Archive for January 2010

January 2010 Reading List

January 31, 2010

1.  Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers by Barbara Frank:  I waited for this book for over a year on Inter-Library Loan.  It’s a basic curriculum for going over various finance issues with your teenager (mortgages, insurance, expenses, etc).  I wish someone had gone over this stuff with me as a teenager.  I made so many mistakes that still effect our lives today.  I went ahead and made notes of the reading and projects lists just in case I couldn’t find a copy of the book when I need it in about seven years.  There were several books referenced in there that I would like to read and possibly have my kids read, but I think there may be other books that I may want to add to the reading list, especially since it has a Christian but not Catholic influence.  I really think this should be a must-have for all parents and teens whether they homeschool or not.

2.  Angel: After the Fall, Volume 1 by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, and Franco Urru:  This is another graphic novel sequel to a Joss Whedon show that was canceled.  It’s interesting enough with Gunn being turned into a vampire, Wesley being a ghost, and Angel being a human.  I’m finding thought that reading graphic novels makes me kind of queasy…just another reason for me not to really like them.  Besides the fact that it’s apparently a rule that all females in graphic novels must be drawn like porn stars.  I’ll probably just read the story synopses on Wikipedia if I want to know anymore about the continuing story.

3.  Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent:  I think I read this for the first time with my second pregnancy.  It’s one of my favorite re-reads when I’m expecting.  It’s an autobiography of how Peggy Vincent stumbled into being a Certified Nurse Midwife, her experiences deliving babies in homes and hospitals, the challenges for her own family, and how she lost her career independence due to bad circumstances and bad insurance company policies.

4.  An Easy Start in Arithmetic by Ruth Beechick:  This slim volume goes over strategies for teaching hands-on Math from preschool through third grade based on the work of Piaget.  It offers a more detailed scope for mathematics for grades 1 through 3.  She’s not really a big fan of workbooks, though.  Many of the things she suggests (games, pointing out math in every day life) we already do in addition to our work-book based Singapore Math curriculum.  However it has given me some ideas for some more hands-on review activities and some skills to make sure that we have covered before we move on to our next math level.

5.  Black as Night by Regina Doman:  This retelling of Snow White is a sequel to her book The Shadow of the Bear.  It follows Blanche Brier as she is swept up into a cat and mouse game that she isn’t even fully aware of as she waits for her true love, Bear, to figure out what the hell he is doing with his life and if his future plans will include her.  Alone and in danger, Blanche finds herself taken in by seven friars starting a new mission (very reminiscent of the real life Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal of which Father Stan Fortuna is a member) while being pursued by an evil “queen”.  I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit more than The Shadow of the Bear.

6.  Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men by Molly Harper:  I caught myself laughing outloud at least four or five times while I was reading this.  Molly Harper so captures the inanities of living in Kentucky–not the old stereotypes about being barefoot, inbred, and pregnant, the very true ones like everyone panicking at the thought of two inches of snow and stripping every store in a five-mile radius of milk and bread.  This is a lot of fun, although definitely for adults.  This was the second book in the Jane Jameson series, and I look forward to reading the third.

7.  The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey:  I grabbed this book off my shelves when I needed to occupy myself while waiting for the kids to fall asleep.  While I don’t like this series quite as well as McCaffrey’s dragonriders, it’s  still really good and a nice re-read.  In the future, Talented indviduals use paranormal powers to run an interplanetary shipping system.  The story follows the development and training of a young, powerful and orphaned telepath/telekinetic as she prepares to lead her own tower, falls in love, and destroys an extra-terrestrial threat with the powers of her mind.

8.  Damia by Anne McCaffrey:  After re-reading The Rowan it seemed natural to dig into its sequel.  The book is named for the Rowan’s younger daughter, who is just as precocious and powerful as her mother.  However, the story is as much about the Rowan’s loyal assistant and best friend, Afra Lyon, as about Damia.  In some ways I almost prefer this sequel because of that.

