Friday, January 30, 2009


Okay, it's not exactly a "weekly report" because it's taken us 2 weeks to do about a week's worth of work. We've had car issues. We've had nice weather that beckoned us outside:

We've had snowy weather that had us grabbing shovels and getting to work:

And we've had much packing, with Thalia and I going on a camping trip last weekend, and Thalia going on a retreat this weekend.

And, of course, GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. The orders are now in, though, and we can forget about it until the end of February we are suddenly proud owners of 220 boxes that we need to distribute (better than last year when we had 320 boxes -- lucky for us the incentives this year weren't nearly as attractive, so we didn't feel compelled to sell that extra 100 boxes).

School has happened here and there, though. Some highlights:

Thalia suddenly shouting out through a quiet house, "I GOT IT! I GOT IT!" when she solved a particularly snarly algebra problem.

AnnaBeth counting down the final few lessons of First Language Lessons 3 (only 4 more lessons, then it's party time!). She's getting sillier and sillier with these lessons. Today she was supposed to draw a box around prepositional phrases before she diagrammed the sentence; she turned each box into a litter box, complete with kitty litter.

AnnaBeth finished Minimus 1 this week. She's taking a break from Latin before starting the next program, which will most likely be Latin for Children.

Thalia asked to skip the rest of the Analytical Grammar review sessions and just do the regular Season 2 lessons. Grammar comes easily to her; I think she considers this "fun". Egads.

We were invited to see a dress rehearsal of a production of Much Ado About Nothing, which will take place later today. So far we've read a condensed version of the play in preparation. I placed a hold on a video of it (the Branagh version) which we'll probably get next week. Thalia has been on a Shakespeare jag lately, so this fits in nicely.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Effects of Topography and Climate on Homeschooling

When we lived in northwest Ohio it snowed often. It was simply part of our lives. Snow happened, and we continued doing whatever it was we were doing. Sometimes we didn't even realize that local schools were taking a snow day, since it didn't make much difference to us. We laughed and said, "We take Nice Weather days," to emphasize that by working through the snow days we had plenty of time to goof around outside when the weather was warm and sunny.

Of course, northwest Ohio is pretty flat.

Now we have a hill that calls to us

and compels us to Go Down

And friends who yell out their doorways "Hey, wait for me!" when they see us pass by at 8:30am on the way to the hill

By afternoon everyone has dug out their driveways, and people from other neighborhoods are bringing vanloads of kids to our hill. But we persevere, because we never know if it will snow again this winter.

Actually, we met another homeschool family that lives within walking distance of The Hill (and thus, theoretically, to us). Bonus! And from talking to them, I have the distinct impression that they've taken the past 2 days to sled down The Hill. Heck, they're taking off next week on a skiing vacation, taking advantage of those off-season rates homeschoolers can get, and they STILL took off a couple of days to play in the snow this week. A fine example for us all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


More snow.

More fleece.

(Yet another Jalie 2212.)

More later. Right now we need to go do more shoveling and more sledding.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

D is for Down

It is easier to go down

than to come back up.

And, yes, we know there's hardly any snow on that hill (which makes it lots easier to come back up, by the way), but this is the most snow we've had this winter. On a positive note, the school kids aren't out on the hill because there's so little snow (plus it's 8:30am, so they're enjoying sleeping in for once -- our kids usually get up about now, and this was the one day they didn't sleep in).

Monday, January 26, 2009

C is for Camping

This past weekend Thalia's troop went camping.

It wasn't as rugged as it sounds, in spite of the cold temperatures. They camped in a lodge that had baseboard heating, electrical outlets, a stove and refrigerator, and (best of all) indoor plumbing. So even though it involved sleeping bags on thin mattresses, going on a hike in the cold, and star gazing at night in the cold, it was a fairly plushy set up. I arrived Saturday morning (the camping trip really started Friday afternoon, but I had other obligations), and quickly realized that it was really a giant 3-day/2-night slumber party. The difference from most sleepovers, though, was that the adults also had to sleep on the floor in thin mattresses and share one bathroom with all the girls. Also, everything had to be cleaned spic and span for inspection before we left, including the outdoor latrine, the outdoor firepit and outdoor kitchen area, etc., even though we didn't use them; I'd rather stay home and take the next week to recover and clean up. But, hey, it was certainly an adventure.

The troop worked on their Interest Patch for games

(they loved this game, but it took forever)

and photography

I have no idea who took this picture of Thalia -- they were obviously messing with the settings on the camera. By the end of the weekend that battery on the camera was totally shot, by the way, but Thalia had scads of pictures of widely varying quality, as well as movie clips of some of the girls dressing up as Leia and Ahsoka and battling with light sabers (they had taken the broom handles apart to make the sabers).

