Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas and Cousins

We had extended family here for nearly a week this Christmas. It was my husband's brother's family, which includes three children of the same ages as our oldest three children. We all had a great time! Cousins tend to play well together, I've noticed; I think there must be some genetic compatibility that is reinforced by the cousins having parents who were brought up similarly.

Sometimes my children, like any normal American child, express a little sorrow at not being able to have some material luxury, and I tell them that instead of giving them those extra luxuries, we gave them their siblings. When they are all grown up and their toys are ruined and forgotten, they will have each other. Siblings know where you came from, and if you have enough of them, you're (almost) guaranteed to always be on good terms with at least one of them. In a land of convenient friendships and an age where marriages too often don't last, my children will always have their sisters to care for and to be loved by. I can't imagine any ballet classes or My Little Pony collections that could outweigh that future blessing. And some day they'll bring their children together and get to enjoy watching the next generation of cousins play happily together.

Friday, December 20, 2013


I remember a short couple of months ago when the Republicans were evil for "shutting down" Congress in an attempt to get the Democrats to delay the individual health mandate, the same mandate that the President just announced will be delayed for people who buy the allegedly "garbage" insurance they had before the PPACA.

I remember being told in school about how Hollywood studios "blacklisted" Communists from getting work in Hollywood and how that was a terrible thing. Now when a known Christian expresses his beliefs about sin in a non-work setting, his TV network suspends him from being on his own reality show. So Communists, who literally did want to foment revolution, were OK, but people who actually believe in their traditional faiths deserve to lose their employment?

I remember that Raul Castro is starving his people and find him unworthy of a smiling handshake from the president of a country that has taken in so many refugees from the Castro regime.

There are many other facts that I remember. Who knows if a Google search would turn them up easily and accurately? The internet, at least the easily accessed parts, can be used as a 1984-style "memory hole" by those who control or can game the search engines. We all need to learn facts for ourselves and teach them to our children.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Party

Our congregation ("ward", as we call it in LDS terminology) had a great Christmas party this morning. After a breakfast and some Christmas carols, we wrapped presents for a family affected by this year's flooding in Colorado and gathered a bunch of canned food up to be distributed to people in the mountains who were affected by the floods. At the end, all our kids got to fill little stockings with candy to take home.

Decorations were simple, everyone pitched in to work and clean up together, and we didn't have to line up our children for their chance to tell Santa what toys they wanted. Our children have plenty of toys already, so I'm not a fan of that greed-encouraging tradition. It's never too early to start teaching that it's more blessed to give than to receive.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Carnival of Homeschooling #413

"I like geography. I like to know where places are." 
    - Tom Felton (the actor who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies)

We went to Cost Plus World Market last week to get chocolate Advent calendars, and my six-year-old daughter fell in love with and just had to have two globe Christmas tree ornaments. I gave in and bought them for her as a Christmas present because I thoroughly sympathize with her. After all, we did just have her older sister compete in a geography bee. It's neat to look at a globe and think about all the foreign and fascinating places, landscapes, cultures, and peoples represented by each different colored patch.

When the eye falls on Massachusetts this week, we in the USA remember the Pilgrims, who left their home of England and eventually made their way to North America in pursuit of freedom of religion, as well as the Native Americans who helped the newcomers survive as they adjusted to a new land. Joesette of Learning Curve recently studied this subject with her children: Early Settlements Unit - Part 2, Plymouth Colony. Her post includes a list of many helpful resources on the subject.

Celeste of Joyous Lessons in northern California shares some Charlotte Mason-friendly ways to celebrate Thanksgiving at Cooking Up a Thanksgiving "Feast".

The blog Home School vs. Public School asks What Are You Thankful For?, discussing why we had the first Thanksgiving and asking us all "What are you thankful for?"

Henry Cate at Why Homeschool submits this post on a few reasons he is grateful to be able to homeschool.

Up to the north, the Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving over a month ago. One homeschooled Canadian living on a farm shares her thoughts on Canadian Thanksgiving in this post.

Down in Australia, Chareen talks about the experience of Homeschool Burnout on her blog Every Bed of Roses. I like how her very first suggestion to help with burnout is to get enough sleep!

In New Jersey, the Liberated Learner blog author explains why she homeschools in How I Got Where I Am and The Problem with Schools and Parents. She makes a good point about the statistical impossibility of everyone's neighborhood public schools performing as well as they are claimed to; for more information on this subject, I recommend looking at the test-related research done by physician John Jacob Cannell.

