocks from Ward's a few years ago. They are excellent for understanding density. From just handling them for the littlest of students, to measuring them to compute volume for older students, to weighing them and computing density, or in conjunction with a spring scale to explore buoyancy.

I like this set of blocks a lot. These blocks hold volume constant so the difference in weight is obvious. The cube shape allows the volume to be computed easily by multiplication. There are a number of different materials. The floating blocks have enough variation in density that there is a block that is almost fully submerged and another that floats almost completely out of the water. As a warning, dry the metal blocks off well to reduce oxidation. A thin coating of mineral oil (or other non-food oil) will help preserve them.

There are equal volume rods available from Home Science Tools: While I normally like that site for their supplies and prices, this density set is not nearly as nice as the blocks. The materials are very limited (only four compared to 12). The cylinder shape requires using the formula for computing the area of a circle before the volume can be calculated. Though it could be as simple as multiplying, the area of a circle is not usually taught, proven, and understood until algebra. Though the volume can be measured by submersion, I appreciate the more accessible and straightforward cubes.

Ward's e-mail subscribers can get 15% off a purchase for a limited time:

From Edmund's (better price--but check shipping):

As a corollary to the density blocks, this set of equal-mass density rods can really help cement the density concept. Each of the rods is made of a different material and the mass is kept constant. To get the same mass from materials that vary in density, the volume needs to change. The brass rod is only about 1/2 an inch long. This set is nice, but I find it no replacement for the density blocks.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Supressing the Snark

This is Flurpee's first Christmas in public school. We celebrate Christmas and even have a Santa (can you guess who Santa is in our house? That's right--I fulfill that role for our Christmas celebration). Flurpee and Hanover figured out that I was Santa a number of years ago. Flurpee is rightfully proud of knowing something so important.

I warned her that many of her friends still believe in a 'magical' Santa at the beginning of the season and that she did not need to explain to them about Santa since they would understand soon. That has not stopped her from telling everyone what she knows. She even went so far as to take bets about whether Santa is real with her fellow third graders--it's even recorded on paper for evaluation when they get to high school. I told her that I did not want her talking about it in school any more. I really cannot condone this emphasis that is so distracting to the school environment. Apparently my warning to her was not timed well.

Here is an e-mail I received from a mom of one of my daughter's acquaintances yesterday.


Hi Kim - ---------- mentioned to me that he and [Flurpee] have been talking about Santa Clause, etc. and what they were saying. --------- strongly believes in Santa. Maybe you could explain to [Flurpee] :)

[the mom]


It seems rather innocuous, right? Even a nice happy-face emoticon so I would know that she means it in a nice way. Yet it makes my blood boil. I find it offensive on a number of fronts. For one thing, if her son believes so strongly, why is she asking me to get my daughter to shut up about it? And asking me to muzzle my daughter about her views so that her son's views are not challenged is so hypocritical. Plus, this kid is eight and he still strongly believes in Santa. You would think she would welcome some insight if her kid has not bothered thinking about Santa in terms of reality yet. Further, this is a crazy request to try to control an environment for her son that she will have less and less say about. What I found most annoying is what she is implying she wants me to do as a parent to get my child to not talk about Santa.

This was my first response:


Since ---------- believes so strongly, I am surprised that something [Flurpee] said could affect him. I'll warn ......... that ,,,,,,,,,, should not mention that she knows Santa isn't real either.

I forbade [Flurpee] from speaking about Santa not being real last week. I will punish her severely. I would not have known she had continued to tell other children the truth if you had not told me. I told her it was not her place to disabuse other children of their fantasies. I will make sure that she never tells ---------- her beliefs ever again by assuring that the punishment is one she won't forget. She needs to understand that though she is strong enough to be true to herself, not everyone can stand other people believing differently from them.



I realized that, highly sarcastic and snarky, it probably would not help this woman understand that I think this is her problem and not mine. I actually have to deal with her on a regular basis so I should try to be civil and not promote any misunderstandings. This is the e-mail I was finally ready to send after seething all day and having my husband review it to find any latent passive aggressive tones.


Hi ---------,

Last week I counseled [Flurpee] to only state that she does not believe in Santa and not say anything more. I told her that I don't want her to debate her friends about it. I will not tell her to lie or hide what she knows.

When it comes to Santa, most kids will not leave her alone. She is being put on the defensive because so many other children cannot accept that she does not hold the same view as them. It is very hard for her to feel attacked and isolated, especially since she is so young. I have asked her to stop talking when other kids continue to pester her about why she does not believe. She has a strong sense of justice, as all kids do, and she does not feel it is right that other kids can talk about what they believe but she is not allowed to talk about what she knows is true, especially with so many kids bothering her. She is learning very early that there are certain truths people must realize on their own and that is why I do not want her trying to convince other children of what she knows.

I try to empathize with her and I point out that there are plenty of people in this world whose views differ from many of the kids she meets here and, though it is a hard lesson to learn so early, I want her to know she is strong enough to stand up for her beliefs even when other people do not know how to accept them.

