Monday, August 25, 2014

Inquiry-led Learning

Back in school and college, I wasn't much of an in-class questioner. I benefited greatly from listening to other students ask their questions and get answers from the teacher, but I rarely asked questions myself. I'm still like that.

"Why?" I (rarely) ask myself. I love to learn new things, especially in fields of interest to me. Perhaps I think that the teacher is up there to teach that which he/she deems important and my consternation is relatively trivial and shouldn't take away from the teacher's time to give his/her prepared presentation; after all, I can usually figure out the answer on my own afterward. Perhaps I feel rude asking questions because it implies that the teacher did a poor job of teaching me. Perhaps I believe that there really is such a thing as a "dumb question," and I don't want to ask one. Perhaps I'm more interested in going to lunch.

At any rate, I don't question much, and it would appear my daughter is similar to me in that respect. When I picked up dd9 from school this afternoon, she told me that as part of their study of living systems, they did the first two parts of a "KWL" exercise, in which they asked themselves the following questions :

  • "What do I know about living systems?" 
  • "What do I want to know about them?" 
  • "What did I learn about them?"

She told me that she didn't have anything she wants to know about living systems. This from a girl who has been independently reading a book on genetics recently and is always picking up nonfiction books about animals for recreational reading. Maybe she was thrown off by the nonspecific topic label of "living systems," or maybe she just doesn't have questions about them at present. I hope her teacher doesn't confuse today's lack of questions with an absence of curiosity.

Inquiry-led learning receives a lot of praise these days, both by some advocates of unschooling and proponents of constructivist school curricula. While inquiry-led learning may work wonderfully for some children, it seems to poorly serve curious non-questioners like my daughter and me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to School 2014

School is "back in session" at our home. This year, I decided to print out daily checklists for the children. They like the feeling of checking off what they've done, and it helps them be more independent and speedy. Here's a sample morning schedule (in the afternoon, they are often at a charter school receiving supplementary classes and the opportunity to socialize). The second grader is usually done in about two hours, while the fifth grader has to exert herself to finish within three hours.

Dd4
o  Reading Lesson
o  Writing Lesson (1 page of penmanship)
o  Arithmetic Lesson from Mommy
o  Music (Practice three minutes on one instrument – piano, organ, violin, recorder, or music maker)
o  PE (Tabata or other exercise)

Dd7
o  Story of the World (listen to Mom read “What is History?”  & help add to timeline)
o  Composition – Copy poem:
A tutor who tooted a flute
Tried to teach two young tooters to toot
Said the two to the tutor,
"Is it harder to toot, or . . .
To tutor two tooters to toot?"
o  Memorization – Recite above poem three times through
o  German Study – Learn meaning of & write three times: Ich bin, du bist, er ist, sie ist, es ist
o  Read lesson from Core Knowledge 2nd Grade & narrate to Mom
o  Math – 2 pages from Math 3
o  Handwriting Practice (1 page printing)
o  Religion – Book of Mormon (1 page)
o  Music Practice (at least five minutes on two different instruments or music theory)
o  PE (Tabata or other exercise)

Dd9
o  Story of the World (listen to Mom read “What is History?”  & help add to timeline)
o  Watch 3 videos on finding the main idea and practice with the last 6 paragraphs in the lesson from Story of the World)
o  Composition—Copy:
The word history is used in two senses. It may mean either the record of events, or events themselves.
“Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to continue always a child.” ~Cicero
o  Memorization (recite four times):
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
                  ~ George Santayana
o  Reading assigned by Mom (10 pages from The Golden Goblet) & narrate to Mom
o  Math – 2 pages from Math 4
o  Spelling Workout (1 page or a test)
o  Religion – read 1/2 page from Bible & narrate to Mom
o  German Study (1/2 page from German in 10 Minutes a Day)
o  Latin Study (5 translations from Getting Started with Latin & check and correct them yourself)
o  Music Practice (at least six minutes on two different instruments or theory)
o  PE (Tabata or other exercise)


Friday, August 15, 2014

Snowed by Kim Jong-il

A few years ago, a visiting scholar to our city gave a lecture on North Korea. He had been to visit North Korea, and he declared that the USA wasn't doing enough to engage with North Korea.

