Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekly Report 2/26/10

The kids (and by "the kids" I mean our 2 plus 4 more) just left to go see the Percy Jackson movie again, and I had thought this would be a great time to do the weekly report, but mostly I'm just sort of sitting here thinking about the ice cream I hid in the freezer.

So, ummm ... what happened this week? Oh, wait, I wrote a bunch of it down, since we live in a state where we have to keep records of how much time we're spending on core subjects and non-core subjects (not that anyone ever actually LOOKS at those records, which makes it sort of sad to do all of these color-coded little notes all over the place when no one else gets to admire them).

Monday -- busy day. Thalia wrote a bunch of lab reports for her co-op class, which is studying Apologia Physical Science. She worked on Analytical Grammar, Jump In writing, Jacob's Algebra, practiced piano. AnnaBeth did a review sheet in RightStart E, did more work with prepositions in First Language Lessons 4, and started week 2 of Writing With Ease Level 3, plus piano. She also decided to get back in the swing of Latin by studying flash cards. We all read Anne of Green Gables, and read the first half of chapter 6 in Story of the World 4, which was about Paraguay, discussed and did mapwork.

Tuesday -- another busy day. AnnaBeth worked on Mango French, WWE (dictation), FLL4 (summary writing), RightStart E (improper fractions vs. mixed numbers ... oh, speaking of "improper" fractions, did you know there's such a thing as "happy numbers"? I just found out about these this week whilst looking up a wikipedia article on prime numbers, which I was doing because that's the sort of thing we do around here during our free time. Obviously we need to watch more television so we don't have all this extra time on our hands.) Thalia did a couple of lessons of Mango Spanish, Analytical Grammar, Algebra, Physical Science. Both practiced piano, listened to a read aloud of Anne of Green Gables, listend to part of of chapter 6 SOTW -- Canada, did associated questions and mapwork ... except AnnaBeth answered pretty much every question with "parliament" and Thalia was unable to move beyond the idea that Upper Canada in late 19th century was south of Lower Canada since they were obviously the wrong places on the map. But, hey, what do you expect from a section entitled the DOMINION of Canada, which talked about the FEDERATION? Right of the bat we were distracted by the Star Trek references, and silliness prevailed.

Wednesday -- AnnaBeth worked on RIghtStart E, WWE3, and FLL4; Thalia worked on Mango Spanish; and then I abruptly stopped writing anything down. AAARGH! Now I have to remember what happened when! Let's see, Thalia also did algebra, and Analytical Grammar, and Jump In Writing. Plus she did a couple of lessons in Barron's Spanish. I remember that because she skipped out of dance because she felt sick, and we decided it wasn't a big deal if she skipped because it's not as though there's a feis coming up any time soon. Plus that was the night the daycare called and asked if we could pick up the 3 year old we sometimes help with ... sheesh, what a mess THAT was. And Rick was installing the concrete backer board in the bathrooom until 11pm. Both kids managed to practice piano somewhere in there.

Thursday -- Hmmm. Thalia did science homework, algebra, writing, grammar, Mango Spanish (vivid memory of this because AnnaBeth was upset she was doing it while AnnaBeth was doing math) ... is that it? And AnnaBeth did RightStart, WWE, FLL, Mango French. Piano was practiced. Anne of Green Gables was read, along with SOTW chapter 7, which was about ... sheesh, I don't even remember ... oh, yeah, France, and all the various forms of government they tried and discarded.

And today, Friday, was chaos as we cleaned house, grouted tile (installed last night), painted baseboards, ran errands, picked up Girl Scout cookies, etc. etc.

Somewhere in there we fit in dance classes, core strength/flexibility class, piano lesson, drama class, co-op, and musical theatre class.

Okay, so I'm hoping I included everything, since I now must go recreate from Wednesday at about noon on with all of my various colors of pens. And then eat ice cream.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

A picture of something knit or sewn in black! Isn't that FUN?!

Last week I was knitting on this vest, and hating it. It just seemed so wrong. Part of the problem is that I'm deeply suspicious of knitting directions from this particular company (Blue Sky Alpaca); they sell nice yarn, but sometimes their patterns sort of lack good construction techniques. Also, I was in my perpetually cranky state about the huge gap between sizes, and wondering why some of the gaps were bigger than others.

So I ripped the whole thing apart and started over, doing my own math. What a difference a few stitches can make!

The do-over possibly means this could be an entry into the Knitting Olympics or the Ravelympics, since I started the new, improved version well after the lighting of the torch. Except I never got around to entering those things. I *did* try to explain the Knitting Olympics to a non-knitter, and she was so very ... blank. It was like I'd started speaking in tongues midway through the discussion, and so she just politely turned off her brain rather than point out that I had ceased making any sense whatsoever.

