Monday, April 30, 2007

The Fates are Conspiring

Yes, it's true. The Fates are conspiring to make me an unschooler. School went horribly today. We did the spelling test that we never did last Friday and Cameron only got two out of six right. Yes, that is 33.3%. He couldn't even remember how to spell them after writing them three times. I mean seriously, he had just finished writing them and then couldn't spell them! I decided that this week is review week and his spelling words are going to be all the words that he missed on all the previous tests. That gives him 8 words.

Then we moved on to math. Again, it was a nightmare. He was doing Review 4 and couldn't figure out 20 + 14 even with a picture. The picture had 3 groups of ten and 4 singles drawn and I guess he just couldn't conceptualize that the picture went with this particular problem. It was part of a Related Problems Set: 20 + 14, 34 - 20, 34 - 14, 14 + 20. Anyway, we finally made it through the four pages but it was pretty bad. He was struggling with 11 - 9 and 8 - 5 and I had to tell him to count it on his fingers. Why should I have to tell him to count on his fingers??? It was so frustrating for us both. This is totally stuff he whizzes through on most days.

I moved on to drawing for our next subject and that went much better. First we did the Mirror Imaging Warm Up from Drawing with Children and Cameron did much better at it than I was expecting. It was a tough concept, but once he figured out what he was supposed to be doing it went well. Cassia, on the other hand, could not figure out the concept. Cam was thrilled with himself for doing so well and wanted to do another "harder" exercise. I traced the 'Wow! I Can Draw' exercise for him which is just copying simple line drawings of things like ice cream cones and teapots. The goal is for the student to visualize the components that make up each object as they draw: ice cream cone = triangle + irregular round shape. He did ok. I think the scale was too small for him. Cassia couldn't do this exercise at all. It was way too hard. I am amazed at some of the art work in the book that is done by four and five year olds. We've got a long way to go! But progress is being made. My drawing is improving too, I think. I drew some sample pictures for the next couple lessons and they didn't turn out too badly!

Once schoolwork was finally over, the real learning of the day started. I found a cool board game application on my new iMac and so Cameron spent a very long time playing backgammon, checkers, tic-tac-toe, chess, 4-in-a-row, and reversi. Several of those games he had never played before but he started winning in just a couple rounds. After a while, he wanted me to get out the real backgammon board (which I had forgotten we even owned) and we played three or four games. He even won once (though I was sparing his vulnerable pieces quite frequently). It is so nice that he's at an age where we can start playing games that I actually enjoy. I just wish he'd hurry up and outgrow Old Maid, lol. I hate that game.

A little later the kids wandered outside with the sidewalk chalk and ended up drawing an entire universe on the concrete out back. It had our solar system as the center, with all the planets in order, and then several other suns and rockets and comets and lasers, lol, and things I can't even describe. It was so cool! We had to leave before they were finished and go to t-ball, but as soon as we returned they were right back out there drawing more suns and more space explorers.

T-ball went great too. Cameron was focused and really on his game. The coaches had all the kids move back when it was his turn to bat. They kept saying things about him "really having an arm on him" and made him play 3rd base because he was one of the only kids who could actually throw all the way from third to first. He's also got a small group of friends that he always plays tag with after practice. He's just really in his element there. *grin* Yes, proud Mommy bragging away - but it's my right. ;)

So doing our schoolwork today got us frustrated and miserable. Living life got us some great knowledge in logic, strategy, math, science, outer space, creative stories, art, team sports, following instructions, interpersonal relations, etc., etc., etc. I totally believe that a Classical Education is the "perfect" education. It's the one that I wish I would have had. Life seems to be screaming to me that it's not perfect though. Maybe I should stop putting so much effort into my Master Schedules for next year and more effort into ways to keep things as child led as possible...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend Update

As we were taking DH to the airport this evening, we were greeted by this. Luckily, we knew about it beforehand and were able to leave early and take an alternate, though three times longer, route. Otherwise we would've been stuck in dead-stopped traffic for who knows how long and missed the flight. Our interchanges were all still open for the homeward journey (and thankfully free of traffic), so we were able to drive right past the location. I think Cameron summed it up best, "Ohhhhhh, MAN!!!!" From our vantage point, it just looked like burned paper. Truly breathtaking, but not in the prettiest sense of the word.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Feels like summer!

Oh, it's just been so beautiful out... who can do school? Thursday we went to gymnastics, so there's a class. ;) Before gymnastics, I was on a cleaning binge to purge the house of all evidence of the previous days illness. (How can the house get SO incredibly messy just because I spend one day on the couch?) After class, I really meant to have Cam do some work but it was just gorgeous outside and somehow we all ended up in the backyard playing basketball. Greyson was getting really into pushing around the little plastic lawnmower around the backyard. He would get so frustrated when it would get stuck somewhere and he couldn't figure out how to get it through a space that was too small, lol. Evil Mommy had to snap a picture. Unfortunately, it's on my phone and I haven't figured out how to get it from there to here yet. I guess I could email it or something? Anyway, it was adorable watching him try to figure it all out. LOVE how those little one year old brains work. Yes, I called him a one year old... 9 days to go until his birthday. Can you believe it? I can't.

