October's Book Club

Friday, October 29, 2010

I've been going to a book club for a bunch of months now. I kinda like it. Not too surprising considering that I've always been a reader...

I was a bit scared to go as I've not ever been a terrible intellectual, philosophical sort of girl. Oh, how I wish the deeper meaning, the prevailing theme, the irony, the archetype would all jump out at me and I would make really intelligent sounding conclusions about that which I have just read. Sadly, not gonna happen.

I just get sucked into the story. And I've learned that I truly do enjoy a good, gripping story.

Book Club started when a few of us started to frequent a certain coffee shop a little too often. A once-a-month excuse was born.

Book Club is 'led' by a very cool, really smart homeschooling mom who got tired of her stuffy book club...so she started her own! She invited people she enjoys spending time with, who enjoy reading. Attendance leans toward being homeschooler heavy, but that just makes me love it all the more. There are no rules or required reading lists. There are suggestions and sometimes themes. And this cool, smart homeschooling mom who 'leads' our group has a knack for asking questions that inspire discussion and - this is big - helps me to see all those things things my high school English teacher wished he didn't have to point out to me.

This month we 'discussed' The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A couple of us had wanted to read it to see what all the hype was about. It's a simple mystery and I couldn't figure out why it had to be such a thick book...but then I figured it took that long to get interested enough in the edgy female antagonist to feel the need to follow her story in books #2 and #3. I'll read the rest of the series, I think. The writing style is very easy to power through. The gritty, raw bits - presented in a very matter of fact way - turned off a couple of the more conservative in the group.

We came away from our coffee and chatting this month with a theme: mythology. I'm going to try out Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad. I haven't picked up an Atwood book since high school...and that was under duress. Hopefully I've matured since then. We'll see. Others suggested included God's Behaving Badly, Marie Phillips; American Gods, Neil Gaiman and The Stolen Child, Keith Donahue. I'm inspired - especially about the Keith Donahue book - and look forward to wading in.

Some suggestions from the group follow. I'd not try to make sense of it as we tend to be a little scattered in our discussion. I love it!!

  • Genesis by Benard Beckett -a modern Brave New World?
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde - technically, this meets the requirements of some people's definition of a romance
  • The Girl With the Glass Feet by Ali Shaw - apparently the final sentence clinches this book as a favourite for many
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Triskellion by Wil Peterson - suggested when asked for a 'quirky' book
  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Towes - a more modern 'coming of age' story, perhaps.
I'm off to start the Penelopiad,

~Mrs. A



Monday, October 25, 2010

This Fall, Mondays are particularly busy. I think today was fairly typical in scheduling, but it was better than many of my typical Mondays of late. I think I might be getting my Monday-act together...

After everyone has been fed and watered and we shovel up the weekend clutter it's usually around 9a.m. Monday mornings give us only an hour or so for any bookwork we want to accomplish. It's not too difficult to get the kids to hit the books on Mondays. I have them start with their journals. The Girl Child writes copious amounts - her biographer is going to have lots to sift through! The Boy Child, not so much. He's more matter of fact. 'Required' journal writing for The Boy amounts to a sentence per 'grade' so he's up to 6 sentences per journal entry. And that's a very loose definition of 'sentence' I'm using.

At 11a.m. I start getting the afternoon set up. The kids are sent to grab themselves a snack and then they pack another for later. I prepare lunch for Mr. A and myself and set it aside. French books and skating things are gathered and packed into the car. Today I dressed for a run and dug out my iPod. We left the house at 11:45.

My very good friend has taken it upon herself to teach a group of homeschoolers - her two included - French this school year. She's gone to a huge amount of work to plan weekly lessons for 5 families of kids, ages 8 through 15. The kids spend an hour and a half doing games and activities, vocab and dialogue. The focus is on spending time speaking the language which is awesome for my two-kid crew. The Boy and The Girl are quite well versed in their vocab, writing and reading skills. The speaking-out-loud has been a bone of contention in our past school years.

Today was the first Monday I snuck away from the other moms at French. I went for a miserable little run. I haven't run since the summer, really, so I was speaking fairly sternly with myself about the degree of laziness and depression that was taking over. I went for half an hour, 'running' for 3 minutes then walking for 1. Once I was done, I was glad I had done it. It's amazing how long improved cardiovascular fitness can hang on. I never thought I'd get 6 intervals completed today. I zipped home to change my muddy, wet running pants. While there, I constructed lunch for Mr. A and delivered it to his basement office (he's programming today and tends to focus in on his work and forgets altogether about regular bodily routines like caloric intake) before heading back to pick up the kids.

After French, we trek over to the local rink and spend an hour skating. The local homeschoolers have sort of dominated the 'Parent & Tot' time slot for the past few years. It was a quiet takeover...beginning years ago when the children blended in with those every-other-day kindergartners. Today there were 15 homeschoolers plus a bunch of moms on the ice.

Once we're home things depend on The Boy Child's hockey schedule. If he plays early, at 4:30p.m., we usually relax and snack before heading out the door at 4:15p.m. There are beefits to living in the rink's backyard! Today he played late, at 5:30p.m., so we had time to focus on some geography for a half hour before snacking and re-packing the hockey bag. I cleaned the kitchen and The Girl made pizza crust which we left in the warm oven to rise while we were at the rink.

At home, after hockey, I focus on getting some sort of food on the table fairly immediately. The low blood sugar is pretty apparent by this time on Monday. It's nice when we sit down to eat. Everyone knows that their responsibilities have been taken care of for the day. Relax mode starts to kick in. I like hearing about the kids' day - even though I've been there for most of it. I find it terribly interesting how different our experiences are even though we share the same space and activities.

We had a nice family evening culminating in apple crisp before bedtime. I'm watching the results of the local election and will head off to bed shortly. Hopefully next Monday will go as smoothly as today. Methinks if I keep up with weekend laundry and regular meal planning like a good, responsible grown up, I shouldn't have any problems.

~Mrs. A.


The Process of Math

Monday, October 11, 2010

Last Spring I started planning for the upcoming school year. One particular area I spent a while thinking about was The Girl Child's math.

When I sat down with her to discuss her thoughts about math, she thought perhaps she might like an easy-math school year. Fair enough.

The Girl has worked very hard the last few years wading through a bunch of Saxon Math. She's very good at it. Diligent. And when all is said and done, proud of herself.

I looked through a few options. At length. In the end, The Girl decided to work through a workbook style 8th grade level program. She knew it would be mostly review. The plan was to begin her 9th grade year, 2011-2012, with Algebra as most math programs provide. She felt she wasn't up for a heavy math year and to begin Algebra in her 8th grade year just felt like a heavy thought to her at that point.

So September rolled around and The Girl Child was happily anticipating wading only ankle deep into the new math workbook. Fairly immediately, she needed some help interpreting the instructions. She was feeling knee deep in icy waters since she was used to doing her own math these last 3 years.

We've muddled through to October and things haven't improved. I'm not impressed with the online support materials. The Girl is not impressed with the whole math situation. She's 1/3 the way through the workbooks and has done nothing more complicated than common multiples.

A meeting of minds - hers and mine -was called over hot chocolates. I told her my feelings: that she was putting a lot of work into being frustrated with basic math skills she had mastered long ago; that I felt she could work equally hard and further her skill set which would inspire confidence instead of the discouragement she was currently experiencing. She thought that made sense.

She's decided to look over some of the Saxon options available to her. She asked if I'd print her a placement test. I'd also like to get my hands on a copy of Life of Fred for her to peruse.

I told her that as part of our somewhat structured homeschooling style, she needed to work on some sort of math on a regular basis. But I wanted her to be clear that I was happy for her to choose her resources. I trust her to take some responsibility at this point in her learning.

I hope we'll have something decided on soon. But I suppose that this has been a good exercise for us. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out in the end.

~Mrs. A.


Week #6 Approaches...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Schoolwork has started. But obviously, there are kinks to be worked out. Somehow, we've managed to have March Break already and there have been 2 4-day weeks out of only 5.

I think I was excited to get this school year scheduled and going. Mr. A. feels infinitely better about homeschooling when things are a bit structured and scheduled. Now, if only I could get the schedule to fit what the people are up to...