Now, I spent two weeks working at the US Embassy in Seoul during a time when the USA was trying to have six-party talks with North Korea. But North Korea wanted only bilateral talks, in keeping with an apparent pattern of trying to extort money from the USA. It appeared to me that this visiting scholar was not presenting an accurate picture of the USA's attempts to negotiate with North Korea and that he might have been unwisely swayed by the apparent sincerity and possibility of good will from the North Koreans as well as flattered by having been granted access to North Korea.

Fast forward to the just-released memoir of a North Korean defector who had inside knowledge of what Kim Jong-il was up to. Kim Jong-il, who built up the personality cult around his father while stripping away his father's power and taking it for himself, feasted royally--the invidual courses were even specially lit with customized, colored lighting--while government propagandists told the country how he was sharing their hunger and living off mere rice balls. Foreign aid was being given to party officials to keep them loyal while the regular North Koreans starved to death, even being driven to sell their children on occasion. Fake Christian churches were set up in Pyongyang to make it look like religion was freely practiced and to receive donations from South Korean churches, but when a regular North Korean showed up to enjoy the hymns, he was turned in by a "cleric" to the police and arrested.

Diplomacy was never sincere; it was all about counterintelligence work:
The United States negotiates as a matter of diplomacy, to seek common ground on an issue; but when North Korea comes to the table, it's a counterintelligence operation. In other words, North Korea uses dialogue as a tools of deception rather than of negotiation, with the objective being the maintenance of misplaced trust in the other party. And why not? North Korea's opacity is its greatest strength. It allows things to be done on its own terms while other countries continue to take what North Korea says at face value. In fact, Kim Jong-il formally set these three principles as a basis for diplomatic engagment: 'The United States will buy any lie, as long as it is logically presented'; 'Japan is susceptible to emotional manipulation'; and 'South Korea can be ignored or blackmailed.' (p. 252)

My suspicion that the visiting scholar was unwisely influenced has now been cemented. To be blunt, I think the North Koreans snowed him.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fifth Grade Biology

My oldest is a fifth grader, and in keeping with the curriculum ideas laid out in The Well-Trained Mind, we will be studying biology this year. I looked at several texts and curricula online and read reviews on them, but nothing seemed like a good fit for our current needs. Time 4 Learning looks like it has a great life sciences course, but I don't think dd9 is ready to do online courses yet. Maybe next year, when she's not carelessly breaking our computers (a few days ago, while crowding in next to a sister who was playing a computer game, dd9 dropped a speaker on our family PC case and broke something major inside so that it doesn't work now...sigh).

The Time 4 Learning website has been of great help in showing me what topics I should cover with dd9 this year as I set out to cobble together my own science course for her. My formal biology background is one college level course taught by an immunologist, who tended to focus on human illnesses and only briefly discuss other subjects. If I hadn't seen something saying I should teach dd9 about dichotomous keys, she would have likely had a gap there. But I'm certain she'd have learned a lot about Ebola!

I'll probably spend hours putting together dd9's biology materials with much assistance from search engines. We already subscribe to Enchanted Learning, which has some helpful biology printouts--food webs, cell structure labeling, anatomy, etc.-- at the right grade level. The local library has relevant DVDs from the BBC, Schlessinger Media, and Bill Nye. We have a new-to-us 2008 World Book Encyclopedia set. The Bioman website has some fun-looking biology games. Finally, YouTube, ed.ted.com, and other internet sites have slide shows, videos, and informational pages on all sorts of biology topics. It should be a fun experiment to see if I can make an engaging, effective course on my own. And maybe next year, I'll find middle school books I like for astronomy and earth science.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Family Reunion

We just returned from a week in Minnesota, where we had a family reunion with my husband's parents and all their descendants. We did some tourist-y things, too: Mall of America, Como Zoo, Minnehaha Falls, and the aerial lift bridge in Duluth. My children especially enjoyed fossil hunting in Iowa. Family reunions are great because they're both a chance to be with family and an opportunity to tour other parts of the country.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Zimbabwe Feast

The father of a family we know was born in Zimbabwe; he is of European ancestry, so he, like many "white Zimbabweans," emigrated in the mid-80s, and he finished growing up in South Africa. Tonight the whole family came over, and he told us a little about Zimbabwe. He also brought cricket equipment and let us play some cricket at a nearby park. Now I know what a "sticky wicket" is!