Coming up next: pants and a turtleneck sewn in black. With equally exciting pictures, I'm sure.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Things We Did This Weekend

- Rick was at a retreat most of the weekend.

- So we did some school on Saturday morning.

- And finally got a new leotard for Thalia so she can wear one that fits during the River Dance number.

- At archery Thalia finally broke 200 points at the 20 yard line (10 rounds of 3 arrows each, each arrow can score up to 10 points, so 300 points possible and need to average over 20 points per round to break 200).

- Early church on Sunday.

- AnnaBeth sang at church.

- Dance performance at St. Charles Working Women's Survival thingamabob. Who knew this was such a Big Deal? The place was packed. Sheesh.

- Choir.

- Youth group activities.

- Collapse.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Weekly Report 2/19/10

A busy week, as evidenced by the fact that I haven't blogged all week.


Is working on prepositional phrases that modify other prepositional phrases. She likes diagramming them, with all the dangly bits hanging off of them. It helps that FLL4 (First Language Lessons level 4) gives a line drawing.

Finished the first week of the workbook for Writing With Ease level 3. I always rejected the idea of the workbooks for various reasons, but for some reason they struck me as fun when I walked by them in the bookstore the other day. So, here we are, doing the workbook. And so far (one week in) AnnaBeth is enjoying it.

Discovered her true calling as a person who prices carpet installation on a per yard basis, thanks to RightStart level E, which is currently all about square inches, square feet, square yards, square centimeters, etc. etc.

Has been intrigued by the Underground Railroad, and keeps picking up books on the subject at the library, even though we are finished with the Civil War in our history studies.

Listened to the first chapter of our new read aloud, Anne of Green Gables, yet another childhood classic that I've never read.

Attended 2 dance classes, a piano lesson, 2 drama classes, part of a Junior Girl Scout meeting, a choir rehearsal, a class in core strength and stretching; went ice skating; and, tagged along on a Cadette Girl Scout visit to Build-a-Bear corporate headquarters.

Continued to use Mango for French practice.


Has been working on multiplying and dividing polynomials.

Is zipping through the punctuation practices in Analytical Grammar season 3.

Continues to attend co-op classes for Apologia Physical Science -- they're working on astronomy right now.

Sometimes works on Jump In Writing.

Started on Barron's E-Z Spanish. By the way, if you decide to get this book be forewarned that the first few vocabulary lessons don't have labelled pictures -- what's up with that? I went through and wrote in labels as appropriate. She's also done a couple of more lessons on Mango.

Read Mable Riley to get a taste of Canadian history, and to supplement our read aloud of Anne of Green Gables.. She also disclosed to me that Mable Riley takes place in Justin Bieber's hometown, which possibly counts as a geography lesson.

Attended 3 dance classes, a class in core strength and stretching, a piano lesson, a Cadette Girl Scout meeting, a Scout field trip to Build-a-Bear corporate headquarters.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Irish Arts Feis

Irish Arts was the first feis we ever attended -- just to see what a feis was like, not to compete -- lo, these many years ago. And it seemed like absolute mayhem. And that's sort of been the theme of this feis annually.

This year's feis was better than I expected. Of course, my expectations were incredibly low -- I dread this event every year. Weaving through the narrow corridors of the hotel to get from room to room, some sort of hold up in the results area that leaves us waiting around at the end of the day, always-surprising results. Plus this year it was the same weekend as the St. Louis Mardi Gras parade (largest in the U.S. after New Orleans) so bonus drunks wandering around downtown taking up all the decent parking spots.

Over the years the people who put this on have made some improvements. They no longer require people to purchase wristbands and show them every time they enter a ballroom to watch a competition. Given that the feis takes place in 3 separate ballrooms of the Ballpark Hilton, this was a good move on their part. Now they simply charge a family fee when you sign up. I'd like to think that all the complaining we did helped them in their decision. Who knows.

The feis started late. They forgot to have one of the ceili competitions, and had to have it after they started the solos. A kid threw up on stage, so that gave us all a delay-of-feis -- AnnaBeth's competition was lined up on the adjoining stage, and the kids just stood there the entire time, waiting for the volunteers to get it all cleaned up. AnnaBeth said her feet had gone numb from standing there so long by the time she got to dance. Someone on Thalia's stage totally lost their wig -- it ended up blobbed in the middle of the stage.