So here I am, sniffling away with a thick head, annoyed with many things and nearly everyone outside my door, not to mention myself and the current dynamic I've let grow up around me, wondering how much self-discipline I can conjure up in order to pull things together around here.

~Mrs. A.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Summer Vacation Day 10/73

Monday, July 5, 2010

My 1st 'real' 5K ~ finishing strong ~ July 1, 2010
(I'm in the white top)

Today there are weather warnings all over the media. With humidity, it will feel like the temperature is in the 40s. That's well over 100 for my American friends. We began preparing yesterday by cooling the house and we ran the A/C overnight. The doors and windows are all covered...it will be a dim day. But hopefully, as the temperatures soar, we'll have a cool haven to enjoy.

I'm most concerned about the dogs. The Skittish White Dog doesn't do too well with humid heat. Although, as she is still in full-blow (as in, vacuum twice a day super shed mode) she's pretty thin coated right now. The Blue Eyed Bandit is happy to lay around in the heat....she's happy to be anything really. She's just a happy dog. She's happy to be hot. Or sleeping. Or playing. Or eating. I'll put their pool out for them later for a change of pace. That'll be fun.

I was up early today to see Mr. A off to the office. The kids were still sleeping so I snuck out for a quick run - my first since the Canada Day run - before things heated up outside. My iPod died half a block out and I have a few twinges and aches leftover from the big run so I cut things short. Just a quick 2k to work out the bugs. It was plenty because it's really hot out already!

On the docket today is Seedless Raspberry Jam. Perhaps chocolate dipped strawberries. And anything else I can dream up to reclaim fridge space from all the fresh picked fruit.

Locally, it seems a freighter had a malfunction of it's steering mechanism at a critical point on the Seaway and has washed up broadside on one of the islands. That should be a major undertaking to remedy. We see freighters all the time passing through town. It's a whole new perspective to see them up close. There might be an early morning kayak-with-camera in the very near future...

Enjoy the day,

Mrs. A



Thursday, June 17, 2010

For many months I've been silent on the topic of running...or fitness...or just about anything, for that matter. So today I thought I'd gather some thoughts about it and perhaps even grace the page with a picture.

I'm a C25K failure. I made it through the majority of the training and then I stopped. I think my main excuse was a broken toe, but we all know that I just got lazy with it because toes certainly don't stay broken forever.

This Spring, a group of the homeschooling kids embarked on a learn-to-run adventure. The coach was a homeschooler mom who is a runner, a coach and an all-round cracker jack. So, in true homeschooler mom fashion, she took on a huge project with her 4 wee kidlets in tow. Not only were the kids going to work through the learn-to-run program, but the moms were going to take part also. Some moms were up for running, some moms wanted a fitness walking program. Coach Cracker Jack took us all on.

Partway through our training, the local private school asked if any homeschooler was interested in participating in the track and field season. Since many of the kids did, our training days took on a different look. The kids did track and field things and we moms did our training runs. The kids are fit, being active kids, so they easily kept up with the moms' progress with the learn to run program.

Last weekend, there was a fundraising fun run for a local not-for-profit that is near and dear to my heart. Throwing all caution and my negative nay-saying conscience to the wind - after all, I'm only 4/5 of the way through the training program - I recruited The Boy and I registered us for the 5K Fun Run. I figured it would be the perfect venue to learn the process of a Race Day.

I had managed to run 5k non-stop with Coach Cracker Jack breathing down my neck and threatening to look at my jiggly backside during one of our training days. But my personal training runs had suffered for two weeks afterward. I wasn't sure I should do 5k non-stop for this Fun Run. So my plan was to run/walk 5min:1min intervals until I finished. As well, I was sort of curious as to how The Boy would do. He'd run a solid, constant 4k before, but he'd never done a 5k. His plan was to do the intervals with me.

Fun Run Day dawned overcast and cool. It was windy down by the water where we'd be running. It was great running weather. I managed to register and mill around with other running folk without tipping anyone off that I was an imposter. I was sure my yoga pants would give me away! The race itself was great - my official finish time was 35:21 and I had plenty of juice at the end. Yea me!

Now The Boy was another story. He started off with me, was blown away at the starting line by the big boys who were runners and he spent the first 5 minutes considering things. After that, he let testosterone rule the day and I didn't see him again until I crossed the finish line. He finished in 31:24 and is certain that he will easily break the 30 minute mark at the upcoming Canada Day Run. He's very proud of himself. We both are :-)

So I continue with my training runs. I'm motivated and looking forward to the local Canada Day Run as well. I'll be running every 2 days now instead of every 3 or 4. I've managed to figure out my iPod and I've got a great running playlist that helps with my pace.

As Mr. A says when something is working out for the best: all that and a bag o'bananas! My personal bag 'o bananas is that I've got a bunch of skirts and summer pants that fit...again. Onward - to Canada Day! I wonder if I can break the 30 minute mark...?



Thursday, June 3, 2010

May's calendar page is sitting on my computer desk waiting to be blogged. It's sitting there quite innocently, right where I put it. But it's kind of glowering, too. Glaring it's blogging want.

May wasn't anything spectacular. I'm sure it was sort of indicative if the way things usually are around here. I sifted and coasted and drifted through the days, sometimes wishing I could keep my head in the game more consistently. I suppose I would feel better if I were able to concentrate on the wonderfulness of my kids and the happiness of the dogs and the simple luxury I live in every day. I'll have to remember that.

I started May with a clean house and a new haircut. I had a really nice Mother's Day.

I helped my mom out by going to work for her for a day. That was interesting. One working momma meant two sets of packed lunches, a baby-sitter, a puppy-sitter, packed up school work, a morning rush, a late dinner and an early bedtime. Totally not something I would do every day on purpose. I suppose it was a jarring experience just because we've not lived that way in a long, long time.

The skittish white dog got an eye infection. And Mr. A, bless his poor, oblivious heart, learned the ins and outs of dealing with the vet. I think he debriefed for a week.

My new knitting group seems to have taken off quite nicely. As I had hoped, a good crowd of diversity has shown up and they all seem to be happy with a relaxed, social atmosphere. I find myself looking forward to spending a couple of hours planning and preparing for the meetings. So, every other week at the local library, we knit. The other attendees have taken it upon themselves to carve out some space at the local pub to knit on the off weeks. Hilarious. And awesome.
New Kittens!

On the home school front, we're picking our way through the final bits of work for the year. Much of the language arts we did was finished in May. We're a little behind my schedule in our history studies and the kids made a plan to finish their math by June 4. Running club finished early so the coach could take some of the kids and groom them to join the local private school's track team. We had a social picnic-park play after a museum program to kick off the good weather. I'll have to remember to have another at the end of this month. We took in the local multicultural fair as well. Always a good time. It always surprises me how much the kids enjoy themselves there even though it's loud and crowded and they are scared to try the different food. They eat cotton candy and apple crisp while the rest of us are sampling Indian, Jamaican, Turkish, Irish and Chinese food.
"Science" With Mr. A!

The Blue Eyed Bandit grew so much over May! She's impressing everyone at obedience even though we didn't practice a whole lot. She's very smart. She's such a happy, peaceful puppy. And ever since I moved her crate to my bedroom, she's slept through the night. That only took me three months to figure out.
Bad Dog!

I was reminded throughout May that I have 'Me' opportunities popping up all over the place. It's a little exciting after focusing solely on the kids for so many years. I'm part of a book club that I love. The knitting group, getting out a couple of times a week for a walk/run, puppy classes. We even had a couple over twice in May. I don't want to call them Couple Friends...Mr. A is shy, you know...but I think there's potential!

June is shaping up: We still have to get the boats out so we can get out on the River with the kids. And the car is having major surgery to the tune of the cost of a week long family vacation to somewhere a plane ride away. The next round of puppy classes will start. The Boy will be playing soccer and I will be convening his age group. Exciting times, I say!


After The Storm - May Day

Sunday, May 2, 2010

After a surprise thunderstorm, we took the dogs to the dog park and then we enjoyed a bit of a drive around the local waterfront. The river was full of rolling mist. Mr. A snapped some pictures while I was driving.

