Monday, August 31, 2009

Take a memo

There was a time in my life when I remembered EVERYTHING. I did not need a calendar to keep appointments. Or to know when someone was celebrating a birthday. Or to remind myself to meet friends at the movies.

My memory skills even made it possible for me to take the most cryptic of notes in my classes. I heard it and I knew it. I wrote it down. I never seemed to forget it.

And then it all changed.

My brain is like a sieve. I have to make lists. But not only do I have to write things down. I have to make sure that list is front and center. Or I will surely forget what I am supposed to do.

I have all kinds of notations on my calendar. Birthdays. But I never remember to send a card. Appointments. Appointments I might even recall in the morning. But I still might get a call at 4pm from the dentist wanting to know why I am not there with my child.

And there are events and conversations. That my husband swears that we have had. That I have no memory of at all. Of movies that we have seen. Comments I have made. Maybe none of it happened. And he is just messing with me. It seems rather unfair. Since he is the one with the brain injury.

And then. There are the things that do work. I have an internal GPS. I know where to turn. The names of the roads. And how to reverse it all to get home.

I can remember the most useless of information. All kinds of trivial fluff. But. I have no idea why I might know these things. And I can't even give you examples. Because I have forgotten.

I can remember the Latin that I learned in high school. I never took a Latin class in college. I didn't major in it. Yet I still remember it all. Remember it well enough to be entering into my fifth year of teaching high school Latin to homeschoolers.

I can remember stories that my friends wish I would forget.


So...what about you? How is your memory? Are you a list maker? Are you forgetful? Or is this just me?

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homeschool Week in Review: Weeks 1 and 2

When I first started blogging. I thought this blog o'mine would be all about homeschooling. I really had not anticipated the massive diversions. Segues. Bunny trails. But I did attempt to get back on track with a weekly report of what we had accomplished. And then last school year. Well. It started weekly. Then it moved to a once every two week discussion. Then I combined three weeks into one. And that was apparently the end of it. I did not do another week in review after week 9 last year. Ooops.

Hopefully I can get back on track. And hopefully ya'll will bear with me and all my homeschooling posts.

Both girls started back to school on the 10th. With Madalyn in public school, it's just easier to have Katie follow her schedule. I spent the weekend before school started really going over all her books. And figuring out a plan of attack. I know. Procrastination is my friend. My really good friend. My BFF.

I like to plan out three weeks at a time. And now that we are entering our third week. I think that I can add a little more to her day. Or not give her as long to complete an assignment. So...this is what we have done:

LANGUAGE ARTS: Katie started her first literature program with Lightning Lit. Learning about different elements of plot. And then reading "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling. (Do any of you remember seeing the animated version on tv when you were young? I remember loving that story!)

Much to Katie's chagrin, we went back to grammar this year. She is doing a few lessons a week from her Language Arts today book.

And then the new element we have added for this year is Memory Work. My friend Abbey found this great book called Living Memory. It is divided into subjects. And is just full of things to memorize. (I love that last poem to help you remember the kings/queens of England!) The plan is that Katie will go through the book each week and choose something to memorize. It will keep building because she will keep reviewing selections from previous weeks.

The first week, she chose to memorize the 11 states of the confederacy. The second week, she memorized all the prime numbers under 100.

EARTH SCIENCE: We learned about the different branches of Earth science, the scientific method, models, and measurement.

ART: I am still surprising my craft-despising self with this subject. But we are doing art. And by we. I do mean Katie. She spent the first week learning about different types of art. Then she narrowed her medium. And picked an artist to do a little more research on: Vincent Van Gogh. And her research makes one wonder if craziness goes hand and hand with genius.

In her second week, she read more about "line, shape and value." She studied two art pieces with a lot of lines in their components. And then created her own.

GEOGRAPHY: Our focus right now is on globes, maps, and charts. I am looking forward to going back to what we were doing last year. I really liked the cultural studies. There is just one more section before the book starts covering cultures and countries. I can't decide if I want to follow the order of the book...or pick and choose like we did before. Decisions, decisions...

LOGIC: We decided that rather than work through one type of logic book - we would do all 5 books at the same time. Doing one lesson - and then rotating to the next book. And on Fridays we have game day. We have a lot of cool logic games like: Rush hour, Railroad rush hour, Tipover, and a new game called "Shut the Box" that was popular with pirates!