Friday I had more good intentions, but we all know where those lead - to the park! It was preschool park day and our friend B5 was celebrating becoming B6! We had hot dogs and goldfish crackers and vegan apple spice cupcakes. And we played ALL day long. We were there from noon until almost 5pm. At one point the kids were playing the funniest game under a tree. L4(girl) was the Mommy, Cassia was the baby, and Cameron, B6(boy), J4(boy), and T6(boy) were the intruders breaking into the house, lol. Where do they come up with this? No one had any idea what the intruders were intending to do but the game was basically an excuse for everyone to run and chase each other while Cassia pretended she was a baby. Silly kids. This game eventually broke off into the girls playing house under the play structure and the boys playing super heroes/ guns/ chase-attack-and-kill-each-other. You know, the usual. When it was time to go, B6 (I feel like I should start calling him Vitamin Boy now, lol) had to remind Cameron to not "hug me so hard my head comes off!" I had to laugh. That's exactly what he does.

School books? Who needs them. A day with unschoolers (4 families of them!) is much more fun. Which reminds me...

L4's oldest brother A16 is going to France in the fall for his "senior year." The poor boy, a lifelong unschooler, stopped by only to be bombarded by questions from all us newbies about what his experience has been like. We were especially interested in what it was like to go from no structure to community college classes. He was confident and honest and told us that it was no sweat at all. He's had to ask a few instructors to not write the percentage grade on his paper because he could tell it was affecting the way he looked at his work. He would start looking at the numbers instead of the knowledge (good lesson there, methinks!). But other than that and having to wear shoes everyday, it wasn't a hard transition at all because he simply wanted to learn and wanted to do what needed to be done to learn it. Case closed. Peer pressure had no meaning for him. I asked him what it was like interacting with kids who were so much older and he said that it was simply a non-issue. He never gave it a thought! I wonder what the other kids thought of him, lol. He did say that the one thing he is looking forward to both in France and at a University when he returns, is being around people who actually care about their education and are interested in what they are learning. He said the apathy in community college was, well, pathetic. Can you imagine a 14 year old noticing that about 19 year olds? Coolio is all I can say to that. Way to go, A!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not enough patience?

Now, I know I've been lamenting the same thing for the last few days. Do I really have enough patience for this???? What was I thinking?? But it's not homeschooling I'm doubting - it's the three kids with no family around to help me out. And the fact that I think I really want a fourth... am I crazy?

The answer is no, I am NOT crazy. What's crazy is those people who just go insane over choosing a Kindergarten. Oh my God. Insanity. I was talking to this lady at gymnastics today and she had just received her acceptance letter to this charter school in our area (I think it's a charter, anyway) and she was just going ballistic. The husband of another mom there is a teacher there so this woman was just getting bombarded with questions. KINDERGARTEN people, KINDERGARTEN. She liked this school better than traditional schools because the building were circular. "It helps the children focus better." Ummm, yeah.

Of course she asked me where Cameron was going to school. One of these days, I'm just going to say, "Shadowlight Academy. It's a very exclusive private school focusing on classical education in a nurturing environment." ROFL, but I didn't. I told her we homeschool and she came back with the ever-so-typical "I considered that, but I just don't have the patience for it." Do you ever notice that the people who say that are the ones who seem to have the almost fanatical patience to redirect their children away from anything and everything that could possibly hurt them? Like other children. Or air.

Don't get me wrong, she was a very nice woman and we had a great conversation, but if she would put half the effort into homeschooling as she was putting into finding just the right preschool/kindergarten/grade school/high school/ etc. then she would have so much less stress in her life. I don't get why people think it is so hard, lol. We spent a lot of time talking about why the public school system is so flawed and our own horrible school memories and then she asked me if I was ever planning on "integrating them back into the system" like they're damaged now or something. I stammered something about community college classes in high school, but I just don't get it. Why would I want them in a school system I that I think is so flawed?

You know, now that I think about it the reason I homeschool is that I don't have enough patience. I don't have the patience to put up with a system that I don't believe in. I don't have the patience to wait around for the school to get around to the materials that my children are interested in. I don't have the patience for bureaucracies. I don't have the patience to wait for them to all even out around 4th grade, like I've heard ps kids do. I just don't have the patience to live my life any other way than the way I believe is right. Call me crazy. ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Good News/Bad News

The Bad News is that we've all got a little stomach thing. I have it the worst: light fever, chills, nausea. Nothing too bad, but I feel like crap and have been trying to sleep most of the day away. We won't get into the ways the kids are showing their symptoms. They're acting just fine though. Grey's a little cranky, but he's always a little cranky so it's hard to tell what's causing it, lol.

The Good News is that this means that I'm not just a horrible, impatient mother who is not fit to homeschool, like I was suspecting yesterday. I was just getting sick. *Phew!*

At one point in the late morning, I was feeling ok and hoping that it would all just pass and so I pulled out the school books. Cameron did the second half of his Spelling lesson. He's not going to do very well on his test on Friday, I fear. Maybe I should have him make some flashcards or something. Even with the Word List right there, he tried to spell cold "cud" and car "cor." I know why he keeps having trouble with "ar" words - we haven't done them in phonics yet - so I tried to explain that "'ar' says 'Arrrrr,' like a pirate." If pirates can't make him remember, nothing will. Any clever ideas on what to do with spelling lists? If we were doing Sequential Spelling, we could make a tree or a ladder and hang all the words on the different branches or rungs, but these words aren't related. Hmmmm. Writing it three times after he misses it on the test seems to work, but I don't know that he'd do that for six words.

