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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A two-wheeled experience.

There are many experiences and items we have provided for our second set of children along the way. We have ensured their education. We have hauled them to concerts, plays, cultural enrichment events, scouts, grass in the yard, single home versus apartment or condo. If it even appeared good for them, we were on it, and they were in it.

Yet, somehow, we forgot to take the training wheels off the bikes.

We should have noticed last year, when they were riding with their knees and thighs out on either side. Belle did seem a bit uncomfortable, but with the Mister's illness the year before that, and moving, and the adoption, we never got around to purchasing and then teaching them to ride a two-wheel bicycle without training wheels. The bikes of three years ago just don't fit the children of today.

Santa Claus was wise enough to supply two dirt bikes this year.

He was also informed when he asked at the North Pole (wink, wink) in the bicycle department, that basically, girls ride the same bikes as boys when it comes to street bikes. Santa was eying a rather large, cumbersome lavender and pink bike, with a basket streamers on the handlebars. Santa was informed by the elf in the blue polo shirt that the bike Santa favored was for older women in their golden years, a nostalgia bicycle. If Santa was shopping for a girl in the 8-12 age bracket, it would be better if he looked at the fire red or sparkle indigo, low to the ground, the banana seat making its appearance from the 1960s, and no basket or bell. What was Santa to do? He took one of each, with matching helmets.

Both bikes and helmets were well-received Christmas morning. A few days later, they were moved to the garage. The bikes have stayed in the garage until warmer weather. And now warmer weather is here.

"We have perfectly good bikes in the garage, and can't ride them." complained Baby.

"I can get a wrench and take the training wheels off the old bikes, and put them on the new bikes " volunteered Belle.

So, with the Mister enjoying a rare day off, we are off to right this wrong in a local parking lot that is basically unused all day. He will hold up each bike, as he did for the kids' elder brother and sister, who used to be their uncle and mother. After we are sure they can handle it, we will allow them to gradually, week by week, expand their traveling boundaries, until they are free to explore the subdivision.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tomatoes, green beans and daisies, OH MY!

We started plants indoors last month. For those of you who live in warmer climates, we start ours indoors to give them a chance to grow before removing them to the outdoors and the elements. If we did not, the growing season would not yield all that it could.

This year, we tried starting plants in paper egg cartons. Despite our best efforts to keep them warm and moist, the seeds did not pop up, even after three weeks. We put the prepared dirt in a bag, and the egg cartons in the recycling bin. Then we took a trip to the big-box store.

We bought 2 (count 'em) Jiffy Starter Greenhouses, along with new seeds. We got the kits home and followed the directions, only starting 144 little plants, having loads of seeds leftover for a second batch, even a third. We started green beans, tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers, bell peppers, daisies and cosmos.

While we were at it, the kids wanted to try to plant directly in a planter, covering the planter with plastic wrap and keeping it moist, just like the Jiffy Greenhouse. OK, fine. And I remembered the trick of sprouting seeds on a plate covered with damp paper towels, then covering with a cl
ear dish or plastic wrap. That experiment was tried, as well.

Below are photos of the greenhouses and paper towel sprouts. Both greenhouses look prety much the same, so I only inserted one. The direct planters are a bust.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Grant total: $1952. Why would we do this?

Owing to the fact that there are simply some things that cannot be obtained for absolutely rock-bottom all of the time, I have managed to cut the distance learning budget by about 45% versus last year, and put more "stuff" into the curriculum. Again, the price for Catholic school in our area with all the bells and whistles is about $7,000. The price for school-in-a-box with advisory service for our family is $2500 this year, not including extra first-run novels, field trips, school supplies, etc. That brings the total for prepacked school to about $3500.