I spent much of today cooking, trying to provide both enough traditional African food and food that was what a white Zimbabwean would have eaten. Here was the menu, along with websites that taught me how to make the items:

  • Sadza - http://www.chirundu.com/sadza-recipe-south-african-mielie-pap-nshima-zambia-ugali-2009-08/
  • Greens - http://living-learning-eating.blogspot.com/2014/06/recipe-zimbabwean-style-greens.html
  • Oven-baked chicken (our guests brought piri piri sauce to put on it) - http://www.ehow.com/how_2212924_make-oven-baked-chicken.html
  • Okra - http://www.zimbokitchen.com/zimbabwe-traditional-derere-okra/
  • Mealies (corn on the cob)
  • Sweet potato cookies - http://www.food.com/recipe/cookies-from-zimbabwe-139868
  • Candy cake - http://globaltableadventure.com/2013/11/15/recipe-zimbabwe-candy-cake-chikenduza/
  • Sweet buns - http://www.fisoskitchen.com/sweet-zimbabwe-buns-2/
  • Shandy - homemade non-alcoholic version consisting of pink lemonade (from a powdered mix) mixed with lemon-lime seltzer water
  • Baobab powder in water - http://www.baobabfoods.com/recipes/ (I ended up adding grenadine to this because it just didn't taste that great alone)
  • Water

The sweet buns were probably the biggest hit with everyone. I'll be cooking those for my family in the future for sure. The okra...not so much of a hit....It's just so slimy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Early Marriage

A friend came by tonight and shared how due to infidelity and other serious issues he is going to file for divorce from his wife. They dated in high school and got married as teenagers, and he is devastated that this is happening.

I have a sibling who married at age 18 and is now being divorced after 20+ years of an often stormy marriage. My parents were not in favor of the marriage back then but supported their child nevertheless.

While having gotten married early is not necessarily the reason for these broken homes, I don't think it helped either. Here are some excerpts from a paper that looks at whether some of the problematic results of early marriage are caused by the earliness itself of the marriage:

Women who marry while in their teens are two-thirds more likely to divorce within 15 years of their wedding compared with women who postpone marriage.

***

Although teen marriage and low education are associated with a variety of below-average outcomes, it is not necessarily true that these choices caused the bad outcomes. For example, differences may be due to preexisting characteristics of women who marry young versus later, rather than any causal relationship between teen marriage and negative adult outcomes. To my knowledge, no previous research has studied the causal effect of early marriage. Yet, understanding the causal effect of teens’ choices is key for understanding whether they are making choices they will later regret or which impose costs on their children and society. If teenage marriage and dropping out of high school are largely driven by unobserved personal characteristics that are the primary cause of negative outcomes, legal interventions to prevent these choices may make little difference. However, if strong causal effects exist, then state laws restricting teenagers’ choices have the potential to greatly lessen the chances of future poverty.

***
CONCLUSION

Do the negative effects associated with early teen marriage and dropping out of school reflect unmeasured characteristics or the true consequences of a teen’s choices? To better understand the effect of women’s early decisions on future life outcomes, this article examines variation over time and across states in the laws that regulate early marriage, school attendance, and child labor. Based on using these laws as instruments for early marriage and high school completion, the results indicate strong negative effects on poverty status that are not due to self selection. The baseline IV estimates imply that women who marry young are 31 percentage points more likely to live in poverty when they are older. Similarly, women who drop out of school are 11 percentage points more likely to be in families below the poverty line. The IV results are robust to a variety of alternative specifications and estimation methods, including LIML estimation and a control function approach. In comparison, OLS estimates are sensitive to how the data are aggregated; regressions on individual-level data estimate small effects for early teen marriage, while aggregated data estimate large effects. I argue that the difference is due to a large amount of measurement error in the early marriage variable, resulting in substantial attenuation bias in the individual-level OLS regressions but not the aggregated OLS or IV regressions.

The results imply that the decisions women make early in life can have long-lasting consequences. The IV estimates suggest that legal restrictions that prevent early marriage and mandate high school completion have the potential to greatly reduce the chances of future poverty for a woman and her family. The implication is that legal restrictions on teenagers’ choices can reduce external costs imposed on society, and it is possible they also prevent some teens from making decisions they will later regret.