HISTORY: This year our focus is on the Middle Ages. I am thinking that we can do fun stuff like watch "The Lord of the Rings" triology (great scenes of medieval warfare). Or even "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." We also have dvd lectures from "The Teaching Company" that we have started to watch. Right now we are discussing the end of the Roman empire, the rise of Christinaity, and Jewish persecution during the Middle Ages.

Katie has read about monasticism. Life in a monastery. Drawn a bird's eye view of a monastery. (Which was hilarious. I love the monks in the pictures. You see the tops of their bald heads! Katie didn't like it so much. She says her monks look like tomato plants.) And we read the book "The Door in the Wall." She didn't like it so much because of the medieval language. Lots of thees, thous, and hasts. Just wait till we get to Cantebury Tales!

Along side of our history program, we are reading from "Famous Men of the Middle Ages." Katie really likes this because so far the focus is on Norse/Germanic mythology. She has fun trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Ginnungagap and Niebelungs are her new favorite words to say.

ALGEBRA I: Her class with Derek Owens does not start until the Monday after Labor Day. So we are working on review. Michael is also covering a few topics with her that she did not have with Singapore math last year - but were covered in preAlgebra. I am staying out of the way!

ACTIVITIES: We are constantly on the go. Katie is in her 5th year of piano lessons. She is on the tennis team - and practices three times a week. She has her first match scheduled for September. And she even has a cooking class tomorrow.

Inspired by "Julie and Julia," I have reserved episodes of "The French Chef" on netflix. Maybe we'll see if we are inspired to emulate Julia!

So...what about you? What was your favorite subject in school? Have you seen "Julie and Julia?" Any suggestions for movies we should watch about the Middle Ages?

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weekend Whimsies

Oops. I meant to post this yesterday. Well. Either this or about our first two weeks of homeschooling. Warning! Warning! Warning! Homeschooling post coming soon. For now. Let's get to know each other better. Can you tell I forgot to eat breakfast this morning?

Milk or juice?

Sausage or bacon?

Toast, bagel, English muffin, or a biscuit?

Favorite kind of cereal?

Do you eat breakfast daily?

How do you like your eggs?

Watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew?

Do you like breakfast for dinner?

Favorite kind of donut?

Do you HAVE to start your day with caffeine? How do you take it?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Milestone

So...what about you? How many miles a year do you put on your car? If the car fairy were to bring you a new car tomorrow - what would you want?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First day of school

Have I mentioned that I am a procrastinator extraordinaire? (Did you know that extraordinaire is one of the few English adjectives that follows it's subject? Did you just call me Cliffy?)

The girls started over a week ago. And a grand tradition for the first day of school was broken. See. My girls don't really have the girly. Fashion-y. Matching colors gene. It appears to have skipped a generation. Or perhaps there is a rogue influence from Michael's side of the family. But on this one day. I get to pick out their clothes. Because there are pictures involved. (Okay fine. There are other days. Like Christmas morning. Or when we have family pictures taken. But it is not often. At all. Unlike the good ol' days. Where I could even have them match. In Gymboree clothes.)

This year. They revolted. Protested. Stomped their angry feet. And I decided to let them win this battle. (Because they actually did a good job. And I managed to convince Madalyn that it was her idea to wear a plaid skirt instead of a shirt that makes her look like a bumblebee. Nope. Not my idea at all.)

They have changed so much. Katie is now in 6th grade. Middle school! And Madalyn is in 3rd grade. Halfway through elementary school! (Hmmm...I can tell that I got a digital camera when Madalyn was in pre-K and Katie in 2nd grade...)

Look at these girls now:

(I don't know how I get roped into buying so many backpacks. Madalyn manages to finagle a new one every year. Even though the old one is fine. And even though we homeschool Katie, she is all about getting a backpack, too. This year she decided to channel Lizzy. Actually. They both did. With their homage to plaid.

Oy Vey! The changes in Katie. She has grown over 4 inches since APRIL. And she had the nerve to lose 10 pounds from all her exercise being on swim team. (I want to grow four inches and lose 1o pounds. Anyone know where I can sign up to do that?).

Look at the difference - last year:

This year:

AND she is now taller than me.

(Why oh why didn't anyone tell me that my hair looked like that? Please pretend it has been combed. And that the humidity is not at 98%. And while we are at it...pretend I am thinner, too. And taller.)

And then I have this to contend with:I am not sure that I can handle the teen years...

So...what about you? Have your kids started back to school (or "school")? What was your favorite year of school? Do your kids let you pick out their clothes?

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Follies

It's that time once again. Where you are thankful it's not another homeschooling post. And we get to know each other a little better.

