Thursday, March 30, 2006

I'm Gonna Like This Book

Because this book is written for the general public, it does not feature long, convoluted sentences with escape clauses designed to prevent words from being twisted to mean something that they were never intended to mean. Common sense can be more readily expected when writing for the general public than when writing for the intelligentsia.

- Thomas Sowell

Preface to Black Rednecks and White Libe

A Little Taste of Summer

We finally sat down and identified and mounted the shells we collected at the beach last summer. I wish I could say that we planned to wait this long... to allow us to relive our summer fun while working on this project, but that would be lying (although we did have a great time talking about all the great things we did that week). In any case, now it is done, and it looks great! Great job girls!

Why Homeschool?

Stepping Heavenward has reprinted a wonderful post from the Well-Trained Mind Message Boards. I may need to print this out so that I can re-read it every day. Thank you 'Tracy in Ky' for laying this out so eloquently.

Why Homeschool?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Literary Euphoria

For literary-ADD suffering, bibliophiles like me, there is nothing better than when the library calls and tells you that the book you have been waiting for is ready to be picked up.... well, there's one thing. Buying a new book that you get to keep for your very own. Today, I experienced both.

Over a month ago, I put the newest Thomas Sowell book (Black Rednecks and White Liberals) on hold at the library. My heart sank when I discovered that I was third in queue. (When I discover the existence of a new book that I want to read, I want to read it now. Apparently, there are at least two other people in our library system that feel the same way. ) Today, Wednesday is "library day", I went online to renew library books and see what had to go back so I could make a list of books, movies, audio books, and music for the kids to collect and put into the library bag. (This is a much-anticipated, inexpensive, weekly game in our home!) And there it was in black and white... it was ready. I could hardly wait to get to the library.

Back to yesterday, where, after donning my Berkenstocks that I had just rescued from winter storage, I sat down to check out another homeschool blog, Stepping Heavenward. There I read part one of her review of a new book out called Crunchy Cons: How Berkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party). How could I not read this book?! I started to order it from, but I couldn't wait a whole week, and since I was going out to Wally World later that night anyway, I figured I could pick it up there... they didn't have it. So, on the way to the library today, I realize that I have to pick up a baby gift for the couple I teach natural childbirth classes to (really... how could I not read this book?!), and decided that a book would be a good gift. And while I was there, I could just see if they had a copy of Crunchy Cons in stock. They did!

Thus.... literary euphoria! I now have two great (new) books to read (not to mention the stack of books I am in the midst of reading). Now, which to read first...

I'll decide after wrapping the baby books I got.... and taking the stickers off the copies I bought for Quarto. You gotta start 'em young!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Lesson in Education Statistics

Human Events Online has an interesting article, and accompanying graph, showing each state's (and the District of Columbia's) per pupil spending for government school students and the percentage of eigth-grade students reading and doing math computations at grade level. NONE of the 50 states or the District of Columbia had more than 44% of its eigth graders reading or doing math computations at grade level! This is unacceptable!

What is even more unacceptable is that I have to turn over a portfolio of my third-grader's work to a local government school official who will decide whether or not I am properly educating my homeschooled child! I understand that all school districts are different, and that the percentages presented in the aforementioned article include students in districts where many negative factors influence thier school performance (or lack thereof). Our school district only spends about $4300 per student (about half the state average), and actually scored much better than the state averages at 63% math and 64% reading (state levels were about 1/3 proficient at math and reading).

In contrast to the government schools, our homeschool budget last year was about $500. That works out to $166.67 per student (one pre-K, one 2nd grader, and one 3rd grader), and 100% of our school's students are reading and doing math computations at or above grade level!

Just something to think about.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Benefits of Audio Books

1. I can "read" a book in the car without vomiting.

2. My kids can hear a book in the car without also hearing vomiting (Frodo usually drives, so I would be the one left to do the reading).

3. Having kids experience great books that are above their reading level, but not above their ability to comprehend.

4. Better than an in-car DVD. I know this can be controversial, but I much prefer audio books to movies in the car because we all get to hear books we might not normally pick up to read (for example, my kids heard The Perfect Storm a couple of years ago, and we grownups heard one of the best books ever written, The Tale of Despereaux). Plus, I can listen to great "children's" literature and say, "Well, I was only putting it on for the kids." (Although no one will believe me now, since admitting that The Tale of Despereaux is one of my favorite books.) Also, watching a movie is passive, but listening to a book exercies the imagination. And besides, have you ever tried to put an in-car DVD system in a Taurus?!