After that, I went on to science. They've been getting plenty of science learning in each day. For months now, Cassia has been obsessed with The Magic Schoolbus and insists on watching several episodes a day, so they aren't lacking in exposure, but I'm anxious to get onto Part 3 of MPH, Systems (specifically the systems that make up the human body). Today, I read Chapter 11 to them on the life cycle of a plant - which reminds me, I need to get outside and water - and it's nice that it coincides so nicely with the planting of our garden last weekend. We planted seeds, seedlings, and bulbs so we have a nice representation of the different ways plants can grow and reproduce. Cassia has been more interested in the garden than Cameron has been but hopefully once the plants start doing something a little more interesting then we'll all be studying it a lot.

OK, my upright time is up, lol. Time to go vegetate on the couch in front of Star Wars again.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

iFinally have my iMac online

and streaming radio pretty much all day. :D I started out with 80's Flashback favorites and then once I had my fill of ABC and The Cramps, I switched to Classical Baroque favorites - which I am still listening to right now. I'm still trying to get used to this whole Mac thing. I've been a PC girl all my life. I even knew how use DOS and program in BASIC back in the day. (Do you know what DOS and BASIC are acronyms for? I do.) But I am adapting. The 20" flat screen and wireless keyboard help.

Anyway, what's this blog about? Oh yeah... school. Yesterday, Cameron did finally manage to get Spelling done after dinner and t-ball. He did it rather enthusiastically too and even started on some math but Cassia was watching The Magic Schoolbus and it was just too distracting. He didn't have enough time left before bedtime to get in his whole hour of video games anyway so the motivation just wasn't there. I was happy that he got through his spelling though. (And FYI, the LEGOs and the balloon pump wasn't really as interesting as I made it sound. They were just blowing up balloons and then shooting them off at the LEGO guys. They were also tying them up with balloons and then trying to blow them over with the pump. They even tried racing cars by blowing air at them, but they couldn't get them going fast enough.)

So today I was determined to get organized and get things done around here. I got the new iMac set up. I made bread (finally!). We returned our overdue library books. We went to the grocery store. And once we got home I declared it School Time. Cameron tried to object, but I just suggested we go outside and do it in the grass. I don't know... it sounded like a good idea at the time but, apparently, the afternoon is just not a good time.

Cameron was guessing at all the words he was supposed to be reading. Nonsense guesses too. I don't know how many times I said (yelled), "LOOK at the word before you guess!" Cassia was talking nonstop and kept throwing basketballs and leaves onto our blanket. I yelled at her a few times too. Greyson was holding onto and pulling my hair as walking support. He had banana in his hands at the time. Mommy was NOT having fun. We finally made it through phonics and luckily the last half of the lesson was me reading 80% of a poem with him only reading a few select long /i/ words. Even Cassia enjoyed listening to that, so I guess it calmed us all down a bit. (Why do my t's keep randomly coming out as crosses?) So then we went on to finish the math review from yesterday. It's much easier for me to slowly and painfully talk someone through every single step of math (39 - 20, ok, how many groups of 10 in 39? how many in 20? how many groups of 10 do you have left if you take 20 away from 39? and how many ones do you have? so what is one group of 10 and 9 ones?) than it is in reading so I just layed down on the blanket, put my head in my arms, and talked him through .... every .... single .... problem .... while Greyson smashed banana in my hair.

Tomorrow we are doing school EARLY. I just do not have the patience by the afternoon. I don't enjoy it. I look at it as "getting through this" and I know that that makes it torture for everyone. I think I also need to start having some sort of caffeine boost (or nap - lol, oh wishful thinking!!!) around 2:00 or 3:00. I know it's just me being tired that makes me so short with them.

Anyway.... our new Netflix movie is Splash so I'm going to call that Science. ;)

Monday, April 23, 2007


You'd think someone like me would be reasonable computer literate and possibly even internet savvy? ROFL, yeah, you'd think. Apparently not. I just got a new iMac and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the stupid thing to connect to our stupid wireless network. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I have a cheat sheet full of ip addresses and random numbers of all ports and sorts and I don't really have a clue what any of it really means. I mean, I know what an ip address is. I know what a port is. I even know what a server daemon is, but I do NOT know where to plug all this damn crap into the friggin network setup!! Arrrggghhhh! I can't even find the right menu options!

I guess the problem is that I theoretically know what all this stuff is (or I did a couple years ago) but I've just let dh deal with it all and so I don't really understand the specifics. I am lost without him. Eeek. Hopefully he can talk me through it tonight.

So that's what I've been doing all day today. Swearing at the computer. C&C have just been amusing themselves with LEGOs and a balloon pump. Don't ask. ;)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Get It Done Early Day

That is what I am proclaiming today to be: Get It Done Early Day.

Little Boy Blue actually slept last night and didn't wake up until 5:17 this morning - woo hoo! So after dozing in bed with him for a couple more hours, I finally dragged myself - my fully rested self, thank you very much - out of bed around 7:00 am. I was showered, dressed, and fed by 8:30 and we had school work done by 10:15!