It is a very straight-forward plan of study, and a pretty straight-forward budget:
  • RELIGION- Yes we teach this subject, in addition to modeling it and using our parish's religious education program. Catholicism is simple on the surface, but has 2,000+ years of depth. We purchased "Christ Our Life" by Loyola used. Our children did not attend religious education at our parish this year, but left an excellent Catholic school a year ago, and live in a family that practices our Faith. Total with rel. ed. is $310.
  • MATH- We went ahead and got Digital Interactive Video Education for Saxon Math for ALL the Saxon middle school books, from Math 54 to Algebra I. We spent a lot on the math budget, but that's it until Belle is ready for high school. Total: $310.
  • SCIENCE- Middle school science needn't be expensive. As a guide, we are using Steck Vaughn's Strategies for Success: Science. We also have on hand the Kingfisher's Science Encyclopedia. We also have a great library, and our television package includes a lot of good science-based programs. There are many offerings to outsource science in our area, including STEM through the Girl Scouts (counted as a field trip, 5 solid hours of intense education). Total: $40, with chemicals.
  • READING- Novels. Lots of them. Steck-Vaughn Reading Comprehension, one of which had to be purchased new. Our library again allows a vast array of reading materials into our home. Total: $146.
  • CRITICAL THINKING- A good indicator of a good school. Used software, used Mind Bender books, used Steck Vaughn Critical Thinking books, and our very own critical thinking professor (the Mister) keeps costs on this down to $18.
  • VOCABULARY- I don't like modern spellers. I simply don't think they do enough to teach spelling. I prefer vocabulary work, which includes spelling, and I recommend Vocabulary in Action by Loyola. Total: $24.
  • LANGUAGE GRAMMAR AND USAGE- We call it LUG. Loyola Press produces two excellent texts to emphasize LUG, Voyages In English and Exercises In English. We also own several manuals of style, but we would have those anyway, and they are easily located online. Total: $31.
  • HISTORY- I personally feel schools lost educational power when History, Geography, Civics and Culture were lumped into Social Studies and given one value of hours spent. Yes, they intertwine. No, they are not the same subjects. This school year, we are going to study ancient history from the beginning of time to 400 AD. Our local library offers many resources for this. We did feel the need to purchase the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, used, along with Oxford First Ancient History. Grand total: $43.
  • GEOGRAPHY- Considering how many people in the United States do not know that the metro area of the District of Columbia includes parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia, even a smidgen of Pennsylvania, makes Geography a priority here. Once again, Steck Vaughn's well executed Maps, Globes and Graphs, along with Kingfisher's Geography Encyclopedia were purchased used, $32.
  • CIVICS- There are a surprising amount of freebies to teach Civics on the Internet.
  • CULTURE- Steck Vaughn's World Cultures Past and Present, with research through our local library and online. $12.
  • COMPOSITION- Composition is another victim of combined studies, usually folded into English, studied once a year, reinforced throughout for sure in better schools, but not studied as it should be. I did take some courses in elementary and middle school composition, from several very good teachers. The first thing that each instructor related was that kids need to write DAILY. Toward that end, we use writing prompts, in a spiral notebook, number of lines or words determined by age and ability. These are evaluated for further projects. The Mister and I also feel research is neglected in the younger years, and then scholars are expected to simply learn how to put together a research paper in late middle school, again in late high school. Finally, we do not have Accelerated Reader service, as Renaissance Learning does not offer services to families in individual education programs, and quite frankly, because we think Accelerated Reader is pretty useless as a reading teaching tool. It is fine for brick-and-mortar schools that need statistical data to present to parents and school boards. However, it does not teach anything that reading a book and writing a solid book report will not counter- in fact, less than that. Total cost on Composition:$0.
  • PENMANSHIP- Look at the handwriting of young adults in the 18-30 age bracket. Part of this is the lack of expectation Society seemed to foster during the 1900s-2000s. Part of this is lack of penmanship skill beyond the third grade. We use the Writing Our Catholic Faith series. $24.
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE- We broke out the big bucks on this. Public schools do not teach foreign languages in our area until sixth grade. Private schools do not teach anything but Spanish until high school, and then usually only by fifth grade. This year, we are having a good foundation for other languages as well as English with the Christina Latina series, starting with Prima Latina. Belle would like to learn Spanish, and Baby would like to learn French. Used Rosetta Stone for both Spanish and French! Our local library as well as one of the Mister's client schools give access to Mango and other sources of foreign language study. $367.
  • FIELD TRIPS- We budgeted $300 for fees as well as transportation.
  • UNIFORMS- I discussed this in another entry. We will spend about $200 on khaki-style pants, plain polo shirts, a nice blouse or two, skirts, socks, sweaters and dress shoes. These clothes wear like iron, wash and dry well, and always look nice. If you want to see what uniform clothes can do for your children, visit French Toast, Lands End or Penneys.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES- We buy them starting in July, when they go on deep discount. Nobody is claiming the leftover supplies for a classroom communal locker, as frequently happens in brick-and-mortar schools. Nobody is forcing scholars to pitch old materials in a frenzy of cleaning to be ready of the last day of school. There is no prohibition against re-using school supplies acquired in prior years, such as protractors, ring binders, rulers, flash drives, etc. Total budgeted cost: $100.