9.  A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich:  In this history book, the author examines entries from a diary of a late 18th-century New England midwife named Martha Ballard.  In each chapter, sections from the diary are transcribed (which must have been hours of laborious work in itself) and then filled in by research of other documents from the same area and era, including court transcripts, land deeds, and other private journals.  The book takes a very interesting look not only at obstetrical practices of the time but also gender roles, marriage customs, economic systems, legal proceedings for rape and debt, the pervasiveness of premarital sex, and even a local axe murder.  It has a lot of very interesting information, but I admit that towards the end it became a bit tedious.  A very interesting read if you have the patience and focus to slog through all of it.

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I Want to Go To School

January 27, 2010

We received our first sincere request to stop homeschooling over Christmas break.  For two days Bailey (age 7) tried to sell the idea of going to regular school to her father and I.  The first time was as I was leaving the room for her to go to sleep, so I kind of put her off thinking it was a bedtime stall tactic.  The second time, though, she seriously wanted to discuss it with both of us.

Of course the reasons she gave for wanting to go to school completely exhibited why she should not do so.  Her first reason was that she “wanted to be normal”.  Because we’ve let her watch too much television in the past, she has this skewed idea of what “normal” is.  And we have no desire to allow her to become “normal” as she defines it, as in “like everyone else”.  I went to school for 12 years and was never considered “normal” by my peers, so just going to school is no guarantee of being “normal” anyway.  And personally, I think that most of the things that people consider “normal” are really rather shallow and self-involved.

Her second reason was that she wanted to have kids to talk to every day.  She seemed a little surprised when we explained that at school you’re not really allowed to talk to the other kids all day, only at certain times.  And even though she tried to act nonchalant, we could tell she was worried by the idea that she could actually get in trouble for talking to the other kids.

Once we told her that they would possibly go over things that she already knew but she would have to just sit there and do it again, she translated that into “If I already know it, then it will just be easy.”  This then became her third reason.  Now her academic schedule at home is far from rigorous, so her father and I felt this attitude was definitely something we do not want to indulge.  Bailey does not handle mistakes gracefully, to say the least, so she would rather avoid something challenging than risk failure.  And I sometimes wonder how a teacher at school would be able to handle the extreme pressure she puts on herself and her agony in failure or if they would even notice that she is always seeking the easy way out.

Of course we discussed some of the reasons with her that we chose to homeschool in the first place.  We also went over some things we didn’t really care for about schools from our own experiences.  She didn’t seem particularly dissuaded by any of our arguments.  We did explain that even if she went to regular school she couldn’t start until August, which kind of took the wind out of her sails.  The argument that finally got to her, though, was when I pointed out how she would miss a lot of time with the Mystery Baby as he/she is growing and developing in his/her first few months.  At that point she conceded that maybe she would wait until 2012.

Now, I am not saying that we would never put any of our kids in school.  We would obviously do it if we had no other choice due to circumstances beyond our control.  But besides that, we would consider it if we felt a school could offer them something that could not be found through other avenues.  For instance, if the school offered a specialized program relevant to a certain child’s career goals, we would consider it.  But it is not a decision that we would make lightly, because of the ramifications it could have on the entire family as well as the specific child.

If anything Bailey’s second reason probably most closely touched on the real issue bothering her.  I think she was intensely missing the social aspects of gymnastics and other activities since we took a break during the peak of flu season.  On the introvert/extrovert scale, Bailey is a rampant extrovert and has been since birth.  She has a basic need to socialize with others.  And the limited range of others with whom to socialize (namely her parents, sisters, and grandparents) has been boring her silly.  Between the cold weather denying her access to her neighborhood friends and our avoidance of organized activities for a bit, she was stagnating.