Things have been a wee bit stormy on the home front lately, so it was nice to be out for a bit of family time...even if not all parties involved may have chosen such an activity. It was a way to clear the air and start fresh after we returned home.

I've been careful to try to keep this blog anonymous for a number of reasons. It's funny how the few of you who read here are at least 'Internet acquaintances'. I'm not so concerned anymore about maintaining total anonymity, especially since my local IRL concern has been quiet and non-concerning for some time now. I'm not going to begin name dropping, but I'm also not going to be overly concerned about using Photoshop to get rid of street signs and other identifying marks.

I'm looking forward to this coming week. Hopefully the weather has turned the final corner to spring. School work is winding down while panning for next year is ramping up. It's easier to think ahead to summer plans with the boat in the driveway and the kids spending more and more time outside.


Knitting News

Friday, April 30, 2010

There's news on the knitting front.

I've started a community knitting group. Today I got the good-news go-ahead. The first Kniterary Night is planned to begin the second Tuesday in May.

Gah! There, I said it; so now it is real.

I had the idea flitting around in my head for months. Then I shared the idea with my mom. Then my mom brought it up when my sister was listening. Mom and Sister shared my thoughts with some people they know. See how it's snowballing? I don't know how comfortable I am with the whole idea. It's been a long time since I was a confident leader of anything.

So, under a little bit of duress, I approached the community outreach coordinator at the local library. Living in a small town has many benefits. It also has a few gaps. One of the local deficiencies is that we don't have a community center of any sort. The last year or so though, the local library has really started to step up and fill that gap. Armed with a brilliant plan for the perfect community knitting group I pitched my idea and volunteered my leadership to the nice lady at the library. (Can I call her a 'lady' if she's younger than me? This whole mid-30s thing is taking some getting used to.)

I'm kind of proud of myself for venturing forth to make a program that fills a need for ME. One of the reasons I did this was to be a good example for the kids. I think it's important for them to see that Mom is more than Chief Chef and Leader of the Laundry. That I have interests and activities that are just as important as theirs are.

I even used programming and management skills I learned in college a past life. It was a careful balance putting a proposal together. I didn't want to have to pay for meeting space. I wanted to have a hand in the purpose and direction of the group. I wanted an easy out just in case the relationship between the library and the knitting group wasn't working out very well. After some thought and discussion with Sister, we came up a really great proposal that was ideal for what we wanted. We just hoped that the community-minded library would feel the same way.

And it seems they do!

With most of the leg work already done, the details hammered out and control in my hands, there is little to do but wait for the 11th. I should spend the time knitting up various things as a planned portion of Knitterary Night is the Show & Tell. Since only I know the structure and schedule of the evening, I may want to be prepared to avoid awkward, empty silences. Now, that's a motivating thought....

Off to knit!

Mrs. A.


I Love Me A Seminar

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I love seminars. Or sessions. Or whatever you call those things you choose to attend when you get yourself to a conference. I love that I get a choice. I guess that's a good thing about being a grown-up (or a homeschooler...). You get to choose which classes you'd like to attend. And if the choices aren't' making your skirt fly up, then you just go shopping at the vendor fair.

Every time I go to a conference and attend the seminars, I take notes. I suppose this means I intend to go home and review my notes. Upon review, I intend to implement the points I noted as relevant. But we all know how that goes with me...meh. So I have this file folder on my shelf full of important conference notes. All those good intentions, those secrets to a perfect homeschool, those perfectly outlined subjects to teach with all the little tricks to make your kids love it. Just sitting on my shelf with the accompanying handout.

Handouts are a funny thing. I'm a little picky about handouts. I figure, if you're going to go to the trouble of preparing a seminar, why give it all away in the handout?! I think handouts should be a guide - a menu, if you will. Then, as you sit through the seminar, you're served the meat and potatoes of the meal. At the conference I attended last weekend, one of the presenters read through her handout for the duration of the seminar. She read each and every point that was printed on the paper. 2/3 of the way through her talk, people had caught on and were starting to leave. I think most people who come to a conference are looking to spend their time as efficiently as possible. Listening to someone read through a handout just doesn't fit the bill.

Of course, getting to choose your seminar usually means that you've got a vested interest in the subject matter. Chances are, you're going to enjoy yourself. It's likely that the topic is going to speak to you and you're going to want to implement the new method/material. At the very least, you'll find yourself motivated.

The last seminar I attended that I really enjoyed was called "Organizing Your Homeschool". The handout was nice. It was an outline of what the presenter would cover. It's got contact information and web addresses for reference. So now, a week later, I look at the handout and I'm reminded of all the interesting things the presenter had to say. I love a good handout. The presenter herself is an experienced speaker. That's always a plus. Experience means time for questions at the end of the seminar. It means getting all the material covered. It usually means not a lot of um's and ah's.

I thought I would tuck in my seminar notes here at Zehn+. I waffle back and forth as to if I should or not. After all, I don't want to be accused of spreading 'trade secrets' that usually cost something to hear and generally put dinner on someone's table. On the other hand, blogging my notes will get them off my shelf where they are just taking up space. They'll be easier for me to reference, too. My notes are not going to win any awards and they're definitely not going to overshadow someone's hard work nor will they reiterate a seminar word for word. They're going to speak to me. So without further ado, here's what I scribbled during my "Organizing Your Homeschool" seminar last weekend:

Organizing Your Homeschool
April 17, 2010

(Reference Sheila's book To Love, Honour and Vacuum. There is an appendix just for homeschooling moms.)

Part A:Why Homeschooling Becomes Hectic

When you're home all the time, the issues any family has become magnified. If homeschooling fails, it usually has more to do with these issues than with academics:

managing housework
occupying small children
getting children to work
organizing time

- Do you find yourself busy every day but do you feel like you're not accomplishing anything? It's like things are spinning out of control. How do you stop the spinning? Pick a point and move steadily toward it. The point you pick should be your goal, the reason you're homeschooling.

- Look to your goal. Focus on your family relationship; your relationship with your kids. Get rid of the things that are causing you to feel unorganized/hectic. (For those who like to, check out Hebrews 12: 1-3: Look to Jesus. Focus on Relationship. Throw off the weights that hinder you.)

Part B: Change What You Do

- respect + order = a more peaceful home
- plan for a comfortable home, not a perfect home
- plan for a flexible homeschool, not a perfect homeschool
- have room for kids to explore and learn; they need space to spread out (use bookcases and have table space avail)

Declutter - one room a week until you can maintain; 15minutes at a time if it's overwhelming; everything needs a place esp in kids' rooms

Homeschool Decluttering - take photos and get rid of the projects; save favourite artwork and have it bound; save important work in a portfolio and get rid of the rest; go back and make school year portfolios to reduce storage bins; keep special work, tests and essays

Daily Housework - tidy time is separate from cleaning time; have regular tidy times with the kids

Plan - have a daily plan; prioritize schoolwork

Meal Plan - menus save a whole lot of stress and time

Consistency - when kids know what to expect, they do it without complaining; mom must model the expectations (eg. if schoolwork starts at 9, mom has to be ready at 9!!)

Inconsistency = a level of stress in the house (this is totally loud and clear in our house at dinner time. I never know what to make or when it will land on the table!); kids will push boundaries to see what the limit is; this leaves no room for creative exploration

Schedule - do you want a regimented schedule or something more flexible? Decide.