Now, why on earth would a woman in her fifties choose to stay home with a group of children, albeit her grandchildren cum children, and facilitate their instructional needs? Do the public schools not exist? What about Catholic schools? Christian schools? Private schools?

When we adopted our grandchildren, we decided public school, excepting for special needs if possible, was not a good idea. We previously raised children, and find that in our area, public schools have not gotten better over time.

Too many aspects of public education have been federalized. Too many prejudices exist against teaching children to read early, teaching children other languages early, allowing children to work independently at their own rate of speed. We do not accept global warming as proven science, yet there it is, being taught all over our area, and being taught as THE ONLY accepted truth. We want our children to hear as many scientific theory as possible, not just outdated Darwinism, certainly not only global warming out of context.

We do not care if Jennifer has two daddies at her house, and are sick of hearing about Heather having two mommies. Why does anything have to be said about Jennifer's and Heather's home life, anymore than anything needs to be said about Belle having grandparents for parents? All the time taken up with worrying about whether or not double-daddy and double-mommy families get fair treatment (and they often get much more than fair treatment), instead of modeling how to behave properly through good, old-fashioned etiquette, could be used to teach a foreign language. All the time spent on parental education through children could be used to teach extra math, extra science, and perhaps extra physical education, or even (gasp!) reinstate recess. We would then not only produce better educated and better mannered children in public schools, we would take care of a large portion of the alleged childhood obesity problem we hear so much these days. The rest of that could be solved by walking to school, no matter the weather unless severe.

Simply because our children are also our grandchildren does not mean they need to be enrolled in therapy, certainly not at the hands of the public school system. Just because our children were abandoned does not mean they were crack babies, fetal alcohol syndrome victims, or victims of extreme physical abuse. Their quirks and idiosyncrasies might mean they need a little work on their social skills, but they do not need to sit in special education five days a week- not with those IQs! Yet, in our state, gifted and talented students receive very little from public schools, unless parents are cut-throat and willing to go out and get it for their children.

Christian schools are nice. As Catholics, some are way too evangelical, in that they consider our children fair game to evangelize away from Catholicism. They average about the same price or more than local Catholic schools.

We have gone over our objections to the local Catholic schools, and don't wish to hash through them again. Let us simply say that we feel they are not the value they should be for the money and effort to send our children to them.

Brick-and-mortar schools of any variety do not offer the flexibility of distance learning. Every school we checked, and we checked over 25 schools in the area, has maybe four field trips per year. We have utilized our metropolitan area to go on no less than 11 field trips, and that's slacking in my opinion. When a scholar in our school wants to use a computer, he or she does it. If the kids want to learn something more in-depth, we do it. If we want to start the new school year in April for one scholar, and June for the other, and do work all the way through summer just as adults work all summer, so be it.

I understand there are grandparents who need to work just to put food on the table and a roof over the grandchildren's heads. I understand how blessed I am to have the Mister, who not only goes out there and brings in the first income, but is there for emotional and spiritual support. I am not saying ALL public schools are horrible, ALL Catholic schools are less than stellar, ALL Christian schools could use more work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Great Curriula Purchase Continues- $536 vs. $3500 vs. $7000

When I did my calculations last time, I forgot those extra things that move education out of the books and into the space of everyday time. These items include school supplies (crayons, pencils, pens and all that), "school" clothes (purchased at various uniform supply houses), field trip money (a big chunk of change for the distance learner) and purchased fiction (versus borrowed from the library). That would bring last year's total to a whopping $3500. It's still cheaper than the local private schools average of $7,000. And so far, I have only spent $536.