Gratuitous wig shot. None of these wigs fell off. As a matter of fact, these 3 kids were on the sidelines at Oireachtas 2009 when the wig of someone onstage started coming undone, which made a lasting impression on all of us.

People fell over, one of the girls apparently blanked out during her dance and just stopped dancing (AnnaBeth was supposed to dance right after her, and I could see it really shook HER up, too, especially since it was a friend ... the girl went on to get first place in the next competition, so obviously she got over it). Lots of exciting stuff.

Thalia observed that they actually swung a competition from a backed-up stage to an empty stage to speed things along. They also skipped a formal lunch break to make up for lost time. We were impressed that this group had this much flexibility of thinking to come up with these solutions to a late-running feis. (I realize that plenty of feisseanna deal with similar things in this way all the time, but we're talking about a historical record of poor management decisions here, so it was impressive in this context.)

Where they could make their next big improvement is in the awards. They had loose sheets of paper all over the tables, and when the kids went up to claim their award the volunteers shuffled through all the sheets looking for the correct competition so they could check off the correct name. Yikes, what a nightmare. Given that the results compilation was done by Feisworx, why not use Feisworx' uber-cool computerized system, where the dancer simply shows their number, the volunteer enters it into a computer, all the appropriate awards pop up on the screen, the medals are distributed within seconds. As it was, we finished dancing around 3pm (dancing in the grades) and were finally on our way home closer to 4pm.

As for our personal results, eh. This feis has always been a crapshoot as far as our results are concerned -- Thalia's best score ever here was in a dance she had totally messed up, while friends who danced wonderfully were passed up for seemingly mediocre dancers. (Okay, actually that sort of thing isn't limited to this particular feis -- it happens all the time everywhere -- but for some reason we notice it more here.) Overall, it's an in-town feis that we do simply because it's in town. Not the worst we've ever been to, but not the best.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Popcorn for Breakfast and Lunch

Get this, the campers in the movie don't even wear Camp Half-Blood tshirts. What's up with that? Good thing we were there to make up for it:

I didn't realize that so many schools were off all day today. I thought we were being clever getting there in the morning, before the kids who had half-days showed up. But about 150 other people showed up for the 10:15 show.

Okay, I need to go find some food that isn't either popcorn or corn-syrup-based soft drink.

Weekly Report 2/12/10

Wow, I feel like we've had a normal week for the first time since ... I don't know, October? November?

In spite of the snow earlier in the week -- enough to go sledding, which is way more important than school work -- and in spite of Thalia being sick for much of the week -- which is part of the reason we didn't go see the Percy Jackson movie when it opened at 12:01am today even though the kids thought that seemed like a really, really clever thing to do -- the week just seemed so wonderfully NORMAL.

Maybe it's because, unlike the past 3 weeks, no one was here re-doing a bathroom. This means that we are currently sans bathroom on the main floor, since that one got ripped up and then the guy sort of wandered off, deciding he didn't want to do this sort of work anymore. But that's another story.

Anyway, what did we do with our bounty of normalcy?

First Language Lessons Level 4 -- back into the groove, memorizing Learning to Read by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (which goes nicely with our Civil War studies) and working with prepositional phrases.

Thalia continued working with Analytical Grammar. She's now working on punctuation in quotations. I keep reminding her that whatever she learns in this book, someone will be mightily offended by it, believing that end punctuation outside of the quotation close is a sure sign of the Apocalypse.

RIghtStart E is zipping by for AnnaBeth. She's currently working on multi-digit multiplication. Several of the story problems this week involved figuring out tile, which was timely since we were figuring out tile for the bathroom.

Thalia is in the world of polynomials in her Jacob's Algebra text. Let me pause to say that one of the smarter things we did with Jacob's is purchasing the purchasing the solutions manual on this page. It shows not only the correct answer, but how to GET the correct answer.

Both kids have been using the Mango language programs available online through our library's website. AnnaBeth is working on French, and Thalia is starting on the Spanish (which is all review right now).

Thalia's co-op Science class was cancelled due to the snow. They're going to continue on schedule, though, and use the extra "make-up" week as a bonus at the end of the course. They're working on astronomy right now, so most of it's review for Thalia. One of the experiments has to do with black holes, and is essentially the same thing she did when she lead the Space Exploration Interest Patch for her Cadette Girl Scout troop.

Thalia got back in the swing of Jump In Writing This involved finding the computer file with the last paper she wrote (about 2 months ago) re-reading it, and realizing that she didn't really like it after all. Thus we see what happens when we set aside a piece of writing for a little while so we can read it with fresh eyes.

Latin has fallen off the radar.