Since the scouts were pretty well self-contained, working on their stuff, cooking the meals, cleaning up, etc., the adults were just sort of hanging out. I worked on a sock:

I did this heel 3 times before I got it the way I wanted it. The other adults now have a totally warped view of sock-knitting, since I knit a while, then ripped everything back out and started again continuously. But I didn't have access to google all weekend, heaven forbid, so I had to come up with a heel on my own -- I had to think instead of google, and that's not something I'm used to doing. For the record, I ended up making a 10 row gusset, then a short row heel down to 50% of the underside stitches; I think I wrote all of this down somewhere so I can knit the other sock to match, but here it is again just in case I can't find my notes.

The troop moms are asked to go to at least one camping trip per year, so now I've fulfilled my obligation -- on a no-bug, indoor toilet trip! I'm feeling pretty smug about that, let me tell you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

B is for Books

Some of the books that we've added to our bookshelves in the past week:

Mostly homeschool related. Homeschooling and piles of books seem to go hand in hand.

(And there's an even larger pile from the library this week. Wowza, can you even imagine homeschooling without a library?)

By special request, the title are:

A Student's Guide to Natural Science by Stephen M. Barr
A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
Once Upon a Curse by E.D. Baker
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland by Cindy Neuschwander
Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter by Cindy Neuschwander
Geography of the World (Jayne Parsons is listed as editor on the DK website, but I can't find her name in the book)
Living Memory: A Classical Memory Work Companion by Andrew Campbell

All but the last are available at; Living Memory is available through

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Koolhaas hat knit in Pastaza, finished this morning. I tried taking a self portrait of the top of my head in it.

But looking at that picture makes me feel a little dizzy, like I'm about to fall onto the brick fireplace ledge there behind me. So I nabbed a nearby child and took another picture.

Better. I need A Warm Hat for this weekend (Girl Scout camping), so this is it. I wanted to wear it this afternoon when we went to the library, but the kids thought it looked weird, since it made my head look "too small" ("I believe what you're trying to say is that it makes me look like a pinhead.") Apparently it corrals my hair mightily, and they're used to seeing my hair stick out every which way, so the sleeker look was very disturbing to them. So I didn't wear it. Which was just as well, since it's over 40F, and my head would have probably spontaneously combusted due to the heat. It's a VERY warm hat.

Also, almost finished with a fleece pullover for Thalia. She picked out some fabric on sale, and I altered the pattern I had used for my fleece pullover (Jalie 2212).

Except when I tried to take a picture, it came out sort of periwinkle

which isn't the actual color. It's more of a Graham Purple (which doesn't make sense unless you're involved in Irish Dance, but really, trust me -- mine is Clarkson Blue and hers is Graham Purple).

So, more messing around with the camera, and oddly enough I could get closer to the correct color by using the "underwater" setting on the camera.

Again, this warm item was in honor of Girl Scout camping, during which the temps should fall back down into the teens and twenties. Which reminds me, I need to go wash my wool socks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies

Cookie sales started this weekend. Rick took the girls around door to door.

Various people were decluttering this weekend, and handed the girls items to bring home. At one house they were invited to go through a pile of used books. At another house a woman just happened to be trying on her old Girl Scout beret when they rang the bell.

"Don't you want to hang onto this?"

"No, I want you to take it to your Girl Scout meetings and show people how it used to be."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hmmm, now what?

I'm this far on my sock:

Actually, I was this far last night, but I decided it needed negative ease, so I ripped it all out and started over, and am back to that point.

I started this sock for something to do while I was waiting for my yarn from Webs, by the way. I'd forgotten I even had this skein of yarn. But, boy, I'm really enjoying these colors and this pattern. Love it, as a matter of fact. It's so much fun that visions of sock-knitting have been dancing in my head all morning ... I logged onto The Loopy Ewe to ponder other sock yarns and other socks that I could knit in the next couple of ... months/years/weeks/minutes.

(Conversation that took place while looking at the Loopy Ewe website:

AnnaBeth: "Is that the Loopy Ewe near us?"
Me: " There's only one Loopy Ewe, honey."
AnnaBeth: "Oh, so we could go there right now and get yarn?" [She was eyeing something called Pinkalicious at the time]
Me: "Well, WE DON'T HAVE A WORKING CAR, and I'm not walking there."

So, you know, I hadn't gone off the deep end about the sock knitting -- I'm not gonna walk that far in this weather just to squeeze sock yarn.)