Interesting items purchased so far:
  • Theras and His Town. A book about an ancient Athenian boy who, due to circumstances beyond his control, is moved to Sparta, and the results thereof. $14, with free delivery. We will all study Ancient History next year, so Theras could get multiple use as a read-aloud, a novel study, and a conversation starter.
  • I found Vocabulary in Action used for one child for $9, with shipping. It is everything I hoped, spelling well beyond memorizing the words and performing busy work.
  • Math Digital Interactive Video Education, or DIVE. How interactive it is I don't know, as it is an instructor teaching mathematics. However, if the Mister's busy schedule does not permit him to fully interact on every single lesson, it'll be nice to have back-up for Algebra for Belle. Belle already looks askance when I do my best but flub a mathematical explanation. These are pricey, $50 beyond the Saxon bundle for each year of classes. They are a good investment, as they are reusable. I picked up one for $30 with the ship, and another for $24.
  • We decided to pick up ALL the Saxon Math bundles from the second edition, from Math 54 to Algebra I. If Belle or Baby need to review some of the particulars which happened to by-pass them in the past, we will be ready. If Belle continues to devour math and requires more in-depth knowledge, we will also be ready. By next year, we hope to find Belle an online credit class for Algebra II. I've spent $86 on Saxon books, and only need a teacher's edition for Math 87 to complete what we need thus far. That same set new would cost over $1,000. As I'm not sure I like the way Houghton Mifflin is taking the Saxon math series, I think we are getting a good set while the gettin' is good.
  • A used copy of Maps, Globes and Graphs for World Geography came in at $12 with shipping. It is not so used, as it does have modern political maps.
  • The Oxford First Ancient History swam the Atlantic from the UK for $25.
  • The Well-Trained Mind, second edition. While I am not as strict as Mother and Daughter Wise (I have no problem integrating heavy use of software and video into our curricula, for example), it serves as a good guide. I paid $15 with shipping.
I am having a rough way to go With Math U See. It is not cheap by any measure, new or used. I only just read their stewardship packet, and that didn't thrill me. I may just end up purchasing manipulatives as we go along.

Rosetta Stone for French, Spanish and possibly German or Irish (Gaelic) is also going to be a slow purchase. It is not cheap to begin, currently $229 new for just Level One. The cheapest I have seen Level One on an auction site is $99. Our local library does offer Mango services for free, but that is more of an enrichment than a complete course. I confess, I translate other languages well, but my accent in any language excepting English and German stinks. I sound just like the American I am in French, and Spanish comes out with a Texas drawl, thanks to my military experience. I haven't tried Gaelic beyond "Slante" and other quaint sayings and short songs.

I am finally debating the value of a Discovery Education subscription. I've seen what Discovery Education can do in a classroom setting. I know one classroom teacher who uses it almost exclusively, using her textbook as a guide rather than the main material. I know the content offered classroom teachers astonished me at the time I recommended it. For $265, individual families can access Discovery Education Homeschool and tap into its rich resources of 50,000 video clips, assessment via state standards for content, and interactive training with master teachers.

On the other hand, our family already pays for a medium premium package for interactive, VoIP TV. The Discovery channels are included in the package. We regularly DVR such shows as MythBusters, Dogs 101, Sci-Fi Science, How It's Made, etc. for use in our lessons as enrichment.

We also get content from stations that are not part of the Discovery channels, and are not offered through Discovery Education. Alton Brown offers kitchen science on a regular basis, particularly in his older shows, and Food Network isn't even a part of the Discovery channels. NASA has some great content. Green Screen Adventures is home-grown in the studios of WCIU. Grammar Girl is online, along with Legal Lad and Math Dude.

I don't need to belong to a user group of classroom teachers, and use their lesson plans. Too often, classroom lesson plans just won't work in a distance learning environment. I don't need to worry about my state's standards, as we surpass them. If I want to see those standards, my state provides a web site. Every time I go to that web site and check out what little is expected of public school children in my children's age group, I shudder.

Discovery also offers content we don't consider educational and wouldn't use because of its political bias. It is fine to want to keep the world clean, but it can be taken to extremes. Somebody needs to tell Bill Nye that global warming is a theory, and not a proven one at that. History Channel needs to remember that Dan Brown's book, the DaVinci Code, is fiction and has no real basis in the history of the Catholic Church, along with Nostradamus' predictions. It seems only the Military Channel gets it right when it comes to history as it happened, without political slant. We saw what happened with H1N1. We won't be needing emergency preparedness offered in Discovery Education content, especially for weapon attacks on schools.

I know. All that content at the touch of my fingers. I can pick and choose, and not have to wait for certain holidays or anniversaries to DVR. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green Screen Adventures- Chicago TV's Grandchild

If green screen technology had been used for Bozo's Circus, Ray Rayner and Friends, Here's Geraldine, Kiddie-A-Go-Go, Dirty Dragon and Kukla, Fran and Ollie, the cost to produce such shows would have been much less. There would have been no need for big backdrops and changes of scenery. The stars of such shows could have effectively traveled the globe without fear of paying for airline tickets and hotels.