Forms and suggestions : http://www.donnayoung.org/ or http://www.sheilawraygregoire.com/ (click on Free Stuff)

Part C: Change Our Relationship Dynamic

Although we want some structure and accomplishment in our day, we also want fun and spontaneity; that won't happen on its own

1. Sheila says kids need to clean
- give kids an area to be responsible for during cleaning or tidy time
- everyone needs to feel productive; start the day with chores; mom feels resentful if she has to do it all

2. Sheila says to plan downtime/creative time
- have rules during 'school time' so kids don't run off and watch tv (no screens, no phone)
(- this makes schoolwork a priority)
- RULES APPLY TO MOM AS WELL (although Sheila says running off to do laundry is ok)
- have interesting things available to do (colouring/activity books, novels, puzzles, games)
- mom can set up things (like a science exploration or demo) to inspire; rotate these
- mom needs to be disciplined if the kids are expected to be

3. Sheila says to get outside
- burn energy doing errands, playing games, getting exercise, exploring
- garden, nature study, whatever gets the kids outside

4. Sheila says to protect your time
- try to consolidate errands/lessons/appointments on one day
- try to consolidate making/taking calls to an hour a day; leave the rest 'till tomorrow
- stay away from email and Facebook during school/family/organizing time

Sheila's last word: Attitude Shift: You are at work. Your children are at work. For this time, you will be present.


My Surprise Treasure

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This is the surprise treasure I found at the conference this past weekend. It is a basic novel study guide put together by Sheila Wray Gregoire. (If you click though, beware the Pink!)

I have often lamented the fact that novel studies cost $10 - $25 and can only be used once if the kids write in them. My most recent forays into novel study with the kids have ended in disaster. I'll spare you the messy details.

I was so excited when Sheila mentioned her new resource during her seminar at the conference. Mr. A is convinced that it was a barely disguised sales tactic (always the skeptic!), but I still say it was a timely answer to a question from the audience.

Before the end of the day, I popped back into Sheila's seminar room and bought a copy for myself. I'm excited to have a guide to help us through a novel study but I'm also excited that I have a flexible resource aimed at older homeschooling kids.

At first glance, the 'Any Novel' Novel Study guide looks simple, straightforward and easy to use. It's laid out neatly without a lot of fluff and filler.

The section for students takes off from the starting line. The reader is to map out the work into a manageable schedule. There are even check boxes for those who like such thing.

The Guide then flows through the major components of any good study guide: understanding character, plot, theme and setting.

There are different kinds of projects and exercises for the student to choose from throughout. There are vocabulary exercises, writing prompts, art projects and craft suggestions. Lots of choice allowing the Guide to be used over and over again.

The parent guide is written to keep you in the loop. It lets you know what your student is working on thereby reducing the over-the-shoulder-itis that we parents sometimes succumb to.
When I use this novel study, I am going to remove the parent guide and give the rest of it to the kids. They are at an age where I can expect more independent work from them but they still need some guidance to stay on track. I think this resource has just enough coaching to get the job done.

We're not big on marking and grades. However, as the kids are noticing their friends getting marked and graded on everything, the conversation does come up. We probably won't mark a novel study, but the marking scheme is there. I know the Girl Child will go over it and quietly consider her her work against the marking scheme. The Boy, if he finds the chart, will pester me until I assign him a mark.

And there you have it: a straightforward novel study master. Just plug in your own novel. I bought my hard copy for $20. A download purchase costs $14.95 ($15.65 CAD). The link is here. Just for the record, that's quite a page of advertisement. The link to buy is down at the bottom. I'll be sure to chronicle our first foray into novel study land. Messy details and all.

Mrs. A


Thoughts On A Conference

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mr. A and I are back from a local-ish homeschooling conference. I have all sorts of thoughts and ideas swirling around my head. Before I tackle those, though, I thought I would debrief the conference experience itself.

Normally I look forward to a yearly homeschooling conference. I find them encouraging and motivating. I like being surrounded by like-minded people...even if I don't know any of them.

I like attending seminars given by authors of materials we use. It's insightful to hear the reasoning and intention behind a particular curriculum. The authors are full of great ideas and tidbits that really help you to use their material to your greatest advantage.

I especially enjoy the vendor fair. I comparison shop. I'm a touchy-feely shopper so I need to flip pages. I need to check page layout. I need to weigh the book in my hands. If I know what I want, I have no problem ordering from a catalogue. But if I'm looking for something new, I have to browse with my hands and see what else is on the shelf nearby.

This year, my conference experience was going to be very different. Mr. A decided to come with me. This would be his first conference. I never pegged Mr. A as the HSing conference type. I was worried that he might not enjoy the day or be engaged by the speakers. But, the lure of the conference was strong. It overshadowed my trepidation and we made a date of attending together. I decided the day called for an open minded attitude on my part. After all, Mr. A would at least enjoy spending the day with me.

Being a (mostly) confident and (fairly) experienced HSing mom, I knew to get the most out of the conference I had to take what I wanted and leave the rest. I left the keynote address and snapped up a seminar given by someone I've waited two years to hear speak. (<--more on that later!) I made the call to skip the last seminar in order to spend time in the vendor hall when it wasn't so crowded. One of my main goals of the day was to browse for new grammar and science resources. Mr. A and I decided to only buy what I can't order from my favourite HS supplier instead of buying all our supplies. It was hard not to buy everything up right then, but I was able to persevere since Mr. A was Keeper of the Currency. I also like to buy direct if I can. I was able to get our French workbooks directly from the author as well as a surprise treasure directly from the source. (<--more on that later, too!)

Mr. A stuck by my side the whole day. I thought Mr. A represented the supportive homeschooling dad very well. He was a little amused to be the only guy in the room a couple of times throughout the day. In the first seminar (titled: Organizing Your Homeschool) he listened intently and seemed to be impressed that I was taking notes. A couple of times he leaned over and waggled his eyebrows at me while nodding toward the presenter suggestively. That was my cue to take a note. I choose not to analyze his motives too closely. I was trying to be open minded, after all.

The end of the day involved a detour to a nearby MEC store. I'm not too sure what it has to do with helping me feel encouraged and motivated about homeschooling, but Mr. A insisted I needed a new kayaking PFD. That would be the yellow and black bits alongside my new collection of catalogues in the photo above. I decided this open minded attitude thing definitely made for a successful day.

Feeling jazzed about the remainder of the school year,

Mrs. A.


Draining, Frustrating, Very Bad, No Good Day

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm sitting here this evening - with my second coffee of the day (yea me!) - reflecting on the kind of day I had.

I had a bad day. It was a Sad Mom Day. It's well on its way to being a Mom Gives Up and Hides In Bed Day.

I don't like to be so negative. Usually, as soon as I start to own my bad day, my thoughts immediately start to rebel and I think, "Surely something wasn't so bad today!" Then, the happy part of my brain gets out the frilly stationary and starts to make a list. It's very annoying.

So here I sit purposefully reflecting on my bad day. No one felt cared for or nurtured today. We were all so fragmented that someone's needs were an infringement for someone else. The Girl Child was sad and frustrated. The Boy Child was not feeling well and anxious. I was pretending to be patient which frustrates Mr. A. to the ends of his patience.

In a particularly harried moment between The Boy and his sister, I calmly said, "And that display just earned you both an 8:30 bedtime." I haven't scaled back bedtime in years. In fact, it's been years since they even had a bedtime. We have bedguidelines around here.

I explained to The Girl Child - with The Boy hovering close by - that my parenting toolbox only had so many tools in it. (One of those tools being patience.) If the tools had to be pulled out and used up early in the day, then there wouldn't be any left by the end of the day.

The kids laughed at me. At least the tension was diffused. For the moment.

From there the day continued falling down the hill. The Girl Child dug in her heels and The Boy Child overcompensated.

I thought perhaps a little large muscle activity and sunshine would improve everyone's demeanor. At the very least, a quiet house would improve Mr. A's. I took The Boy, The Girl and The Blue Eyed Bandit downtown. We walked by the river and along the bike trail to my sister's house. I knew she probably wouldn't be home, but the kids didn't know that and the dog didn't care. We ended up walking for an hour. I persisted with my happy patience, The Boy talked a blue streak and The Girl walked four feet behind with her arms crossed. The. Whole. Way.

Later on at home, I cleaned up and made dinner while Mr. A worked late. The kids waited for dinner. I was biding my time. When everyone's blood sugar was sufficiently stabilized I started cleaning up the day's mental and emotional debris.

Throughout the cleanup, I was methodical and precise. The menfolk, bless their hearts, were uncomplicated. Eventually, though, I had to draw very clear lines in the sand between The Girl and I.

