27 September 2010

2 October - update

Mornin, everyone. Has anyone seen summer? I seem to have misplaced it somewhere. October? Already? Sheesh.

Sorry it's been so quiet over here. Between a very busy work week and fighting a cold, my brain has been squishy and I couldn't think of a thing to say. ;) I finally slept in today, and I think the cold is breaking, so off we go.

Our early morning schooling was interrupted while we had colds, since it's harder to recover if you don't get enough sleep.

First I was letting Jack sleep, and then I need the sleep myself. I don't know whether we'll try to back to it -- it's so cold and dark at 7am these days! (And the guys have been very busy with school later in the day most days that it almost seems superfluous.)

In science, we're studying Archimedes contributions to maths and sciences by reading Archimedes Door Into Science. It's amazing and amusing to me how much of this stuff Jack already knows, what with one thing and another. He'll have read a story or a magazine article and can fill me in about once every chapter. I can't believe his memory!

We're starting to explore Shakespeare a little more, too. We started with Midsummer Night's Dream, since some familiar characters show up there and because it's very funny.

First Jack read the story from his Shakespeare story book and now we're looking at YouTube videos of various scenes. We are thinking about buying a video we found of kids performing scenes from the play...it's well done and so sweet! (And that kids are doing makes it that much more immediate, I think.)

Eventually, I want to pick some scenes he likes and read them aloud (readers theatre style) from the original plays. Rod isn't so sure, but I think it will work better than he's expecting it to. If not, we can stop. Knowing the story from simple story books and videos, and having heard the language in videos will help, but the language itself and making the language his own is an important part of the reason for studying Shakespeare. That works best of we read short, funny scenes together, I think. Listening and reading are good, but they leave more distance between the heart and the words than speaking them does.

Writing practice has made enough progress that Jack is now able to write his own letters. So far they're one sentence letters, but it's a start. Writing exercise now has purpose, especially because he loves to get letters back, and it's reason to be careful to make his writing readable.

We just finished a 12 night series of watching America a Story of Us from the History Channel. I hadn't actually planned to cover US history so soon, but when THC offered it free to homeschoolers, well...why not. It's far from a complete history of the US. How can it be? It covers 400 years in 12 hours! But it's a decent overview of what life was like and what was of highest concern to people living here over the years./ It shows how one period connects to another and is chock full of interesting details. I was amused to see how they tried to please everyone. There were a fair number of celebrities from every side of public debate, all speaking about their own passions. While there was quite a bit of jingoistic rhetoric there, the history itself didn't avert its eyes from the much harder questions of social justice, ecological responsibility, the genuine horrors of war, and the like. I will admit that I had a hard time with the modern cinematography. The computer animated graphics were clever, if a bit disconcerting but I have real trouble with the increased use of truly gruesome imagery in modern cinematography. I ended up spending a lot of time staring at the table and cringing. It would be more of a complaint except that it's the case in most things made in the last 10 years as far as I can tell. The upshot? Jack was mesmerized, it's well done and it gives a decent overview from which to study in greater depth later. I would get it and use it again, but maybe not with someone who is only seven. Now I want to revisit a similar series about Australia, to have a look at the parallels, though if I remember right the Australian series only really addresses the 20th century.

I am so very far behind on cards. Not only on birthday cards, but now, too, on Yule cards. Maybe I should wrap up here and get to it, eh?

24 September 2010

Blast from the past: On Continuum Parenting

As Jack Grows: March 6, 2007

I have mentioned our use of the Continuum parenting style often here, but in conversations with people about it, I keep getting the impression that some people think that I mean that I "let Jack help" – that is, I make busy work for him nearby while I get on with serious business.

Not at all. We are careful to size jobs to Jack's current abilities, but what he is doing is real participation.

Jack can wash dishes, though we're careful to keep the knives and glasses aside. He can load and unload the dishwasher, he can put the clean laundry into a basket for folding, he can set the table, assist in tidying a room, vacuum the rug, and he can read recipes, get ingredients out, wash and chop vegetables, stir pots, mix batters (until they get too thick) or pots and just generally act as a junior chef when we cook.

That's the point to the continuum.Children need to be contributing members of their families to grow up an abiding sense of their own competence and their place in the world. Busy work that doesn't actually help much doesn't enhance a child's sense of competence – kids are smart; they know when they're being condescended to and it gives them the impression that (we think) they're not very talented.