Chroma key technology existed in some form, according to Wikipedia, as well as my 1958 Book of Knowledge (let me know if you want to make a hectograph- it contains directions), as far back as the 1930s. The show the Flying Nun used it a great deal.

What's this got to do with raising kids the second time around?

Green Screen Adventures is a home-grown show broadcast on Weigel Broadcasting stations. Kids from second through eighth grades produce artwork, scripts, and creative writing projects. The Green Screen Adventures team accepts submissions, and applies chroma key to worthy submissions, airing them at various times on Weigel stations. There are fourteen Weigel stations, and at least eight of those could utilize Green Screen Adventures effectively.

What makes Green Screen Adventures so great? It involves the kids, instead of allowing them to sit passively watching the show. Say what you will about the hokey sets of Bozo and Garfield Goose, Ray Rayner's battle with Chelveston the Duck, or the lack of craftsmanship when Burr Tillstrom manufactured Kukla. These shows worked not because of Clutch Cargo, Funny Company and Diver Dan cartoons, but because the human actors involved their audience, the kids. It's the same with Green Screen Adventures. The Golden Age of Chicago Television would well recognize her grandchild in Green Screen Adventures.

Weigel Broadcasting has stations in South Bend, Milwaukee and Rockford. WMLW Milwaukee runs Green Screen Adventures, as does
South Bend WCWW, and Chicago WCIU, WWME, WMEU and ThisTV. Both Milwaukee and Chicago are large cities that are very close together, with many suburbs that consider themselves a part of both cities. There are students in Catholic and other parochial schools, other public schools, private schools, distance learners, home schoolers who would greatly benefit from Green Screen Adventures.

Yet, WCIU said it only presented Chicago Public School students' work. So I emailed Green Screen Adventures, and got this reply:

Thanks for your interest in Green Screen Adventures and for encouraging your children to write - it is a skill that will last a lifetime.

We accept submissions nationwide. Any school, any child.
Online at www.greenscreenadventures.tv you'll find submission info and parental release forms.

"We began the program working primarily with Chicago Public Schools, but, as we've grown, we have expanded our audience. We now accept work from elementary students from across the country and are now televised nationally on THIStv, in addition to our local channels."

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions

Thanks for your email.

Associate Producer
Green Screen Adventures
Weigel Broadcasting

Why are you waiting? Get busy! Watch, write something, submit! This is a GREAT show, and great fun, besides! And be sure to watch with those kiddos!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Far- $229 On Curriculum Items

Our current curriculum, with the grading and advice, cost us $2,440.00. Compared to the local Catholic schools, it is about 1/3 of the cost. It has everything, including pencil cases, paints, paper and compasses. Yet, as you have read from previous entries, it is boring, rather repetitive, and doesn't always make sense in light of a distance learning program. It is truly school-in-a-box.

We asked those who are being educated, and they wanted to continue distance learning, just not in the format of the school-in-a-box. This made a great deal of sense, but did it mean a great deal more money?

Taking into consideration all needs and requirements, along with desires, I have been shopping online at various stores, looking at good materials versus average materials. I then located what I could of these materials through second-hand shops, both online and 3-dimensional, as well as the places some people like to hate, eBay, Gipper's List, and Craig's List.

I planned to spend about $3,000.00 next school year, with field trips and all that. As next school year will hopefully start in May, I decided to see what I could find off-season. I seemed to remember it really cost more to buy learning materials when everybody wants them.

So, far I have spent $229.00. Yes, I have spent two hundred-twenty-nine dollars. For our money, I have obtained:
  • Two Loyola Press "Christ Our Life" religion books. Loyola Press has a web site with updates, activities and learning options. The children will also attend regular religious instruction at our parish church, mostly because it is a good program, and because it is more or less required in our diocese in order to be confirmed. The School of Religion uses Faith First, so there is no big duplication. Evangelical Christians would have an easier time on eBay, as there are TONS of materials out there for them, greatly reduced.
  • Prima Latina. This was a big expense, over $79 with shipping. However, the cost of this course with the DVD set is a lot more.
  • Voyages In English and Exercises in English for one child. I am debating which set to get the others. I think I'm going to end up paying full price for Vocabulary in Action, though, can't find it used anywhere.
  • Think AheadGames for Logic. I am waiting to see if I can find the MindBender books cheaply, but so far, not much luck.
  • Kingfisher encyclopedias for History, Geography and Science. The Science one has yet to arrive, so its price is not included in the total spent so far.
  • Saxon's Algebra I. As you can see from the link, it was a steal at $20. We are waiting on final bidding for Math 54, Math 65, and Algebra 1/2.
  • The New Way Things Work and Pinball Science.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Uniform or totem?