I seriously hope it's true that kids test limits because they want boundaries. The Girl Child was reminded of some key boundaries. She wasn't too sure that the boundaries should apply to her. The Girl was reminded that although the boundaries are not flexible, there were certain privileges and 'perks' that are not only flexible, they are downright removable. Imagine how clear and uncluttered those pesky boundaries would be if I were to remove all of that perky privilege!

By bedtime - yes, at 8:30pm - everyone was calm and relaxed. Thank goodness. Pleasant words and kind voices were back in residence. We're all looking forward to tomorrow. Ok, most of us are looking forward to most of tomorrow. There's a science project that is looming over a certain 7th grader's head.

So here I sit questioning myself. My homeschool. My relationships. My parenting path. My decision to take 10th grade 'Clothing' when obviously someone should have been teaching 'How To Parent Your Adolescent'.

I'm hoping the emotional dramatics are hormones and that with patience and loving and lots of talking there will be no permanent damage. I'm hoping that I can find the tools I need to do a better job for all of us.

All on two cups of coffee a day.

Please send chocolate,

Mrs. A


Today Was The Day...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today was the day that I began to cut back on my caffeine problem habit.

I think - in fact, I'm pretty sure - that I've done this before. A couple bunch of times. I'll spare you the pain and I won't link back to my previous attempts episodes. I'm weak and I have no willpower. It's pathetic.

I tell Mr. A that it is a very good thing that I've lived a squeaky clean lifestyle when it comes to addictive substances. If I ever had the ill-conceived notion to get adventurous with nefarious substances, I'd have been a goner long ago.

I've given up coffee cold-turkey a couple of times. Each time, it took an entire weekend - Friday night 'till Monday morning - before I was remotely ambulatory and partially functioning. Caffeine withdrawal makes me sick. There's a sign or a lesson there that I'm ignoring, isn't there?

It's not the coffee that's the problem. It's the sugar and cream that I doctor it up with that are the real culprits. I'm convinced that white sugar is the devil's work. It's got to be one of the worst substances on the planet that we ingest. Yet I continue to pour it into each and every cup of coffee I prepare. I continue to shout, "Triple, triple!!" into the drive thru speaker box. I thought the little creamers you get at the restaurant were bad with their 10% Real Cream...until I discovered how decadent a cup of coffee can be at home with Table Cream. 18% of creamy, buttery, fatty richness.

Today I distracted myself long enough that it was 2pm before I had my first coffee of the day. By then, my eyes felt like they were being turned inside out, my brain had a pulse and my stomach threatening to.... The Girl Child was experiencing a crisis of dramatic teenage proportions and was taking it out on the rest of us who love her most. I was desperate.

I made a lovely Golden French Toast flavoured coffee in a pail tall travel mug. I looked at all the headroom in the mug and I made another right on top of the first. I poured in a generous estimate of 'enough' sugar, topped it off with cream so it was sloshing out the hole in the lid and the kids and I walked to the rink in time to meet our friends for skating.

Beautiful things happen when you have the perfect cup of coffee. But I digress. I'm supposed to be cutting back not extolling the virtues. So let's just say that I made it through the rest of the day and I have a feeling the coffee(s) helped.

This evening was chaotic busy and challenging. I was finally able to help solve The Girl's crisis, I dealt with Mr. A's in-laws (ahem), got The Boy to his last hockey of the season, pulled off a proper dinner with Mr. A's help in under an hour - cleanup included and I ninja-cleaned without freaking out because we had surprise company stopping by. And I did it all with that pesky raging headache that was plaguing me again. Monday is Laundry Day, folks, not Sit In My Clean House Day. Most people can deal with this kind of business at the end of their day with patience and finesse. Not me. This kind of evening makes me crazy want a coffee. Nice coping mechanism, eh?

So I made a lovely cuppa and - because I'm cutting back - I decided to use be brave and forgo the cream and sugar. Instead, I whacked it with that liquid bravery to cut the bitter coffee taste that I really don't like. Kahlua flavoured bravery is the best.

I'm aiming for two coffees tomorrow. Then I start to cut the good stuff with decaf.

Mrs. A.


Sunday Afternoon

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm revisiting my blog.

Hello Blog. Long time no see. No pictures today. Keeping it simple.

It seems Spring may have sprung in this neck of the woods. The wind is warmish. Everything's muddy and it just looks dirty out. However, there is sunshine. I went for a walk out at the local conservation area yesterday. There is still a fair covering of snow on the trails - 3 to 4 inches - and there is still thick ice on the water, but there are definitely signs of Spring if you look.

As I do most Springtimes, I am making plans to attend a homeschooling conference. I will attend a smaller conference this year; only an hour from me. I'm thinking of collecting a few local homeschooling moms to drag along. I thought it would be nice to make a day of it. I have secret plans of making a yarn store stop while there. Not only will the conference be motivating and affirming, it will also be stash building! Doesn't get much better than that.

I'm looking toward Summer due to the fact that summer activity registrations are upon us. The Boy Child is registered for outdoor soccer. He was invited to join the competitive league, but we've declined. Making the competitive team means 2 or 3 nights a week plus travelling up to two hours for games. As a family, that's not a commitment we're ready to make. We'd like to be able to have the children do one or two activities during the summer plus still have time for them to do their less structured things: library programs, bike riding, boating, friends, laziness and tomfoolery with the neighbourhood friends.

The Girl Child still has to find an active activity to pursue this Summer. She's decided against soccer and swimming - two things she's enjoyed during past summers. She's not going to do basketball, kayaking or canoeing, baseball or softball, anything at the YMCA, running, biking, road hockey or any kind of dance. I enquired as to whether she would entertain the idea of horseback riding knowing that she would have to chip in for the cost of summer lessons. She's thinking about it. She will be doing some of her 'I'm not going to...' list if only because she'll be dragged along on a family outing. I just haven't told her that yet.

Life with two dogs in the house is interesting. After a few weeks of settling into the new arrangement, The Skittish White Dog has been a little jealous. Crate training has begun in earnest this weekend as the neighbours, with whom we share a wall, are away. If someone is in the house, the puppy (henceforth to be known as The Blue Eyed Bandit) takes quite a while to settle. If we're all gone, then it's about 10 minutes. Nights are slowly getting better. She goes into the crate at 11pm and comes out sometime between 6 and 7:30am. She's getting very solid with her commands in the house. Out of the house...well, let's just say I make sure she's pretty well on her way and has definitely seen the treat when I shout 'come'. All in all, I'm happy we decided to add to our chaos.

I think I'll stop here for today. I'm going to go out with the dogs and enjoy the sunshine before heading to my parents' for a family dinner. My sister and her husband are just home from Jamaica and my brother is going to try to make it (in a timely manner) with his lovely wife and baby. It will be nice to catch up with them.


Skittish White Dog Has A Friend

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Skittish White Dog is becomming a little more placid...


This and That

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's been a busy week.I'll recap quickly.

We added a four-legged beastie to the family last Saturday. She sleeps well as long as I'm sleeping on the couch beside her. Crate training is coming along nicely in bits. The Skittish White Dog - surprisingly - likes her. She's in need of a blogging name. Perhaps we'll make that next week's project.

My blogging is in need of a predictable potty schedule.

I celebrated a birthday on Thursday the 11th. Both kids and Mr. A got right into it. It was awesome. Now the five-year countdown to the big 'four oh' is on. I'm not worked up like some get about 40. This last year was a tough one for me and I'm just glad it's over and done. Onward and upward, right?

There's a baby puppy in my house. She's very cute.

Knitting enthusiasts: I signed up for the Knitting Olympics over at http://www.yarnharlot.com/. I'm not brave enough to jump into the Ravelympics yet. I'm making Hattie's Rose Garden Scarf seen here knitted up by Monika. Hopefully mine might turn out half as nicely as hers.

The kids and I were watching the Olympic opening. They went to bed just as the fiddlers started. I think that's my favourite part yet.

Question of the day: When the husky puppy gets upset and starts yowling and yipping ('cause they don't really bark), why does the big husky dog feel the need to join in?! Please send patience and earplugs.

♥Mrs. A who is looking forward to another night on the couch....not really.