Jack didn't start out with full-blown chores, of course. Kids are naturally interested in what adults are doing and when he showed an interest, I gave him a subset of what I was doing that he was capable of doing on his own. At first, he took clothes from me and tossed them (more or less) into the dryer or he poured the ingredients I'd measured (more or less) into bowls.
In the beginning he rarely lasted the durations of the project, he did a little and then he ran off to play. That was fine – at that stage, it was more work for him to help since it meant that some of the clothes didn't make it into the dryer and some of the flour inevitabley ended up on the countertops. But as he got older, and his part of the chores got more involved, he also developed the attention span to stick with it.

These days, he actually is a big help.

As Jack Grows January 31 2007

Rod is
a natural at Continuum parenting.

I know I’ve mentioned Jean Liedloff's work before and our interest in the parenting style that it spawned.

For me, it was a natural extension of my instinctive parenting style. Up to a point.

It works beautifully with cooking, with house keeping, and with any number of other active, more or less traditional activities. I was, however, perplexed about how to bring it into other, more cerebral pursuits.

Not Rod.

I am hoping to get my brilliant husband to hold forth here about how he has done it, because I see the results more than the process. I know he has used continuum theory (or what he gathered of continuum theory from my nattering) to help Jack to discover arithmetic, using Cuisenaire Rods, a deck of playing cards, a set of dominoes, and a counting board.

It’s amazing to me! They together at the able, noodling with one or another “toy”, and Jack is discovering arithmetic for himself! Not sure how he does that, but I am impressed. Jack is lucky that Rod is at home with him, doing the teaching. Rod is obviously a"natural".

He has also used it to help Jack to get to the point that he can sit at the other end of the table while Rod does a reading and can (more or less) entertain himself. That’s one I really want to learn!

August 22, 2007

23 September 2010

The relaxing game

My eldest takes after me, and I take after my mother. We can sleep anywhere and it takes something major yo keep us awake after bedtime.

Not so my middle son. For some reason, he often had trouble falling asleep when he was little. When he was about two, we invented a soothing method we called "the relaxing game" and it worked for him for years.

Jack doesn't often have trouble falling asleep, but occasionally, he does and so the relaxing game was revived.

I suspect most mothers come up with it, but just in case someone could use it and hadn't thought of it yet, I thought I'd mention it here.

Here's how it works:

Have the child lie on his or her back in bed with the lights out.

Starting with the toes, work your way up the body alternately squeezing and stretching bits of the body, every so often involving everything that's been worked so far. Intersperse deep, slow breathes in and then out.

Like this:

OK, you're on your back. Wriggle all over. Now relax. Take a deeeep breath in. Now out, very slowly.

OK, wiggle your toes. Just your toes. Are they wiggled? Good. Now squeeze your toes tight, tight, tight. Squeeeezee. OK, relax. Now, stretch your toes as wide apart as you can. Stretch, stretch, stretch. OK, relax. wiggle your toes again.

OK, now wiggle your feet. Now squeeze your feet tight. Point your toes down and squeeze, sqeeze, squeeze them. Good! Now relax. Now pull your toes back as far as you can. Stretc those feet! Stretch, stretch, stretch. OK, relax. wiggle your feet again.

Now relax. Take a deeeep breath in. Now out, very slowly.

It's easy and I think part of the sucess is that it is physically relaxing -- but the other half is that it's sooo repetitious, but since you have to respond physically, it interupts those relentless thoughts that keep a youngster awake.

Only VERY rarely have we had to repeat from the toes. Uusually, my boys rolled over and feel asleep easily after once over -- even though stretching and squeezing their face at the end always causes gales of giggles.
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22 September 2010

Some days you know it's going the way you'd hoped.

As you may remember, we've been trying to get up early to get some schooling in before I go to work. It's hasn't happened every morning -- 7am is VERY early for our scholar -- but it happens enoug to make a big difference in our progress.
This morning, Jack was rather cheerful about getting up to study. But e dawdled nonetheless, and he used half of the hour we had available getting dressed and singing morning songs.

The we sat down and read a bit from The Story of Art. Fascinating -- but we had to set the author straight every few paragraphs about his dubious views of magic.

Anyway, after the first chapter, I closed the book and stood up to hit the shower.

Jack was shocked!

"What? Are we done already? But I wasn't finished yet!"