Gordon B. Dahl, Early Teen Marriage and Future Poverty

We have already started to instill in our children the expectation that they will finish college or other preparation for a good job and will not marry in their teens. A little extra maturity can only be a good thing before one enters into the grand adventure of starting a family.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camping

My husband took dd9, dd7, and dd4 camping the past two nights. We had planned for them to go camping during Mongolia weeks--since so many Mongolians still live nomadic lifestyles--but it didn't work out. Happily our current country of focus, Zimbabwe, is connected to camping via the Scouting movement.

Over a hundred years ago around Bulawayo, a city in then Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe, British soldier Robert Baden-Powell commanded recon missions in hilly enemy territory and got many of the ideas that he put into a small manual he later wrote called "Aids to Scouting." The popularity of this manual led to the founding of the international Scouting movement:
In 1900, Baden-Powell became a national hero in Britain for his 217-day defense of Mafeking in the South African War. Soon after, Aids to Scouting, a military field manual he had written for British soldiers in 1899, caught on with a younger audience. Boys loved the lessons on tracking and observation and organized elaborate games using the book. Hearing this, Baden-Powell decided to write a nonmilitary field manual for adolescents that would also emphasize the importance of morality and good deeds.

Excerpt from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/boy-scouts-movement-begins

I love Boy Scout manuals. As a girl, I would pore over my brother's Scout manuals, and what knowledge I have of knots and the Morse code is from them. My husband was involved in Boy Scouts for years and loves to camp. He's quite good at setting up tents and building fires. I was never involved in Girl Scouts, but our church does have a summer camp program that I regularly went to as a teenager, so I also love camping (but not with babies or toddlers). I'm glad that my husband is passing on the benefit of his years in Scouts to our daughters now.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Greek Weeks

Between Brazil and Mongolia, we learned about Greece. I had just had the baby, so we didn't do that much. Highlights included watching Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (for the Greek mythology aspect) and tasty Greek food from a local restaurant. The adults (my mother-in-law stayed with us for 2 weeks after the baby was born) also watched For Your Eyes Only (it has James Bond being a tourist in Greece) and My Life in Ruins (the actress from My Big Fat Greek Wedding portrays a boring tour guide in Greece who learns to loosen up and finds love).

I was planning to have the girls take a session of swim lessons, but never got around to it while we were on Greece. Maybe when we're studying Zimbabwe...hey, the country may be landlocked, but they still swim sometimes over there!

Mongolia Weeks

I have been witness to the slow miracle of a newborn changing to a baby for the past almost-4 weeks. A miracle which I get to witness just as readily at 3 am as at 3 pm. Our baby is quite healthy except for a little jaundice--more common here in Colorado, apparently due to the high altitude--and a mild cold that has required some use of that bulb syringe they gave us at the hospital. My husband is 75% back at work (having him home when the older kids wake up and need breakfast is SO helpful), and my mother is funding 20 hours of having a local teenager be a "mother's helper" for me.

We are still doing math and a little music on a daily basis and studying countries. Last week and this week, the country was Mongolia. We listened to throat singing and the Mongolian national anthem on YouTube. We watched two movies set in rural Mongolia--which is pretty much the entire country outside the capital city of Ulaanbaatar--which displayed modern nomadic life very well. The movies, The Story of the Weeping Camel and The Cave of the Yellow Dog, were in Mongolian, but when I read the English subtitles aloud, dd4 and dd2 unexpectedly found them engaging. We also ate buuz and a cheater crockpot version of lamb khorkhog. Finally, I surprised dd7 and dd9 with horseback riding lessons.



If I had more energy, I'd even be able to take my children into central Denver for the Mongolian summer festival, Naadam. Ulaanbaatar and Denver are sister cities, and Denver apparently has the largest population of Mongolians in the Americas.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Star Wars and Origami

My children have discovered the Origami Yoda books. Dd9, dd7, and dd4 are filling the house with origami versions of Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, Admiral Akbar, and what seems like the entire cast of all six Star Wars movies. To tell the truth, they're kind of driving me crazy with all their paper creations. But at the same time I'm pleased to see them so engaged in a creative pursuit.

Dd9 even includes them in her artwork these days, like in this picture below of a picnic where an origami Yoda protects the S'mores ingredients with a flyswatter while other origami Star Wars characters hang out with family members at a park.