Pushing & Pulling

Thursday, February 4, 2010

As dismal as I've been feeling lately, the last thing I want to do is to go outside. But, since the dismal depressing doldrums are directly caused by hibernating inside, I am pushing myself to get outside. The kids and I have been out - for more than a cursory breath of fresh air - every day in February. I know it's only the 4th, but cut me some slack. I'm depressed. I have a headache and I've not been sleeping.

We've been taking the few minutes walk here. To 'The Hill', as the local yokels refer to it. It's The Boy Child's favourite place to spend time once the snow flies. There's the rink, the typical Canadian stereotypical one, where there's an equally stereotypical game of unending gentlemanly pond hockey happening.

Curiously, The Skittish White Dog is not so skittish about pulling the sled up the hill. Once the kids discovered this, they jubilantly put her into service. This, in turn, puts me into service as Skittish White Dog may never, ever, not once be off-leash. Skittish White Dog bounds up the hill like she's been born and bred to pull things places. (Duh!)

I'm not sure if the kids or the dog most enjoy our cold, forced outings. Hopefully I'll begin to enjoy them more. It would be nice if that would kick in soon. I quite enjoyed my fall 'runs' with The Skittish White Dog so I'm not sure what happened to kill my mojo between then and now.

Here's to continued cold night-time temperatures (perfect ice making conditions) and warmer day-time temperatures (perfect playing outside conditions).


Am I Really Doing This?!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Say hello to KinderSurprise and FerreroRoché. I get to meet them and their brothers on Saturday.

Can someone please tell me what I'm thinking?

Who goes to 'meet' puppies and then returns home empty handed? What are the odds? I suppose I should mention that Mr.A and the kidlets will be with me. That's Mr.A, the guy who has nary a maternal bone in his body but still talks baby talk to The Skittish White Dog.

What kind of person sits at home late into the evening and searches the Internet for poor, destitute, homeless puppies?

I've really backed myself into a potty-breaks-every-three-hours kind of corner.

The little ladies pictured above are from a mom who was rescued with 96 other dogs from a defunct sledding camp in Québec. The 97 dogs quickly became many more as 30 of them were 'in a family way'. The dogs have been fostered out to shelters and rescue organizations throughout the area.

The empathetic side of me says, 'How can we NOT rescue one of these poor things?' The practical side of me says, 'Woman, WHAT are you THINKING?!'

Excuse me while I go try to resolve myself. ~sigh~


Happy "♥" Month

Monday, February 1, 2010

February is Heart Month.*

For all of February, my good friend Mrs.P is going to make an effort to utilize her family's YMCA membership on a daily basis. Her two boys are going to be dragged along. They are mostly willing participants in the plan. Especially once they heard that their schoolwork will be moved to the #2 position on the daily priority list.

My good friend Mrs.P and her family are personally touched by heart disease. She is doing her best to model good habits so that her boys are spared a myriad of health problems, especially problems in the ticker department.

Upon hearing this ambitious news from Mrs.P, I immediately got to thinking. I wonder what I could do to make my children miserable support heart healthy habits through the month of February?

I don't have a fancy all-access pass to the local Y nor am I about to acquire one. I do, as chance would have it, have a poor-man's pass to the great wide open - which is just as good, although the climate control has a bit to be desired at this time of year.

Without telling my kids, I made a commitment to (at the very least) get outside for a bit of activity each day in February. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that people are active 30 to 60 minutes a day - 60 to 90 minutes if you're a kid type people. Not that I need an expert opinion to tell me how to lead my life, but in this instance, a guideline might be prudent. I tend to err on the side of laziness.

The driving ambition behind this most recent commitment came last week when I was sprawled on the living room carpet with the kids. The Girl Child and I were drilling multiplication facts with The Boy...which nearly always involves fidgeting, jiggling or some other restless energy type activity. Math fact practice quickly morphed into a demonstration of contorted stretching poses where I quickly noticed a marked lack of flexibility in both the kids.

At the very least, an inflexible person is susceptible to injury from daily trips, slip and falls. These kids can't touch their toes without their knees popping up off the floor. They can't even sit up straight-backed with their legs stretched out in front. I began to worry. I began to take inventory of the amount of physical activity these kids are getting . The Boy, he easily gets a good chunk of activity in a day. The Girl, not so much.

And so, Heart Month gives us a good excuse to get moving. Sometimes kids need a Good Excuse in addition to mom's Because I Said So. And I will disguise it all under the guise of School Work if I have to.

Today we got outside very successfully. After a bit of morning schoolwork, the kids had a choice: they could stay inside doing housework and preparing lunch or they could go outside. They opted for outside. 30 minutes of wrestling and chasing each other in the snow, check! We walked to the skating rink - which should count double due to the windchill - and skated for an hour before heading home.

Tomorrow I'll tell the kids about our my month-long goal. Or maybe I won't. I wonder how much of a challenge I'm up for?

At any rate, it's Heart Month people. Take a look at your daily physical activity. Getting any? Take a look at your eating habits. How's your portion size? Got any heart healthy food on you plate? I figure if I can jump-start good habits in a Canadian February (and there's really no reason I shouldn't be able to except for the laziness factor...and maybe the windchill) then there's no reason I can't have good habits on every other day of the year. But for now, for me, it's just the next 27 days that count.

Mrs. A
*Seriously, were the Canadian Heart and Stroke people thinking of Canadian winters when they chose February to encourage people to get out and be more active for the good of their heart?! The wind this week is coming from the West, straight off of the Great Lakes. Do you know how cold that is? I suppose if I have to explain windchill to someone, there's no point. But I will say, there's a reason that animals hibernate and I can't say I blame them. I have been a firm believer of hibernation, especially in February. AND - if you can happen to get past the wind on this part of the globe at this point of the year, there's a great deal of ICE to consider. Ice that arrived as 40mm of rain last week, then promptly froze. I tell you, it's very unpredictable here in Canada-land. Did I mention I live in one of the more southern regions of this Great White North? Nary a mountain, igloo or aurora borealis to be seen in these parts. Skidoos are parked 50 weeks of the year around here. Downright balmy compared to most Canuk habitat. So, again, was February the best month they could come up with?!


A Basket of Tricks

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This is my basket of newness. New stuff, new skills, a new adventure. It's become uncovered since my recent purge and I'm very excited to get into it. I'm excited, which gives me some degree of motivation, but my perfectionist tendencies are slowing me down a bit.

Last Spring, while on a field trip with the local homeschoolers, I bought a pound of pygora fleece. It was very dirty, so over the summer, I made a project out of washing a measly pound of fiber. It was a huge ordeal because the smell of this fleece was enough to knock you over and I really didn't want it in my washing machine. I really didn't think it could be salvaged. I definitely learned a thing or two throughout the process. I'm left with a trimmed (or 'skirted' for you fiber-type people), less smelly, definitely usable chunk of fiber.

Accompanying my fleecy fiber are a cheap pair of slicker brushes that I will use to card the fleece when I work up enough gumption to do so. I was so impressed with the success Miranda and her kids enjoyed throughout their Fiber Adventures, that I am very encouraged to have a go at my own Adventure. I serendipitously came across the spinning book at my library's used book sale. Hopefully with the very informative, pre-Internet book, Ravelry, YouTube and Google, I'll be able to make do. Just this week I was able to get my hands on a drop spindle with which to complete the final step of processing my pygora. Happily, the spindle came with a couple of ounces of prepared fiber that I can learn with. Pygora spins up into a beautiful, silky yarn, but it doesn't do so easily. Or so I read.

While in the yarn shop handling spindles, a skein of yarn leaped off the shelf and landed in my shopping bag. I hear that's a risk you take when shopping in a yarn shop. It's a hand-dyed wool/angora/nylon blend called 'Rainbow' by Infiknit from their One Of A Kind line. I'm excited to see what it becomes.

I'm so glad I was able to dig through the clutter to unearth a small basket of potential. It's so much easier to keep your eye on the goal when there are only carefully chosen elements in your basket. I think there are a few areas of my life that could use a little de-cluttering and re-focusing. One thing at a time, though. This is a great place to start.


