Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Joninės

Happy St. John's Day! This is the midsummer folk festival celebrated in Lithuania right after the summer solstice. We are studying Lithuania right now, so my oldest daughter gathered grass and flowers from the yard, and we all made wreaths. The girls wore them to a park where they launched the wreaths onto the surface of a duck pond.

Joninės wreaths

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yemen Fortnight

We are finished with our fortnight of studying Yemen. Among other things, we did the following to learn about life there:

  • Ate mangoes, saltah (national dish of Yemen, eaten with a condiment made of ground fenugreek), honey, dates, yogurt, cardamom rice, etc.
  • Listened to Yemeni music on YouTube
  • Watched a movie on Yemen from Amazon and learned about Socotra (like the Galapagos islands as to remoteness and unique flora and fauna, but located in the Indian Sea) from YouTube videos
  • Visited a spice store and did a scavenger hunt for spices used in Yemeni cuisine (fenugreek, pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Bought some frankincense incense sticks and burned part of one
  • Toasted spices and ground them with a mortar and pestle to make hawaij, a Yemeni spice mixture
  • Cooked several dishes using hawaij as the seasoning
  • Recited poetry to each other (poetry evenings are a common evening entertainment in Yemen)
  • Learned about oil exploration at the Hunt energy exhibit in the Perot Science Museum in Dallas, Texas (petroleum is Yemen's primary export and approximately 25% of its GDP)
  • Imitated the Yemeni sport of camel jumping by having my kids and their cousins run and jump over each other's backs
  • Learned about social issues such as child brides and the current civil war in Yemen (we visited friends and family for a week, often sleeping on cots or the floor, so we could show the children what life is like for a displaced person fleeing civil war)
  • Learned how to say "Good appetite!" in Arabic: bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā'

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Yemeni Food

While Yemen is not a wealthy country, its cuisine benefits from its location near India. They make heavy use of coriander, cumin, and cardamom. Some of the Yemeni recipes we've been eating this week have been delicious. My husband--a Midwesterner who kindly tolerates all my cooking experiments even though he would just as soon eat pizza, lasagna, and deli meat sandwiches all the time--really liked the cardamom rice I prepared yesterday. He would actually like me to make it again, which is a rare request coming from him.

If you're looking for Yemeni recipes, I recommend the website Queen of Sheba Yemeni Foods. It's in English and has clear instructions and helpful photos for many Yemeni recipes. Besides the cardamom rice, our family has enjoyed hawaij (a Yemeni spice mixture which we toasted and ground ourselves), banana milk (banana, milk, a little sugar, and almond+vanilla flavoring all in the blender) and a rose lemon drink (basically lemonade with a little red food coloring and some rose water).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Yemen and Girls

As I posted before, we're learning about Yemen right now. I have five daughters, and nearly everything I find about life for girls in Yemen makes me very sad.

The disparity in education between boys and girls in Yemen is possibly the worst in the world, according to this 2007 article. One of the barriers to education for girls is the lack of female teachers (male relatives don't want their girls taught by male teachers); although there are projects aimed at increasing the numbers of female teachers, there aren't remotely enough yet. Technology could help with the teacher-gender issue, but in Yemen, they are woefully behind at actually implementing new technology. According to this 2013 article, only young government employees in Yemen really utilized computers at work while the older employees persisted in using only paper, and a mere 15% of the country had access to the internet.

Then there is the abominable practice of marrying off young girls, which Yemen refuses to make illegal even though it periodically results in deaths of the poor girls from foreseeable internal injuries. Approximately half of Yemeni girls are married off before turning 18. Their consent is not required by the law; their fathers can simply give them away as wives, often to much older men. Death at childbirth is the primary cause of death for women of reproductive age in Yemen, and women typically cannot receive even emergency medical care at medical centers without authorization from their male guardians (usually their husbands). As if all that weren't bad enough, one strain of Sunni Islam practiced in Yemen promotes female genital mutilation as a religious obligation.

On top of all the above, half of Yemen lives in great poverty and there is currently armed conflict between a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries and Iran-backed (i.e., Shiite) Houthi rebels, which has further allowed an Al-Qaeda offshoot to gain territory and influence in Yemen.

