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.


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