While some study geography as a major in college, it's definitely one of those subjects that can be learned on one's own now that we have the internet and easy access to copious amounts of information. For the autodidact, whether to attend a formal college institution (and thus incur very formal, non-dischargeable student loan debt) is a fair question, as Barbara Frank discusses in her post Flashback Friday: More Thoughts About College.

One subject that helps with geography is mathematics. From Homeschool Math Blog, we have the Value of Mistakes, an encouraging post about brain plasticity--the huge potential for our brains to grow--and then what it means for learning of math: EVERY student CAN learn math. Students need to have a growth mindset where they value mistakes and see them as opportunities for brain growth and learning.

My husband and I lived for two years in the Philippines when I was posted at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. We had a wonderful experience living there and love the Filipino people for their warm friendliness. While the Philippines are accustomed to natural disasters, this year has been a particularly trying one for the Visayas, the islands that make up the central part of the Philippines. In October, there was a very destructive earthquake, mostly impacting Cebu and Bohol. Then on November 8, Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) blew threw the Visayas, leveling the coastal city of Tacloban and ravaging many other places, leaving around 5,200 dead and so many more homeless (you can donate to typhoon aid through the Red Cross). Because my mind has been on the Philippines, I searched out some Filipino homeschooling bloggers. Filipinos tend to work all over the world and generally speak English very well, making their blogs useful resources for the readers of the homeschooling carnival.

Athena, a Filipina from Batangas City who currently lives in Ruwais, a city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate on the Arabian Peninsula, talks about how she applies the SWOT matrix to evaluating goals and objectives in homeschooling her children enrolled in Preparatory for English Language Arts. SWOT analysis is "a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture" (definition taken from Wikipedia).

Several other Filipino homeschooler blogs include:

Learning about the world with my children is a wonderful adventure. Thank you to everyone for their submissions to this week's carnival (I hope I didn't miss anyone's!) and may you have a happy week of gratitude no matter where you live.

Carnival of Homeschooling

To submit a blog post to future Carnivals of Homeschooling, please use the information posted here at Why Homeschool.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

First Time at a Geography Bee

Thanks to a homeschooling friend, I found out about a local-level geography bee put on by homeschoolers, and dd9 participated in it this week. She did a prep class with some other homeschoolers for an hour or so the week before and then some map reviewing at home. That's basically all we did to "study" for the bee. It was by no means a high-pressure event for her.

She ended up enjoying the geography bee and doing relatively well (4th place). I like that she could be in a real contest where she got to experience a bit of the adrenalin of competition and make some successful educated guesses. I also like that it reinforced to her how much she has been soaking in during our home studies of world history, literature, and science.

I wonder if there are other academic competitions I should look into for the future. I only did school spelling bees as a child. (I still remember getting out on "cataclasm" in sixth grade because my copy of the spelling words list made it look like "cataciasm" due to a defective "l". Stupid copy machine.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Homeschool Carnival will be here next week!

After years of reading the Carnival of Homeschooling, beginning with when I had preschoolers and I was collecting ideas for "real" homeschooling down the road, I finally volunteered to host a carnival myself. It will be the 413th such carnival, and will be published here next Tuesday.

If you know of a blogger (or are a blogger) with a homeschooling-related post that you'd like to share in next week's Carnival of Homeschooling, please use these simple directions to have them submit the post to me before Monday night. Because of my international experience, I would love to receive submissions from people all over the world (USA, too, of course!). And because I love the Philippines, where I spent two years when we were just starting our family, and share their sorrow over the destruction caused by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), I'm hoping to have a segment focused on Filipino homeschoolers, who are more numerous than the average U.S. native might expect.

Hope to hear from you and your homeschooling/blogging friends soon! In the meantime, this week's Carnival of Homeschooling should be up soon at the blog "Every Bed of Roses".

Carnival of Homeschooling

Friday, November 15, 2013

You never know where a good idea will come from

Today I was fascinated to find out about Jorge Odón, an Argentinian car mechanic who came up with a new way for birth attendants to address the problem of obstructed labor, which is a major cause of death of both newborns and their mothers throughout the world. 