5. Entertainment. I have rarely enjoyed myself more than the time spent listening to Tim Curry read the Series of Unfortunate Events books.

6. Education... I am learning a great deal about the Greeks and Greek history (more than I ever learned in school) by listening to Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. Also, the kids must ask me dozens of times what different words and turns of phrase mean while we are listening to books.

7. Unexpected entertainment. Yesterday, we were listening to an Arthur audio book in which Arthur is playing on a baseball team for the first time. During Arthur's first game, Arthur is in the outfield dreading having the ball come in his direction. "The pitcher throws the first pitch, and it's a ball." Primo immediately pipes up, "Of course it's a ball! What is it supposed to be?! A hockey puck?!" (Which brings us back to point 6 in which Primo received a lesson on the rules of baseball.)

A note: Although my above list implies that we listen to audio books only on long car trips, this is most certainly far from accurate. We listen to audio books almost constatly when we are in the car... running errands, going to church, going to a friend's house. We always keep an audio book with us in the car. We will listen to music on occasion (and rarely the radio), but we LOVE our books!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Being Haunted by Stephen King...

It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.

-Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Book Club Woes

Last year, the girls participated in a homeschool book club at our local library. The group had about 10 kids on a regular basis, and they read some really good books and enjoyed the company of their friends. This year, the girls couldn't wait for the book club to start again, so as soon as I could, I signed them up.

The club started out fairly strong but has quickly dwindled to 2 children... Primo and Secondo. Mrs. B, the librarian in charge, asked me to put the word out about the club or she would have to discontinue it... it's a lot of work for only 2 kids who are in the same homeschool. I did... and now we have 3. But I am not sure how long that will last.

The last book the kids were required to read was any book in the Mrs. Piggle- Wiggle series. Not terribly difficult books, but funny stories that were good for kids of various reading levels (the book club is for grades 1-3). In order to attract more kids, Mrs. B decided to choose easier, faster reads. This month's book is A Ghost Named Fred. Unfortunately, the library only has 4 copies of this book, and all of them were checked out. The girls put 2 on hold and hoped they would come in in time to read them for next month's meeting. They needn't have worried.

The girls are required to read for at least 30 minutes per day on their own. They get to choose their own book and often read their book club books at this time. As soon as the books came in, the girls set aside their other reading (Primo - Charlotte's Web, Secondo - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) and opened their book club books. Ten minutes later, Primo calls out, "I'm done!" then Secondo follows, "Me too!" I can't believe it, so I ask Primo for her copy of the book so I can skim it and quiz them. I read the entire book in about 2 minutes... this was the first page. I ask them a few questions, then Secondo asks, "Can I read Harry Potter now?" "Absolutely!"

I appreciate everything Mrs. B has done for the girls and the club. The girls adore her. However, I think we will settle for the summer reading club and letting the girls select their own books next year.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sharing Wisdom

Although I started this blog to share our homeschool thoughts and experiences, I know when to bow with humility and share from the experiences and wisdom of others.

Please read Mental Multivitamin's entry It All Begins With Me and learn (along wih me) from the wisdom and vulnerability exposed there.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It's Just Been One of Those Days

Today's Slogan

Sell crazy someplace else. We're all full up here.

- Jack Nicholson in

As Good As It Gets

Today's Theme Song

They're coming to take me away, HA HA
They're coming to take me away, HO HO HEE HEE HA HA
To the funny farm
Where life is beautiful all the time
And I'll be happy to see
Those nice, young men
In their clean, white coats
And they're coming to take me away, Ha-haaa!

- Lard's They're Coming To Take Me Away

What was this lesson about?

Today, Primo was working on a math assignment where she had to fill out play checks to help her practice writing out amounts of money in words. We get to the last 'check', and I write "Domino's Pizza" on the white board and ask her to copy it onto the part of the 'check' that says "Pay to the Order of". Primo sighs and says, "When I grow up, I'm going to buy pizza from Pizza Hut. It's easier to spell."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Testing Day

Well, on Saturday morning Primo sat for her state-required achievement test... and she did beautifully! Some of you already know that Primo had sat for a test in the Fall, but that the results were much lower than we had expected. I decided (at the last minute so as not to lose my title "Queen of Procrastination") to have her try a different test to see if test style was a factor. I have never done well on standardized tests and did much better on the ACTs than the SATs, so I know that test style compatibility can be a big factor. The second test went much better.

"Mommy Brag" Alert!