It was not clear from your e-mail if your discomfort comes from [Flurpee] stating that Santa is not real, that she does not believe in Santa, or if [Flurpee] is telling ---------- to no longer believe in Santa. I will emphasize to [Flurpee] again that I do not want her trying to convince other children that Santa is not real. Would the wording, "Santa does not come to our house," be better for ----------? I'll ask .......... how she and ,,,,,,,,,, do it since they do not celebrate Christmas at all. It is important to me that ---------- is comfortable with [Flurpee] while she stays true to herself and our family's values. I hope I can understand your concerns well enough to address them respectfully while not undermining the values of honesty and standing up for one's beliefs that our family holds dear.




It was important for me to emphasize that I understand that she has a concern. It is also important for her to understand that there are limits to what I am willing to do to help. Since I have an ongoing entanglement with this family, I need to show her that I am willing to try to help in some way. I can only hope she realizes that her request is asking for tolerance of her boy's views while showing none for ours.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Alive!!

I live! and the podcast is alive! Here is Christine and my second podcast. This podcast is half the length of our first to make downloading and listening much better. We talked a lot more than that!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Things You Learn on the Public School Bus

Yes, there have been a lot of things learned on the school bus. But what I was referring to specifically was Flurpee, the eight year-old, discovering our neighbor two houses down has a second-grade girl, too! She is unbelievably excited to have someone she can play with so nearby. And this girl is an only child, so the mom is absolutely thrilled to find someone her daughter can play with.


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why I Chose to Have Kids

Deb challenged me to figure out my reasons for having kids. My post was actually written years ago (seriously--two years ago) and shelved because I was not sure how to continue; couldn't come up with a decent segue. I do know some reasons why I wanted to have kids. Some were more important that others.

A few of my lesser reasons for choosing to have kids include some of the more fun ones. I wanted to see how I would do at being a parent. I hope my kids will be like me--I'm one of my favorite people! I wanted a chance to raise kids who might think and support the same ideas I do. They choose what to believe, but I'm hopeful. I enjoy being able to see them develop, change, and grow. My husband is good with kids and I really enjoy seeing that fun side of him with our own kids. And I think there are a couple of other reasons I cannot recall at the moment.

My most important reason for having children has to do with the intimacy that makes children possible. There is no more concrete representation of my marriage and my commitment to my husband than to create an entire other human being with him; a child that is partly me and partly him. Along with that purely physical joining, we also commit to dealing with each other for at least 18 years. Making decisions together regarding parenting issues for the duration of their minority. Though there is no guarentee that we will always be together, at the time we decided to have children, we had every intention of devoting ourselves to each other and our family for 20 or more years.

There are things I did not think were important. I did not think they would provide me with company. I can do that quite well by myself. I do not expect them to take care of me, though I hope they like me well enough to consider it. I did not worry I might screw the kids up irretrievably. I was pretty sure I could do better than that. I was not trying to compensate for any lack in my own upbringing. My own childhood was not perfect, some of which was out of my parents control, and some of which was. There are aspects of my childhood that my kids will not have to deal with and decisions to prevent those were made long before my decision to actually have children.


We are having my husband's sister in from out of town next week! I am excited and yet my house needs so much work. Got to crack the whip!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Being a Parent

For some people, having kids is a duty. Having children may be something you do for you humankind to perpetuate the species. It could be the hope that your religion will grow in numbers. Many people have children to assure their care into their old age. In more rural areas and times, children could be useful around the family farm or homestead. Male children can carry on the family name (depending on your culture) and estate. Daughters may be accomplished or beautiful and could increase the family esteem through a favorable marriage. Many of those reasons have been cited when people are deciding to have kids.

The sad fact is that people didn't need to decide why to have kids. Children came as a natural result of living. There were few reliable methods of contraception. Preventing children is against the teaching of Catholicism (yes, yes--they've okayed the rhythm method, but I'll bet someone could easily argue that having sex knowing you couldn't conceive is right up there with withdrawal). Fertile women could do nothing more than raise kids. Many families may have considered a child 'just another mouth to feed.' Children were a common commodity and not necessarily well-received.

I'm fortunate to live at a time and in a political environment when reliable contraception is available. My reproduction is almost completely within my control without sacrificing an essential part of what it means to be human and in love (sex--hopefully good). I am glad that I've been able to decide to become a mother.

By most accounts kids are difficult, inconvenient, costly, time-consuming, and resource-consuming. When they're infants, they wake you up, need to be fed frequently and you have to change their diapers. When they're toddlers they have nightmares, have a hard time going to sleep, still need to be fed frequently, and the diaper situation may be less frequent--but the job is necessarily bigger. As they become kids there's education, toys, play dates, and toilet training. All along you are constantly watching out for personal hygiene, removing trash more frequently, doing extra laundry, cooking, shopping, putting away toys, asking them to put away toys, trying to teach chores. It is easy to understand why people choose to not have children.