But now that she’s back in gymnastics she seems to be doing better.  In the past we’ve pulled her out of gymnastics when tee-ball starts, but we may consider letting her do both for awhile as long as time and money aren’t big issues.  And maybe we can arrange to get together with some of our homeschooling friends for playdates or swimming a bit.  I suspect that as long as we are able to fill this need for her we won’t hear anymore about going to school for awhile…except for the usual complaining when she just doesn’t want to do her work.  That is really no different than all the schooled kids complaining about doing their work and how they don’t want to go to school.  The grass is always greener on the other side…

7 Quick Takes (v. 15)

January 22, 2010

1.  We have a new favorite restaurant at our house:  El Burrito Loco.  I love their chicken enchiladas suiza and their ground beef tacos.  Hubby goes for the steak tacos with cheese only.  Both the big girls like the cheese quesadilla, although Bailey will also eat a steak taco.  Katie likes the french fries (basically she likes any french fries).  I’m not big on their salsa verde, but their desserts are a big hit.  They import them from a bakery in Chicago.  We tried the flan one night and another night this chocolate cake with whipped cream icing and strawberry cheesecake as its middle layer.  Muy delicioso!!

2. Thanks to my local library I finally got around to watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy my own copy until I listened to Commentary:  The Musical.  I was dying laughing as the cast and crew reunited to do a mock DVD commentary in song.  I’d be tempted to get the soundtrack, but since our CD player in the van is broken I doubt I’d ever listen to it much.  But I am definitely using my Christmas money to get the movie.

3. The first day of the new homeschooling semester went well.  It took us just about an hour to get through our plans for the day.  The second day of the new homeschooling semester went well, too….after I spent two hours waiting for a tow truck to come jump-start the mini-van then another hour driving around trying to find a shop that could help me and being afraid to turn off the car until someone agreed.  It turns out one of the connectors to the battery had come loose, but thankfully the place I found tightened and checked our battery for free.

4.  As soon as we realized the van was dead Tuesday morning, I ordered this portable jumpstarter.  The tow truck driver who helped us with our last battery issue a few months ago recommended this make and model, but I never got around to ordering.  It’s true that it wouldn’t have “fixed” our problem this morning, but it would have saved us two hours of dealing with our road-side-assistance company and the tow company that kept saying, “We’ll just be another 30 minutes.”  Considering we are a one-vehicle family I don’t know why I was so reluctant to to shell out the money for something so obviously necessary.  I just need to be sure to keep it charged once it arrives.

5.  I had a “big family” moment the other day.  We received new identification cards for our dental insurance.  Instead of having one card with my husband’s name to cover all of us, they actually list the names of each covered person in our family.  However, they seem to assume that most families won’t consist of more than four people.  Me, my husband, and the two oldest girls are on one card, and little Katie has a card of her own for now.  Most of the time it’s not a big issue, but I am becoming increasingly aware of the limitations placed on large families.  For instance, we could never eat at a Waffle House without splitting up since they only have four-person booths.  I guess this isn’t too big of a loss since the closest Waffle House is at least two hours away somewhere along I-65 in Indiana.

6.  Dh rented the latest Star Trek movie from the Red Box the other night.  I thought it was really interesting how they totally integrated the established history while opening the door to rewrite history in future movies without pissing off die-hard fans.  I think Gene Roddenberry would be proud with how they breathed new life into the old franchise.

7.  We’re probably still a good two or three months from getting our tax refund, but I’ve already plotted out in my mind how to spend most of it.  I know a lot of people complain that if you get a big refund you’re just letting the government hold onto your money for a long time.  But I kind of see it as a savings account that we can only access once a year.  Although, I might talk to our accountant about making a few adjustments.

Spring Semester 2010

January 18, 2010

Today is the first day of the new semester.  Some things haven’t changed at all since the last one.  Bailey will still be doing math four times a week, history two times a week, and logic one time a week.  However, since her reading is really taking off I’m knocking her Explode the Code on-line down to  twice a week and I’m going to lower her minimum number of exercises each day from seven to five.

We’re totally ditching the English from the Roots Up cards for now; I didn’t feel like she was getting that much out of them.  Instead for vocabulary she’ll be working in Singapore’s Word Study 1 workbook.  I originally intended to make that a resuable workbook, but some of the exercises would just be too hard to do on a separate sheet of paper without being distracting.    We’re also totally ditching science.  Bailey only really wants to do experiments, and even she was starting to fizz out on them by the end of the semester.  That time slot is being set aside for First Holy Eucharist preparation.  What exactly that will be is still up in the air since I can’t pin down our Director of Religious Education at the Church to find out what Bailey needs to know for her sacrament test.