The germ of the idea was given to him by a YouTube video that showed how to use a plastic bag to get a cork out of a wine bottle. Then in the wee hours of the morning, he realized that the same principles involved could be used to help with childbirth; he told his wife, and she dismissed it as craziness and went back to sleep. But he was a tinkerer and didn't give up on his idea. Now it's been enthusiastically welcomed by the World Health Organization and has just been licensed for production by an American company. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times article about Sr. Odón's invention:

With the Odón Device, an attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the head, inflates it to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges.
Doctors say it has enormous potential to save babies in poor countries, and perhaps to reduce cesarean section births in rich ones.
“This is very exciting,” said Dr. Mario Merialdi, the W.H.O.’s chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health and an early champion of the Odón Device. “This critical moment of life is one in which there’s been very little advancement for years.”
About 10 percent of the 137 million births worldwide each year have potentially serious complications, Dr. Merialdi said. About 5.6 million babies are stillborn or die quickly, and about 260,000 women die in childbirth. Obstructed labor, which can occur when a baby’s head is too large or an exhausted mother’s contractions stop, is a major factor.
In wealthy countries, fetal distress results in a rush to the operating room. In poor, rural clinics, Dr. Merialdi said, “if the baby doesn’t come out, the woman is on her own.”

A car mechanic came up with this breakthrough! Of course, it required medical specialists to help him develop it for use on actual women and babies, but still, Sr. Odón is a car mechanic! I had my girls watch his TEDx talk (I recommend clicking on the CC button to see English captions unless you understand Argentinian Spanish) in hopes of helping them realize what people--including them--can do if they'll learn and think and be open to finding/creating solutions to problems.

I was saddened to see some of the comments on the NYT article. Some people were basically saying, "The world is overpopulated anyway, so why do we want to save more babies' lives?" Besides the heartlessness they show, don't they realize the economic costs to families who are already poorer for a woman's pregnancy (lost work, illness, etc.) only to face losing a baby and possibly the mother? Moreover, when people are relatively certain that they and their children will have long, healthy lives, they tend to choose to have smaller families. Human beings, besides being driven to procreate, are very risk averse; once we know we'll have our desired progeny and find ourselves enjoying a certain standard of living (which goes up when the females don't go through ten pregnancies, of which four end in tragedy and the last in a fistula), we tend to want to keep that level of prosperity.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Calvin, the unprofitable student

Calvin and Hobbes is online! Apparently the whole comic strip is now available for free viewing at GoComics. :) :) :) Purely as a commentary on K-12 education issues in the USA, I present the following strip:

(borrowed from GoComics at

OK, I lied. It's for giggles, too.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting older, little by little

Dd9 has been intentionally calling me "Mom" instead of "Mommy" for the past few days. I asked her why, and she responded, "It makes me feel older."

Is this how it starts? Is she going to be discovering loud, obnoxious music and going through moody fits before I know it? I've never been the type to find that "time just flies!" (Being in the midst of morning sickness really s-l-o-w-s down life, actually.) Still, I wasn't quite prepared for one of my children to stop calling me "Mommy" yet. Maybe she'll give it up soon....nah, not this rather dogged child.

On the other hand, my little 20-month-old girl is just delighted to have me draw happy face after happy face for her. Her extra joy when I add a nose or a hat on one is so sweet.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Research on Ginger and Vitamin B6

Both ginger and vitamin B6 will help reduce the nausea and vomiting suffered in early pregnancy, per this recent study out of Iran. (Apparently they still do other science besides working with uranium.)

Objective. Comparing the effectiveness of vitamin B6 (40 mg twice daily) and ginger (250 mg four times daily) in treatment of pregnancy nausea. Methods. In a clinical trial in health centers of Qazvin University of Medical Sciences from November 2010 to February 2011 on pregnant mothers, the effects of vitamin B6 (40 mg twice daily) and ginger (250 mg four times daily) were evaluated in treatment of pregnancy nausea. Results. In both groups, treatments with vitamin B6 or ginger led to significant reduction in MPUQE score. Scores of symptoms at the day before treatment in vitamin B6 and ginger groups were  and , respectively, and reduced to  and , respectively, in the fourth day of treatment; however, mean changes in the two groups were not significantly different. Mean changes of MPUQE score in ginger and vitamin B6 groups were  and , respectively, showing no significant difference (). Conclusion.Vomiting was more reduced in vitamin B6 group; however, this reduction was not statistically significant. There was no significant difference between the two groups in nausea occurrences and their duration. No side effect was observed in either group.