When I hear feminists' complaints about "manspreading" on public transportation, I just want to throw something sometimes. Like an atlas. At their desks and opened to maps of places other than Europe or the "Anglosphere." I'm appalled that they waste the energy of their movement on New York subway trivialities when there are places like Yemen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Welcome to summer 2015!

It's summer! The girls' school is out, so we're not doing "normal school" until the middle of August.

The summer school curriculum is our usual (third summer now) of learning all about countries plus math and maybe religion or music a couple days each week.

These are the countries we are learning about this summer:
1) Yemen
2) Lithuania
3) France
4) Peru
5) Taiwan (dd5 wanted to do China, but I have a rule that we can't repeat countries within five years; as Taiwan's status is hotly debated, the choice of Taiwan can satisfy both her desire to learn about China again and my rule)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

xyAlgebra

For the last few months, I've been tutoring a smart--but very behind in math--teenage boy with ADHD. By the end of his geometry class, he was fairly confidently using the formulas he'd been learning and had improved a lot in his testing. Then the second semester came, and his class began precalculus. Thus far, it's been all algebra (albeit at a precalculus level), and he is abysmal at algebra.

Thanks to ADHD and being promoted in math for years without really being forced to get his algebra (or even sometimes arithmetic) foundations solid, he's been like a person forced to do a triathlon who still just doggy-paddles. Yes, sometimes he gets through the water, but it's only with incredible effort, and sometimes, despite lots of effort, he just goes under.

Until I proved to him a few months ago why two negatives make a positive, he didn't believe it and certainly didn't apply it correctly. Yet he is supposed to be doing long division of polynomials. Sigh. At least his multiplication facts are solid; otherwise, I'd despair. He mastered those through the video game Timez Attack.

Now that school is almost out, I've got him working independently on algebra basics for the next month. I found several algebra programs online that looked promising--interesting videos and visuals, interactive problem sets, etc.--and tested them on him one afternoon. Without fail, he spaced out during all the videos. The only program that forced him to pay attention and learn something is a free, downloadable one called "xyAlgebra." It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is a great program. A retired professor created it and gives it away for free. While one needs a computer to use it, one doesn't need the internet, which means no YouTube/FB/email distractions for the user. Very good for kids with attention issues! It gets good reviews from others who've tried it, and I found myself "trying it out" for nearly 2 hours the night I downloaded it. It's a solid, engaging (because it goes nowhere till you hit the right buttons, and the "right buttons" change) program.

Yesterday, I had the tutee start working on it at my house to make sure that he didn't have any problems with it. I let him listen to music of his choice while he worked, and he made it through the first 20 lessons (out of 375 total) in an hour. I have high hopes that this will be the tool that helps him finally lay down a solid foundation in algebra. He's supposed to do 20 lessons a day, so we'll see where he is in a month. And if the learning sticks.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Reciprocals

Dd10 is about halfway through her fifth grade math book. She has been learning to multiply and divide fractions. As she started her math lesson today, she asked, "What's a reprotocal?"

"Oh, a reciprocal!" I said excitedly. "Let me show you."

I put her in a standing position directly in front of me saying, "Stand up straight. You're a fraction."

Then I had her lie down on the floor and grabbed her feet firmly. Next I started to lift her into an upside-down position. She's still a foot shorter than me, so I mostly succeeded. Then I said, "Now you're a reciprocal!" She and I shared a good laugh.

Sometimes I really, really love homeschooling.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To aerate or not to aerate

We have lived in our current home for three winters. Now it's spring, and it's time to take care of the grass. Last summer, we finally got our sprinklers operational, so now we have lots of grass. And for some reason, the yard in front and back is bumpy. Apparently, the partial solution to that problem is to aerate our lawn, i.e., pull out plugs of dirt that look like very large goose turds and let them break down on the lawn.

My husband doesn't think aeration will do much good. He was pulling up webpages about "hydroseeding" last night. It involves spraying a slurry of fertilizer and seed onto bare ground to get an even cover of grass. It sounds expensive.