I'm not exactly sure why I knew I was going to have kids at even a young age. Perhaps it had to do with people around me talking as though it was an inevitability. In fact, even though I knew children could be rewarding, I was completely surprised by the sheer joy I felt after having them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today: Just Nice

After feeding all the children breakfast, I dropped the older two at school and headed to a park with the youngest for two hours. We headed to the grocery store and got some rations for the weekend. Lunch is much easier when I have fresh food. I played cars for a while and then went upstairs to work on a project for Flurpee (I signed on to make her a dress). Omega followed me upstairs and actually fell asleep while I was sewing. I made significant progress on the simple item and even used two new techniques. The big kids came home and I made us dinner just in time for Hanover's band concert. At the end of the night we had a nice, long conversation with a friend.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A New Rule: Trying to Tame the Laundry

There are a few things that my darling, dear children do that are likely to drive me totally wild. On the current top of the list: complaining about not have clothes to wear because they are dirty. Since I am in charge of laundry, that would be a legitimate complaint to lay at my door. Except when I have done laundry and their clothes were not handed over for processing.

Usually I find their clothes on the floor of their room, on their desks or dressers, on the floor of their closet, hanging over their stuffed hampers, under beds, and even on chairs. Not only does this cause a big issue for my work of the laundry, but it also keeps their rooms well beyond navigable, not to mention how much dirtier the rooms look--and they are always at some level of disaster.

I have tried reminders and explanations to no avail. I have sat with them while they cleaned up. Since I have no job left other than toddler-parenting and housekeeping with my two oldest now attending public school, I have been very attentive of the laundry recently. Once I finished what was in the laundry room, I was quite satisfied with myself. Until I realized that I had almost as much laundry still in the kids' rooms.

Now we have a nightly inspection of each of their rooms. All clothing needs to be on hangars, in the hamper, or in their drawers. Not on the floor. Not on chairs (unless it's laid out for the next day). Not on top of dressers, desks, or chairs. Not in the bottom of the closet. For each item left out they pay me a dollar. It had to be enough to make them notice and it had to represent how much it means to me. This is no small change for them since they only get $4 and $5 a week. Just one item each night would have them in the red.

It worked well tonight, but it's a matter of discipline at this point. Discipline on my part! I have to remember to check each night (warning given first to help them plan their time, but only for a while). I have to remember to remove the amount from their allowance (there's an app for that), if there is anything to remove. Reminder added into my calendar for each night. Done!

Perhaps the money will not give them internal motivation. Maybe when they move out of the house they will keep their houses like pig sties. I could not care less. That will be their problem. This, right now, is a problem I am having with them. I am willing to try this idea for the mindless laundry pick up that needs to be done regularly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My View on Co-Sleeping: Oh No, You Can't Sleep Here

I just had my husband drag the toddler out of our bed. He wanted to go to sleep with us instead of sleeping in his own bed. Part of our lovely routine of Omega trying to avoid going to sleep. I know there are a lot of people trying to decide whether sleeping with your baby is the best or worst thing to do. I do not have an opinion about whether it is best for the kids. I certainly have an opinion about whether it is best for me. I tried it when I was nursing my first. I have heard how fabulous it is to nurse the baby and get as much sleep as possible. Um, except I could not sleep. I didn't even get the precious hour or two of sleep between feedings. It was a combination of worrying about the child, not being able to move into comfortable positions while sleeping, not having enough room in the bed, worrying about waking up the kid, getting kicked, and more. I did not like it. I did not get more sleep. The baby/toddler/kid would sleep in their own room. And that was all I needed to know it was not for me.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I cannot say enough about how much I love being a parent. I am so pleased that I decided to have kids. I hope I can express to my kids how much I love them and the joy they have brought to my life.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Book Club: Anna Karenina

An interesting comment was made about Anna Karenina during my in-real-life book club. That the book dealt with issues that we still face today. Though the book is over 100 years old, there were similar conflicts and discussions occuring today.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

In Which I Am a Bad Mom: "Mom, Why Don't You Make My Lunch Like All the Other Kids' Moms?"

From my 11 year-old, Hanover: "Mom, why don't you make my lunch? All the other kids' moms make their lunch."

Because I know you can do it yourself, just like you've been doing it since you were 7.
Because I want you to know you don't have to rely on other people for things you can do yourself.
Because you know best what you want.
Maybe the other kids don't know how to do it themselves.
Because I don't want to.

And Flurpee, at 8, is making her own lunches, too.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


On Wednesday, I enrolled my youngest daughter in school. There are a few questions I think anyone might have on that news: I thought you said you were going to wait until next year? Why didn't we hear anything for warning? and Why bother enrolling her now that the school year is almost over?

The short version: I was going to wait until next year. I couldn't give any warning because I didn't know I was going to do it myself. Attending school for a couple of months is better than being at home and getting very little accomplished.

The long version: I actually had a 'revelation' while recording the podcast. I said something off the cuff that I later realized was an accurate, succint statement of why Flurpee was so hard to motivate at home. Once she knew she was going to public school eventually, she was waiting for "real" school to start. I made the statement on Saturday. I realized how true it was on Sunday. I wondered about whether the school would take such a late enrollment on Monday. Called on Monday. Had her evaluated on Monday. And had her in school on Wednesday.

Even my husband did not realize that I was planning to put her in school. Normally, this is one of those decision about our family that I would consult with him first and make sure he was on board. Since he was on-board with the plan to send Flurpee next year and we had already decided which grade to put her in, I figured the timing would not change things drastically. He was quite shocked however when I told him I scheduled an evaluation for Flurpee and asked him to pick up the health forms on his way home from work. A short talk brought him around to my way of thinking.