I am also going to try to work in some weekly read aloud time.  Bailey has become a little more patient with all things involving reading lately.  We talked about it, and she expressed interest in going through my old Picture Book of Saints.  Each saint story is one page with an illustration, so maybe we can do one or two of those and a short story (myth, fairy tale, or fable) each week.

Our biggest change is that we are incorporating handwriting practice once a week.    Bailey has been able to write all of her uppercase manuscript letters for years, but she really needs work with her lower case letters.  More importantly she needs to learn to write in proper proportion on lined paper, because as time passes she will have more and more work that requires writing.  Bailey has totally agreed that she needs help in this area, but I don’t know how long her enthusiasm will hold up when the monotonous reality kicks in.  We’re going to start by going through the alphabet (uppercase and lowercase), practicing three letters a week.  Then I plan to use the handy dandy feature at SpellingCity.com to convert spelling lists into handwriting practice, starting with the Kindergarten Dolch Word List 3.

When I sat down to figure out our history sequence and resources, I was shocked that I only had three topics left before the end of the ancient history period.  As I tried to figure out how to fill the time (or whether to continue with history at all for now), I gathered two or three general ancient history resources from the library.  I started to sit down and coordinate a review sequence incorporating about two or three different books, but inspired by a recent discussion at the 4Real Catholic homeschooling forum about the book Simplicity Parenting I decided to make things simpler on myself by just choosing two resources to go through slowly one at a time.  Then we’ll tack on those three leftover topics from last semester at the end.  I will also slow down quite a bit next year when we start on the Medieval/Early Rennaissance time period.

One last thing that we’ll be doing is finishing Bailey’s BrainQuest Grade 1 Workbook.  We originally bought this as something light to do over the summer last year.  I am not necessarily a stickler for doing every exercise in every workbook/textbook, but some of what she does have left in it incorporates nicely as extra practice for some of her upcoming math lessons (like time) or touches on a few skills that I would like to introduce to her without actually focusing on for an entire semester (i.e., sentence structure).  Plus, she thinks the workbook is fun and different from her usual work.

Piper’s schoolwork will still be completely optional.  Once she finishes some of the workbooks she’s already working on, I may get her Kumon’s Number Games since she’s showing in interest in double digit numbers and dot-to-dots.  She’s also started taking tap/ballet/tumbling class and will start her first tee-ball season before the semester is over.  Besides a heavier homeschooling work load, Bailey has started back up with gymnastics.  She’ll start her third tee-ball season, moving up to the Coach Pitch division.

Of course, we also will be having many lessons on fetal development and new baby care as we prepare for our newest bundle of joy to arrive in June.  Bailey has already attended one prenatal visit with me and was allowed to help find the baby’s heartbeat.  I hope to take Piper to my next appointment, and we’ve already read one book about babies growing on the inside.  We’ve also been checking out pregnancy websites to see what new thing the baby is doing each week and finding real life objects the same size as the baby.  It’s gearing up to be exciting and busy semester!!

7 Quick Takes (v. 14)

January 15, 2010

1.  There are a lot of people who post links for 7 Quick Takes every week.  I obviously can not read all of them, but I do feel a sense of obligation to try to read a few.  I decided to start by picking which ever links match the numbers of my birth date.  There’s not always a #77, but it always seems extra cool when there is.  Once I’ve hit those three then I glance at a few more based on my time, if I recognize the names from other blogs/forums, or if they just seem to have a cool name for their blog.

2.  The big girls accidently left the gate at the top of the stairs open the other day while I was downstairs getting something.  It could have been a disastrophe (a term my oldest coined around age 3), but thankfully Katie (20 months) had the presence of mind to sit down on her butt and scoot down the stairs one at a time.  This is a skill that she likes to practice everytime we go downstairs now.  Sometimes it is annoying when I am in a hurry, but on the other hand I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to carry her heavy butt up and down the stairs every time, especially since I’m carrying someone else on the inside who keeps getting bigger and bigger.