I figure aeration can't do much harm. I'll spend $30 on a manual plug aerator and give myself a few blisters using it to treat the really bumpy areas of our yard. Here's hoping it evens out the lawn a bit!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

Love it, hate it, tomorrow is still a good day to remember that no matter how problematic our family relationships might sometimes be, we owe our lives to our mothers. If my mom knew of this blog's existence, I'd wish her a happy Mother's Day in this post. Instead, I'll just call her after church and talk for a while. I think she'd prefer that anyhow.

Speaking of church, my eight-year-old daughter might be giving a talk in Primary (the LDS children's organization) tomorrow. I was informed of that possibility 2 hours ago, so I quickly drafted a talk for her. The given theme is "Jesus Christ went about doing good." Here's the talk:
Why do we talk so much about following Jesus Christ? Because he saved us from death and from sin, and he showed us the way to live!
How did Jesus live?
He did what Heavenly Father wanted and didn’t break any commandments.
He taught people what to do so that they could become like him.
He healed sick people.
He was kind to people who were being bullied.
He was friendly to everyone.
He gave everyone the gift of resurrection.
He suffered for our sins so that we can repent and live with Him and Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom.
He was nice to his mother—which is worth pointing out on Mother’s Day!
Jesus was the best person who ever lived on the Earth.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Happy Mother's Day to all women who mother!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Story of the World, Volume 1 timeline

We're done reading volume 1 of Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World. It was the second time we read it, and this time through we made a timeline of the most important events and people. It took me over a year to make the yarn, cardboard, and paper framework. Crafty, I'm not. But my kids don't seem to care. Here's a picture of how our ancient world timeline turned out:


Every time my children go downstairs, this is over their heads.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about the red dragon in the lower right...that is actually Alexander the Great riding his horse Bucephalus. Dd8 is currently obsessed with dragons.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sixteen

My experience is that little children very much want to belong to their parents. From the time they start crawling, there is an invisible rubber band connecting them to their mother or father, and when it gets stretched too far, they go looking for the missing parent. As they get older, they understand that their parents can be gone for a while and then come back. But they still tend to prefer being with parents to not.

Around age eight or so, most children have started to spend more time doing their own thing. For my children, this typically means reading, playing outdoors away from the patio door, drawing, or making an art store (so that I can pay them real money for artwork they made with craft supplies that I bought...children are such hopeful entrepreneurs).

Then adolescence hits, and they start being able to reason as well as adults, even though their executive function and impulse control are still developing. 

I remember an occasion when the judge I clerked for interviewed a sixteen-year-old girl in his chambers during a custody dispute. He explained to her that he was the ultimate decision maker, but that due to her age he was willing to hear her input on which parent she should live with and why. No, she wasn't an adult, and he made that clear; however, he also accepted that she was close to adulthood and deserved to be treated accordingly. In the end, he decided to have her live primarily with the parent that she wanted to live with.

When I was fourteen, my mother signed me up for a college class one summer and bought me a city bus pass. Then she basically turned me loose to study and go around town on my own for two months. When I was nearly seventeen, she let me go to college full-time. Yes, the university was only three miles away from her house, but I lived in on-campus housing. Both of those experiences promoted my ability to function in the adult world, and I'm grateful for the appropriate levels of freedom she granted me as a teenager.

While doing yard work recently, I was sad to overhear a neighbor boy matter-of-factly tell a visitor how he was allowed to bike on just a few of the streets in the immediate vicinity. It sounded like he never leaves our neighborhood on his own, not even to just grab a slushee at a convenience store. I believe the boy is fifteen or sixteen years old. His homeschooling parents subscribe to a very "protective" (i.e., isolating) way of bringing up their children. Don't the parents realize that part of their job is to prepare their children to be adults? No matter what they do, their children will age. Whether the children mature into adults capable of doing their own shopping and independent living seems to be at risk. 

Sixteen year old people are able to drive and/or marry in much of the world, so it disturbs me to see this neighbor boy being restricted as though he were a much younger child. I've never seen any sign of criminal or bad behavior in him that would justify the near imprisonment he lives in. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

ITBS results

Dd10's Iowa Test of Basic Skills results are back. Her composite score was 96th percentile. It's about what one would expect for a bright child who has never tested as "gifted."