Picnic with Origami Star Wars characters

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brazil Weeks

For the first two weeks of our summer, our family studied the country of Brazil. We watched Rio and educational films about Brazil and its varied geography (the Amazon is an amazing place!), ate feijoada (tasty black bean stew) and drank guarana soda, visited a Catholic cathedral (65% of Brazil is Roman Catholic), and observed a capoeira class.

Thanks to a friend who teaches ESL, we were able to meet with two Brazilian students learning English at a local university, and they did a slideshow presentation about Brazil for me and my children. They were also kind enough to compliment my brigadeiro candies (chocolaty truffles), even though I don't think I made them correctly.

Due to pregnancy limiting my stomach's capacity, I missed one of the highlights of our Brazil weeks: my husband took our older children out to lunch at a Brazilian grill restaurant. If you've ever been to one, these restaurants involve a constant parade of barbecued meats and pineapple, as well as yummy cheese rolls made of manioc flour and lots of cheese.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A most recent birth story

I like to share my birth stories on my blog because I think they're interesting to women, who tend to give birth. Male readers, feel free to ignore.

I opted for induction of labor this time just three days before the due date. I'm of "advanced maternal age" now (which is correlated with a higher stillbirth risk), the baby already felt quite heavy, and after so many babies the chances of my having a successful induction were very high. The doctor had me report to the hospital for the induction at 7 am, telling me that I could eat breakfast before I came. I am very glad she said that and that I ate a large, protein-containing breakfast before leaving home. Due to baby not reacting well to stronger contractions, which made it so the nurses had to repeatedly turn down the pitocin IV drip, it took me eleven hours to go from 2 cm to 4 cm dilation. So boring. But not painful because the contractions were rarely strong. I sent my husband home twice during that eleven hours to be with our kids and take a nap. When he was around, we watched Studio C comedy sketches (Photobombing 101 was hilarious and apropos) together, chatted with the nurses, and made periodic trips to the bathroom.

Finally at 6 pm, I'd progressed to a point where the doctor could do an amniotomy (making the water break), the result of which was that they were able to turn up the pitocin without distressing baby. Baby stayed rather high, though, and by 11 pm still hadn't been born. Hungry and dilated only to 7.5 cm, I was distressed enough by then to ask for some pain relief. They gave me a little Fentanyl in the IV which really helped "take the edge off." Between contractions, I even found myself laughing at Zoolander, which was playing on the TV in the labor room. Shortly before midnight an awesome nurse suggested using a peanut birth ball to open up my pelvis and help baby rotate her way down. It worked like magic. Three contractions later, I was pushing out my baby girl, all 8 lbs 15 ozs of her. The doctor barely had time to run in, glove up, and catch.

And now we have five daughters. It is such a good thing that my husband was never into football....

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Father's Day

A friend told me yesterday that Father's Day is Sunday. Oops. I have been so preoccupied this past week with wondering when I'd go into labor that I'd totally forgotten about Father's Day. While my husband has four (soon to be five!) little daughters who can make him paper crafts and shower him with hugs and kisses, I would like him to have a actual, useful present, too. Which means I need to come up with something. Thanks to Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping (no, this isn't an ad--Colorado residents can't be Amazon affiliates) and gift cards obtained from doing Bing searches, I ordered him a bowtie this morning and it should be here by Saturday (at no cost to me, which is good because that would just be cost to him). Now to see which arrives first, the new baby or the bowtie!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Just hanging around waiting

I'm 39 weeks pregnant. My next doctor's appointment is the day after tomorrow, and I'm hoping to be induced the day after that. I would really, really like NOT to have to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night this time around.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Already done

Dd9 and dd7 finished the summer reading program already. They got all their prizes and even managed to break one already. But they keep reading. It's fun to see how just three days of long reading sessions made them comfortable reading for longer periods of time than they have been used to. Dd7 picked for one of her prizes the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Ambitious, that one. To be honest, I wasn't planning on starting my children on Harry Potter for a few years yet, but the example of an older cousin was a powerful influence on dd7.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading, so much reading

I became a bookworm sometime in the middle of elementary school. I think I became so avid a reader partly out of escapism, for my home life had some issues. For instance, our father thought we shouldn't have friends over (he seemed to have some strange idea that we should be spending all our free time cleaning and weeding), so if he came home early and we had friends over (with mom's permission), we'd have to sneak them out the back door or risk his wrath.

