Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Homeschool Mom's Lament

We've been deschooling/stealth homeschooling for nearly a month now and I've about had it.

In addition to the cooking I wrote about yesterday, I've also been working on saying yes. Chester decided he wanted a toad, so we researched it and then got him a toad. Toad lasted about four days before we'd lost enough live crickets in Chester's room to convince us feeding him was too much of a challenge. Plus, after Klaus got himself a hamster, Chester decided having an animal that he can hold and play with might be a good idea after all. So we took the toad back to the store. We're still waiting to get Chester a hamster. I want to make sure he still wants one after a month or so.

Then there are play dates and sleepovers, swimming, air hockey, board games, baseball, violin lessons, and next month theater camp, Japanese camp and invention camp (one camp per boy).

My problem is this: I'm tired all the time and by the time DH comes home at night, I've had so many invasions of my personal space from having the boys around all day that I can't stand to have him (DH) anywhere near me. I don't want to be so hooked into be the mother that I don't have anything left for being the wife. :(

Monday, June 27, 2005

Feed Me!

Originally uploaded by The Princess Mom.
As part of our stealth homeschooling summer, we're learning how to cook. Both Klaus and Chester had expressed interest in learning how to cook--and Wolfie desperately needed to learn to feed himself instead of following Mom around saying "What's for lunch? What's for dinner?"--so I decided each boy would be responsible for making dinner one night a week.

So far so good. Klaus always makes his friend come over to help him cook. He's so proud of himself he made me take this picture of the steaks he made last Tuesday. (Friend was in charge of Rice-a-roni.)

We've also had pancakes and eggs, beef stew, shrimp fried in garlic butter, BBQed worms (an old family recipe) and Hamburger Helper. Not all gourmet fare but they're actually thinking about what would be good and learning things like how to read a recipe and how to brown hamburger so I'd call that a success.

Klaus the hamster

Klaus the hamster
Originally uploaded by The Princess Mom.
The latest member of the family. Klaus is one of the fastest hamsters I've ever seen--very hard to hold onto. As they say on Family Guy, "He makes Speedy Gonzales look like Regular Gonzales."

And he's already learned how to get out of his cage by holding onto the bars above the door and banging on the door with his whole body weight (which admittedly is not much but he's let himself out twice already). We've locked the door with twisties but I'm sure it won't be long before he figures out how to gnaw through those...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

ARGH! Too Hot to Blog

The kids are in the pool all day today, and I think I will have to join them. More tomorrow! :D

Monday, June 20, 2005

Math Links, Part Deux

Some more math and reading links, continuing on from yesterday's post:

Dr. Labush's Links to Learning connects you to online games (I highly recommend The Fruit Game and FEMA for Kids Disaster Math), learning units, worksheets (if you like that sort of thing), etc. from kindergarten up to college-level math. The home page also has links for history, science, animals, national parks, etc.

Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site. The Math section is a bit of a stretch imho, but there is an extensive list of curriculum subjects which each lead to lists of suggested books, both fiction and non-fiction, on the elementary school level for each subject. Each book has ordering information and a one or two sentence review.

I'd also like to add a plug for The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis. It's a coming-of-age story about a female chess prodigy, following her from her first chess game at the age of 8 to international level play at 16. It's a real page-turner and would be a terrific gift for a female math whiz--a protagonist she could really identify with. DH, who mostly like spy thrillers, also rearranged his lunch schedule so he could hear this novel serialized on Chapter A Day on Wisconsin Public Radio, so it will appeal to boys as well as girls.

Math Links

Want math to be more than just working problems? Here are links to books, novels, poems, etc. that deal with math and mathematicians.

Math Fiction List is a database of stories based on mathematical concepts or starring mathematicians

NYC Teacher Tools Math Literature Page is a list of books, primarily picture books, sorted by subject matter (addition/subtraction, fractions, time, etc). Lots of links at the end of this list.

SMaRT Books at Kansas State University list sorted by grade level, although I'm not certain how accurate these grade levels really are. To my mind, Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst is a great book, but not appropriate for 8th graders, as this list suggests. Certainly not for gifted 8th graders! Take its recommendations with a grain of salt.