Want to bet he hits the books more promptly tomorrow?

I am one happy mamma.

19 September 2010

Update 19 September 2010

We've been back at school again.

Percy Jackson has made Ancient Greece so much more personal than any previous unit that I really wish that The Red Pyramid series has premiered earlier. Oh well, I'm sure it will inspire more research over time. Now, to find a similar series to lead us into Rome. :p

Studying with Mamma at the helm more than before has gone surprisingly well -- far better than I had expected.

For one thing, Rod is still interested and involved, and when studying is a family affair, we all have a lot more fun than when Jack perceived all of this as a somewhat personalized torture device to drag him away from his computer games. ;) We're also finding more time to work on school than I had feared. Now that we can work a little every day, we feel like we can grab someting even if we only have a few minutes -- we've done car schooling, bed schooling, and all kinds of fun, crazy things, which helps a lot.

And Rod has mentioned pretty frequently how much he's enjoying learning about this and that, and pointing out applications in every day life, which has been lots of fun for me, too.

Interestingly, even after Jack's attention grows thin, he begs not to stop. Not entirely sure what that's about...probably just wanting to get done to get on to the next Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books.
Today, we tackled a huge job that's been on our minds since Corey left. We pulled Jack's room and the guest room apart in the first step toward swapping them around. We have had guests in the guest room five times now, and I have never gotten the impression that the guest room was entirely comfortable. I am hoping that by putting guests in the smaller room, we can at least keep them adequately warm or cool. In a more contained room, they may also feel more...I don't know. Private? Sharing with my craft room seemed like a decent idea on the surface, but it didn't seem to work as ewll as I'd hoped. Maybe this will be better.

Now, to find a bean bag chair for Jack to play on. The room that is now our shared play room has a painted wood floor, and so won't be as comfortable for lounging as the plush carpet was. I was completely amazed at the price of them these days! I remember them being $10 ... maybe $30 for a really nice one. Now they start at $40 and go well over $200! Yikes! So, I've put out a call on Freecycle, first. Maybe someone else has one they don't need since the kids grew up or something.

Jack seems to like this arrangement a lot -- and I will enjoy having him nearby when I craft, too. :) Maybe we'll all have more room. It's probably another week before we can finish, but Jack's toys have been thinned and arranged, so he's happy.


Over the years I have heard much about how we, as a nation, are no longer neighborly.

That doesn't bother me overmuch, since I'm not particularly neighborly either. Rod can go anywhere and make a place for himself in the community. Everywhere Jack and I go, everyone knows Jack - he, too, is a part of his community. But that's not me. I tend to wander around the edges and am most comfortable going about my business in relative anonymity.

We've lived here in our neighborhood for almost six years. I know the names of a handful of neighbors and have spoken with a couple of others a few times. I have waved and smiled to most of them at one time or another, but really that's as far as I care to go...

It's not that I dislike them. Miss Jeanette from two doors down is a lovely woman, and Mr Charles next door is quite nice. But...I worry about Mrs. Kravtiz. Better to keep her at a distance, so that her dramas are her own.

It's not a theoretical thing, either. I've lived next to her.

It was a LONG time ago, in a city far away. I was a poor, suddenly-single mother of two trying to get by on a Pell Grant and welfare. I found an amazing apartment that I could actually afford! It was one of a block of four, originally designed and built for the 'up and coming young executive' (you could tell by the fancy woodwork in the formal parts of the house that stopped abruptly at the swinging doors to the private parts of the house. It had been many years since anybody 'up and coming' had wanted to live in that neighborhood, though.

The four apartments shared a connected basement off the kitchen back door, with four separate laundry and storage facilities.

One day, about a year after we had made out little nest there, a new neighbor moved it. A family with several smaller children. I wondered at the time,. how a family that large was going to manage in a two bedroom apartment, but they seemed nice enough, and the apartments were big and the children were very young.

But soon after we'd exchanged names, the mother of the family start walking into my kitchen to ask to borrow things. The kitchen was at the back of the house, so she had let herself in at the front (without knocking!) and wandered through my whole apartment! I locked the door -- and she came up through the basement and let herself in the kitchen to complain about what other neighbors were up to and that I'd 'forgotten' to unlock the door. I kept asking her to knock first-- but she rarely did, and if I was busy and didn't answer the locked door, she she didn't let up.