Her math computation subsection--the lowest--was 50% (i.e., about half of fifth-graders do better than she did at basic arithmetic); it's the only section she didn't finish, which wasn't surprising due to her longstanding mental block on math facts. She knows her math facts, but she doesn't know them quickly, so under pressure it's easy to make mistakes.

All of her other subsection scores were middle or high range, so I'm pleased. The test results appear to accurately reflect her abilities and knowledge as observed by me during homeschool time. Now to deliver those results to our school district's homeschool office, and we're done with testing her until 7th grade. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Footie pajama fix

When a person has five children of the same gender in a row, "passing clothes down" is an integral part of the parental job of providing sufficient clothing. Especially when it comes to the babies and toddlers, who really don't care what they're wearing unless they're on a dress-up-like-a-princess kick.

Footy pajamas are a popular item in our home, but they always wear out first on the bottom of the feet. Then the little toes stick through, making the children uncomfortable. I came up with a fairly quick way to get another couple of years out of footy pajamas when that happens. Here is how:

See the hole at the toes? Not fun to wear.

Turn the pajama foot inside out and place over base a piece of cloth that covers it entirely. 

Pin the cloth to the bottom of the pajama foot.

Sew it on. It doesn't have to look great because it'll be inside the footy.

Trim off excess fabric.

Turn right-side out and trim up anything that needs it. Done!


Monday, April 13, 2015

Nearing the School Year's End

In 1.5 months the children's charter school, which they attend part-time, will let out for the summer. That is usually about when we also end our school year. Our main accomplishments for the school year thus far are as follows:

As a family, we are nearly done reading Volume 1 of the The Story of the World; Attila the Hun just died of a nosebleed. In about a month, we will be done with the biology videos, worksheets, and webpages I searched out to make up a life science course for the older two girls. My husband is taking the older children out on bike rides now that the weather is warming up.

Dd10 has made good progress in beginning Latin, understanding German in comic books (Asterix and Obelisk in German), playing a song or two on the piano and trumpet, memorizing the Goethe poem "Der Erlkönig," making key word outlines of paragraphs and fleshing them out again, memorizing math facts and learning to manipulate fractions, typing, basic logic, and reading the Bible (she finished the New Testament and is now reading the Old Testament...that should keep her busy for a few years...). She is only halfway through her Math 5 book, so she will get to work on that all summer. We did her standardized testing a week ago and are waiting on the results.

Dd8 is ahead in math by half a year, reads chapter books about dragons for long periods of time, and has legible--if unlovely--print and cursive skills. She finished reading the Book of Mormon. She doesn't really like to do copywork--English or German--but a little bit each day is making a difference. She can play a tremolo on our Filipino banduria, an instrument similar to the mandolin.

Dd5 is doing beginning phonics. She can read some words on her own but is not yet "a reader."

Our primary schoolwork goals for the rest of the year are as follows:
  • Finish biology
  • Finish history and make the timeline for the past year's history look good
  • Get as much math done as possible
  • Help dd5 become "a reader"
  • Enjoy spring!
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Carnival of Homeschooling
This post is part of the 471st Carnival of Homeschooling posted at http://everybedofroses.blogspot.com/2015/05/carnival-of-homeschooling-for-may-472.html.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pot Protest

Here in Colorado, a majority of the voting populace has approved a little libertarian experiment: legal marijuana for recreational use.

I hate it.

I drive my children to school and pass a billboard showing a lovely birthday cake and marijuana leaves and reminding everyone that they must be 21 years old in order to partake. Talk about setting up a "forbidden fruit" scenario. My husband saw another billboard that showed a pretty outdoor scene, but it wasn't clear what the ad was about; once he got closer, he could read that it was a reminder that only private, not public, use of marijuana is allowed.

Today in the thrift store aisle, an employee loudly complained to another co-worker about how a female in his life doesn't appreciate him smoking "the janga" and argued that pot is no worse than tobacco.