I'm no longer wearing the anti-nausea bands all that much, but I'm drinking ginger ale and taking 50-80 mg of Vitamin B6 daily. I was reviewing our family newsletters from 2011 (my last pregnancy), and I am doing SO MUCH BETTER this time around.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More correlation/causation confusion

According to this article in the The Wall Street Journal, the higher a person goes in math during high school, the more they will earn.

Mr. James also found math imparted career gains to students who did not go onto college. “The more math one takes, the more one earns on average, and the more likely one is to have a job,” he writes.

Either Mr. James or the author of the article is confusing correlation and causation in a big way here. It's even more plausible to me (and many of the WSJ readers leaving comments) that those students with involved and/or wealthy parents, higher IQs, and more diligence are making it through higher levels of high school math. Such kids would most likely do better in their careers anyway and not because they took a couple more math classes.

I would love for it to turn out to be true that more math classes => career gains. But the research discussed in this article doesn't prove that at all.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Vitamin B6 & accupressure bands

I started taking 50-60 mcg Vitamin B6 daily (half in the morning, half at night) eight days ago. I also started wearing accupressure anti-nausea bands six days ago. I don't know if I'm experiencing a placebo effect, but here at the end of my eighth week of pregnancy, I have yet to throw up. That's very unusual for me.

Sure, I still have morning sickness. I'm tired much of the time, and my odor sniffing abilities rival those of Gus on Psyche. But I'm not hanging over the toilet. :) Maybe I'm having a boy and so the hormones aren't as strong this time around. Or maybe Vitamin B6 and the wristbands really are helping me. If they are just placebos, I don't want to know because then the placebo effect might go away!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


We just enjoyed an hour or so of trick-or-treating. It was cool but not too cold, the leaves were crunchy, everyone was nice and friendly, and the evening was about to end well.

Then at the very last house, the man giving out the candy was smoking. From the sidewalk, I heard dd6 yell at him, "Stay away from our house!"

Cringing with shame, I told her not to do that. She defended herself saying, "But, Mommy, it could kill the birds." You see, we got parakeets a few weeks ago, and the children read that cigarette smoke is bad for parakeets.

If that man isn't giving out candy next Halloween, it's probably my daughter's fault.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Long Division

Dd9 is learning long division. I love how her math worktext (BJU Math 3) breaks it up into itty-bitty steps so it's clear what she's doing. The first lesson was "long division with facts," i.e., 3 into 15, 4 into 24, 4 into 20, etc. The second lesson uses larger dividends so that the quotients have 2 digits, i.e., 2 into 84, 3 into 96, etc. The third lesson uses 3 digit-quotients, i.e., 3 into 369, 2 into 846, etc. The fourth and fifth lesson review the first three lessons and apply them to money problems. In all of these lessons, the students do the problems in grids that help them see the place values and keep them straight. The next two lessons introduce remainders in 2-digit and 3-digit quotient problems. Then there is a lesson to help the students understand what the remainder means. The last lesson of the unit is on 1-digit quotients with remainders, and it teaches how to use the multiplication facts (already used in long division in the first lesson) when there are remainders.

The lessons are so straightforward that she is almost (but not quite) teaching herself long division. I do not understand why current US pedagogy is so enamored of Everyday Mathematics, which apparently can't bring itself to teach such an efficient, clear algorithm. Seriously, follow the last link, and you'll find you can't even view the claimed Everyday Math sample lessons on long division. (For a detailed explanation of the value of the long division algorithm, I recommend this paper.)

My daughter's charter school (chartered through the school district, which uses Everyday Math) will not give up Everyday Math, and I'll never send my children to it full-time if the administration can't realize the waste of time and confusion created by such an inefficient, needlessly-complicated math program. Arithmetic is conceptually very different from higher mathematics, and it should be taught clearly and simply instead of with expectations of "higher order" thinking. (Afterwards some mental math tricks are fine, too, if the kids know why they work.) I love the school's director, but I am so disappointed in the school's continuing use of Everyday Math.  The school caters to gifted children, so they may not realize how inferior Everyday Math is for years. After all, gifted children whose parents drive them across town for a suitable school are also the type to figure out arithmetic for themselves or be "afterschooled" in math by those involved parents, meaning the school will get credit on state tests for arithmetic achievement it didn't actually cause.

A friend told me that a nearby regular elementary school has been sending home non-Everyday Mathematics units with her child recently, so maybe that is indicating a possible change in the district's math curriculum choices. I can hope.

Monday, October 28, 2013

For all practical purposes

My oldest sister is a lovely woman. When she was a teenager, she would ask my mother if she was pretty. My mother would answer her, "You're pretty enough for all practical purposes."