Baby Gift

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For a couple who started on their journey to parenthood with nothing but the bun in the oven, my new niece is remarkably well equipped.

Four baby showers will do that.

As the baby 'necessities' began piling up a few months ago, I began to wonder what a thoughtful, lasting Welcome To The World baby gift we could give.

The kids and I decided to give a book basket. Whenever we were out shopping, I would buy a book or two. We each selected some of our favourite stories to include. A colourful bin - useful for containing all sorts of things - and a pile of books later and we have a baby gift ready to be delivered. In our county, there is a volunteer book service that delivers a free Golden Book per month to any child until they turn six. I was careful to include the registration form in a stamped envelope. Our gift was well received when we visited earlier this evening. The Boy Child was invited to give a tour of the books we'd chosen. This gave him something to do since he insists on not holding the baby.
New Baby Girl arrived a week ago and has been spending her time listening to Mozart's complete works as well as giving her dad a run for his money on the opposite side of a Scrabble board. She seems to be getting her days and nights sorted out. Her and her mom are working on the feeding thing. She's trying out this bathing thing and ventured out today, well bundled, for her first Walk.

The funniest thing I've seen in a long time is my brother prancing across the room on tip-toe to give New Baby Girl kisses. I hear he needed a lesson on correct disposal methods of soiled baby items. He was caught taking a receiving blanket to the garbage when a diaper leaked and needed to be redirected to the laundry room. That was the funniest thing I've heard in a long time.

Our visit with the new family of three was uneventful and relaxing. Apparently we were helpful: The Girl Child and I took turns holding the sleeping New Baby Girl while new-mom and new-dad ate dinner.

I somehow managed to return home one child short. My brother offered to take The Boy Child with him to his basketball game. I think it's suddenly a lot less work to take his 10-year old nephew on an outing than it is his 10-day old daughter.


Today Was A Dentist Day

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today was Dentist Day. On a Dentist Day, I usually get dressed in my Mother Guilt and gear up for a busy day and a lighter wallet.

Today was no different. We had an early lunch and drove the hour to the pediatric dentist in the next big town to the west. The nice thing about going to the city is that there is plenty of opportunity for big, shiny carrots to dangle in front of my mostly miserable offspring.

The poor things are miserable because in the dental DNA department (the source of my Mother Guilt), they got the short end of the stick. For every cleaning they've ever had, there is usually a more serious problem to fix, patch or pull. This particular visit involved trying to rebuild a molar for The Boy and three extractions for The Girl.

Before even approaching the dentist's office today, we hit the toy store. This carrot was to distract The Boy Child so that he did not become too anxious before his appointment. He returned a duplicated Christmas gift and received a store credit which turned his logical, number crunching brain to money matters. Nothing was bought, but the discussion from the toy store to the dentist's chair encompassed all matters related to saving allowance, finding online product reviews and creating calendar checkpoints leading up to the potential purchase day.

He was not a happy camper when he assumed the position in the examination chair. It's the needles that set him off. Well, it's the idea of the needles, really. Once the nitrous oxide is flowing and the topical numbing agent has been applied, the needles are a piece of cake. He always stops the dentist to tell her that it was not nearly as bad as he thought it was going to be. Clear sailing for the rest of the appointment. The Boy and his brittle, weak enamel are patched up for another few months. The Boy returned to the waiting room where he immediately began organizing the office's meager Lego supply.

I had the job of taking The Girl to the examination room. By the hand. She felt it her duty to pretend a dramatic display of dental angst. Even though she's very near to being taller than me, she still needs to let everyone know that her miserable 12-year old life is all my fault. The Girl handles her stress and anxiety more quietly than her brother. Sarcasm and dramatics are popular tools of hers. But very soon the nitrous oxide was flowing again and the needles were tolerated with only a wee bit of toe curling. A bit of elbow grease on the part of the dentist and The Girl was three teeth lighter. For some unexplained reason, these primary teeth were hanging in there for the long haul.

The Girl was quite concerned, but not about the gaping spaces in her smile. She wanted her proverbial carrot. Still dozey from the gas, she wanted to make sure we were able to get to the book store before we left for home. She was so concerned, in fact, that the dentist had to set the timer so that she would keep her groggy butt parked until she was cleared for take-off.

I won't even get into how drugged I felt after the appointments when my funds were frozen and extracted. Please send your sympathies to zehnplus@gmail.com...

Soon I found myself in the book store with two drooly, slurring kids, one of who was very clearly not herself. Normally quite animated in the book store, The Girl was wandering around like the walking wounded. She couldn't find one appealing thing for me to buy for her. A clear sign that she should rest. One Universe book later, picked out by The Boy, we were on our way.

The kids were such troopers today. I'm proud of the way they handled themselves. As stressed out and anxious as they were, they were steady and brave when the going got tough. They were good company, considerate travellers and mature conversationalists. All the sibling 'issues' I see in a regular day disappeared and resurfaced as kind words and empathy for each other. (I suppose misery really does love company?!) At the end of the day, I am reminded of how great my kids are.

I am also reminded that they are not stupid. I'm off to do something about the three teeth under my 12-year old's pillow. Did I mention how much today is costing me??!


What Mess Is This?!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's funny how I've acquired such a pile of knitting supplies. It seems you mention to one person that you've taken up a bit of knitting and things start showing up on your doorstep.

The most memorable of my acquisitions was gifted to me by a retiring knitter. It bridged the crochet-to-knitting gap for me as I hadn't really become a knitter yet. A large supply of needles landed on my doorstep one day. Upon inspection I discovered I had many long needles in many sizes, double pointed needles - long and short - also in the most popular sizes, and a full compliment of circular needles.

Along with the needles came a big lot of yarn. I learned very quickly that knitters tend to be particular about the yarn they prefer. 100% acrylic all the time is not my preference. Being a new knitter, I wasn't sure what my preference was, but it certainly wasn't this. After a few years of sitting in my basement with the odd experiment inflicted upon it, much of this yarn was destined to the local Red Cross knitters.

Just this past weekend, I finally weeded my knitting needles. I've kept a set of crochet hooks, and one set of each size in the long, double-pointed and circular knitting needle styles. I also pared my stash (see...I'm a knitter now because I'm using all the right lingo). It was brutal. I am left with a small shopping bag of carefully selected fiber.

Ready to be re-gifted to other aspiring knitters is a collection of needles and yarn - a large garbage bag full of it. It is in my basement, waiting patiently for said knitters to turn up.

Hopefully they will not turn up in my basement. Hopefully, some might turn up at a local meeting of knitters. Since there is not such a group in my area, I began to think about what it would take to organize such a group. I said as much to my sister, who spoke to her friend, who also has a friend. Sister also said something to her mother-in-law who, as it turns out, also has a friend. I mentioned something to my mom, who, wouldn't you know it, has a friend. All of these people are interested in a semi-regular knitting gathering.

My sister and I are working toward organizing a free meeting location and a schedule. I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of people we're going to pull out of the woodwork. I'm sure I can 'gift' knitting newbies with a set of needles and a ball of yarn. That would be welcoming, no? I think it would be only fitting that I help others in their acquisition of knitting supplies since others were so generous to me.


Winds of Change for The Boy Child

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Boy Child came to me last week and made a very valid point. He hates math and history. They're boring and too much work. It makes the whole school day awful, waiting for those nasty subjects to be finished with, only to have to do it all over again tomorrow.

Ouch. Over the summer I had carefully considered our subjects and acquired the materials. I had carefully considered our calendar. Then I carefully broke down our materials into daily work that could be fit comfortably over the course of our calendar. Good plan, right? Lots of room for days off and flexibility. Easily encompasses the kids' request of 'Please don't make us do catching up on our work this year, Mom'. Yet still lots of stuff to get through. Mr. A like to see us doing stuff in our day.

The Boy's point quickly reminded me that I had no backup: no Plan B, no alternate exit. I needed a detour and I needed one now...well, for Thursday, the complaint being heard at Wednesday's bedtime. Knowing me, if I thought about this problem too long, I would turn it into a perfectionist's nightmare requiring me to re-plan 36 weeks of schoolwork complete with re-vamped resources and new paperwork. And wouldn't that stall our momentum?