My children read billboards and go to the thrift store with me. They see all the green "plus" signs for the medical marijuana dispensaries, sometimes with sign wavers dancing in front to draw in customers (there can't possibly be enough people getting non-recreational health benefits from pot for so many dispensaries to stay in business). Children, including mine, are very impressionable, and this legalization experiment is bad for them. It normalizes the use of an herb that does terrible things to adolescents while making it extraordinarily easy to obtain.

A new book, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, has a sobering (to those who aren't high, at least) chapter on marijuana, which discusses how THC concentrations in pot have more than doubled since the 1980s. Here are some quotes from that chapter:
THC disrupts the development of neural pathways. In an adolescent brain that is still laying down white matter and wiring itself together, such disruptions are far more harmful than if they were taking place in an adult brain....
In the past five years, several studies have shown that verbal IQ especially is decreased in people who have smoked daily starting before age seventeen, compared with people who smoked at a later age....
One of the largest studies followed tens of thousands of young Swedish soldiers for more than a decade. The heaviest users--that is, those who said they had used marijuana more than fifty times--were six times as likely to develop schizophrenia as those who had never smoked pot....
Another little-known fact is that levels of two abrasive compounds in marijuana smoke, tar and carbon monoxide, are three to five times greater in cannabis consumers than tobacco users. Smoking five marijuana cigarettes is equal to smoking a full pack of tobacco cigarettes, according to the American Lung Association. Marijuana smoke, which users inhale and try to hold in their lungs for as long as possible, also contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing chemicals than cigarette smoke contains....
Teenagers are especially vulnerable to the drug because they are at a critical stage in the development of two of the most sophisticated parts of their brains--the frontal and prefrontal cortext--and these are precisely the parts most affected by marijuana.

Despite the research showing the harm done by marijuana, users of it refuse to accept that there could be anything wrong with their beloved plants. The fact that a few seizure-prone children are helped by marijuana oil doesn't make all the other documented problems go away. Perhaps they've never met someone with schizophrenia, but I have a close family member suffering from it (probably unconnected with drugs), which means all her family--especially her children--suffers, too; it's easy for me to despise a "recreational" substance that increases the number of schizophrenics in this world. There's nothing fun about a mother who is unable to care for herself or her family properly due to that particular mental illness.

Pot advocates remind me of the vociferous defenders of pit bulls that show up in website comment sections whenever a little old lady has been mauled to death yet again. (Interestingly, the only marijuana grower I know of has a pit bull. I wonder how large the overlap in the population of pit bull owners and marijuana fanatics is.)

It's discouraging to see how many adults are so enamored of their weed that they would flood communities with it despite the proven risks to young people. If your state has a movement to legalize pot, fight it now until the backers give up and move to a state that has already lost that fight. It's probably too late for Colorado, but you don't have to follow in our miss-steps.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bossy vs. inspiring

A friend just posted the following quote on Facebook:

“I want every little girl who [is told] they’re bossy to be told instead, “You have leadership skills.”                         — Sheryl Sandberg
She and Sheryl Sandberg both mean well, I know, but I'm going to quibble because I think this sentiment is wrong and ultimately harmful to girls.

"Bossy" is used negatively as a descriptor of someone who is trying to be domineering, to "boss" other people around, i.e., get them to do what he/she wants. "Bossy" is used as a label for people we perceive to hold a desire to have and exercise power over us. That's never going to be a popular term in a nation that values freedom as highly as the USA does.

Leadership, on the other hand, is widely understood to include the ability to inspire others and to get their buy-in on carrying out a plan. While that is power of a sort, it is quite different than being domineering.

Instead of merely being "the boss" on the top of a hierarchy, an effective leader motivates others to work with her to pursue a common vision of their own volition, not just because they've been ordered to do so. Bossy people, ironically, often counter-productively evoke passive-aggressive behavior from their subordinates.