That was an understatement. My sister belonged to that small slice of young women whose looks drew men in large numbers. It grew to be quite a nuisance for her. She'd be at home trying to study for her college classes, and again the phone would ring for her. "Why can't they just leave me alone?" she would wail plaintively and sincerely. Turning guys down was hard for her because she has a kind heart. Fortunately, she was able to sort wisely through the candidates for her affection and married a good man who, while appreciating her looks, also valued her more lasting attributes.

We have four little girls, and they are slowly growing up (no matter how many times I "squish" them on the top of their heads as part of a long-running joke to keep them little forever). I wish for them to be "pretty enough for all practical purposes" but not more than that. I don't see many benefits to being extremely beautiful in this world. It draws predatory and vacuous, narcissistic men in large numbers to a young woman, wasting her time and preventing her from having as many interactions with men possessing more sense and humility.

Another consideration in the pursuit of beauty is that the amount of time that meeting transitory appearance standards (such as 4-inch heels, fake nails, time-consuming and damaging hairstyles, etc.) can easily suck an hour or more of grooming time out of every day, and the fashions tend to make women less able to accomplish anything besides attracting. (Have you ever tried to cook a meal or garden with a new manicure job? I can't imagine fake nails make suturing wounds any easier, either.) I am sad to think how much young women as a group fail to learn and do in their youth because they're too busy trying to meet airbrushed, expensive ideals. Now, I'm not going to say to my daughters: "Burn the makeup and the bras; guys should love you just the way you are no matter how you look." I'm no fan of the grunge look. One can find a happy medium.

I would wish for my daughters to be kind, happy, healthy, and intelligent. With those four attributes, they'll figure out how to look "pretty enough for all practical purposes." Based on my own experience (I was a bit of an ugly duckling), I seemed to almost magically become prettier when dating someone I wanted to impress. I have every reason to think that things will work out naturally for my girls in the looks department when it's time for them to partner twenty years or so.... :)

Friday, October 25, 2013


I don't do well with scary or suspenseful movies. They make me jump, and I don't find feelings of fear "entertaining". When pressed about my dislike for horror, I just blame having watched The Exorcist all alone as a child one day when no one was paying attention to what was on the black-and-white TV set.

My husband is watching World War Z right now as I use the computer in the same room. Will Brad Pitt's family make it through the zombie epidemic alive? While I initially thought they might not all make it, now that Brad has somehow survived an airplane crash and a huge piece of shrapnel going completely through his abdomen, I think the scriptwriters intend for him to get everything he wants (survival for himself and his whole family, as well as temporal salvation for the not-yet-zombified).

But if I'm wrong, I won't tell you. Spoilers, you know.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Two keyboards, one book

Now that we have a piano and an organ (both free, thank you, craigslist), dd9 and dd6 decided to practice keyboard at the same time this morning. But they've been working out of the same piano book. They ended up quarreling over it. I'd get a second copy of the book, but we've been using an 85-year-old beginning piano book that I picked up at a college music library sale a few years ago. I wonder if it's out of copyright....

No way! I just found two used copies on Amazon. What an amazing place this internet-connected world is!

OK, I've been researching copyright law. I checked music and book copyright renewals in 1955 and 1956 and did not find this piano book listed, so I think it's most likely out of copyright, meaning I'm safe making the occasional copy when needed to prevent my girls from fighting.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Something for future appreciation

Dd6 just wrote a poem. It's cute, so I'm posting it here in order to make sure that it ends up in the book-blog that I'm going to make for my children some day out of this blog.

A good Day,
to go out and Play.
A big clowd,
Back in,
A Snowy day,
Let's go out and Play,
BiLd a snow-man Nice and taLL.
AHH Sun!
Put the snow-Man in the Frige,
now he SHure wiLL Live,
Put the snow-baLLs in the feReZZer.

I'd better check my freezer after the first snowstorm this coming winter....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Privacy on my mind today

Interesting. I just found out that the same White House official, Jeanne Lambrew, who got confidential tax info for White House purposes is the one in charge of ACA implementation. I'm not one to be paranoid about privacy issues, but in the wake of Snowden's revelations and certain IRS actions in the past few years, I'll probably be leaving some questions unanswered the next time I'm visiting the doctor.