Enrolling Flurpee at the end of the year would mean a chance for her to learn the ropes with her big sister still around. She would have her first school experience while things were exciting and not particularly demanding. If there were any issues, I would know about them to help over the summer.

Now I am home with just Omega.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Podcast Links

Here are links to the stores, venders, and items mentioned during the podcast.

Tobin's Labs I'm glad to know about another homeschool science supplier
Home Science Tools
Rainbow Resource
Institute for Excellence in Writing
The Book Peddler
Teaching Textbooks

Slide stains from Home Science Tools and Tobin Labs--in case you are literally bleeding for your homeschool and want to make a teaching moment out of it.

It's a Podcast! A Podcast for Active-Minded Parents and Homeschoolers #1: Introductions and Mass Hope

Christine and I were excited to try podcasting. It's an exciting medium that has been done so well by others. We wanted to explore podcasting for our particular interests of academic-oriented homeschooling and other general parenting. It's a fairly casual discussion and we hope to hear back from anyone who listens to let us know there are people listening.

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Monday, May 03, 2010


I am not sure what I was thinking, but I joined a blog-a-thon committed to posting every day in May. Obviously I did not get off to a great start. I learned about the blog-a-thon from Blogging 'Bout Boys. There are 100 participants.

I decided to do this as a personal challenge. I only like to blog when the mood strikes me. I was curious about whether I could come up with any ideas when I needed them instead of waiting for inspiration.

Obviously, this first post was a given!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

3rd and 4th Grade Book Club Book: Dying to Meet You: 43 Old Cemetary Road

One of the great things about Flurpee being in a book club is not only her motivation to read in order to finish a book in time for the meeting, but also the books they select. Their most recent book, Dying to Meet You: 43 Old Cemetery Road, is an interesting example. It is an epistolary novel using letters and newspaper clippings. The first Flurpee has ever seen. When she first opened the book, she was quite puzzled and her frustration in trying to understand the story was quite painful (on my ears--she's a screamer!). I had to explain the format before she could even enjoy the book. Now that she is almost done, she has noticed that each character has their own font so she knows who the letter is from prior to reading the closing. The book has some interesting elements. The main characters have names that are indicative of their character which was fun for me to point out. She is enjoying the book a lot.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Facebook Page

Along with Twitter, I also post some of my favorite links to a new Facebook page. If you visit the actual blog, you may have noticed the Facebook badge on the right. The page holds links and you can comment on them. If you find any useful, I'd love to hear it.

The Facebook page also has a discussion area. If there are any burning topics that someone may help with or for which you'd just like to see anyone's thoughts, then perhaps posting on the discussion board would be useful.

I hope to hear from you instead of just talking to myself!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Nice Day: Showing Confidence in Children

Hanover, my girl going to public school, had spring break recently. It was lovely to have her home for the whole week. As a coincidence, she still has two good friends from her private school prior to homeschooling. They also had spring break at the same time. I was able to invite both girls to hang out for one of the days. It was a lot of fun.

The girls got along quite well and they included Flurpee (the younger one) and she did not even feel left out much (a huge issue usually). We had to break up our day by taking everyone to Flurpee's orthodontist appointment. It was funny to have five kids in the car--one of the reasons I went with a 3-row SUV.

The day was gorgeous and after we went to the dentist, I mentioned heading to a park but Hanover nixed all of our town parks: ugly and boring. I can't argue. The parks in our town are quite old and ill-maintained. One of our guests remembered a park near the orthodontist's. She had not been there in many years (basically, since she was five!) and was not quite sure if she knew where it was.

All of the kids were excited to find this park because it sounded like fun (a big wooden adventure set). I was a little concerned that we could end up driving around for no reason. I could get lost. We could miss our chance to play at a park I knew. The kids could have run out of play time while we were driving around. Yet, I decided to give it a shot. Sure, any of those things could happen. If we were driving for a long time, I could decide to stop. If we were making a lot of turns I couldn't track, I would have turned around. Instead, I put my trust in this 10 year-old and let her give it her best.

And we found it! And the kids had a blast. The towers helped feed their imaginations and they decided to be princesses and maids with an evil Queen. The Queen had a favorite princess and was very demanding of her maids. The maids had to help her control the princesses. Omega (2 1/2 years old now) wandered every where. I almost never saw him. He climbed, slid, jumped, and meandered. I cannot imagine how gratifying it was for our friend to have an adult listen to her, trust her enough to drive around out of the way, and, in the end, to succeed and be an integral part of her friends' fun day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Super Simple Science: Biology and Osmosis

I think most people are familiar with this experiment using white carnations. One need not have carnations though. We demonstrated osmosis and cell stiffness using old celery. I used week-old, pale celery with leaves (left over from making chicken stock, yum). We felt how limp the celery was and paid attention to the color of the leaves.

We filled a glass with water and added a lot of liquid food coloring. We put the celery in the glass and waited over night.

By the next morning, we had evidence that the colored water had moved all the way to the top of the celery stalk through osmosis. The leaves were splotched with blue.