In History we're still parked on the Civil War. We really need to move past this point, as we have another 100-plus years to cover by next fall. Maybe when we finish up our current read aloud (Across Five Aprils) we'll declare that we're done with it.

i think those are pretty much the highlights for this week's school work. Today we'll be ice skating, or going to see Percy Jackson during one of the morning showings. Or maybe both. Either way, a good ending to a good week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

Finishing up yesterday's Frosty Fun badge with some snow sculptures:

We're moving quickly from "packable snow" to "slush" here. AnnaBeth decided to get a quick picture of the icicle hanging from above the bay window

and just as she snapped the picture it fell.

In sewing, a Valentine's pillow case

because nothing says "I love you" like Hello Kitty.

And a good start on my Vest-uary project -- the front ribbing is done, and now I'm doing the stockinette increases for the bust:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Frosty Fun

Frosty Fun is one of those Junior Girl Scout Badges you have to do whenever you have a chance around here -- the snowfall is too spotty to guarantee how much fun you'll be able to have, and for how long.

So, since today is snowy, we're working on the badge.

Task #4 -- Snow Painting. "Use plastic squeeze bottles or spray bottles along with food coloring and paint the snow."

Task #6 -- Snow Detective. "Find three different animal tracks in the snow."



The photo of the cat tracks looks like blobs, and our personal cats are refusing to cooperate by making more tracks. Trust me, we saw cat tracks.

Task #3 -- Flaky Fun. " Are all snowflakes different? Collect some and find out, then make snowflakes by drawing or cutting."

Our snowflake catch melted upon touching our black cloth. But we found spectacular photos online:

Information about "Snowflake" Bentley and his photographs

A Snow Crystal Photo Gallery

Even more detail available when you look through an electron microscope (somewhere along the line we read exactly how they control the environment in regard to temperature and pressure as they take these photos, but I didn't bookmark that).

And the sort of geeky fun I can't resist: Stereo Images of Precipitating Snow.

And when it's time to cut out or draw snowflakes, if you're like us, don't just use paper and scissors, try an online flash program

Task #8 -- Discuss Ice Safety. We've read through this page on ice skating on frozen ponds and this page on driving on frozen lakes (not that we do either of those sorts of things in St. Louis, but maybe someday we'll return to New Hampshire -- who knows).

Task #2 -- Snow Sculptures. Unfortunately it's just a bit too cold here for the snow to pack very well. I think it's supposed to be warmer tomorrow.

And, task #10 will be to do a demonstration of how blubber keeps animals warm. But right now it's time for hot chocolate and cookies, since we also inserted sledding (task #6 in the Winter Sports badge, as a matter of fact) in the day. So task #10 might wait until tomorrow. I've been saving a stick of Crisco for the occasion (heaven forbid any of us ever eat the stuff -- bleck -- AnnaBeth was appalled that we even owned it).

Of course, being homeschoolers always on the prowl to learn MORE (the same impetus that has so many of us using 2 math programs and 2 writing programs -- MORE is BETTER, right?), this is a great page, plus check out the links to snow activities on the left. As I was shoveling the snow off the driveway I was pondering replacing some of the Frosty Fun official tasks with an experiment on sublimation (although I was thinking more in terms of letting plain ice cubes sublimate in the freezer -- I suppose dry ice has more instant gratification and is a bit more obviously turning to a gas).

Seize the (snowy) day!


I thought it would be cool to write monthly posts about what books we've read, except obviously I've already blown that by not getting around to writing an end-of-January post. Plus I'm pretty sure it would work better if I actually took notes on what books we're reading, as I can't really recall.

The kids have been reading a bunch of Naruto manga. When we go to the library we pick up 10-12 books at a time.

My own reading has mostly focussed on messing around with the Kindle. These are sort of in order backwards, since the oldest ones are on the last page of the "Home" list, and I'm paging through it to see what I read so far this year.

Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate. This was a free download, and turned out to be a cute book. Chicklit, predictable, but fun to read while waiting for kids to skate/have a piano lesson/whatever other reason I end up sitting around waiting for someone. I didn't realize Lisa Wingate was an Evangelical writer until I was most of the way through the book -- the Christian point-of-view isn't applied with the usual sledge hammer (and one of the reviewers on Amazon was upset by that, apparently preferring the sledge hammer -- go figure).

Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent. Also a free download at the time. Wooden writing, predictable plotting. Again, it passed the time while I was sitting around waiting for kids to be done with various classes, but I should probably delete it from the Kindle now. The best part was the forward about a cat the author knows.