So I thought the best course of action would be to take inventory. I can't change the materials, but I can change the method of delivery if I want. The Girl, who participates in the history work, is not opposed to the work once she gets going on it. In fact, she's doing a good job. So, modifications required for The Boy, but not necessarily The Girl.

The Boy Child is working his way through Saxon 5/4 this year. I chose the Saxon program based on my own math insecurities and my lack of regular-use-of-all-things-mathish as well as for the painfully detailed explanations they provide for every step of every concept. The Boy, being fairly math minded and very quick on learning concepts, only does half the daily questions in the problem set. Even numbered problems on even numbered lessons and odd numbered problems on odd numbered lessons gives him regular and thorough practice. Test Days are popular because there is no lesson that day, just the 20-question test. There are several parts to a Saxon Math lesson. Each day, The Boy reads a lesson and does the questions presented to practice the new concept. There is the problem set of questions that I mentioned above. There is also a daily fact practice page that takes 2 to 5 minutes to do, depending on how motivated The Boy is. As long as test scores stay in the excellent range (my expectation) The Boy Child may retain responsibility for the amount of time and effort he puts into the reading and practice of the lessons (his effort). I also cut off fact practice at 5 minutes, whether he has completed the page or not.

Due to his Math Blues, the Boy Child has spent increasing amounts of time being inefficient in his math studies. He hovers his pencil over the math fact page, usually 40 - 100 questions of one operation (+, -, x, /), looking for the '5 facts' or the ones that will be '0' or any with a '3' in the fact. A painfully slow method which sees him completing only 1/3 of the facts which makes him frustrated because I stop him after 5 minutes of this silliness and he never finishes a page so therefore it is too hard, too much writing, too boooorrrring.

We have agreed on the following arrangement:
  • The Boy will continue to read the lesson.

  • The Boy will verbally complete a practice question or two.

  • The Boy will continue to do half of the daily problem set.

  • The Boy will use flash cards (x, /) instead of any written fact practice pages.

World History
We are working our way thorough the third book and activities of Story Of The World (early Modern Times) this year. A typical week's work will include reading a chapter in two or three different sittings, verbal review questions, a narrated summary paragraph, a map activity, a related reading in our Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History and one other activity (Internet links from the UILE or something out of the SOTW Activity Guide).

The Boy likes the readings. He likes the maps. The activities he likes, too, as long as there are not too many arts & crafty type things. Usually though, they are science-y type things or boyish stuff...like the day we burned the (cardboard) streets of London down in our driveway. That was popular.

The sticking point in our World History studies are the narrative paragraphs. After we read a section, we review using the questions in the Activity Guide. I don't have the kids do this to prove they were paying attention, but to practice composition. Through question and answer, the kids practice composing a sentence. Just one. It doesn't even have to be a good sentence, just a half-decent one. I'm happy with one or two relevant nouns. So really, it's a Language Arts exercise. After Q & A, the next task is to compose a summary paragraph. Nothing fancy, just beginning-middle-end. The Girl Child is getting pretty good at this. She has worked her way up to a page of single-spaced writing which is quite interesting and entertaining to listen to when she reads it back.

I'm not too sure what The Boy is finding frustrating. He composes with coaching and I scribe. We chatted about this and I tried to explain that the more we did this, the easier the exercise becomes. He agreed to try to be patient and I agreed to stick more strictly to the 'Beginning-Middle-End' requirement. We'll revisit in a couple of weeks.

Canadian History
Our Canadian history studies this year take us through a chronological timeline from the first discovery to Nunavut, our newest territory, being created. We're up to the fall of New France. Which touches on New England's independence and explains why most of us Canuk's are speaking English instead of French. It was all decided by a battle that started after breakfast and was finished in time for lunch.

We're following Courage & Conquest. It's a great outline. You can make it very in depth or just skim the surface if you'd rather. You can rely on the historical literature suggestions or focus on the non-fiction reading suggestions.

Each week I introduce our chapter with a quick overview from Courage & Conquest. I've been great about signing out this week's suggested reading when I was at the library last week. Clever, organized, on-the-ball homeschooling Mom, am I not? So we read. I admit I've been a little non-fiction heavy in my choices. The kids weren't nearly as excited about Champlain's journal as I thought they would be. We are watching our way through the highly recommended and very well done Canada: A People's History.

The Boy says all of this is boring. So I have suggested we scale back on the non-fiction. Instead we will focus on read alouds from well-written historical fiction selections. This means about an hour a day, minimum, of me reading out loud. Only one day per week will I get out the non-fiction. The DVD selections will be optional for The Boy. He has agreed to give stories with a female protagonist a good chance before declaring them unworthy and unacceptable, even if it means he has to 'distract' himself with marble-run building, Lego or XBox360.

* * *

The Boy has been pulling out the colourful Saxon multiplication/division flash cards on his own to practice. And he is reviewing many more facts than I would ask him to. We completed our first narrative paragraph of the New Year today. He tried very hard to remember relevant points from our reading and I tried to give him sentence starters and other composition suggestions. He apologized for such a 'painful process' and I hugged him and told him 'Not at all!' He made an effort, I tried to be helpful in the way that he needed and it was all over in 20 minutes. We are reading from the Dear Canada series. It is a book about the Fille du Roi. Even though the story is about a girl, Hélène d'Onge, it is enjoyable enough that we managed two readings today.

Our mutually agreed upon changes seem to be working. I can tell because the bedtime complaining is almost nill. We shall see if these changes will carry us through the remainder of our school year, or if we have to change it up again.

I am seriously counting my lucky stars tonight as I wrap up this blog. I can't help but suspect how lost The Boy would be if he was a child in the school system. He doesn't like to write, read, cut, draw, colour, create, be near girls, sit still or regurgitate facts. I am thankful for so many things tonight. But, that's another blog. ☺

Mrs. A


It's Wednesday...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We're chugging along with our week. Books have been read aloud and noone is starving. I've been making an effort to get less coffee and sugar and more sleep. More effort is required.

The Girl Child is in fine form this week. We are experiencing the fallout of every emotion known to man. Generally, by the end of the day, she's thoughtful and apologetic. Ah, puberty.

Monday found us at the local sledding hill and outdoor rink with a few other homeschoolers. Good times. The Boy Child dressed in goalie gear and played between the pipes. He didn't do very well considering most of those playing were adults. But, noone minded - even The Boy himself - and everyone had a good time.

Monday night things got crazy. I made three dinners. There was the one for us before The Boy's regular Monday night hockey game. There was the dish and dessert for my extended family's impromptu pot-luck family dinner which I was very clear that I wouldn't be able to attend. But since I'm part of that mixed up dysfunctional conglomeration, I sent food and The Girl Child as a delegate. And, of course, we had to eat a proper dinner after hockey. That evening, Mr. A and I had a long conversation about effectively saying 'no' to my family. Doing so may involve a pre-recorded message on my answering machine and a neon sign on my door.

To celebrate my new-found and, as yet, unpracticed assertiveness, my brothers and I attended a late night hockey game my brother-in-law was playing. Along for the ride was my very pregnant sister-in-law, married to one of the brothers. We're trying many things to goad her into labour. It's not working. Good times were had by all. The coffee and Bailey's helped.

Tuesday saw school work interrupted by one of the aforementioned brothers. This particular brother has been overseas for a year and his four-week visit home is drawing to an end. He'll be taking off for another year abroad at the end of the week. We're happy to interrupt schoolwork for him. We enjoyed a rousing round of G-rated Skattergories and he entertained us with stories of his high school antics (food fights and unsupervised 'gatherings' and such).

Today is Wednesday. We're halfway there, says The Boy Child. I'm not sure what is waiting for us at the end of the week, but apparently it's anticipated. On the docket today is some schoolwork. As well, we're hoping to get a new little person welcomed to the world before a certain uncle has to depart. It's not looking good. There's been some talk of peering in my sister-in-law's windows and scaring the daylights out of her to get labour started but I'm trying to downplay such antics. Things do get a little crazy - yet entertaining - when my brothers get together.


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