The Mathematical Art of M.C. Escher page at Platonic Realms Minitext is a fabulous discussion of the man, his art and what it has to do with math. Includes links for further reading. Great resource.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Things You Never Thought You'd Say to Another Human Being

"Why are there crayons in the refrigerator?"

"Don't bite the baby."

"Don't juggle other people's muffins!"

Community College--Boon or Burden?

We've all heard stories about gifted kids entering and graduating from college at very young ages. Many homeschoolers have suggested that community colleges can be a good transition from or replacement for high school classes that are difficult from home, primarily advanced math and science. But in an admittedly small and unscientific personal study of teenaged homeschoolers, I've found that community colleges may not be the answer to home high school prayers. Many if not most community college are reluctant to admit students younger than 16--essentially a high school junior. In my home state, the Youth Options Program is only available to juniors and seniors and there is no obvious way to be admitted even as a special student if you are younger, even if you have mastered the prerequisite material. This smacks of arbitrariness to me, and in the middle of my campaign to stamp out arbitrariness it becomes something up with which I will not put!, as Winston Churchill would say.

We've got The Touch!

Chester bought a really cool game the other day. It's called The Touch. Basically, at your turn, you land on a card. Each card has pictures of a small group of related items--"vegetables" shows a head of garlic, a carrot, radish and ear of corn; "San Francisco" shows the Golden Gate Bridge and a cable car. Then you have 30 seconds to stick your hand into the hopper of the game and pull out the items in the picture. There are 49 little plastic toys for you to root around in to find the pieces you're looking for. You can't see what you're picking up, but your opponents can, which makes it that much funnier, i.e. "You picked up the Golden Gate Bridge four times before you recognized it!" It's an equal challenge for all three boys as well as for me and loads of fun. We found ours at a local homeschool supply/educational toy store but it can also be ordered through their website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Textbooks for Unschoolers

From: Time-Life Books
To: The Sucker at ...

DH used to say all the junk mail I got from Time-Life was addressed to "The Sucker at ..." because I had ordered this cool history series called Time Frame. The concept is that, instead of covering the history of a particular culture over a period of time, they cover a particular time over a number of cultures, so you get a better picture of what was happening in, say, the Holy Land during the Golden Age of Greece. Like most Time-Life books, they're mostly pictures with a little, mostly superficial, text but it's enough to spark questions in my mind about interactions and connections between the Christianization of Europe and the concurrent rise of Islam and whether they had anything in common. I'm a girl, I like to find the connections between things.

What brings all this up is an article at about textbooks for unschoolers. The essay discusses the reference books she has in her library and how unschooling is all about making the connections between ideas. She says these little bits of information are called "trivia" in the school context:

"For school kids, trivia is (by definition) a waste of time. It’s something that will not be on the test. It’s “extra” stuff. For unschoolers, though, in the wide new world in which EVERYTHING counts, there can be no trivia in that sense."

I've been saying for years that I have a "trivial mind" because the parts of school I found interesting were the bits of trivia and the connections between them. How nice to find a system of education that values the same things I value.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The great comebacks

Dad (hillbilly accent): I like shiny things.
Wolfie: I like sharp things.

Klaus got new black Chuck Taylors (we used to call them high-tops in my day. In my mother's day, they were basketball shoes) for school at the beginning of the year, size 13. They're so big they look like clown shoes. So his friend Sky was giving him grief about them. Klaus finally says, "Don't you be dissing my Chucks or I'll beat your ass!"
Sky: "With what, your squeaky red nose?"

Even Klaus had to admit that was a good one. LOL

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Finding a way to say Yes!

One of the concepts unschoolers talk about is finding ways to say yes to children's desires. As I understand it, this is because those desires represent the child's natural inquisitiveness, so saying yes more than no stimulates them to, or allows them to, learn.