Cameron tried to give me a little lip about it, but I put my foot down and explained to him that I had to take Cassia to the doctor at 11:15 and then when we got home from that it would be almost time to go to 4-H LEGO Engineering so we had to do school now. He agreed. Yeah Mom! I love when I get tough and it actually works without anyone getting angry (including me). We started with a spelling test. He misspelled a couple words: one (pen) because he wrote his "p" backwards and one (leg) because he added an extra vowel. He was trying so hard to sound it out and I was trying so hard to enunciate it with the correct spelling that I think it confused him. I was saying "leeeeeeg" with a very definite short e sound and he was saying "llll-eeeee-AAAA-gggg" - or I guess that would be "luh egg" (is that French for 'the egg'? lol). Anyway, he got them right after copying them correctly three times. He even wrote them in all lower case letters on the correct parts of the lines on the wide-ruled paper. That's a big thing. He usually writes in the spaces between the lines, lol. Next he did Review 2 in his math book. He did great on it and didn't even complain that it was four pages long!

After that, I took Cassia to the doctor's. She's been complaining of an earache, off and on, for the past month or so, so we figured we should bring her in now to have it looked at since we have to change insurances at the end of the month. (Blech. I do NOT want to change insurances. I have been so happy with Kaiser and our ped and now we have to venture out into the great unknown of a PPO. Yikes.) She was an angel. It turns out that she does have a "red full ear" and I'm assuming that means ear infection. He said that since it's just pressure and intermittent pain that we should let it heal on its own and that that will probably take a few more weeks. And that's ok. After her hospital stay last year and the ridiculous amount of antibiotics that she had to take then, I am in no hurry to give her more. We just kind of wanted to verify that and make sure it wasn't being caused by wax build up or something easily fixed like that. She's asleep on the couch now. I always feel bad when I realize something like the fact that she's been moody and whiny for the last month is probably because she's been sick - but lucky for her, she will most like get an over-compensation of Princess videos to make up for it in the next few days.

Totally unrelated funny - Cameron just told me that "extraordinaire" is special air that's reddish pink.

We got home from the doctor's in record time so we still had about an hour and a half before LEGOs, which gave me the opportunity to do some things that I've been putting off forever - like laundry and cleaning the fish tank. Then we went to the 4-H center (and only arrived 5 minutes late which is early for us, lol) where we had a great time building LEGOs with C.O.5, J8?, and T5. The boys built catapults to launch a ping pong ball - C.O.'s was especially ingenious - and then attempted machines to kick the ball as well. Sadly, it will be our last LEGO meeting as the project leader is in the Coast Guard and is apparently being called off somewhere for duty. :(

We got home from that and I actually got my Membership Coordinator duties for our homeschool group done. I don't know if you can say I got them done early, per se, but the new names are due by midnight and I got them in before 5pm. It's something! ;) I would've had dinner done early too but I decided to blog instead, lol. Since Cassie is asleep and DH is at a Going Away Party with his old co-workers, Cameron and I are just going to have some burgers. That won't take long so if I start now, we'll have dinner earlier than usual too...

Happy Get it Done Earlyish Day!!!

On my birthday...

from Vegiemama's blog

  1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your Birthday Month and day only September 1
  2. List 3 Events that occurred that day wow, so many to choose from!
    • 1752 - The Liberty Bell arrives in Philadelphia
    • 1939 - World War II: Nazi Germany attacks Poland, beginning the war
    • 2001 - The first orca calf (later named Nakai) is born through artificial insemination, to parents Kasatka and Tillikum.

  3. List 2 important Birth days
    • 1875 - Edgar Rice Burroughs, American writer (d. 1950)
    • 1923 - Rocky Marciano, American boxer (d. 1969)

  4. List 1 Death my actual day of birth
    • 1970 - Fran├žois Mauriac, French writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1885)

  5. List a Holiday or Observance. (if any) these three were so good, I had to include them all
    • New Zealand - National R.A.K. (Random Act of Kindness) Day
    • Russia - Knowledge Day.
    • Singapore - Teacher's Day.

  6. Tag 5 other bloggers --Consider yourself tagged if you've read this!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

(Cannot think of a) Title

Things continued to go well on the homefront. Cameron is still determined to earn as many stars on his chore chart as he can, so he is being super cooperative. We started our school day by continuing the spelling lesson that we never finished last week. The only thing notable there was when Cameron was writing a sentence about an animal's home, he figured out how to spell "house" all by himself. Well, mostly by himself. I told him that house was spelled like mouse but with a different first letter... and then I started humming the Mickey Mouse song, lol. He sounded out lives not quite as successfully as "liviz." It was a good try though!

Net he did three pages of math. It was the last exercise before the second review which means that I need to order some new books soon! He did really well on the multiplication this time. He can count by 2's, 3's, and 5's pretty well now so as long as the problem has one of those in them, he does well. Fours and sixes are a little harder and they haven't given him anything above that.

All the while Cassia was working in her ETC book. She said, "Let's call this my Science today." Yeah, ok. We can call it whatever you like, Sweetheart. She got bored with it after about a page and a half though and just wanted to play on Starfall instead. She did that for almost an hour! She really loves that site.