Anyone who can talk can give orders--I present my three-year-old toddler as evidence of that--but only a good leader can make it so that other people want to do what the leader says. If a girl is acting in such a way as to result in others wanting to call her "bossy," odds are good that she's trying to order others around in a way that is rubbing them wrong.  Instead of being told that already she has leadership skills, the girl needs to be taught actual leadership skills--including communication skills, motivation skills, delegating, positivity, being proactive, trustworthiness, creativity, giving effective feedback and seeking feedback, resourcefulness, being well-informed, responsibility, flexibility, commitment (follow-through), and self-confidence (the humble, well-founded sort of confidence, not arrogance)--so that her inclination to head up successful teams can someday be realized.

Spring break

The local schools just had spring break, so we did, too. Minimal daily schoolwork--math, music, religion, PE, and astronomy--was still assigned here at home, but I let the children have more free time to play at the park and be with friends. They also spent a lot of time reading. Dragon fever has hit my two oldest, thanks to the Wings of Fire series.

One thing we didn't do was go to places that would be crowded due to it being spring break! The science museum and the indoor swimming pool can wait until nearly everyone else is back in school, thank you. :)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Self-published!

To help my oldest child learn her math facts, I have written two adventure stories. One teaches addition facts in the context of traveling to different parts of the world. The second, which I just finished, teaches multiplication facts in the context of traveling through time and space (but only on Earth). My daughters are assisting me with the task of illustrating them.

To share the stories with a wider audience, we are "self-publishing" them on Amazon.com. I just uploaded the first book this afternoon. It is called Adding Adventure to Life. The book is about as cheap as it can be ($0.99 for the first one), but it's so fun to see one's own nom de plume in print! (I used a pseudonym because my children are still young, and I want to protect their privacy.) Maybe by summer, we'll have earned enough to go out for ice cream. :)

Here's the link to the book if you are interested in seeing what a self-published e-book looks like on Amazon.com. Or if you feel like donating to an ice cream fund. Either one works.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Refurbishing a blue loft bed

We have a blue and natural wood colored loft bed that looks like this:

Particle board with paper thin veneer
The veneer is attractive, but it is also super thin. After some children had put stickers and clear tape on various parts of it--"but we're decorating, Mommy!"--and I eventually removed them, there were several spots where the blond particle board underneath showed. Not pretty.

I decided to try using a dark blue permanent marker to cover over the ugly areas, but that was less than lovely because the marker's tip always went outside the patch area and got on the undamaged veneer.  So I took a paper towel and soaked it with rubbing alcohol. Right after I colored a damaged spot, I went over it and the surrounding veneer with the alcohol-soaked paper towel. It looked so good that I did the same thing with a regular brown marker on the natural wood parts, and I ended up with a lovely, quick refurbishment job. Under normal room light, the furniture looks nearly new!

Update: I put a 60 watt reading lamp in the recessed area, and I'm sorry to say that my fix doesn't look so good under strong light. Oh, well. It's still much better than it was before I pulled out the markers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Exchange Students

It used to be when I heard "exchange student," I had all sorts of happy images in my mind of curious, friendly, adventurous teenagers who were eager to learn about a new place and culture. Now that I've served as an emergency/temporary host for one, my mental images have changed. Now I mostly just see "a foreign teenager," and potentially a less-than-pleasant one at that.

Admittedly, I didn't see the best example of an exchange student. This one was eventually sent home for being involved in breaking some of the exchange program's rules. Two of her closest friends were also sent home. It's such a shame that they squandered their scholarship program experience for the sake of one evening of foolishness.

I was disheartened to see a high level of self-absorption, tech-dependency, and materialism in some of the exchange student teenagers. Why travel to another country to spend all one's free time talking and texting on the phone to friends? Friends that are almost all other exchange students? Also, while we middle-class American families may seem quite rich compared to the average in some countries, that doesn't mean we have the funds to go out to eat all the time and buy lots of name-brand clothes at the mall shops.

If there are any future exchange students reading this, may I share a little advice:

1) If you don't want to abide by the rules of your exchange program, please don't come. You're taking someone else's place in the program.
2) If you're not curious about learning all you can during your short ten months in a new city and home, please don't come. What's the point?
3) If you are going to spend all your free time either shopping or hunched over your tablet or smart phone, please don't come. You can shop and play on your phone at home.

If you do want to keep rules, learn a lot, and become acquainted with new places and people from all kinds of backgrounds, I hope I can someday host one of you. :) I'd love for our family to have a more positive hosting experience.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Inclined?