Dd9 and dd7 read very well, but neither of them have taken to burying themselves in books the way I used to. I was so engrossed in books that I would aggravate my parents by sometimes not hearing them and not doing what they said. I remember one week, probably in fourth grade, my father punished me by banning me from reading for a week. Being a conscientious girl, I felt like I was even being naughty when I read signs along the side of the road that week; it was truly one of the worst weeks of my life.

Back to my kids. The summer reading contest at the local library started yesterday. They are constantly reading. The two oldest have already earned the first prize. Since they have to read in 20-minute increments to fill in the spaces on their contest gamecards, it keeps happening that I interrupt them with inconvenient requests right when they're in the middle of a timed reading period. So I leave them alone and forget to come back to them at just the right break in their reading intervals. I'm very pleased about all the reading going on, but I wish they would be more available to do the little chores that I periodically need of them.

Friday, May 30, 2014

School's Out!

Both school-age children were in part-time programs, which came to an end as of yesterday. Thus our school year is over, too. We celebrated with corn dogs and soda (mixed with juice) last night. Today the only thing I've required of them is basic grooming and a trip to the grocery store. I refuse to post their summer schoolwork schedule, light as it is, for them until Monday.

We're going to be learning about Brazil for the first two weeks of June, during which time I will hopefully be having a baby. Much as I'd like to go pig out at a Brazilian grill restaurant, I've learned from sad experience that overfilling my belly during the third trimester leads to great pain and regret. I'll just have to make myself some pao de queijo to make up for missing out on roasted pineapple and churrasco. My family generally isn't one for watching sports, but we'll try to catch some of the World Cup soccer championship in a couple of weeks, for it's being held in Brazil! And we hope to catch Rio 2 at the movie theater, if we can squeeze it in. Tico, taco, ya, ya, ya!!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Clutter

I am a fairly relaxed housekeeper. My kids have piles of stuff--er, treasures, including toys, hair things, school projects, folded paper crafts, books, etc.--on every non-mattress horizontal furniture surface in their bedrooms. But I insist on floors being picked up. It's a safety issue. It's dangerous to leave things where someone could step on them during a midnight trip to the toilet. Or where a pregnant, clumsy mom could trip and hurt her abdomen.

For over a year, there has been an old kitchen sink sitting in the middle of the garage floor. I wanted to get rid of it as soon as we took it out of the kitchen, but dh thought there might be a use for it and resisted tossing it. He has since consented to me getting rid of it, for I think it has become clear to him in the last year that we really don't have any use for an aged porcelain-covered sink. However, I didn't get his OK to trash it until I was too far along in my pregnancy to lift it into the back of the car myself. So it's still sitting in the middle of the garage. I've thought the whole time it's been there, "Someone is going to hurt themselves on that thing someday, and then won't my husband be sorry."

Tonight that someone was me. Whimper. While rushing to close the garage door to keep moths out of the house, I banged my shin hard against the edge of the old sink and broke my skin. I'll probably have a horrible looking bruise and end up with a scar. See? Clutter can be dangerous. I'm glad I got injured instead of one of my kids, but I'd rather no one had been hurt at all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fast food

I took the kids out for fast food today, which I almost never do. I was lured by the cheap ice cream cones. They were SO whiny afterward. It will be a long time before I make that mistake again.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Summer 2014 Planning

In just twelve days, we finish our official school year. Three days after that, the library summer reading program begins. And within two weeks of that, I will be having a baby. Instead of studying one country each week as we did last summer, we are only going to study five countries, spending two weeks on each one. That should be doable with a new baby and also allow us to go more in-depth for each country.

Here are our "summer school" plans, ready for posting on the evening of May 29th:

Summer 2014 (Daily Learning – except for Sundays)

DD9 
Reading – Whatever you WANT!! (Especially for prizes from the library J )
Math – two pages from Math 4 (need to finish before school starts)
Music – 5-10 minutes each on two musical subjects (can be singing, piano, music maker, trumpet, violin, or recorder but NOT theory worksheets)
Art, PE, history, etc. – any awesome or fun stuff, especially having to do with the countries we'll be studying 
DD7 
Reading – Whatever you WANT!! (Especially for prizes from the library J )
Math – 1-2 pages from Math 2 (Try to finish before school starts)
Music – 5-10 minutes each on two musical subjects (can be singing, piano, music maker, bandurria, violin, or recorder but NOT theory worksheets)
Art, PE, history, etc. – any awesome or fun stuff, especially having to do with the countries we'll be studying
DD4 
Reading – Reading  Lesson & being read to for library prizes J
Music – 5 minutes on a musical subject (can be singing, piano, music maker, violin, recorder, etc.)
Art, PE, history, etc. – any awesome or fun stuff, especially having to do with the countries we'll be studying
DD2 
Reading –Being Read to for library prizes J

Just looking that over makes me really happy at the prospect of summer. The kids will have enough to keep them from too much boredom and mischief, but I won't be constantly supervising assignments!