Later in the afternoon, we went to park day and it was windy, windy, windy. It wasn't as bitterly cold as some days have been so we stayed and endured it. DadR had brought a whole bunch of bubbles for the kids so they had a great time with him. They really love him. I haven't met a kid yet who didn't love DadR. It amazes me how some men can be so uninvolved in their children's lives. Men like my DH and DadR really give fathers a good name. It's sad that they seem to be the exception. Anyway, us women-folk just sat around and shot the breeze while DadR played with our kids and Greyson showed off his new walking skills. It was really funny watching him brace himself against the strong winds, lol.

And that was our day. Nothing exciting enough to even warrant a good title, but it was a good day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Daddy Boot Camp

DH is in the midst of changing jobs. He gave his notice yesterday and then an hour later they handed him a check. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out! Now he's got a week off until he starts his new job. This new job is a bit of a commute (lol) and requires a lot of traveling so since he won't be home as much, he's spending this week catching up on all those household projects that have been in progress. Before he left, he bought Cameron a really special LEGO set at the company store and made up a chore chart for him to earn it. When he completes all of the chores on the chart (90 spots!) he may buy the new LEGO set at the discount price of $20 (it cost him $50 and that was with an employee discount).

So all day long, Cameron has been working hard helping Daddy and doing his chores: picking up the living room, folding laundry, picking up dog poop out back, etc. One of his "chores" is No Time-Outs All Day, so he's been extra good, lol. He readily agreed when I suggested school and though he whined A LOT about the phonics, he did it. We've really let that slide for too long. He was reading well about three or four weeks ago (which is why I thought it was ok to put it aside for a while when he requested that) but now he is misreading almost every word in the lessons. It's definitely time again for phonics and math nearly every day with a third subject being elective.

Today's phonics lesson was two pages long though and required a lot of reading, so I decided to only do two subjects today and let him choose whether the second would be math or science. He picked science and we did two activity book pages on measuring. It ended up being a math lesson too because the book wanted you to measure in millimeters. So a simple measurement of 240 millimeters turned into 20cm + 4cm = 24cm and then had to be multiplied by 10mm/cm to get 240mm just because of the way our particular ruler was labeled!

Hopefully the chore incentive will keeps its allure. I like hard-working and agreeable children! Now if Greyson would just stop biting everyone...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Routine is a good thing

We had another mini vacation this weekend. It was my BILs 30th birthday, so we went out to their house, by the beach, for a nice little shebang. It's always nice for me to go there and reconnect with my SIL. You know, an adult whose brain hasn't been corrupted with Barney and Dora the Explorer and whatever other obscure thing that has crept into my mind and assumed the erroneous title of Normal. You know, adult conversation. ;)

But things have been tough to get back to around here. We still haven't found that post-vacation groove again - silly kids just want to play all day! (Thankfully though, they have rediscovered other ways to play besides watching tv. I'm sure everyone being 100% healthy (knock on wood) helps too!) Anyway, around 2:00 when I finally got Greyson to fall asleep, I dragged out the ol' phonics and math books. It's been a while since they have seen daylight, the phonics especially, and I got quite a few sighs. Luckily the phonics lessons was mostly a game of Eye Spy where you had to read your clues, so it was fun. Well, I thought it was fun. When we finished all the clue cards Cameron said, "Whew! That's finally over!" I guess it wasn't that fun afterall. Next was a math lesson on multiplication. He spent half the time doodling squiggly lines all over the place. I finally stopped it by grabbing a big eraser, lol. I told him that he had plenty of time all day to doodle and draw squiggly roller coaster lines and that math was for straight lines. I'm so not fun. :P

But what does look like fun is Artistic Pursuits. My copy of Book 1 just came in the mail today and I can't wait to get started. In fact, if I stop blogging now I'll have a couple more minutes to look through it before t-ball practice. Oh, but then I won't be able to tell you about how C&C have been playing Barbies all day, lol. He'll probably appreciate that fact when he's 14. ;)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Music School

There must be something artistic in the air because I cannot get my monkeys to do anything other than music and art this week! Today, it was music, music, and more music. Our only "activity" was a picnic at Super Playground (sigh, the really cool wooden one that is being torn down and replaced with something generic and plastic, I'm sure) and we listened to Themes to Remember: Volume 1 on the way there and back.

I have to say that I'm disappointed in it. The "themes" are so short. How can you even get a feel for the music, much less remember it, when it's over so quickly? Even more importantly, it seems to me (though I have a very uneducated ear, so how would I know) that the quality of the orchestra is not very high. It almost sounds as if they are all being played on a synthesizer! I know for a fact, that many songs that I am used to hearing in full orchestra are being done on an organ. It just sounds cheap. But again, who am I to judge. But again, if it sounds "cheap" to me, how would it sound to someone who really knows what they are talking about??