We have had an exchange student staying with us temporarily (since before Christmas, actually, but that's fodder for another blog post...), and she is flying home next week. For a last Colorado hurrah, I took her, a couple of friends, and dd10 up the Manitou Springs Incline. Two thousand feet up an irregular staircase, covered in snow and slush in places where the sun doesn't shine enough. And we made it! It took two hours, but we did it. Here's the view from the top:

Manitou Springs Incline looking down from the top

Walking down the Barr Trail (if one goes up it far enough, one gets to the top of Pike's Peak) back to the car was harder than anticipated due to slushy, slippery conditions. It took us two more hours. But it was still a safer choice for us than going back down the Incline due to the Incline's steepness and slipperiness. I bought the exchange student and dd10 T-shirts in the gift shop by the parking lot to commemorate their accomplishment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Under contract

We are selling a house. It's the one we moved from a while back. It is stressful selling a house, even a starter home. Today we signed a contract with a buyer. Now maybe I can be less preoccupied about house-selling and spend fewer wakeful hours thinking about it when I'd much rather be asleep.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Homeschool Carnival

The Carnival of Homeschooling for the month of February is up here. The carnival recently switched from being weekly to being monthly, so there are a lot of submissions. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fine line

My maternal grandmother died last week, and I was just at her funeral yesterday. She had a good, full life, and we celebrated it as a large extended family, glad that she could be reunited with my grandfather, who passed away 8 years ago.

Today my mother called to talk for a while. She started worrying aloud that the the workers at the hospice care had shortened her mother's life by giving her too much in the way of sedatives and pain killers.

Here's the thing. My grandmother was 96 years old and had severe Alzheimer's. She broke her hip in a very painful way a week before she died. She had been eating less and weighed approximately 75 lbs. when she died.

What could the hospice workers have done differently? She was clearly in decline and in great pain. I'm sure they knew that the pain killers would likely speed up the date of the my grandmother's passing, but is it humane to deny her the pain killers for that reason only?

I feel for hospice workers and family members who must make decisions about pain relief for someone near death. They walk a difficult path, treading a fine line between acting in a way that could shorten a life and permitting a person to suffer great pain. I pray they may always act with wisdom and charity, for even an ancient grandmother is valuable and worthy of thoughtful consideration.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Subtracting Negative Numbers

Dd10 and dd7 are starting to learn about negative numbers. Not because we've reached them in their math books. (Although, actually we have. Many of the "temperature" problems they do in their math worktexts require them to find differences between positive and negative numbers. It's sneaky, BJU Press, but I love it!) They overhear me talking about negative numbers during tutoring sessions with the teenage boy I tutor.

On Friday, I spent nearly an hour trying to help him see and internalize why subtracting a negative number is the same thing as adding the absolute value of that number. No matter how I approached it, he seemed to view it as some kind of mathematical black magic and not based on reason or reality. There are many ways of explaining why 3-(-2)=5 (this blog post has a few good ones), but nothing seemed to convince him. This is a big problem because he is currently working on line equations at school and has to be able to calculate the slope of a line when given two points on the line. It's difficult to correctly calculate "rise over run" if you can't properly find the differences between x- and y-coordinates that aren't all positive.

The last explanation I tried seemed to work. He is comfortable with the definition of zero and with the algebraic rule "If a = b, then a + c = b + c." So I showed him a brief version of this proof:
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x - x = 0                    (0 is always what we get if
                                 we subtract a number from itself)

(-x) - (-x) = 0            (ditto above)

                       Now add x to both sides of the second
                       equation, which we can do because of
                       the rule "if a = b, then a + c = b + c."

(-x) - (-x) + x = 0 + x

Which, because of the commutative property of addition (order of addition doesn't matter), is the same as...

x + (-x) - (-x) = 0 + x

Which simplifies to...

x - x - (-x) = 0 + x

Which simplifies to...

0 - (-x) = 0 + x

Which is the same as...

- (-x) = x
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And there you have it. Two negatives make a positive.

He now believes it and is properly applying it.