3.  Tee-ball sign ups were last Saturday even though the season doesn’t start until April.  This year we were filling out the forms for two.  Bailey moves up to the Coach Pitch division, and Piper starts in Little Tees (kind of a pre-tee ball program).  This will be our first time doing Little Tees, so it will be a learning experience.  It is usually described as “organized chaos”.

For the past two years that Bailey’s been playing we’ve been able to work with the same coach.  We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to keep the Dream coaching Team together because both of his boys wanted him to coach each of their teams, and they’re in different divisions this year that could have overlapping games.  But they worked it out, and we get Coach Jack back.  Rick is going to assistant coach for both girls’ teams this season since they play on different nights, but next year he’ll have to make the same decision.  I can’t imagine how much harder it is going to get once we have three playing ball.  We have until the 2013 season to worry about that, though.

4. Piper started dance classes this week, at her request.  She’s just about the same age that Bailey was when Bailey took tap/ballet/tumbling.  Thankfully I was able to dig up Bailey’s old tap shoes, ballet shoes, and tights and they all fit Piper perfectly  The best thing about the studio we go through is that they only do 9-week sessions at a time instead of 18-weeks like everyone else.  18 weeks just seems like too much of a commitment for to expect of parents of preschoolers.  I’ve made an executive decision not to bother with the recital, though.  For one thing, the extra fees for costumes and such are pricey.  Secondly, I’m not sure that I want to parade my young child on stage yet.  Third, I don’t want to have sit through three hours of watching all the other kids perform just to see mine on-stage for three minutes while dealing with two other children and being 8-months pregnant.

5.  I’ve started going through childbirth books–some of my old favorites like Baby Catcher and some new ones I’ve been pulling off the internet or from the appendices of my favorites.  I’ve kind of started doing some of my pregnancy exercises (tailor sitting, pelvic rolls, cat/cow yoga pose) to loosen some of those baby-pushing muscles, but I need to get in the habit of doing them one or more times every day.  The biggest trick is making sure that little people aren’t crawling through my legs or hopping on my back while I am trying to exercise.

6.  I keep praying that we will get two or three inches of snow on Wednesday.  I really want just enough to safely coat the five layers of ice on my driveway, so that I can put the garbage out without slipping and cracking my head open.  I tried driving some of the garbage and recycle (especially the recycle) down, but I can’t fit everything in the back of the van without multiple trips.  The garage is starting to look like a landfill.

7. Rick’s semester starts back on Tuesday, and we’ll be starting our spring homeschooling semester on Monday.  We have been doing a really light homescholing load over the winter break, but it will be nice to get back in the swing of things.  Between the holidays and dh being off for four weeks, we (especially I) have slipped into some lazy habits.  I’ve been wasting a lot of time on the computer when other things could or should be done.  It seems sometimes that all of this lazy makes me feel more tired, more grouchy, and more blah instead of more relaxed and rested.  I’ve realized that sometimes you need these lazy periods to appreciate the importance of work for keeping one healthy, wealthy, and wise.

I Refuse to Potty Train My Toddler

January 10, 2010

Katie just hit the 20-month mark.  For the past few weeks, she has pretended to use the little potty that doubles as a step-stool.  She’s also figured out how to pull her pants down.  As a result, I am starting to get flashbacks of various parenting books with the term “window of opportunity”.  I’m starting to feel that old pressure to potty-train by age 2.  But I’m not going to do it.  I WON’T!!  I WON’T!! I WON’T!!

The top ten reasons I refuse to potty-train my toddler right now:

1.  Didn’t I just go through this whole thing with Piper?  (It’s been just about a year since she said goodbye to diapers forever.)

2.  I don’t want to have to keep track of when the last time was that Katie peed.  I can’t even keep track of how long it has been since I peed at this point.

3.  I don’t want to have to walk Katie to the bathroom every 30 minutes “just in case”.  I have better things to do with my time.