The book has some nice biographies in it though and a nice timeline with other suggested pieces to listen to. I plan on using the books (I spent enough for them!) as a spine, of sorts, to guide us through the composers but I doubt we will be listening to the CDs much. Even Cassia said, "I like the other words better!" - referring to Beethoven's Wig. I had read somewhere that Beethoven's Wig was less educational because it only had *silly lyrics* but to tell you the truth, I find the Themes to Remember lyrics sillier. For the most part, they just repeat the composer's name and the title of the piece over and over and over. Beethoven's Wig tells a story and usually gives some history or something as well. Take Schuman's The Happy Farmer for example. T2R lyrics are something to the effect of "I'm so happy happy happy but I need new shoes. What man can make my shoes?" That's not silly? BW has this great little story about the Schumans and how they all played music together as a family. Anyway, if you are considering Themes to Remember for a music appreciation curriculum, consider just using the Classical Magic website as a spine and the library and downloaded mp3s as your resources. Skip the silly lyrics.

ANYWAY (wow, was that a rant, lol) we had a fabulous time at the park. Not too many people were there, just MomG and DadR, but the dynamics of our little group was just right. Three 5 or 6 year old boys, two 3 or 4 year old girls and a 4 year old boy. They played in the sand, on the play structure, Duck-Duck-Goose, Red Rover, tag, Knights in the Castle, etc, etc, etc. We could not get them to leave. I always love that (after the fact, lol). The next time our preschooler group meets it will be at a new park. I'm sad about that, but I guess life is full of changes and many of the ones that I've experienced over the past year have been very positive - even though they aren't ones that I would have chosen for myself.

When we got home from the park, Greyson and Cassia were asleep and Cameron headed right for Story of the Orchestra. I put in the CD and told him to feel free to just flip through it however he wanted. He started at the beginning of the instrument section and had me read every single page to him. We listened intently to every musical selection, picking out the elements that we were directed to in the book. He particularly liked the low instruments (double bass, contra-bassoon, tuba) but said, several times, that he wanted to play all of them. Yes, all of them. And he doesn't just want to play all of them, he wants to own all of them. Even DH saw how excited he was about this and agreed to get him violin lessons. Did I tell you that my (former) step-mother bought him a violin?? She was going to give him her old one, but realized that it would be too big for him... so she bought him a brand new one! And then she gave me her original one, lol. Looks like we'll be needing double lessons! Anyway, DH said that we could spring for a lesson a week pretty soon. :) Coincidentally, a woman just advertised private lessons in our homeschool newsletter this last month!

And so we didn't get our spelling worksheets done again. Ooops. Nor did we do phonics or math or science. Oh well. I'm not too worried about it... though I am starting to wonder again whether we are Classical or Unschooling. Funny how that matters so much to me. I guess all that really matters is that Cameron drew a picture yesterday of a little boy and his dog and the sun and all three had the BIGGEST smile you have ever seen in your life. DH said that that was a really good sign, psychologically speaking. :)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Art school

Nothing that I would have previously called "school" happened here today, but a lot of learning certainly went on. (I'm thinking that I've said that more than a few times, lol.) All morning the kids were playing Rainbow. This involved singing the colors of the rainbow and arguing about whether or not indigo was a color of the rainbow and if it really mattered whether you said "purple" or "violet." Do public school 3 and 5 year olds play like that? I'm thinking not, lol.

I finally managed to get everyone fed, dressed, and (somewhat) combed and we headed off to run some errands. We dropped off our money for the 4-H fundraiser that we were supposed to bring to the meeting Tuesday - you know, the one we ditched - and then we spent over an hour and over a hundred, lol, in WalMart. DH had budgeted a decent chunk of our tax refund for new clothes and school supplies. I blew the school supply money the second it hit my account on art & music curricula, so I today I decided to spend a little on some clothes that actually fit the baby. The poor guy can't straighten his legs in most of his jammies, lol. Anyway, I had just gotten some new clothes for myself over Thanksgiving so I decided to donate a portion of my share to the school supply fund.

While I looking at pencils and erasers and sharpeners, Cameron and Cassia kept bringing me every nature of sidewalk chalk, paint, and marker you could imagine. But the thing Cameron wanted the most was a set of 50 multi-tip markers. He's never picked that particular item up before, yet coincidentally, Drawing with Children suggests using a large assortment of fine and broad tip markers for your work. Of course they suggest using a better quality brand than Crayola, lol, but I took it as a sign. So I grabbed that and a sketch pad and strengthened my resolve that we would tackle the lessons in Drawing with Children sooner (as in this summer) rather than later. I just have the feeling that alternating drawing instruction with art appreciation, as WTM suggests, will be counter-productive for us. I think that if we can arm ourselves with some drawing skills first, the whole Classical Education & notebooking process will go easier.

As soon as we got home, Cameron dove into the markers. He drew 5 or 6 pictures in record time, lol. I asked them if they wanted to do a "drawing exercise" and they were both eager to do it. We did the Abstract Design Warm-Up from DWC. Isn't it funny the different pictures that come from the exact, same instructions??? They were both surprisingly good at following directions, but Cameron just did NOT want to color anything in. He's never liked to color, so I'm not surprised, but when I said that he should color it in using either solid color or a texture (multicolor or color with a pattern) he just started drawing "patterns" all over his pictures. (The yellow string of shapes on the bottom of his Level 1 design and the blue triangular towers on the Level 2 design.) We'll see if their seeing how I interpreted the instructions will change how they approach it next time. It's interesting however you look at it to see their personality differences come out in their art. These were truly personal works (notice how mine is embarrassingly 80's looking?).