One doesn't have to be a Republican to distrust the current administration (though it helps not to be a Democrat because it's much harder to see the faults in people we are affiliated with) and government expansion into the nonpublic details of our lives. I used to think libertarians were nuts; while I don't agree with everything they stand for, I admire them now for standing up for liberty and against government overreach.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Animal care

Our oldest child has been very interested in animals for years. She insists that she wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up. But until this past Thursday, she had never had a real pet.

Last week I found two parakeets, their large cage, their toys, and their food all on sale for just $40 (craigslist, of course). I had a little extra money from their grandmother, so I used it to buy the children the parakeets. While the birds are "part of the family", they mostly belong to our oldest child, in that she is in charge of cleaning the food and water containers and giving the birds fresh food and water every day. I can't wait until she discovers the fun of cleaning the bottom of the cage. Will she decide zookeeping isn't for her after wiping up enough bird turd?* Only time will tell.

* I still like parenting despite the dirty diapers, so maybe cleaning cages won't kill her zoo ambitions.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Captions for everyone!

Sometimes when I'm watching Netflix, I turn on the captions so that I can read in English what is being said on-screen. I especially have to do this when watching Sherlock. To non-British people, British English can be rather hard to understand unless spoken clearly. I have no problems understanding the actors on Downton Abbey, but for some reason, I miss a lot of Benedict Cumberbatch's words. Maybe it's the "intensity" he's trying to convey in his role as a master detective who thinks so much faster than everyone else. Anyway, I'm grateful for the English subtitles that allow me to catch all of Sherlock Holmes' deductions.

It would seem that hearing-impaired people are not the only ones who benefit from captions. A San Francisco State professor of American Indian studies just announced that he saw enormous changes in comprehension if he used captions on videos shown in class. While he focuses on the impact his observation can make for Native Americans students, I don't see any reason why his observation would not carry over to all students (well, those who can read :) ).

To quote from a SUNY Cortland website on learning modalities:

Learning modalities are the sensory channels or pathways through which individuals give, receive, and store information.  Perception, memory, and sensation comprise the concept of modality.  The modalities or senses include visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic, smell, and taste.  Researchers, including ReiffEislerBarbe, and Stronck have concluded that in a classroom, the students would be approximately:§         25-30% visual
§         25-30% auditory
§         15% tactile/kinesthetic
§         25-30% mixed modalities
 Therefore, only 30% of the students will remember most of what is said in a classroom lecture and another 30% will remember primarily what is seen.

While videos are nominally visual, the facts they are intended to convey are often presented via spoken words. If the learning modalities theory is accurate, 25-30% of students watching a video may learn a lot from the moving pictures but will have difficulty remembering what was spoken. By turning on captions on a video, that 25-30% of students (and probably many of the "mixed modalities" students, too) will be helped to better remember the information presented.

I think my children are too young to appreciate captions right now, but when they become faster at reading and can easily read subtitles while following on-screen action, I will turn on the captions for the educational videos I show them. Maybe I'll even do some experiments - captions for one child, no captions for the other, and the same comprehension quiz afterward. The home is a social science laboratory, after all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sunrise, Sunset

Our children range in age from 1 to 9 years old. They're not remotely close to leaving us as empty nesters! Yet when I and my husband were singing "Sunrise, Sunset" from The Fiddler on the Roof to our children as a bedtime song tonight, he got so sad that we had to stop singing the song. As youth, he and I never really imagined that we'd actually become adults and have families of our own, and now, even though it's still many years until our children grow up and leave us, we're aware that it will happen someday. What a precious privilege parenthood is.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Each time I come across a government website that has been shut down because of the current funding bill conflict, the stronger my opposition to ACA becomes. Why in the world would we put our health care system even partially into the hands of a government that can shut down access to vital medical services (not just national parks and websites) when the current leaders don't get their way immediately? I've seen "government-provided" health care used to buy votes--no free medicines for desperately poor people unless they vote for the guy in charge and his pals--in a Southeast Asian country. I know that Canada and some Scandinavian countries have mostly successful national health care programs. But we aren't those countries. The USA is a diverse country made up of much more than Minnesotans. (No offense. I love Minnesotans.) Not all parts of our Union exhibit the same work ethic, healthy lifestyles, and respect for the rule of law as we see in the Star of the North. There's no reason (other than partisanship and/or arrogance*) to think that everything will work as promised by ACA's supporters and that we won't end up regretting having given politicians and government bureaucrats such a large amount of control over our health insurance options.

Free markets aren't perfect. Nothing is in this imperfect world. But at least free markets allow for individual freedom.