Then the doorbell rang, and the postman (who must smoke in his truck) left this (smokey) package at the door:

The yarn for the Vest-uary knit along that PrairiePoppins is hosting, and the yarn for the fingerless mitts knit along that KM is hosting that started a couple of days ago, and also the yarn for a hat that's simply Something I Need That Does Not Involve a Knit Along. None of it smells like cigarettes, by the way.

It's interesting how the colors go so nicely with the sock yarn.

But, what DOES NOT GO WITH SOCK YARN ... knitting the new stuff. Oh, poor little Leyburn sock. It was fun while it lasted. The past couple of days with you have been wonderful. But the lime green Pastaza, the periwinkle Classic Silk, the heathery amethyst of the Cascade 220 that will felt so beautifully, who can resist it?

(Thank goodness I didn't order that $100 worth of sock yarn I was admiring this morning.)

Weekly Report -- Jan. 16

Math took center stage this week.

AnnaBeth worked in RightStart D on patterns. She also took a break from the regular curriculum to read some Sir Cumference; she was having trouble remembering the word "parallel", so what better way to firmly fix it in her mind than with the Pair of dragons from Lell that show up in Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland.

Thalia worked on binomials, trinomials, etc. When she ran into a snag early in the week, Rick happened to call about something or other just then, and took over the explanation of the equation which he could easily do because engineers used these skills all through college and got to review in constantly, unlike, say, horticulture majors (did anyone explain to you way back then that you'd need to review this on a regular basis because some day your 13 year old was going to ask you? No? Well, me either -- I haven't thought about this stuff in years.). Later in the week, though, I was asked to help her simplify 4w2/(4w2z + 6wz2) minus 9z2/(4w2z + 6wz2) ... after muttering several times, "I know I've done something like this before" (yeah, like in HIGH SCHOOL, which was DECADES ago) I threw myself on the floor with a pile of scrap paper and emerged TRIUMPHANT with (2w-3z)/2wz. Whoa, folks, I might frame the scrap paper I wrote that on. In any event, it gave Thalia a great view of perseverance, and also the sheer excitement of figuring out something that was a wee bit hard.

Latin was rather mundane. AnnaBeth is near the end of Minimus. She has retained almost zero vocabulary, but has gotten a glimpse of how declensions work. This week she learned about direct objects.

Thalia ... did Latin. Ummm. Well. I'm not sure what she did in Latin, though ... but if you like, I could tell you how I helped her in math, 'cause that was pretty cool and shows what an involved parent I am. Oh, wait, I already told that story. Oh well, moving on ....

Language Arts included First Language Lessons 3 for AnnaBeth, who diagrammed direct objects, predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives (we were up to our eyeballs in direct objects this week), did some lessons that mimicked Writing With Ease (which we therefor skipped), and learned about comparative and superlative adjectives. Thalia, in the meantime, did a review section of Analytical Grammar.

Read alouds were A Little History of the World by Gombrich, D'Aulaire's Norse Myths, and The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit.

In History we also revived the Evan-Moor History Pockets started many months ago.

Science for AnnaBeth was supposed to involve some books that are still stuck on the hold shelf at the library while my car is still stuck in the transmission place (the axle spring went wonky, apparently, which is why the car was sitting in a pool of red transmission fluid, looking for all the world like it was bleeding to death in the driveway). Since that unit of science wasn't available, instead, she learned how to figure out what sort of fluid is leaking out of a car -- pour examples of possible fluids (transmission, power steering) on a cloth and see what looks the most like what you just wiped up from the driveway.

Thalia started a new Prentice Hall Science Explorer, The Nature of Science and Technology. It would make more sense to do this one first, before any other Science Explorers, but we're not that organized.

Outside activities have been curtailed by the lack of transportation. Thalia made it to archery, where she shot 246 out of 300 possible points at the 10 yard line; she now moves back to the 20 yard line. The instructor had her go ahead and try the 20 yard line, and she hit a bullseye on the 4th shot -- she was really excited about that, even though she knew it was sort of a fluke.

Overall, a productive week, even though we had to skip certain things we had planned.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too Cold

Things I need to do today:

Take kids to Scouts and Dance.

Shop for food.

Things I should do today:

Stop by library to pick up books for science unit.

Work on making new pants to wear next week for special occasion.

Things it would be nice to do today:

Take Thalia shopping for boots and long underwear, since she has outgrown hers; she fits into my stuff okay, but it's awkward when we both want to wear them at the same time.

Take sleeping bag to laundromat to wash in big washer and dry in big dryer.