I tried to get some spelling or math or something in, but it just wasn't in the stars. They went from marker art to Play-Doh and have been doing that ever since... hours, literally. It was just an artistic sort of day, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tea & Sympathy

So, somebody hasn't been doing much sleeping lately - last night especially - and Mommy is tttttiiiiiirrrrreeeeeddddddd. Let's just say the morning wasn't as productive as it could have been. ;)

I did get a lovely surprise on the doorstep this morning, The Story of the Orchestra. It was supposed to be one of the books for Music Appreciation next year, but Cameron was SO excited when he saw it that we decided to read/listen to it now. First, I had him catch up on his spelling lesson for the week and then we read about about composers from the Baroque and Classical eras while listening to their music. It was nice to have the book and music cued up together. Very convenient. We decided to stop there but Cameron wanted to peruse the instrument section on his own. He was "just looking" but we ended up listening to the musical pieces that went with every single instrument. We even studied the diagrams of quite a few of them too.

Before we knew it, it was time to go to park day. We had woken up to rain, but the sky had cleared and I knew that if we stayed around the house I would just end up yelling at everyone. Greyson was still in a mood (read: screaming nonstop unless I was holding him, and even then sometimes too) and I was getting more and more exhausted, so honestly, I was looking for someone else to hold him for a few minutes while I rested my brain. It was windy at the park, really windy. And then it started to rain! We had only been there about 10 minutes and everyone packed up to leave. Man, was I disappointed! But thankfully, MomM invited us all over to her house to play instead. So we settled in with with her, MomA (not the one who moved away, but since we're talking about her - she just had a healthy baby girl on Monday!!), and MomC. The kids all ran off with their respective playmates to all corners of the house and the Moms and the babies (Greyson and BabyT) sat in the living room and drank tea. Greyson finally fell asleep and I was able to enjoy something other than the sounds of crying and/or fighting. Ah, bliss. It seriously saved my day and my sanity.

Thank God for friends. :)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Play Ball!

Well, with Easter and all, we haven't gotten much accomplished lately. We did manage to do Cameron's spelling test on Friday (at DH's aunt's house in the back yard, next to her pool, lol) and he got 100% but that's pretty much all we've done. Well, not entirely. DH's aunt is a school teacher who is retiring after next year so she spent the majority of the weekend pawning off all her old classroom supplies on us. Things like books, she went to me first. Things like solar system posters and museum activity sets, she went to Cameron first - before I could say no. ;) No, actually, she gave us some great stuff. I really love the museum.

Monday, we were expecting a visit from some cousins so DH and I spent the whole day cleaning. Yes, we're lame. I know. But seriously, we're still trying to recover from our last two vacations! I'm just *barely* caught up on laundry. I haven't had time to clean anything else yet! I did do a couple pages with Cassia in her Explode the Code primer. We worked on the letter "n." Nothing too exciting there except that she seemed pretty proud that I was telling Cameron to stop bothering us because her schoolwork was important. He was drawing like crazy trying to get my attention, lol. He finally figured out how to do it - he started drawing butterfly life cycles. This led all of us into another discussion of butterflies and we all spend some time drawing them. Somehow, the colors of the rainbow came up and we ended up discussing indigo. I looked up the Wikipedia entry for them and then spent a good half hour rabbit holing that, lol. Gotta love it. ;)

The big news of the day though is that today was Cameron's first T-Ball practice! I was so proud! I know, I know, I'm just a prejudiced and gushing mom, but he did really good. He was one of the best throwers and definitely in the top 3 or 5 batters. His catching could stand a little work, lol. OK, his catching could stand a lot of work. But he had FUN and was really, really, really into it. All that extra energy that he has (and that usually gets him into trouble) was just focused intently on the game. He was just hopping up and down waiting for that ball to come to him. He would run from left field to first base to get the ball before anyone else, lol. The coaches were really cool about it too. They complimented his enthusiasm and then stressed the strategical reasons why you needed to play *your* position, rather than everyone else's. It really seemed like a great team. He'll be practicing twice a week for the next month and then the games will start in May, again twice a week, I think.

The cousins ended up running late and not being able to make it over so we'll meet them tomorrow. We're going to have to ditch 4-H to do it, but we haven't missed one yet so, hopefully, they'll forgive us.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Apparently, it's as hard to get back into the groove of blogging as it is to get back into the groove of school!! So let's see if I can remember what we did...

Tuesday morning we didn't get anything done. Why was that? Some big life altering catastrophe? Nope. We watched Alice in Wonderland. We went on that ride at Disneyland but the kids couldn't remember ever having seen it. I'm not surprised they didn't remember it since they'd only seen it once or twice. So they watched that and then there was just enough time for them to jump in the shower before we headed off to 4-H.

Our first order of business there was a community service meeting. None of the people who actually volunteered to be on the committee showed up, lol, however they all had very good reasons. BUT we did convince a few teens from the previous meeting to stick around and join us which brought some great ideas. We've decided to bake animal treats to donate to an animal shelter as a club project (Note to self: don't forget to call the Animal Shelter!!); to vote on whether or not we should use our club funds to adopt a zoo animal; and to clean up the 4-H center's badly neglected garden over the summer so that someone will be able to use it for a gardening project next year. All in all, it was a productive meeting but I don't feel like I really did anything as far as being the adult coordinator there. The two other (more experienced) adults did most of the work directing the conversation and actually identifying the questions that we needed to get answered during the meeting. I just kind of stood there with a dry erase marker in my hand going, "Uh huh, good point! What do *you* think?" Luckily Cameron can't read well enough to notice that I probably won't be volunteering us for this position next year. ;)

After that was the Arts & Crafts project meeting where we made felt dolls. It was a really fun project because it was easy enough for everyone and yet still interesting enough for them to want to do.