When we cut a cross-section, the main channels were also distinctly blue.

It was even more dramatic to pull the celery apart and see those same channels along their length.

We also noted that the celery was much stiffer, and crisper, and could hold its shape better. I explained that this was why we had a high-humidity drawer in the refrigerator, why the supermarket uses misters in the produce area, why there is water in pre-cut vegetable packages, and why I sometimes soak my older lettuce in water before making a salad.

There's an explanation here:

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Fabulous Resource for Homeschoolers & Everyone Else: History at Our House Allowing FREE Access to Its Unique History Through Art Program

Having used this program, the History through Art is one of the incredible extras that makes History at Our House so worthwhile for homeschoolers, afterschoolwrs, and me! I learned so much about history and art appreciation listening along with my daughters to their classes.

I am so excited that I can access this tidbit of History at Our House for my older daughter as a school supplement.

The link:

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, April 16, 2010

Keep Food from Sticking: Make Your Own Non-Stick Aluminum Foil

I love aluminum foil. It is never a mess-free meal, but the bulk of the clean up is eliminated. I prefer aluminum foil because this:

is so much more appetizing than this:

Which is what my baking sheets look like after 10 years of abuse.

Cooking on aluminum foil can be very annoying when your meal is done but your food gets stuck even with oil. Quite tedious to pick bits of foil off the bottom of dinner. There is non-stick foil now. I have not bought it because I make my own.

I use a sheet of foil that is already the right size (shown above). I scrunch it up accordian-like:

(not too tight) and then tease it apart again.

After it is opened up again, I smooth it flat with my hand moving from the inside to the edge.

It leaves all these great nooks and crannies that prevents food from sticking. I am cooking chicken breast on it tonight.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Toddler & Preschool Activity: Aluminum Foil Fun

Toddlers and preschoolers are so much fun. Even the most mundane (to us) observations are gold mines of experience or a way to practice developing skills.
They love it because it is new.

I was using some aluminum foil while cooking today and thought it would be a lot of fun for Omega. It is shiny, it crumples nicely, and makes noise. I tore off a square piece for him. For we explored how shiny it was. We reflected light onto the walls. I reflected light onto Omega's face. We felt how smooth it was. We laid it on a table and ran our hands over its flat surface. I held it while he felt it again. This time he could tell it was still smooth but it was also soft. It would easily bend where it was not fully supported.

We placed the foil on the ground. He stomped on it and danced on it. I talked about feeling it crinkle under his feet. We could see and hear the crinkles, too. I gently crumpled it and then opened it flat again. This time we could see that only small parts were shiny and we could not see as much light on the wall. He ran his hands over it to feel the bumps and how rough it is.

Then he practiced some small motor skills by squishing the sheet into a ball. He could strengthen his hands and arms by pressing as hard as he could to make it small. I had in step on the ball for the sensory experience and to see it could still be made smaller.

Of course, now you have a ball. Balls are great for throwing! We had a friendly game of catch. I made sure to point out that this ball is not like his others. We dropped his bouncy ball and it, unsurprisingly, bounced. We dropped the aluminum foil ball and it did not bounce (it just rolled off).

I helped Omega wrapped his first ball in another sheet of foil (since I took out another for this post). He then wanted to reclaim his first. He began tearing off bits of the top layer. A great exercise for manual dexterity (and learning that little bits of torn stuff belong in the trash).

I think that was a lot of learning and fun for a few cents worth of kitchen product I have anyway. There is a downside. When they realize that so much fun is a drawer away, watch out for your supplies!

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Arts Bash Winners

Homeschooled Twins has announced the winners of the Book Arts Bash--a fantastic contest for kids who want to write. Here are they are (reprinted with permission):

Kindergarten and First Grade:

A Big Problem by Brianna T.
Runners up:
Adventures of Big D and BMC by Emma W.
Zoo With A Strange Zookeeper by Vivian L.

Second and Third Grade:

The Adventures of Blue Flame the Heroic Giant Squid-Fighting Hero by Sage M.
Runners Up:
Ruby, A Twisting Tale by Emilie M.
Mittens the Cat by Melea von T.

Fourth and Fifth Grade:

1 by Nicci M.
Runners up:
One Girl Revolution by Sadie Z.
Blaze by Alexandra S.

Sixth Grade:

The Princess by Lena G.
Runners up:
Becoming Callie by Lena G.
Trixie by Lydia A.

Seventh Grade:

Happy Ending is a Place by Mandy H.
Runners up:
Violet Fire by Bryn B.
Kite by Hannah S.

Eighth Grade:

Hollin by Garrett R.
Runners up:
Common Animals by Thomas B.
Little Angel by Adayla S.

Ninth Grade:

Why I Missed the Second Set by Rose C.
Runners up:
Untitled by Larissa S.
Tales of the Humbats: The Seventh Piece by Raven M.

Tenth Grade:

Children of the Stars by Holden M.
Runners up:
Shattering Darkness by Vienna H.
The Scouser Cap by Emily V.