* "Arrogance" sounds harsh. I don't mean it as a personal insult. When in school (K-grad), we are taught that if we get A's, we're smarter than most everyone else and could likely run things better than they do. Policymakers and would-be utopia-creators who seek to implement their own ideals over the experience and well-founded warnings of less-credentialed folk exhibit arrogance (i.e., an attitude of superiority manifested in an over-bearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.)

Update: In connection with my comments about arrogance, I refer you to this recent article on the history leading up to the ACA exchange debacle. If the bureaucrats involved can't even get a website right, how can they think their regulations will successfully manage 300 million people's health care access?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Math homework

The same sister-in-law that I last posted about just wrote on Facebook that the same child was sent home with math homework today where the teacher had said, "I know you all don't know how to do half of the problems on this sheet, but just do what you can and I'll grade you on 'completion'". No way for them to learn the unknown skills; they're just supposed to fill in the worksheet so they can get credit. Why didn't the teacher just cut the worksheet in half then?

Luckily, my brother is very smart and used to work as an electrical engineer before going back to school to be a physician. He taught his son how to do the problems. But what about the rest of the students in my nephew's class? Who is filling in the gaps in their math knowledge?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A spiritual thought

I don't often talk about religious things on this blog, for that is not its focus. There is an important principle I just wanted to throw out there for anyone who might need to hear it.

Jesus Christ really lived. That is historical fact. The records handed down over the last 2000 years teach us that Jesus testified that God would send His Spirit--the Comforter and Spirit of truth--to witness of Jesus and guide us into truth.

This Spirit is the Holy Ghost (Ghost just means Spirit). When we pray for guidance, humbly listening and sincerely desiring to follow the guidance, the Spirit imparts guidance to us, often gradually yet sometimes suddenly in ways that seem miraculous. If you doubt it, have enough faith to pray to God and ask him to know the truth of His existence. He is there and loves us all very much. He'll answer you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Homeschool Carnival

This week's homeschool carnival is up at The Foodie Army Wife. I contributed to this one.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Math fact progress

At the end of the summer, I was running out of options to help dd8 get over her mental block regarding addition facts. Finally, I wrote a book about her and her stuffed pet tiger going on adventures around the world wherein I covered all the addition facts she needed to memorize. I titled it Adding Adventure to Life. She read it over and over, and at last she knows her math facts with confidence. We're now getting her speed up using "five-minute frenzy worksheets (free at A week ago she took over 20 minutes to fill out one of them (it's 100 problems), and today she did it with perfect accuracy in just seven minutes.

That wind whistling past your window is my enormous sigh of relief.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

National Piano Month

It's National Piano Month! And to celebrate I will...continue fixing up the piano I got in August. I'm so close now.

All I have to do is glue some felt back on (I should never have taken it off, but I didn't want to damage it with varnish) and finish putting the piano back together. And get some polish and a buffing cloth to really make the wood shine. Then I'm really done with it. Really.

And then on to varnishing the new organ bench and refinishing the two tabletops my kids have most utilized over the past five years. Homeschooling is hard on the tables.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Welcome, new niece!

My sister just had a baby girl. It was her third child, and mom and baby are doing well.

She waited a bit too long after the amniotic sac broke to head to the hospital and ended up giving birth ten minutes after getting there. Her husband missed the birth because he had to park the car and register her with the hospital. It makes me grateful for the valet service offered at the hospital in our city. If I ever use the valet service again in connection with a speedy childbirth, I will remember my sister's experience and tip the valets generously and with a good will. :)

Because it happened so fast, there was no chance for her to get an epidural. It's funny to see her grousing about how labor hurt so much. Seriously? She had the baby two hours after the water broke and then she got prescription pain meds after the birth! Maybe it hurt so much because it went so fast. Funnily enough, she's extremely athletic, as in she does triathlons for fun. I do sympathize (I felt like a train had run over me after my third delivery), but I have every expectation that she'll bounce back quickly. And I look forward to seeing lots of cute baby pictures in the near future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


For some reason, as we were eating dinner on the porch, the children decided that they wanted to make a spider web. Why not? The weather is nice (finally). Here's their creation:

(I added the teddy bear. They're not that mean to their toys.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Art and Khan Academy

Each Friday we do an art lesson. I decided to use the art history videos on Khan Academy even though their intended audience is a bit older than my girls. But the videos have been surprisingly helpful and inspire interesting art projects.