Cassia and I made a snake.

Cameron made a felt man.

And, after the kids were bored and off causing trouble elsewhere in the building, I made a butterfly.

It was a really fun project. I even brought home some extra wool and a felting needle so that I can get nice and addicted to it in my spare time. LOL, yeah, my spare time. (Read: leave supplies sitting unused on counter for a long time and then put them in a box meaning to get back to them soon and suddenly rediscovering them, untouched, 6 years later.) We never did get any actual bookwork done, but learning how to make those felt dolls really was educational on many levels. I don't feel guilty at all about calling that "school" for the day.

Wednesday, we petered the morning away as usual (what happened to our new determination to get things done early in the day?) and then at noon I suddenly remembered that we needed to get something done! So I pulled out the phonics book and we worked our way through "ie" and and "y" as the long /i/ sound. Then Cameron did a page of math where he had to draw pictorial representations of multiplication problems. You should see the one where he had to draw flowers to show 4 x 5 = 20, lol. I suggested that he use flowers in vases but he insisted on drawing a garden with dirt and grass. He worked diligently for a long time and when he proclaimed himself "done" I looked over and had to say, "OK that was *one* group of five. You need four of those." LOL. But the great thing is that he really gets the concept. DH was "quizzing" him over dinner and he was really surprising us with his ability to figure them out.

After his schoolwork was done (and I really need to make an effort to do some with Cassia. I am really neglecting her books.) we rushed off to Park Day. It was a lovely day and most of my favorite people were there. We played for a while and then got ice cream from the ice cream truck and then we had to rush off from there to go to the dentist and *finally* get my permanent crown put on. Thankfully that went off (or on, rather) without a hitch and we were able to then rush off to the ophthalmologist's. Somebody - and I'm not naming names here - hit me in the eye with the corner of a bag and scratched my cornea Tuesday night. OMG that hurt so badly. It was pretty much better by then but everyone insisted that I should have it checked out just in case. It is healing nicely and should be completely better in a couple days. And then we had to rush home so that I could lead a chat for an online playgroup. Busy afternoon!

Thursday is shaping up to be just as unproductive in the morning and then rushed all afternoon as well, lol. We're leaving to go out of town again on Friday for Easter so I have to get caught up on the laundry and the cleaning, etc. I guess I should get started on that or something??

Monday, April 02, 2007

Back to School

As the rest of America gears up for Spring Break, we are trying to get back to work after two weeks off. We spent the morning lazing around catching up on our respective emails, message boards, and games of fantasy and adventure. Finally, around 2:30 (!), I decided that we really better get some schooling done even though no one really felt like it. I busted out the spelling book and we started a new list of words. The only one that confused him was "jar" because he thought it should have an o in it. It makes sense when you think about it.

Next we went outside to plant some things in our side yard. We are slowly clearing away the rocks and plastic ground cloth that the (elderly) previous owners had down and are replacing it with a ground cover of flowering thyme. We (ok, dh) also pulled out some old ugly looking bushes and we're replacing them with rosemary. So anyway, this afternoon I put in about half dozen more moss plugs (I think we need to join the Hair Club for Lawns!) and planted two rosemary bushes while Greyson ate grass and leaves and Cameron and Cassia squirted each other with the hose.

We came back in to do one more subject and Cameron picked science. He usually says that he picks science because it is faster but today he said that it was because you learn more when you're doing science. He said that you "don't learn that much when you are doing math," lol. I guess that's true when you are a natural at it. ;) I remember when I learned how to multiply by multiple places and being depressed because I thought that I had conquered math and that there was nothing left to learn. ROFL.

ANYWAY, we did some more reading on butterflies at Enchanted Learning and did a worksheet comparing caterpillars to butterflies. We also did another page comparing caterpillars and cockroach nymphs. It was a good review since we've been away for so long. I was really impressed with how much he did remember though! We spent a nice long time reading about butterflies online and then in our animal encyclopedias. We both learned a lot, I think. :) It looks like there is only one more days worth of insect life cycle materials - unless of course I want to raise a mealworm pet. :P I have the feeling that I'll have to go buy a big pack of a hundred or so at the pet store to get any, so I think I'll skip it. Really, that's why. The next chapter is the life cycle of plants and it comes right at the perfect time to coincide with this lovely spring weather and the upcoming planting of our vegetable garden.

And that was our highly exciting spring day. For some inexplicable reason, I don't feel like rehashing every detail of our Disneyland trip. Shocking, I know. Just know that it was fabulous and magical and if you ever spend any time at a Disney Resort with small children, you have to do a character breakfast. It is the best way to get your pictures without standing in line. Speaking of pictures...

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Win a Dyson!!!

Go here to find out how! I hope I win, I hope I win, I hope I win!!! :D *grin*