What finally saved me wasn't moving -- which I intended to do as soon as my lease was up -- but a new beau. Turns out that I'd forgotten to lock the kitchen door again when he was visiting. She walked in on us and was horrified. I never realized she was a bigot but his beautiful brown face in my home, his arms around my waist, was enough to have her screaming invective ...and she never walked in on us (or spoke to me or my kids) again.

That experience was extremely uncomfortable. It made me wary of becoming too friendly with people who live near enough that they become hard to avoid. I know I have probably missed a lot of potentially dear friends that way, but I can't get past that invasive woman's face.

10 September 2010


I hate buying cars.

I was in my thirties when I learned to drive.

I'm not a big fan of cars and in my ideal world, I would be able to walk everywhere I need to go. I do appreciate the freedom cars provide, and my life is currently set up in a way that makes them impossible to avoid (12 miles each way to work), but they are a tool for me and nothing more.

Eleven years (and 250,000 miles) ago, I completed my research on the which of the small sedans was the most reliable. I marched onto the dealer's lot, pointed at Puttputt, a dark red Geo Prizm, and said "I'll take that one".

She was my second ever car - her predecessor was a Geo Metro, "Eggbeater," also dark red. I liked the Metro well enough except that her hatchback meant that I couldn't hide things in the trunk and she was small enough that people were perpetually trying to make illegal left hand turns right through her. And my boys resented that there were no back doors -- so I went up a size.

Now poor old Puttputt, having served well for an amazingly long time, is ready to rest.

Well, that may be underplaying it ... the poor thing still moves, but she's no longer safe. She takes two quarts of oil to every tank of gas and spews nasty black smoke everywhere she goes and her clutch won't grab until third gear, so she starts soooo slooooowly after lights that she's become a hazard.


I no longer remember where I did my research all those years ago...nor am I sure that the same resources would be available, so we've been wandering around checking out options in person. So far, we've "narrowed" the field very little.

Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris or Corolla, Nissan Versa, Honda Civic, or maybe a Mazda four door...

I like the Rio, the Yaris, and the Versa. Rod prefers the Accord. ;)

Fortunately, we have had potentially good news at work. Pay raises will be awarded in October for the first time in many years. I still don't know whether *I* have one coming, but I can hope. And the value of our house plummeted again, so we are getting an escrow refund. And we have some very, very dear friends who have let us (and are letting us) borrow cars in the meanwhile. Thanks, Nerida, Neal, and Mark!

So...anyone know where we can check reliability stats these days?

07 September 2010

Not back to school week

This the official beginning of our "Not Back to School" week. I will woke at six to finish our checklist (and of course discovered several topics I forgot to include after I had all nine pages printed.) at seven, Jack and I started our studies -- he chose "You wouldn't want to be a Greek Athlete". I really don't really understand the appeal of those books, but he enjoys them, and they do have some simple information to get us started.

I'm was not expecting a lot at that hour, but it was his idea, so we gave it a go. :p It was hard to get him on his feet, but once he was awake enough to remember the plan, he was determined to get to it.

Once he got started, he did well. He read to me and seemed to be enjoying himself -- but when the school bus went by, he was stunned. He couldn't believe how early school kids had to be up and at it every morning!

Now, schools out for me until this evening when we will colour in the next part of the mini-timeline and we'll hand the Ancient Greece poster and put up some pictures on the big timeline.

I'm hitting the showers.

06 September 2010

Butternut pudding

1 cup dark brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon "cake spice"
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound of seeded, roasted, and peeled butternut, pureed
1 cup whole cream milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Whisk together the sugars, salt, and spices in bowl until smooth.

Blend in the pureed squash, cream, sour cream and whipped eggs.

Pour into a buttered casserole dish.

Bake until the center is almost set, about 55 minutes, depending on the depth of the casserole.

I like to break up a bar of dark chocolate into it just before I put it in the oven ... YUM!
Yesterday, we canned tomatoes.

The exciting part? We canned only with tomatoes from our own garden!

This year, we actually had enough tomatoes to put some by. Not in the quantities we used to, but we no longer use tat many tomatoes, so it works out.

I never really imagined that I would be able to do this -- grown my own food in quantities enough to put by.
Oh, I LOVE my life!

We got plenty of tomatoes this year, and plenty of greens. I'm disappointed with the quantities of squashes and other things, though. I'll have to work on why they were so puny this year.