But, let's face it, IT'S TOO COLD! It's about 0F, with a wind chill of I-don't-want-to-know.

All I want to do is huddle up and knit wool socks while sipping hot cocoa.

Socks That Rock mediumweight in colorway Puck's Mischief.

Pattern hasn't been committed to yet, although Leyburn is a strong contender.

Irony of the situation: I don't even like wool socks. They make my ankles itch.

Updated to add: Be careful what you wish for. We just went out to the car to go to Scouts, and there's a large oily red puddle under the left front tire. Transmission fluid? Power steering fluid? In any case, we're stuck at home for the time being. I suddenly have no desire to knit, and a wicked need to go DO something somewhere else.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: First Time on Skates

Work in Progress Wednesday

A pair of leggings for AnnaBeth, which appear done but are not:

She wanted pink. We looked through the pink sock yarn we had on hand, and nothing was quite right. I suggested that I could knit them in theKnitpicks Bare Merino sock yarn we had, then dye them pink ourselves, using KoolAid or food coloring. She thought that sounded great.

Except that now that they're knitted, she wonders if we could dye them pink AND GREEN. I've dyed things pink. I've dyed things green. But, pink and green in the same small item? I have a feeling Pink plus Green equals Blech in this equation, since I picture the colors running together and turning to ... ick. We shall see. She might be wearing them tonight to dance class in their Bare state.

The pattern, by the way, is Alpaca Sox Legwarmers by Pam Allen, modified for skinny-child-legs -- I made them about half as big around, and knit them until they were the length she wanted.

In other news, right before we went ice skating yesterday Thalia tried on the Basic Chic Hoodie, throwing it on over the tshirt she was wearing. I've noted several times that she's taller than I am, and has broader shoulders. Which is apparently what this sweater needs:

More height and more shoulder width. No amount of chocolate and pasta was going to give me those things (although it was a good idea that I'm still willing to try, Ami).

Also, she likes brown sweaters. I think we have a new home for the sweater.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Second Finished Project of 2009

First, here's the good news: I think I know how to use the timer on the camera.

Now, here's the bad news: the Basic Chic Hoodie is ...

not what I expected. Sort of big. Sort of a mistake.

(Also, I need to work on what's in the background of the picture when I set the timer. That large blue thing to the right of my hip is an exercise ball.)

You know, it just a few hours to make a fleece top that was sort of big. I didn't get stressed about it -- I cut off the sleeves some, and figured out how to make it better next time. After all, I'd invested less than a day and less than $10 in that top. But, gees, I've been knitting this sweater since October, and to put it on and realize "hmm, those shoulders are too big, and it's too bulky through the body, and the weight of the hood is dragging the entire thing backwards off of me", well, that's just disheartening.

(And in this shot, that thing behind me is a table with a television and DVD player. Also, we need new blinds.)

So, now the eternal question -- do I try to fix it? (I think if I took off the button bands, took off the hood and made it into a collar, put the button bands back on, and sewed seams up the sides to take up some of the bulk, it might be okay ... sheesh, doesn't that sound like A LOT of work?) Try to find it a new home? Or just stick it in a drawer and pretend it never happened?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Weekly Report -- Jan. 9

A slow start to the new year. It was hard to get back into the groove of school this week.

We started out by doing a lot of read alouds -- we finally finished Heidi, which was overdue at the library.

We also made sure all of our thank you cards were done. This was a group project:

Few handwriting books discuss the problems of trying to write while sitting cross legged on the floor with a large cat on your lap. It isn't really considered the correct posture for proper handwriting, for some reason.

Some other highlights:

AnnaBeth was back at First Language Lessons 3, reciting Emily Dickinson's A Slash of Blue, and diagramming sentences with compound subjects and compound predicates. We worked on multiplication in RightStart D, read chapter 10 of Minimus (a Latin program), and got back in the swing of piano lessons, choir, and dance. Her Brownie troop worked on a badge about the human body, so I considered that science for the week.

Thalia is back to Life of Fred Algebra 1. We discussed the possibility of using The Teaching Company Algebra 1 DVD for a change of pace, but she'd rather finish Fred before she tries something else. She's reciting Latin vocabulary as I type. Oh, wait, no -- she's conjugating Spanish verbs. No, no -- it's definitely Latin. And, of course, she also attended Scouts, archery, choir, piano, and dance. Wow, we did NO outside activities for 3 weeks, and it was such an incredible break.