All God's Creatures by Carolyn McSparren. Another free-at-the-time Kindle download. A novel about a female veterinarian in the southern U.S., this was engaging and interesting. It would actually be worth checking out of the library if you want to read a novel about a vet, perhaps even worth purchasing.

A couple of Star Wars short stories that were free Kindle downloads. After reading them I considered purchasing the novel they were trying to lure me into buying, or at least checking it out it out fo the library. Then I thought about reading hundreds of pages of that sort of prose, and decided against it.

Genie in Your Genes by Dawson Church. I wanted to take a look at this, and the library didn't have it. So I decided to purchase on Kindle because it was slightly cheaper that way. And then spent most of the time reading it thinking about how I wished I had purchased the paper copy, since the Kindle seemed sort of balky for reading nonfiction. For instance, why aren't all the footnote superscript numbers hot links to the actual footnotes? Wouldn't that be handy?* As for actual content of the book, I'm just vaguely aware that I read quite a bit about genes, and that the mechanisms through which those genes are expressed means that Jurassic Park, Maximum Ride, and possibly even Clone Wars are works of fiction. As I said, this reading experience was mostly about wishing I'd chosen a different format for the book. Maybe I'll re-read it later and find out what the book actually said.

*The footnote asterisks in Terry Pratchett's books on Kindle are hotlinks. If they can do it for Terry Pratchett, why can't they do it for nonfixction?

EFT for Procrastination by Gloria Arenson. Also read on the Kindle, this time I got a grip on how to use the bookmarking feature to flip back and forth between bits of the book. As for the actual content, Arenson is a psychotherapist who deals with compulsive behaviors. I now know that procrastination isn't simply a matter of laziness -- there are all sorts of triggers.

I also downloaded a boatload of Kindle previews. They're a few pages of various books I might be interested in purchasing or checking out of the library. Sometimes the preview is enough to see that the book really isn't suited to the Kindle format.

Overall, I'd say I've been reading a lot more since the Kindle debuted in our lives. I can't say that the quality of what I've read has been that great overall. It's certainly handy to carry the Kindle around and pull it out at times when I'd be staring at the wall in boredom (actually that's not true -- I'd be knitting -- sometimes I knit while reading, too -- but you get the point).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Our New Foreign Language Program

I had planned to order new language curriculum after Christmas, but got sidetracked with all of the bathroom tile and fixtures we were picking out.

Last week a new resource plopped into my lap when I discovered that our local library subscribes to Mango.

AnnaBeth has started happily using Mango for French and Irish. Thalia would like something grammar-based to back up the Spanish portion. We're looking at something simple like a Barron's workbook, or something more in-depth like Breaking the Barrier. I'm leaning towards starting with the cheaper option (Barron's), then kicking up to Breaking the Barrier if that doesn't work out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

Some of the things we're working on around here:

1. Watching Gone With the Wind. We've made it to the intermission (right after Scarlett barfs up the radish and proclaims that as God is her witness she will never be hungry again). We're ostensibly watching this because we're studying the Civil War. Really, I'm not too enthused about watching Part 2 for a Civil War/Reconstruction lesson -- I recall it mostly being about Rhett and Scarlett acting weird towards each other. Thalia says Scarlett reminds her of Bella in Twilight (Thalia thinks Bella is a loser, by the way), Ashley is like Edward (she considers him sort of a weenie), and Rhett is akin to Jacob.

2. Bathroom makeovers. The basement bathroom is pretty much done:

That toilet is an American Standard Cadet 3 (the 3 refers to its flushability rating) with a 14 inch rough in. Most toilets have a 12 inch rough in. For the 14 inch you have to special order and/or go to a plumbing supply house, possibly while you were supposed to be working on history with your kids because the plumbing place is only open 8-5 Monday through Friday.

Next up, the main floor halfbath:

That's a Kohler one piece with a flushability rating so low as to mean "will adequately flush rat poops and not much else", and will be tossed ... however, it has a 12 inch rough in, so we don't have to look for anything particularly exotic.

Also, the tile and underlying concrete (!) had to be hammered up. It sounded like we were on a battlefield. Action shot of the multiple layers:

Whoever installed the floors in this house was apparently afraid that they might slide right out the door, and thus went to extreme measures to make sure they never ever moved or were re-moved.

If you think that it's maybe clever to have all of this work done while you're homeschooling because, hey, you're home anyway to supervise, it really isn't. It's a constant stream of interruptions. As God is my witness, I will never do a home improvement project during the school year again.

3. Vestuary. I have unraveled last year's Vestuary vest and started swatching for this year's:

That's it for this week! Well, except for all the other stuff we're doing. More on that later.