4.  I don’t want to struggle to get her on the potty when she loses interest in it or has other things she would rather do.

5.  I don’t want to sit there for ten minutes while she does absolutely nothing.  Again I have better things to do with my time.

6. I don’t want to get sucked into the whole pull-ups vs. cloth panties debate.

7.  I don’t want to have to change a pull-up every hour because they don’t keep urine away from skin as well as diapers and tend to lead to horrible diaper rash if left unattended.

8.  I don’t want to have to clean up pee puddles everywhere.  The milk and and water puddles I find all around the house are bad enough.

9.  I am pregnant and do not need the stress of potty-training for all of the reasons above.

10.  I believe that one day when Katie is closer to three, or even slightly past it, she will be old enough to really understand what it means to use the potty regularly and will choose to do so with minimal effort on my part before or after.  So until such time, I have better things to do than potty-train my toddler.

7 Quick Takes (v. 13)

January 8, 2010

1.  Recently Jen at Conversion Diary stated in a post that she learned in 2009 not to mess with the “Poop Fates”…that if you laugh at the fecal misfortunes of others you better be prepared to have some of your own.  I’ve been thinking about the same thing about the “Mass Behavior Fates”.  At the Mass for the Feast of Mary Mother of God on New Year’s Day, I started mentally criticizing the uncontrolled behavior of a four-year-old who was climbing all over a nearby pew in the middle of Mass.  ‘My four-year-old knows better than that’ I thought smugly to myself.  Then it began:  Piper started using her fingers as toys to walk up and down the back of the pew in front of us, Bailey started crying because I moved her coat off the floor so that I could put the kneeler down to entertain Katie, and Katie decided that Mass was the perfect time to turn into Chatty Cathy and loudly name everything she saw in the large nativity set in front of our pew (Cow!!  Baby!!  Sheep!!).  If only Catholics believed in karma or fate…

2.  I missed Mass last Sunday to stay home with a sick Piper.  I really hated missing the Epiphany celebration and singing “We Three Kings”.  I really hated missing it even more when my husband came home and described how our associate pastor sat in with the choir, sang a Christmas song from his native Poland, and played the violin.  I miss all the good stuff!!

3.  Piper had the same virus that Katie had on Christmas, only worse.  Her eyes didn’t just get blood-shot they became completely blood red.  She looked like something out of a zombie movie.  This earned her a trip to the doctor, and so we have had the joy of fighting to put drops in her eyes three times a day.

4.  Wednesday night my husband and I went out to a club for the first time in almost 7 years.  One of his former students is in a band that was playing there and admission was free.  It was not very crowded being a Wednesday, and apparently the management felt this was justification to not turn on the heat.  So I froze as I sipped my non-alcoholic drinks (a coke followed by a cranberry juice)  and listened to the music.  The band we came to see went on at 10:00 and was done at 10:45, and the bar kicked everyone out by 11:15.  It was rather interesting.  It was only in retrospect that I fully appreciated the smoking ban when I realized that I did not reek of cigarettes when I got home.

5.  After the bar closed, we and our friend went with us headed across the street to Flash Taco, a little hole in the wall 24-hour taco place.  My two tacos were really good if a little over-stuffed, but I thought my husbands taquitos looked even better.  We checked out online reviews for it the next day.  It seems like people really, really like Flash Taco if they are extremely drunk or extremely hungry, but not so much if they weren’t.  We found it excellent!!

6.  In fact after my Flash Taco experience I have more of a hankering to try out El Loco Burrito, and authentic Mexican sit-down/carry-out chain in our area.  I don’t like super-duper authentic Mexican, but the enchiladas suizas on their menu look really tasty.  It makes me miss the Tumbleweed back home (which is slightly more authentic than Taco Bell).  Maybe tonight I’ll run over to El Loco Burrito and grab some carry-out for dinner.

7.  I’ve been feeling the familiar flutter of baby movements over the past week.  It’s still not a very consistent feeling, yet.  I notice it mainly when I’m laying down to rest or when I have my knees scrunched up against me.  I can’t wait until the kids are able to feel the movements.