Eleventh Grade:

Cadence by Scout G.
Runners up:
Vengeance: 25 cents by Kathleen M.
Don't Look Down by Tanya S

Twelfth Grade:

If Pearls Could Sing by Pamela C.
Runners up:
Broken Things by Emily D.
Falling Night by Anna W.

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Classical Academic Press: If you're contemplating teaching Latin or Greek in your homeschool, you definitely need this system. With audio, video, fun activities, and online Latin games, as well as standard workbooks and quizzes, anyone can teach Latin.

Prufrock Press: Parents of gifted children often have difficulty finding work that will challenge their kids' abilities while still being fun. Prufrock's gifted education materials are a godsend. Kids see them as a treat!

Explode the Code: Many of us have used Explode the Code workbooks with our kids and enjoyed the progressive phonics curriculum. Now Explode the Code has launched an online version, taking their reading education to a whole new level.

Can you help us by republishing the results and sponsor links on your blog, supporting homeschooled writers and this novel-writing contest? Please email us or leave a comment to let us know you can help. We need twenty blogs to participate. Would you donate a post on yours?

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter: Egg Hunt for Multiple Ages & Egg Dying Fun

Egg dying! Much goofiness.

"Look, Ma, I use my hands. And I like to eat any & all eggs that I dyed. Cooked yolks are yucky."

And an egg hunt. Each kid gets 10 eggs this year. We hide them in the evening. Each kid has their own colors to search for. That way we can customize the difficulty level and since each kid has their own color we don't have to worry about the big kids getting all of the easily found eggs or the big count & whine when one kid finds more eggs.

My husband is the designated egg hider. And he enjoys hiding them a little too much. He gets great enjoyment out clever hiding spots. We have some simple rules he needs to follow: eggs must be in plain sight. They must not be hidden in drawers or behind anything other than pillows. Not to make things easier for the kids, but so that my house isn't torn apart during the hunt.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Science Everyday: 2nd Class Lever

Pictured below is an example of a science concept in action. Is it not fascinating? Oh, it does not look like science? Yet it is! It's a simple machine allowing access to a refreshing beverage.

This particular simple machine is a lever. I know it's really a bottle opener, but it is a lever cleverly disguised as a bottle opener. When most people think of a lever they think of a balance beam or a board that is wedged under something that needs to be moved with a rock for support in the middle and the opposite end is pressed down or see-saws. Those are levers, but they are only one of three type of levers. Those examples show a 1st class lever where there is a support somewhere in the middle of the board with the thing to be lifted (load) on one side and the other side is where we try to make the board move (force).

In a 2nd class lever, as shown above, the fulcrum (support point) is not between the load (what needs to be moved) and the force (the lifting or pressing). A 2nd class lever has the load between the fulcrum and the force. As shown in the photo, the fulcrum is the end if the bottle opener that rests on the bottle cap. The load is the edge of the bottle lid that needs to be lifted. The force is the hand that lifts the other end of the bottle opener.

Now, if you buy that extra tasty rootbeer or cream soda in the fancy glass bottles, the kids will love to hear about 2nd class levers while opening their drinks. Or, if you are like me, you teach the children about 2nd class levers so that when you ask them to fetch you a drink, they can open it for you too.

Here is a link that has more explanation and examples of levers.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, April 01, 2010

An Eggcellent Day: My Silk Egg Dying Result

I have been having an egg-cellent day. We have one thing in the works involving eggs and then we did this silk egg dying from the Martha Stewart site.

I raided my husband's ties (he is a big fan of ties and found some I do not think he is wearing any more. That's my story!

We sacrificed them to the cause and hacked them up. I also had white fabric laying around to secure the tie-wrapped eggs. Then I hard-boiled them as usual. I don't think all of the ties were silk but I am not sure. One did not work out well (too light) but the rest looked pretty neat. Flurpee, 8, enjoyed picking her pattern, wrapping, and seeing the finished egg.

A friend of mine headed out to the thrift store for some ties. Please, if you use old silk boxers, I do not want to know about it and please do not invite me over for egg salad.

The patterns are hearts, stripes, a floral, and Looney Tunes of which only Daffy's bill is recognizable.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Strawberry Smoothies

I recently got a new refrigerator that makes ice (big, big deal for me). It took me a week to feel comfortable throwing away the leftover ice when I was done a drink (no, I don't know where these ideas come from). In getting the new, larger fridge, I got to move some things around. Wouldn't you know I own a blender. What? You wouldn't know? Well, neither did I. It was buried.

So I have a blender and an infinite supply of ice, children but no tequila or vodka. Yes, yes, my first thoughts turned to frozen daquiris and margaritas. You read that I have kids, right? If I couldn't drink my cares away or lure my sanity out if hiding with frozen liquor, I figured I might as well do something that might keep their mouths occupied for a few minutes.

I searched for a smoothie recipe on-line (let me save you some trouble: lots of strawberries, milk and/or yogurt, maybe ice, maybe sugar, maybe some flavor extract--I discovered that any old thing thrown in the blender can constitute a smoothie) and gave it a whirl. No really, when I turned on the blender everything goes round and round.

Long story longer: kids loved it and now I am on call for strawberry smoothies if I ever bring strawberries into the house. I wonder if artichoke hearts would be as easily eaten in smoothie form?