(I am also pondering some winter planting this fall to save time in the spring. I definitely want to put down amendments this fall, if we can pull it off. That would save a huge amount of time in the spring!

Today, I am starting on winter holiday cards.

Nerida will bring Connor over and since it's been raining and Rod is too sick to watch the boys, I suspect that one card and a couple of ideas is as much as I can hope for -- but it's a start. We have weeks yet -- and my list isn't finalized, so a few ideas is really all we need so far.

Now, to finish the butternut pudding and get the card materials before Nerida and Connor arrive. ;)

Happy birthday, Isabella!

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05 September 2010


As a part of our prep for the next unit, we have been discussing that it is necessary for us to get more organized and to get some school done every day if we are to finish this unit within the six months we hope to. Also, I want to take a much bigger role in the learning than I have so far .. .I feel like I'm missing out!

Jack says he wants to homeschool the way President Obama did. He wants to get up at 4:30 am to study before the day starts.

We compromised. I'll get up at 6 to do my chores, then I'll wake him at 7 to study for an hour before I go to work.

It sounds like a great idea, when you're well rested. But Jack rarely gets up before 10am now.

We'll see how long this lasts.

Still, it's good to emulate one's heroes. :p

Ahhh, sandwiches!!!

We went to Red Pepper Deli in Nortville again yesterday with John. I LOVE that place!
This time I tried the pizza.

It was really good, but what impressed me the most was the crust. Being not only gluten free, but grain free, I find that some foods are just hard to replace.

Specifically: easy snacks.

No grains means that bread and crackers are tough to replace, and bread and crackers are the basis of many, many quick and easy, light meals - PB&J, cheese and crackers, pizza, toast and jam with my bacon and eggs...

With our current foods, everything seems to require cooking and some days that just isn't easy to manage.

I was never a huge fan of sandwiches, though I really liked good ones pretty well. It's just that bad sandwiches in yucky bread are so much more common than good sandwiches! But after a year with them not being an option, well...I have been missing the ease of them.

We found some commercial raw crackers that are really good, but at $7 for a small handful, not a real option most of the time.

We have a recipe for almond bread, and it's very good when it works, but it's kind of finicky. I have had to throw more than one loaf to the squirrels and birds. (Have I mentioned that I don't bake well? That's Rod's thing. But he and Jack can eat commercial gluten-free breads, so the urgency isn't there for him. ;) )

The RPD seed bread tastes good, so we bought five slices to bring home for experiments. I made a cheese sandwich with mustard and it was marvelous!

So, now to find a recipe. ;)

03 September 2010

Planning and preparing: Ancient Greece, here we come!

We took several weeks off school at the end of the ancient Egypt unit to play Patrician (courtesy of big brother Corey), read everything in sight, and generally relax.

There would have been more outdoor play, except that for much of the vacation, Rod has been sick with a particularly bad viral infection.

We'll try to get Jack out to play this weekend so he can run off some of the energy that he's accumulated "being a good boy" while Dad rests. I know that's been hard on him, and while Rod is slowly recovering, I don't think he's going to be up to any real adventures for a couple of weeks yet. Fortunately, we have a long weekend ahead.

Anyway, I am gathering up our materials, making checklists, making Greek language flash cards, marking relevent pages, and downloading the free books we'll use.

We'll be taking a first look at Greek this unit. We're using the Greek words from English from the Roots Up.

We'll be starting our nutrition indoc, er EDUCATION with a look at Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma We don't agree with everything Pollan has to say, but it's better than the USDA's food pyramid! Once it'a available, we'll move on to Real Food Nutrition & Health For Kids by Kristen Michaelis.

In the What your First Gader Should Know, Jack came across a very brief catalog of Abrahamic faiths and he was intrigued. He asked to learn more about World Religions, so we'll do that this unit.

We'll continue with Math and Science, of course, but those are Rod's babies so I am far less familiar with them. We'll continue with herbology, and we've stepped up our astrology studies. This time, Jack will be making "posters" of each sign. Next time, houses, then planets. ;)

I still hope to get at least the checklists of what we've done and are doing up ... but that requires that Rod be both healthy and not too busy to help. I'll let you know when we get there, because I know we've had hits on them.

More soon, I hope -- but we have lots to do. Tomatoes are getting away from us! Time to can again!