This post has been included in the Carnival of Homeschooling, found online at http://whyhomeschool.blogspot.com/2014/05/carnival-of-homeschooling-eliza.html

Carnival of Homeschooling

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Only a month of "mother power" left

This comedy sketch rap strikes me as fairly accurate about the sugar cravings and uncharacteristic grumpiness pregnant ladies often experience. Of course, it's overblown. It's comedy. And it's pretty funny to this pregnant lady.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Sickness and Homeschooling

Happy Mother's Day yesterday!! I spent it all at home, drinking copious amounts of water and resting. Dd7 was sick all of last week, and now dd2, dd4, and I are all suffering from illness, too. These things seem to hit pregnant ladies particularly hard. What better weekend for a mother to be incapacitated, though? No one expected me to make food for them yesterday!

But dd9 has been fine and doing her full load of schoolwork. One unplanned but great pro of homeschooling is how easy it is to keep it up when stuck at home. Be it snow (which is still falling today from a big spring snowstorm that started yesterday), car problems (which really immobilize a family that only has one car), or illness which makes Mommy unable to even vacuum the house, homeschooling still can be done. Not only can it be done, but it should be done. The children get antsy and irritable if they don't have some time spent on concrete learning each school day. Even dd4 has gotten to the point where she requires some reading instruction or a mini violin lesson every school day, or she complains.

Obviously some subjects--most PE, field trips, etc.--will fall by the wayside for those actively suffering from illness. However, in a world where "sick days" are so often total losses as far as productive activity, it's nice to still feel like we're accomplishing something despite sniffles and aches.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Morality, Yesterday and Today

A relative of mine in her later years has become rabidly anti-religion, especially any religion that teaches standards of sexual morality and/or proselytizes. At the same time, this relative feels it imperative to put multiple videos on my Facebook wall about the China Study and to post that she's gone mostly vegan because of how "horrible" she finds the treatment of livestock. Ironically, she is adamantly pro-choice. I'm pretty sure dismembering an unborn child counts as "horrible" treatment, too. (At 8 months pregnant, I don't buy the "a fetus is not a person" argument, for it's quite clear that I have an unborn baby in me. If she were to stop moving in me, I'd mourn her just as much as if she were to pass away after leaving my uterus. Where the dividing line between a blastocyst and an unborn child is, I would hesitate to say, but I prefer to err on the non-death-dealing side of that line.)

A while back, I read a book claiming that "food is the new sex" in that people in western cultures now feel much more comfortable judging how others eat than they do having a negative opinion concerning others' sexual relations. My relative's behavior supports that thesis. A celebrity example of this cultural shift is Gwyneth Paltrow with her organic, macrobiotic diet evangelism and statements about being OK with adultery.  Tangentially supportive of the thesis is the super-harsh condemnation one sometimes sees of mothers who don't breastfeed, even though a recent sibling study showed that breastfeeding one child but not a sibling is not significantly associated with any comparative long-term health benefits to the breastfed child.

We strive to eat well, and I pay attention to studies that indicate what dietary choices appear to be best. I even breastfeed my kids! But diet is not a religion (yes, I say that as an adherent of the Word of Wisdom), and mere food choices seem a weak substitute for faithful discipleship of God. Our bodies can survive for a long time on diets ranging from Jain ascetism to McDonald's fare everyday, so preaching the need to follow any one restrictive diet doesn't make a lot of sense. Moreover, given the obvious point of sex--making new people, as science-loving dd9 easily understood when we had "the talk"--having opinions about sexual activity in our communities makes more sense given the high human stakes involved than does pronouncing judgment on someone else's choice to eat paleo-style, vegan, or neither.

Ah, baby just kicked me. I guess she likes the apricot jam and PB sandwich I just ate. Not organic but on multi-grain bread, in case you were wondering.