As for me, after a month-long break I started back on Henle. To my surprise, I'd actually retained some of it. I'm starting the 5th declension now. I loved the 4th declension, and resolved that if I was forced to speak Latin for survival I would figure out how to do it using solely the 4th declension. Maybe the 5th declension will be as good. I'm also getting back in the swing of listening to audiobooks from The Teaching Company, currently listening to arguments for and against the Constitution in The Great Debate.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Just got home from the grocery.

Tuesday Tea Time

It's been weeks and weeks since we've had a Tuesday Tea Time. But we finally have a Tuesday with no other commitments, and can have a leisurely afternoon drinking tea and reading poetry.

The table was set with Christmas plates and placemats, since this IS the Twelfth Day of Christmas:

Trader Joe's provided an assortment of holiday baked goods -- Candy Cane Jo-Jos, Mexican Hot Cocoa Cookies (I'm totally addicted to these), and Almond Snowmen:

and our beverage was chamomile tea.

We read the Lamb version of Twelfth Night. We'd not read that version before. AnnaBeth was disappointed that "it didn't have the letter" -- don't you hate it when your kids remember stray bits of Shakespeare and gripe about abridged versions? I think she was referring to that whole business with Sir Andrew, Maria, and Sir Toby, characters whom Lamb just plain left out.

Afterwards we started to put the Christmas decorations away.

Goodbye until next year, Christmas plates!

One Potato, Two Potato ...

Yesterday I got a bag of the multi-color potatoes at Trader Joe's -- the kind that has the little potatoes in red, yellow, and blue. I don't usually get those because the potatoes seem to cook at different rates, and the blue ones tend to turn out sort of nasty, but I didn't want to make another stop just to get a bag of monochromatic potatoes, so I went with the multis.

AnnaBeth, our household Potato Queen, was fascinated that not only the skin was variable, but the flesh of the potatoes varied in color. On a good day, AnnaBeth is a true Potato Artist, carefully doling out butter, salt, pepper, perhaps sour cream in amounts that are painstakingly controlled -- the process cannot be rushed. With these potatoes, though, new possibilities opened up.

"Can I get the camera and take a picture?"

Oh, sure, what can be the problem with one picture.

Except, of course, it's never one picture, as she must experiment with macro vs. portrait (who uses portrait for potatoes?), flash vs. no flash, composition. We had at least 5 shots of this.

"Hey, look, do you want to get a picture of mine? I've just cut them open and haven't mashed them up any!" offered Thalia from the other side of the table.

And things suddenly spun out of control.

The cat smelled the roast chicken on the table, and was winding around chairs and legs in a state of High Alert because THERE'S A DEAD BIRD ON THE TABLE AND HE CAN SMELL IT, AND NEEDS TO BE INVOLVED IN IT. The kids are hopping back and forth taking pictures of potatoes in various states.

Up until now I would've viewed a photo of potatoes as sort of serene and zen. Potatoes: so calm, so so tranquil.

In truth, though, these particular photos capture an intensely crazy meal.

Friday, January 2, 2009

First Finished Project of 2009

Jalie 2212

We went to a Blues hockey game last week, and it was cold. I mean, you expect a hockey game to be pretty cool, since it's at a rink with ice, but you expect it to be about cotton-turtleneck-plus-sweater cool. This game was a temperature that had you yearning for the long underwear tucked in the dresser at home. And also, fleece. Lots of fleece.

So, while fantasizing about warmth during the game, I started thinking about the pattern I had for a half-zip sweatshirt . Oooh, how about trying it out in blue fleece -- I bet I could get it done in time for the next hockey game we're going to!

New Year's Eve found me at the fabric store buying half-price fleece, zipper, and thread -- total cost under $10 (the pattern is a sunk cost since I already own it). I've never made a Jalie pattern before, so had no idea how it would fit, and didn't want to spend a lot of money on this muslin.

That afternoon I traced the pattern and cut it out to size T. Size T looked like it would fit me, based on the measurements.

And sewed it up New Year's morning. I didn't use lycra binding on the cuffs and hem, since this is a quick, cheap version -- I just flipped up the fabric and made a simple hem.

It's too big through the shoulders. I ended up cutting 4 inches off of each sleeve to make up for the extra. But it does the job -- it keeps me toasty, and will fit over layers.

Thalia would fit this pattern well -- her shoulders are much broader than mine. And now that we see it made up we can discuss how to color block. For me, I think next time I'll use size S through the main body and size T in the hips. I'm also thinking about using a very thin fleece and doing a curved shirt tail hem next time. Or the time after that.

Yes, there WILL be a next time. Jalie patterns have a huge range of sizes in the package, and the entire family may well end up with these sweatshirts.