Chicken or burger?

beer, wine, or soda?

What kind of calendar do you use?

How old were you when you learned to swim?

What was your first car?

How many miles are on your current car?

What is your favorite kind of pie? (bonus points if you can guess who suggested that question)

What toppings do you like on your pizza?

What is your favorite game?

black or blue ink?

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Classroom

Last week I regaled you with tales 0'curriculum. Which elicited a yawn from Kori. A proclamation from my friend Karen that we should wear party hats more often. And a question from my daughter about scary homeschoolers. I never did finish telling you about supplements and games. I know. I know. You are on the edge of your seat waiting for that one.

Well, this week. I am going to dazzle you with pictures of our classroom. The room where school is supposed to happen. But actually, it's not that often that we are there.

Often. School happens in the car. On the way to some errand. Some class. Or even a PTA meeting. I know. I know. We are a study in contradictions.

School sometimes happens at the dining room table. Becuase that is where I park myself. And my laptop. And maybe some snacks.

School might happen on the couch. Because it is rather comfortable to lay down to read. Or to recline while watching a movie. (16 Candles arrived today from netflix. I am thinking that lying down to do "80's cultural studies" would be a good idea.)

And even this morning. School happened in my big. Cushy. New bed. Where I finished "The Guernsey Literay and Potato Peel Pie Society" ( a fantabulous book). And Katie finished "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi."

The brains of our operation rest here:

Surrounded by my messy desk. Where I have lots of room to spread out all those text books. And figure out the order of our universe. I have lots of maps. Dry Erase boards. And timelines on the wall.I love our timeline. Katie would have her lesson. And add dates to the timeline. Most of it is blank. And then around 500BC. It all exploded. I wonder how the next three years of history are going to fit on the one sheet that is left...

And then there are the shelves of books.Full bookcases make me happy. My Ikea bookshelves make me especially happy.Maybe it's because they hug the corner. I have a dream of one day having a library. With bookshelves ceiling to floor.

These particular shelves were a bit tricky. Because we have a dodgy basement. See. I forgot to measure before we bought them. I often operate on a wing and a prayer. When we got home, we saw that the shelves are 79 1/4 inches. And the wall? 79 3/4 inches. Hallelujah. Amen.

Except that we have a dodgy basement. They have to be attached. To each other. So my engineering husband had to put them together in another part of the basement with a higher ceiling. And when he was done, slide them into place. Have I mentioned that the basement is a bid dodgy? Well. The ceiling isn't exactly smooth. Or even. Or level. Sliding was not an option. But somehow. He engineered them into place. I believe they are going nowhere.

These shelves have most of our homeschooling stuff on them. Most of our textbooks. Latin books for the class I teach. Library books. Science stuff. Like a microscope. Rocks. Owl puke.

Even with all this space. And happy bookshelves. Katie still finds yet another place to school. In the playroom. Where she has her own table.And her computer.And all our homeschool games.

So...what about you? Do your kids have a designated homework spot? Do you have a place to do "officy" things? Lots of bookshelves? What is the most unusual item on your shelves??

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Free is the language my husband speaks

Guess where I am going at the end of the month? I am going to see the Atlanta Falcons play the San Diego Chargers! For Free.

When I called to ask my husband if he wanted to go to the game. He got all coy on me. Wanting to know if it was pre-season or regular season. When. And most importantly how much. When he heard that it was free, I believe I could hear the tap, tap of his shoes as he did a happy dance around his office.

I have never been to a pro football game. I've never really watched one on tv. Well. Except for the superbowl. But that was just for the commericals. And the half time show. However, I am really excited to be going to one. There is something about being caught up in the moment. The hoopla. The excitement. The $6 diet cokes. did I get this cool hook-up? I heard about it first from Shannon. Who directed me to Event Chasers. They have members go to events. Blog about their experiences. And in exchange, we get free or drastically discounted tickets. Go check it out and see if they need members in your area!

So...what about you? Have you ever been to a pro football game? Do you watch football on tv? Do you have a favorite sport?

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Homeschool Plan, Part II

When I first started blogging, my intent was for this to be a homeschool blog. To be a journal of our homeschooling trials, tribulations. And successes. However. Things didn't turn out quite that way. This blog quickly became a blog about me. About my trials. Tribulations. Successes. And an occasionally about homeschooling.

I do appreciate that most of you do not homeschool. And have absolutely no interest in these posts. But maybe you'll peruse some of them. And see that not all homeschoolers are nut jobs. Or anything like those crazy people on that Wife Swap show. Or anything like the results of a google image search on homeschoolers.