Here are her results if you're interested:

Reading: 8th grade level

Spelling: mid-5th grade

Math: mid-3rd grade level

(Primo is in 3rd grade)

Primo has really struggled in math, and the first test she took really shook her confidence, but now she is testing exactly where she is in the book, and she couldn't be more proud... and neither could we.

Way to go, Primo!

Can I Hear An Amen?!

The greatest danger for most of us
is not that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it.

(Thank you, Stepping Heavenward for the reminder!)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Life Is But A Stage?

Upon common theaters, indeed, the applause of the audience is of more importance to the actors than their own approbation. But upon the stage of life, while conscience claps, let the world hiss! On the contrary if conscience disapproves, the loudest applauses of the world are of little value.

- John Adams

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Conversation" with a 7 year old...

This is a "conversation" I had with Secondo yesterday. I was going to include my half, but why bother?

"Mom, why is there a letter under where it says 'Triceratops' and 'Made in China'?"

"Right there by my finger."

"So it tells me where it was made or when it was made?"

"But this one says '1998', so it can't be when it was made. Was I born in 1998 or was Primo?"

"But why would they have to know *where* it was made?"

"Oh yeah, remember when I told you that there was water in my T-rex? Well, the hole wasn't in the mouth like you said, it was right here under his arm. Why did you tell me it was in his mouth?"

"I hear water in my Utahraptor, too, but there is no hole under the Utahraptor's arm or in his mouth. How did the water get in?"

"How can I get it out?"

"Yes, I’m supposed to be on the sofa for Quiet Time."

"No, talking isn't being quiet. I'll go sit down."

"Mom, this dinosaur has a 'D' on it's belly. You know under the 'Made in China' sign, but this one has a 'P1'. They must 'uv been made in different places, huh?"

"This one has a 'P1', too!"

"I’m gonna put them all in groups. I’ll put the ‘P1's there and the ‘D’s there and the ‘P’s there. Hey! How come there are ‘P1's and ‘P’s but not ‘D1's just ‘D’s?"

"Maybe they used the first letter of where they were made!"

"Does that mean that there were two places that started with ‘P’?"

"No, I’m not sleepy."

"Okay, goodnight, Mom."

"Yeah, I’ll stay on the sofa."

"What time can I get up?"

"That’s four-three-zero, right?"

"I’ll show you my dinosaur piles when you get up, okay? And the ‘C’s go over here..."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Partly cloudy, chance of rain 40%

As I was in the school room last night preparing for today, I thought that I would use today’s entry to outline a typical day in our homeschool. Little did I know what I would encounter just moments later.

11:30pm Primo comes downstairs and looks white as a sheet. "Mom, I threw up all over my bed." Get Primo in the shower and go upstairs to ask Frodo to help change her sheets. I should mention at this point that our bedrooms are on the second floor and our only bathroom is on the first floor.

11:43pm Put in a load of laundry.

11:50pm Primo is out of the shower after washing twice and vomiting numerous times. I sit with her to braid her hair (to keep it out of the "line of fire") while she leans over the toilet.

12:00am Primo and Frodo are in bed. I am cleaning the shower and disinfecting everything.

12:30am Finally go to bed.

1:35am Secondo comes in our room. "Mom, I’m going to throw up." I don’t have a bucket and I am still very foggy, so I ask if she can make it to the bathroom. She says yes, so we start downstairs. We make it halfway down. Frodo wakes up and sits with her on the stairs while I gingerly find a safe passage down then clean off the steps.

1:40am Secondo sits in a little chair in front of the toilet while I disinfect the steps. She is amazingly still clean. I braid her hair. Frodo checks on Primo then goes back to bed.

1:55am I begin the search for a second bucket and set up a spot for Secondo on Primo’s bed. It has a plastic cover on the mattress. Put in another load of laundry.

2:15am Secondo finally feels well enough to go back to bed. I disinfect then also go to bed.

2:17am These lyrics begin going through my head as I attempt to sleep (and try to prepare myself for the next "episode"):

I face the dawn with sleepless eyes
No I can't go on
When clouds are pushin' down on me, boy
I can't stop, I can't stop the rain
From fallin

(I have no idea who the artist is... or the last time I heard this song)

3:00am Primo calls from the other room, "Quarto just threw up in his crib!" (I should mention at this point that our children all share one large room a la the nursery in Peter Pan.) Frodo follows me in and asks, "What do you want... kid or crib?" I pick crib. We strip Quarto down to his diaper and Frodo takes him to the tub. I strip the sheets.