We currently belong to three learning groups.

One we joined because we just moved into the area, and thought it would help ease the kids into various activities. Unfortunately, while the group in question has some interesting activities, said activities directly conflict with everything else we do. And I have to say it, this group makes me feel older than I am, as if I should get myself a walker and a Rascal cart. They are great women, great families, but by comparison, they are old enough to be my daughters, some my very young daughters. It is not their problem that I am older than they are. We did get our Girl Scout troop through this organization, and I'm grateful for that.

One group we joined because it has activities in our kids' age group that do meet our schedule. Three of the mothers are my age or older, raising grandchildren.
It reminds me of the groups back in the 1980s and 1990s, casual and congenial, with kids and adults of all ages interacting together. We love this group, the activities, the people. We try to join up with them whenever we can, which can be difficult, as many of the activities are over the border in the next state. We do live close to the border, but sometimes what is an hour away to these folks is an hour and a half to us.

The third group is more of a think tank and co-op than a traditional home education group.Our children were invited to join based upon test scores through a summer enrichment program. It turns out our children are not the way they are because they live with two people old enough to be their grandparents. They are allegedly academically gifted and talented (as the person who supervises chores, I am not always so sure of this). Those talents not only shine in the academic subjects of mathematics and language usage, but in ability to originate and elaborate. It would explain why our dear Baby would, when bored to tears at her old school, take a "bathroom sabbatical" every so often, wandering the halls in search of subject matter more interesting than what was being taught in the second grade.

The think tank has some, but not all, of the trappings of private schools. One of these is uniform pieces worn to meetings. There is a suggested dress uniform, with plaid skirts for the girls, ties for everybody, and dress shoes. Children in Grammar wear a different uniform than the young people in Logic and Lower Rhetoric, while Upper Rhetoric has a dress code. Most meetings and events require a basic uniform of navy, khaki or colored trousers with belts, polo shirts, sweaters when necessary, and gym shoes.

A big part of the reason for these uniforms is community relations. Different corporations and foundations contribute to the education of the scholars, as they are known, directly through classes and internship as well as financially for each scholar. The theory is that corporate offices will not want to give time and money to a bunch of scruffy kids who looked as if they just climbed out from under rocks.

I have to admit, while I do not care if my children have pink hair or sport fake tattoos, the uniforms serve me well. They seem to send a symbol to concerned relatives and friends that yes, indeedy do, the kids ARE engaged in education, even though they are not sitting in a classroom from 8:00 AM until 2:45 PM with 24 other children of the same age and one adult. The dress uniforms make nice photographs to pass out at family events. The trousers look good and wear well, whether we go to the opera backstage or to the grocery store. The various pieces match no matter the mood of the wearer.

It does not always quiet my mother's efforts to get my children into school, especially the parish school she thinks they should attend. Catholic schools in our new area average $7,000 a year for two children for parishioners. Some offer some, but not all of the classes and activities we obtain through the think tank and learning group. The one my mother prefers boasts that it offers Spelling as a subject. All "extra" classes, which includes Art, Music and Spanish, are offered after school and cost more money beyond the $7,000. While I would not fault a parent who preferred it for their children, given the circumstances, the Mister and I will not send our children there any time soon. The fact that we are talking about a professor and his educated wife who has worked in Catholic schools cuts little ice with my mother. If it isn't happening in what she considers school, learning might not take place.

The coordinating outfits that comprise the uniform do lend us a legitimacy that we might not possess if we just let the kids wear Goodwill 24/7, which is what they wear when they are not wearing the uniforms. I don't know if I like the fact that clothes represent our educational choices, but I do like that the kids look good.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For All This $$- Not Next Year!

When we started the distance learning/ homeschool thing, the Mister insisted we use a curriculum with a grading and advisory service.
  • I hadn't taught in a home environment in over ten years.
  • We might not like distance learning, and we didn't want to jeopardize getting the kids into a good school just because we didn't use the opinion of experts. After all, we are old (in our fifties).
Since late July, we have been pumping away at this particular curriculum in their format, day in, day out, some days are better than others. We hope to be finished by April, and it will be none too soon for most of us.