I never set out to be a homeschooler. And I quite enjoyed dropping my girls off at pre-school. So that I could enjoy a precious few hours alone. Reading. Surfing. Meeting friends for lunch. And sometimes. Perhaps rarely. Doing something constructive.

When I realized that we would not be able to move out of our neighborhood. I rather reluctantly resigned myself to homeschooling. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know what books I would use. I didn't have a clue as to how to find other reluctant homeschoolers to commiserate with.

Then a friend gave me a copy of this book. Which I read from cover to cover. And I all of a sudden felt empowered. I KNEW that I could homeschool. Homeschool well. And willingly. (We use what is called the Classical method. Which...if you are wondering about...I explained it in this post.)

Next week we will begin our 6th year of homeschooling. Sometimes I can't believe we have lasted this long. Most days I can't imagine doing anything else. (Oh...and in case you are curious...I explain here why Katie is home. And Madalyn is in public school.) is the plan for the year:

MATH: Last year we finished Singapore math. It was a rarity to challenge Katie with math. She just has this intuitive sense about it. I on the other hand, had to relearn a lot of math. I handed this subject entirely over to Michael during his 4 month braincation. And that was a life saver. For me. And for Katie. But this year. Well. I have lost way too many brain cells to challenge myself with this level of mathematics. So we are outsourcing. Katie will take Algebra I with Derek Owens (and if you are not in the Atlanta area...he does offer distance learning classes). I am really excited to find a math class for her. And a teacher that can take her all the way through Calculus.

SCIENCE: This will be a change for us. We have used a "central" book for a lot of our homeschooling. But not a text book per se. I am pretty excited about science this year. The Earth Science book looks great (oh...and if you look at the link on Amazon - it has one review that is a one star review. Why? Because whoever they bought it from did not ship quickly. Amazon needs to cull these reviews!) And it's my favorite science subject. I loved learning about plate tectonics; how rocks formed; earthquakes; volcanoes. Maybe it has something to do with my disaster movie fascination.

GEOGRAPHY: Last year we covered 22 countries. Read LOTS of books. Went to the Greek Festival. Japan Fest. Oktoberfest. And the Highland games. We made a Danish apple pancake. Scotch eggs. Irish soda bread. Learned to eat with chopsticks. Visited a Hindu Temple. Watched "Bride and Prejudice." It was by far Katie's favorite subject. And I hope that adding a text bookto the mix will work. We can get a little more in depth. But still have fun. I got this book, too.Because. Eating your way around the world should always be a goal.

HISTORY: History is central to Classical education. It's always been one of my favorite subjects. And it was one of Katie's, too. Until this past year. In first through fourth grade we used "The Story of the World" which is authored by the same women who wrote "The Well Trained Mind." So, for fifth grade we were at loose ends. I decided to use History Odyssey. I was not excited about it. But rather resigned. I think I spent this year looking at any other options that were presented. Neither of us liked it. There was way too much busy work. The history pockets were boring. Pointless. And added nothing. I am not sure what she has retained from this year.

And then for some strange reason, I actually looked at History Odyssey again.And shocker of shockers. I liked what I saw. The busy work was gone. There was more outlining. More reading. More research. Still not enough assessment. But. I thought we'd give it another go.

I have A LOT of things to supplement our history curriculum. But when I found Memoria Press' "Famous Men of the Middle Ages" books. I thought they would be a great addition to History Odyssey. There are stories about Charlemagne, Robert Bruce, Alfred the Great. The illustrations are gorgeous. And even better. There is a student workbook. And a teacher's guide. We can assess to our heart's content. Or to Katie's chagrin.

LOGIC: Katie did Logic for the first time last year. In the beginning it was fun. Challenging. And as she grasped the concepts. It became rather easy for her. We completed the three Orbiting with Logic workbooks. I wasn't quite sure what we were going to do this year. Until Katie decided that she wanted to go to the Homeschool Expo with me. As we were pouring over all the different logic books there. I let her choose. She could see which ones wouldn't be too easy. Which ones would be interesting to do. I think we got enough for two years. Maybe I won't have to think about this next year!

LANGUAGE ARTS: Ahhhh. The spot with the most changes. Last year Katie blogged. Did Daily Grams a few days a week. And had a spectacular experience with the online program "Write at Home." So...again...why are we changing things?