3:10am Put in another load of laundry. Change the sheet and disinfect the crib.

3:23am Check on Frodo and Quatro. Frodo tells me to go to bed; he’s going to stay up a bit. I go happily.

4:17am Hear Primo in other room getting sick then going downstairs. "Do you need anything?" "No, just cleaning out my bucket and going to the bathroom."

4:18am I toss and turn for who knows how long.

5:05am Terzo wakes up yelling, "Mom! I’m bleeding!" I go running in to find he has a pretty good bloody nose. We determine that it is not as bad as it looks and that only his pjs and pillow are dirty.

5:10am Tell Quarto to go back to sleep then take Terzo downstairs to finish cleaning up.

5:13am Frodo comes downstairs asking if he should call in sick to work. I tell him it is up to him. I can handle the kids if the girls stay in bed all day, but that if it starts raining frogs, he needs to come home. He agrees and goes back to bed.

5:20am Get Terzo back in his bed and head to my own. Primo sees me and asks sweetly, "I’m sorry to bother you, Mom, but since you’re already up could you wash out my bucket? I threw up a few more times, but I didn’t want to make you go up and down the stairs any more." I happily take the bucket (yes, happily... surprised even myself) and clean it out.

5:24am Collapse into bed.

6:29am Frodo’s alarm goes off.

6:38am Frodo’s alarm goes off.

6:47am Frodo’s alarm goes off.

6:52am Terzo comes in saying it is morning and asks if he can go downstairs. I tell him to go play a video game and that Frodo will put a movie on for him when he comes downstairs. Frodo grumbles something. Terzo leaves, but on his way out asks if I can make biscuits and gravy for breakfast. I suppress laughter (surprise? anger?) and tell him that we will have cereal.

6:56am Frodo’s alarm goes off. Frodo gets up and tries to remember where he left his clothes out.

7:12am Terzo comes upstairs and asks when I am getting up. I tell him he needs to be patient today since everyone is sick and I didn’t get much sleep. He says it is hard to be patient but he’ll try. I assume he goes downstairs and doze off.

7:14am Open my eyes to see Terzo pacing back and forth next to my bed. I ask him to sit and wait for my alarm to go off. He grabs a sewing toy from the floor and perches himself on my sewing box. He asks (optimistically and sheepishly), "Are you sure we can’t have biscuits for breakfast?" I assure him we can’t and go to sleep.

8:30am My alarm goes off. Terzo immediately announces that it is 41.8 degrees outside. I glance at the thermometer in front of the window and confirm that this is the case... and that it is not raining frogs.

Today's Lessons

1. Differences between antibacterial soap and Germ-X

2. How to disinfect a surface.

3. How germs are spread.

4. Why you should eat bland food when you are nauseous.

5. How to improvise when you run out of sheets.

6. How to do the laundry.

7. How to serve others.

8. How to be patient.

9. God is in control... even when it isn't raining frogs.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Who Needs Lunch?

Especially when I finally have my blog up and running!

Yes folks, this blog has existed (blank) for almost a year and thanks to a lot of help from Aduladi', I have officially limped out of the starting block into the world of blogging! (You can just ignore the other 2 I am trying to get up and running... which I will make very easy by not giving you the addresses!)

I thought this would be a good way to keep friends and family a part of our school and a good means of accountability for me. Please bear with me as I am new to this, and haven't a clue as to what I am doing... to which Aduladi' can attest.

As a basic background to our school. We are a (loose) classical homeschool of 4 students (not including the adults), one tutor and a principal. Yes, we teach Latin! We have based our curriculum on the Trivium as described in The Well-Trained Mind and Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning.

So far we are loving the "Great Conversation".

Won't you join us?

Off The Shelf

This is an idea "borrowed" from Mental Multivitamin. (Check out her blog... it is excellent!)

This feature will appear regularly. It may not appear to have a lot to do with the education of elementary students, but our homeschool has pupils of all ages... plus this is "teacher enrichment". I encourage visitors to use the comments section to share what they are reading as well.

What I am reading:

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill

Herodotus' Histories

Wolves of the Calla by Steven King

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Tenth: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

As you can see, I love to read...and defenitely have literary ADD. I am not reading all paper books. A couple are audio books. We listen to audio books in the car and when doing mundane chores (like folding laundry).

We love books!

A few recent "must reads":

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate Dicamillo

John Adams by David McCullough

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

The Series of Unfortunate Events Series by Lemony Snicket (the audio books read by Tim Curry are EXCELLENT)

Ah... so many books, so little time!