From mobile device

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

10 Allergy-Friendly Flowers

From Casa Sugar: 

"Allergy sufferers may shy away from keeping fresh flowers in their pads, but many blossoms are just as easy on the allergies as they are on the eyes. The pollen is easily removed on some blooms, but check out 10 of my favorite low-pollen picks for sneeze-free floral enjoyment year-round.

From mobile device

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Science Everyday: Simple Machines, Wheels and Axles

We all know about wheels. We see them on cars, bikes, carts, wagons, trucks, and other things that go. They can also stay still! Here are some examples I found of the same motion at the park. So next time you head out to the park, make sure you point out these science concepts to your kids.

- Posted using BlogPress from
my iPhone

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Running Joke

We've been missing a door handle for almost five months. We keep a pair of pliers handy in the dining room to escape the house. The door knob was held on by a set screw which was lost shortly after we moved into the house ten years ago. In a way, it was actually convenient that we could remove the handle. With Omega walking and tall for his age, he could easily operate the lever to open the door (and so could our old dog, by the way). Removing it allowed us complete certainty, to this day, that he would not be able to toddle outside without our knowledge. And removing it also allowed us to lose it. Even the astronomy class knows to look for the pliers before heading out to observe! We have a replacement on order, but with how much that shank has been stripped, I am crossing my fingers that it will work.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Greek Yogurt is Good

So I don't like yogurt. And I only started liking yogurt in the last few years and even then I only like black cherry or cherry flavor (no--I don't know why). Many people talk about Greek yogurt, and when I saw Fage had a cherry flavor, I tried it. And I liked it. And Omega, the 28 month old like it. I liked the creamy texture and stirring in the cherry was enough to offset whatever flavor I don't actually enjoy in yogurt.

I also read recently that you can make your own Greek yogurt by setting a dish towel in a strainer and pouring in regular yogurt. Once it sits for a few hours, there you go. I don't think I'll be making my own yogurt any time soon (I know a lot of people who are very adept at making their own cultured foods, but I'm not one of them), but the Greek yogurt is expensive! I also bought a small jar of black cherry preserves to add to plain yogurt so I'm not at the mercy of the grocery store selection.

Round Up!

It's Round Up time!

Your one stop shop for all things liberty.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How Creationists Try to Undemine Evolution & Science

I posted a comment at Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards about evolution and the recent homeschool textbook bruhaha. One of the other commenters brought up the meme of "it's only a theory". Here is my reply (very slightly edited for type-o's and not edited for clarity, though it probably needs it):

Unfortunately, The Crimson Wife is using theory as a stolen concept. Scientific use of the word "theory" is thoroughly different than a layman's use of the same term. Creationists have successfully confused many people by equating the two.

It is similiar to using the word faith to mean you trust a friend & also using the word faith to mean unwavering belief in God. They are the same word but the context of the usage makes it clear that they do not mean the same thing. A scientific theory is not a supposition that kind of fits a small amount of known data and is on precarious footing. The type of theory that creationists would like their children and the public to think of is akin to waking up and only seeing blue cars out of your window and theorizing that all cars are blue even though there is nothing inherit in cars that would require color to be part of the definition, thus being easily toppled when a red car zooms by.

Many creationists conflate that use of "theory" with an entirely different use by scientists. When science uses the word "theory", it is more of a convention than an attempt to indicate any uncertainty. When a scientific hypothesis has enormous amounts of supporting data and no contradictory evidence, it is certain. Evolution's history is a long one and it was accepted for almost a century prior to Darwin's discovery of the process of natural selection. It does not need to have proof for all possible cases. It is enough to know that there has never been another *scientific* answer for them to still be considered consistent with the theory.

From mobile device

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Personal Pet Peeve: Bad Public School Teachers & Abusive Homeschoolers

As much as homeschool bloggers spend a ton of time defending the majority of homeschoolers from generalizations based on a few really horrible stories, how is it that I often see bad public school teacher stories trotted out by homeschoolers as reasons to avoid the whole system?

From the four or five stories of abuse and death of supposedly homeschooling families each year to large portions of homeschoolers who want to deny their children good science educations in favor of religious (or even anti-industrial environmentalism) instruction, homeschoolers are insistent that those cases do not damn all of us. Yet every horrible story of a public school teacher (presenting a huge segment of the population compared to homeschool parents) gone bad is listed as yet another reason to homeschool--painting each teacher with the same broad, tainted brush. There are certain bad philosophies shared by ed schools and so many teachers that one can make generalizations. Idiot teachers who might be mean or cruel are no more representative of public school as a whole than murderous, abusive homeschoolers.

Now that I am a firm fence-straddler, using both homeschool & public school, and hope to be fully entrenched in the public school culture next year (which can only happen if Flurpee would do her work!), I am have a very different perspective. I have seen homeschoolers do their own children a disservice and public school curriculum be much more rigorous than the instruction received at their homes (my daughter is still trying to catch up with some skills I had not taught properly). I have also seen incredible dedication by public school teachers who stay after school to offer additional help. I think I have a good perspective to see that public schools are not always awful and that homeschool is not always great.