With a classical approach, there is usually not a seperate literature program. It's included with the history. But. What we have been doing is helping Katie to become well read. But. It's quite short in the analysis department. That will be where Lightning Lit comes in.

There will be soooo much reading and writing required of her this year. I just couldn't see continuing with Write at Home. But I did find out that I can use them on a per paper basis. I can have them critique some of the writing that she will already be doing for literature and history. We'll see how that goes. And if things are not working out...we can always sign up for the second semester of Write at Home.

ART: We have always been sorely lacking. Or rather spotty in this department. But at the warehouse, I did manage to find an art text book. AND I signed up for the online version of "Meet the Masters." In this program, you learn about an artist and a technique. And then work to reproduce is. Our first project will be to do our own version of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

ACTIVITIES: Katie is going to be on our neighborhood ALTA team. Which means practice three days a week. Plus matches on Saturdays. She is still in girl scouts. Will begin her 6th year of piano. And begins a three year confirmation class at church. I don't think that socialization is an issue at all.

So...what about you? Do you remember your favorite subject when you were in 6th grade? If you homeschooled - what subject would you have to outsource?

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Homeschool Plan* - Part I

*Management reserves the right to change plan at any time. Without notice.

For the past several years, my Spring and Summer has had an element of the unknown. But usually right before our school year all just falls into place. And this year has been no exception.

For the most part...I thought I knew what I wanted. Except for Science. We have been using the Noeo science program for the past three years. I have been rather pleased. But for this year. Because it's 6th grade. And Middle school. I really think we need to step things up. And the demands on her with Noeo were just not enough. Also, I really wanted a seperate program for Earth Science/Astronomy which Noeo does not offer.

After some research...and recommendations. I went on a grand adventure to find the Prentice Hall Science Explorers series. The Prentice hall website is obviously not geared towards homeschoolers. Who want to see example pages. Table of contents. Access to teacher information. friend Karen and I went to the textbook warehouse. (We may or may not have left the party hats at home) A one and a half hour drive. Where we were so close to Alabama that our cell phones couldn't decide what time it was.

The warehouse is a wow. It's old. Early 1900's I believe. With original hardwood floors. It's huge. Dusty. And overwhelming.One cannot browse the warehouse. Because there is no rhyme or reason to the stacks. Well, except for the owner. He knows where everything is. And he knows the content. Including the differences - or lack thereof - between editions.

So, when I asked to see the Prentice Hall book...he brought one to me. And a Holt. And a Glencoe. Because content wise, they are all the same. (and after checking it out...they are all the same!) So, what I really needed to judge was the presentation. And after much flipping. Comparing. Contrasting. I settled on the Holt. It has a great lab section in the back. The teacher's guide has lots of interdisciplinary notes. And I got all the teacher's resource materials (tests, critical thinking exercises, lab notes, games, and lots of other things I'll never use). For a FABULOUS price.

So...while I was sitting there. Flipping. Comparing. Contrasting. I asked Kemper (owner extraordinaire) if he had a CULTURAL Geography curriculum. Trust me. This is an ellusive item. Most geography books are physically or politically bent. But. Wonder of wonders. Kemper had just the solution. A book that actually combines all three elements.

This past year, Geography was new to our plan. And we didn't use a text book at all. We went to the library. Katie picked a country. And she read about that country all week. Some countries we spent a lot of time on. I think we spent over a month on India. We read about the culture. We might have read traditional stories. Researched the religions. We might have cooked. Or gone to festivals. It was Katie's favorite subject last year. So...why was I messing with what works? I have no idea.

But. I like the idea of having a spine as a launching point. And now we can cover a few more aspects. My plan is to make this book last for the next three years of Middle school. And hopefully we will conquer the globe.

The main reason that Karen wanted to go was to find a good grammar text. Last year, we did not really do grammar. I had her work out of a workbook called Daily Grams twice a week, just to keep her fresh. But, with her taking Latin. For four years. And the amazing foundation she had in first and second grade with First Language Lessons. She really didn't need a seperate program.

So, I got the student and teacher book. It is an 8th grade text. And I really like the way that it covers a grammar lesson. And then it switches to a writing exercise to focus on that concept. I am not sure how much we will use this. But it will be a great resource. And I imagine that I may use it in the Latin class that I teach. Because I constantly have to reinforce English grammar rules.

So...what about you? Do you have a favorite science subject? Country that fascinates you? Do you know another language?

(Coming soon: the rest of our plan for the school year; supplemental books; very cool games; posts that send all my regular readers into a 20 year sleep...)

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