In the spirit of saying yes, I allowed Chester to sit in the front seat of the car at the beginning of the summer of his fifth grade year instead of waiting until the end of the summer like Wolfie had to do. Wolfie was very upset that the rule had changed (or disappeared) and then told Chester that he had to wait because Wolfie had had to, which made Chester very upset. There were tears and I tried to talk them through it so they could come to a compromise. Chester offered to wait until the middle of the summer to meet halfway. I apologized to Wolfie for changing the (arbitrary) rule and explained my new philosophy of "yes". I finally got Wolfie to talk about his feelings ("I'm not angry, Mom, just very very annoyed,") and then he agreed that it would be okay with Chester to sit in the front seat occasionally, too, since that is what he would want if the tables were turned.

Then two nights ago, I came across this article about airbags on Even though my boys might be as tall and as heavy as the average petite woman, they apparently don't have the muscle mass of an adult anything and it's the muscle mass that's important. The study recommends not letting anyone under the age of 15 sit in front. So, we discussed the federal guidelines and the new information from this study and agreed to revise our rule. "Yes, they can ride in the front seat when it is safe for them to do so. It is safe when they are 14.5."

So far so good. Both Chester and Wolfie are disappointed at having the priviledge taken away from them but they understand the guidelines and the science behind it, so they accept it. And there has been much less fighting over who gets to sit in the front seat, thank goodness. ;)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Another Week Older and Deeper in Debt

Why the long silence, Princess Mom? I was in Florida, Land of Humidity and Spending Painful Amounts of Money, with the family visiting Grandma and Spiderman and the CJ the Dolphin at Discovery Cove. Swimming with the dolphins is a fantastic experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. You get to pat the dolphin (feels like wet rubber), learn dolphin anatomy and actually go for a ride by holding onto the dorsal and one pectoral fin. The dolphin is supposed to swim with you from the middle of the pond back to the rest of the group at the shore. CJ had other ideas--he took Klaus over to meet the female dolphin in the "pod" (group of 7) next to us then circled around and came back. We told Klaus he would never get a driver's license if he couldn't even drive a dolphin! Turns out it's mating season and CJ just wanted to say hello to the ladies. After a couple unauthorized side trips, we had to trade CJ in temporarily for Capricorn, the alpha male, all 600 pounds of him. An amazing sight to see an animal that huge jump out of ten feet out of the water! And the whole time I had "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" running through my head. ;)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dubya would be proud!

I have long maintained that Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus is God's favorite song. It's an absolutely perfect piece of music, in my humble opinion. I had a chance to sing it in high school and was delighted when Chester's boychoir worked on it last spring. (The mp3 is not my choir or his, in case you were wondering. ;)

Anyway, Wolfie came home a couple days ago with his recorder and began to play the melody from the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the "Ode to Joy." Another nearly perfect piece of music, so I told Chester that it was God's second favorite song. After thinking a moment, Chester said, "I thought God's second favorite song was Yankee Doodle?"

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It's Official! We're Homeschooling

One of the best decisions I've made in this "do we or don't we?" process was to make an appointment with the high school principal. Claus and I walked out of that meeting 100% committed to homeschooling. The principal is a nice guy and I'm sure he runs a good school, but school is not the place for Claus.

It appears that the benefit of high school is more classes, so you are more likely to find a class you might actually be interested in, unlike middle school. Otherwise it's the same old thing. I deliberately didn't tell Mr. Principal that I spoke teacher, so after spending fifteen minutes swearing up and down that his teachers don't assign busywork, he started in with the educationese that proved he was a liar. For example, English classes "concentrate on grammar and mechanics" means "we do a lot of punctuation worksheets." "Math teachers are free to decide which subset of skills from the first test to visit again on the second test, and the third test" means scope and sequence. I've already told you how much I hate that.

The worst part was his attitude. I began the meeting by saying that Claus was ADD and highly gifted, so we were interested in options like curriculum compacting, etc. Despite that, Mr. Principal told us that, while all their classes are "college-track", they offer "regular" classes as well as "advanced" ones, implying Claus didn't need to worry about the classes being too hard. He said flat out that 14- and 15-year-olds aren't capable of taking charge of their own education. And suggested he might consider taking one advanced course a year. Oh, really???

After he lied about what classes the state required for graduation (I'd looked that up on the web yesterday), I stopped listening. Unbelieveable. Anyway, we can knowledgeably rule that out as an option. :D