From mobile device

Sunday, March 14, 2010

From Montessori Mama: Parent Ed. Night (Part Two)
"Older children:
Engaging Cooperation

"To engage cooperation with our children, we need to help our children understand that we are all in this together. We need to come with an attitude of respect that communicates to our children that we think they are loveable, smart and capable people who are willing to do the responsible thing when they see a problem.

1. Describe what you see, or describe the problem.
2. Give information.
3. Say it with a word.
4. Describe what you feel.
5. Write a note.

"Let's take an example. The den needs to be picked up for company. To engage cooperation we could do the following:
To describe: There are toys on the floor that need to be put away. There are crayons on the table. There are shoes under the table. Coats on the couch.

"Give information: The Browns are coming in 15 minutes. I don't think they can walk in the den without tripping on toys.
Say it in a word: Pick up time! Or, the den!
Describe feelings: I'd love for the Browns to see our home without a lot of clutter.
Write a note: Emergency! Company Coming! Clean Up! Apple Pie for Dessert!

"When we can avoid making chores into a competition, that is, rewarding our children for doing something first, or the fastest, we will also avoid the power struggles that can emerge from a child's thinking this is a contest between me and you. When we can help everyone in our family understand that working together benefits us all, when we can engage cooperation, we'll help create stronger individuals and a stronger family."

So much great information. Follow the link for more context and a great adult example.

From mobile device

CATO on public vs private school spending

"Although public schools are usually the biggest item in state and local budgets, spending figures provided by public school officials and reported in the media often leave out major costs of education and thus understate what is actually spent.

"To document the phenomenon, this paper reviews district budgets and state records for the nation's five largest metro areas and the District of Columbia. It reveals that, on average, per-pupil spending in these areas is 44 percent higher than officially reported.

"Real spending per pupil ranges from a low of nearly $12,000 in the Phoenix area schools to a high of nearly $27,000 in the New York metro area. The gap between real and reported per-pupil spending ranges from a low of 23 percent in the Chicago area to a high of 90 percent in the Los Angeles metro region."

They spend what?
by Adam B. Schaeffer

"To put public school spending in perspective, we compare it to estimated total expenditures in local private schools. We find that, in the areas studied, public schools are spending 93 percent more than the estimated median private school."

Of course public education deals with many issues private schools don't--like special needs students, alternative schools, private tutoring for sick or delinquent kids.

From mobile device

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Comment Moderation Is On--Again!

Not because of any bad comments--I LOVE the comments--keep 'em coming.

BUT the Blogger capcha is just not that good. Oh well! With my iPhone attached to my hip at all times, I think approving comments will be more timely than it used to be. Unlike the posting!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Oh, the Things They Learn!

When it comes to food, Omega is pretty much of the opinion that some things are yummy and some are yucky. Pretty easy for a 2 year-old to grasp. We also try to impress upon him that poopy diapers are undesirable. We often find ourselves chasing after him while telling him that poopy diapers are yucky and need to be changed. As he runs from the dreaded diaper change, he proves how much he doesn't want his diaper changed and how quickly toddlers can apply concepts by shouting, "NO! Poopy diapers are *yummy*!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Fun Learning Tool: Brain Quest

And yet another great gift for Christmas, this time from 2008. We received a little package for each of our girls from Brain Quest. They have been around for a while and their slogan is "It's OK to be smart". Can't argue with that (except for the assumption that they aren't already getting that message). They are basically trivia cards for kids. They have many levels--one per grade--and general, math-based, or reading-based sets. For instance, you can purchase a grade 3 set of cards that only asks math questions. You can purchase a 2nd grade set of cards specifically for reading. The company must be doing all right selling these things; they now even have workbooks, items for preschoolers, toddlers, and history.

We got Brain Quest Grade 4 and Brain Quest Grade 1 last year (a little off for Flurpee since she is very young for her grade). The format is actually fun. Not some boring book in need of turning pages and checking for answers in the back of the book. You don't even have to turn anything upside down. The answers are on the next page--just a slide away. The pages/card are fastened with a sturdy rivet to allow the cards to fan out. Ready for the next page, just slide the current card out of the way. The questions an answers are shown below.

I like the format. It's easy to use and easy to hold. Each unit comes with two of the decks shown at the top of this post. The little pictures indicate the type of question. The question categories are science, English, math, U.S. history, geography, and 'grab bag' (music, literature, cultural, sports, games). I have mentioned before that, as a homeschooler, I have issues knowing what my kids are expected to be able to accomplish at certain ages. I also worry that we are missing tidbits of information (or perhaps even whole swaths) that they will be expected to know later and that will leave them struggling to understand larger abstractions. Here are 1,500 questions across disciplines that are fun for the kids to answer and answer some things for me as well.

If there is generic science or history information most 4th graders are expected to know, then anything they haven't already been taught might be discovered through these sets. I would not call this education. It is definitely a learning tool along with being entertaining. Like other games or ways kids pick up information from fun activities. In my mind, only when it is part of an overall, orchestrated plan does it count for education. This is not it for me, but it is a tool I will happily use. I liked them so much that I bought new sets for our current grade levels.

If you click through the links and actually buy something, I might get a little money at no additional cost or hassle.