So I asked the kids. They like distance learning MUCH better than going to school. This is from children who looked forward to going to school for the conversation! They like learning in a relaxed style, going way beyond what the books say, doing their own research, all the really cool projects.

What they don't like is the preformatted curriculum. I don't blame them. But we paid for the darn thing, in full, and all its goodies, including the compass and protractor we never used.

We have explained to the Mister that he is not here all day, and we will be setting up our curriculum. He agreed, particularly when I pointed out how much money we would save. We have syllabi, outlines, course of studies, all made by our own little fingers. This is what we plan for next year:

  • Two different math programs for kids who learn differently. We have a math lover in our house, and she wants, nay she demands Saxon. The rest of the child learners would prefer something more along the lines of Math U See, or Math U See Not (their preference).
  • More girl books for the girls! The books we have had to use to complete the canned program are geared toward boys. The most reprehensible of these books is an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, that ended up tossed across the room on the last day of its use. Three cheers for Louisa May Alcott and pass around the Nancy Drew mysteries.
  • Less textbooks and more "real" books. The first to go was the spellers that came with the school-in-a-box. I found instead several research books, including the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, 365 Simple Science Experiments, Mindbenders, and the APA and MPA style guides.
  • Foreign language. I stood my ground on this one. They will start Latin in order to have a good foundation for all languages, starting with English.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And it's January...Time For Service

We have a family service project, courtesy of Auntie X. No, Auntie is not the service project.

Auntie knows a woman who directs our area homeless accommodations. These shelters and short-term facilities include a facility for addicted veterans in a rehab setting. The vets need a myriad of things, but one of the things they need is to eat.

Now, the director has ensured that the vets will have food. But if she doesn't have to take it out of the funds appropriated for the vets, she can use the money for other things for them. Clothes for job interviews. Books and tapes that will improve the rehab process. Bus fare. Every penny that did not go into feeding the vets three squares a day could be used well elsewhere.

So, the director searched out volunteers. Auntie X sent an email, and we responded. We volunteered to cook supper once a week for a year.

The requirements for the meals are pretty simple: A main dish, a side dish, and a dessert for 15-20 people, cooked in our home. Due to confidentiality requirements, they would never know us and we would never know them. That's OK. The Mister delivers the completed meal, gets a receipt for it (always paperwork!) and comes back home on his way from a gig.

Our distance learning program does not have a Religion component. It is not an exclusively Catholic program. We are counting this effort as combined Religion and Life Skills.

So far, the kids have learned to chop onions, soak the onions first in cold water before chopping so the gas doesn't release, chop celery, wash the celery before chopping as it is hard to wash little pieces, cut things in the same size so that the pieces cook evenly, brown meat, broil meat, cook pasta without making it into mush, and make real pudding not pudding-out-of-a-box. Physical properties of milk, eggs, and cornstarch have been gleaned from Alton Brown (despite his nasty comments about the overweight). Peanut butter has been used in a satay as well as in cookies.

We reviewed Jesus words on the arrival to Judgment of souls who have fed those who were hungry in this life, where it states it is just the same as feeding Jesus. If we are feeding Jesus, we want the food to look its best, and taste its best. Jesus, through these veterans who have served our country, has been served rustic chicken cacciatore, taco salad bar, chili bar, London broil with mushrooms, meatloaf, green beans, scalloped potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, lemon pie, and once when we were in a hurry, Neapolitan ice cream. Jesus has not been served liver, spinach, veal, bleu cheese, or canned olives, all food on the "yuck" list. Every week we say a prayer over the food for those who will eat it, before sending it off with the Mister. We aren't quite as joyful as we should be when it comes to cleaning the kitchen, but who is after the fun of actually making a meal.

The vets often wait for the Mister to arrive, so they can help him unload the meal. He doesn't say much to them except "Hi" and they don't say much back. One of the young men who works for the shelter group is a student of the Mister's. The student has told them that the Mister is a professor, that we are both vets, and nothing else. He's told the Mister that the vets can't wait for Friday, because they know they are going to be well-fed. So there is a temporal reward along with the eternal. It feels good to know we can train our kids in a very practical area of their lives, as well as developing their character.