Two weeks ago, we watched the video on Greek columns, and then at the park, dd8 sketched playground equipment supported by different kinds of Greek columns. Last week, we watched the video on the vanishing point, and then dd8 and dd6 drew pictures using the vanishing point concept.

Vanishing Point exercise drawn by dd6 in September of 2013

Today, we watched the video on Albrecht Durer and woodcuts; I wasn't about to set the children to carving wood, but I let them make potato stamps and use them in tempura paint to make their own stamped pieces of art.

I think Khan Academy is a great boon to education.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Dd8, who recently asked me to tell her "when she says something intelligent", just got the end of a Q-tip stuck in her ear canal. We're hoping it works itself out on its own. If not, it's off to the urgent care tomorrow afternoon.

Update: The doctor at urgent care found no cotton swab tip in her ear canal. Although he did pull out an impressive couple of globs of impacted ear wax.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Civil War

We finally reached the American Civil War. It's near the beginning of Volume 4 of The Story of the World. My children are too young to understand the seriousness of that war, but I'm trying to give them a feel for it. I'm stretching our coverage of it over 2-3 weeks and showing them multiple videos about it. But I know that in four years we will all be able to get much more out of our study of it.

I consider myself a Westerner, and I grew up reading the histories "written by the winners", i.e., from the Northern, anti-slavery point of view. I don't have a good feel for the Confederacy or its motives, but I have a friend from Georgia who I hope can come over and tell us a bit about the Civil War from a Southerner's perspective.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Back at the beginning of August, dd3 was very sick with a gastrointestinal bug. Because it lingered so long and caused her so much pain, we worried that it might be appendicitis. Because urgent care facilities have limited abilities to rule out a diagnosis of appendicitis, I took her to the emergency room, where she continued to feel terrible for hours but eventually threw up and felt better. So it did look just like a regular GI bug. Just to be safe, since it looked like she might also have had a urinary tract infection based on the quick test strip they used on her urine, the hospital gave her IV antibiotics and a prescription for oral antibiotics for the next ten days. The urine culture came back negative two days later, so I felt really foolish for taking her to the ER for a mere stomach bug. But I gave her the whole course of antibiotics anyway because I still worried about appendicitis. It's misdiagnosed with alarming frequency, especially in young children. GI illnesses increase the risk of developing appendicitis soon after, and since appendicitis can often be treated successfully with antibiotics, I decided to be better safe than sorry.

The very day that dd3 was being evaluated at the ER, my sister who lives an hour away came to visit us overnight. Her kids ended up getting sick and vomiting, too. Fast forward to last week...she and her children were dealing with a bad flu-like illness.

My sister called me on Friday night wanting advice about whether to take her seven-year-old daughter to the hospital, as her family doctor was worried about low electrolyte levels that were showing up in her daughter's blood test. I talked with her for a while then recommended she talk to our brother who is in medical school and whose wife had appendicitis a couple of years ago.

This morning I found out that they had taken my niece to the urgent care on Saturday, from which she was taken by ambulance to the hospital and put on an IV for hydration. Medical personnel still couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, though. Finally, they did surgery on her this morning and found a burst appendix. She's a big, healthy girl normally, so I think she'll come through this in the end, but she's in for days or even weeks of hospitalization, IVs, and lots of antibiotics.

I keep thinking various things: 1) Did I contribute to this mess by passing on the stomach bug to my niece? 2) Did I make things worse by not telling my sister to follow her doctor's advice on Friday night? 3) Why is appendicitis so blasted hard to diagnose correctly?

I've heard it said that a maxim of emergency medical practice is that if a woman of childbearing years presents with abdominal pain, the first thing to rule out is an ectopic pregnancy. Perhaps there is a similar maxim for children, vomiting and abdominal pain, and appendicitis? If not, maybe there should be?

UPDATE: She did not actually have surgery yet. They diagnosed her this morning through ultrasound. They did a CAT scan this evening. They think the appendix is perforated and that it happened a few days ago. She might have surgery tomorrow. If all goes well, she might even get to go home at the end of the week. We are all praying a lot for her.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Homeschooling Carnival is up!

I actually submitted a post this time, too. I often mean to, but life gets in the way. Anyway, here's a link to this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Another causation/correlation mixup

There were lots news articles this past week on the internet about European men being 11 cm (or over 4 inches) taller than their counterparts one hundred years ago. The most important factor behind the increased height is "the improving disease environment, as reflected in the fall in infant mortality".

The Science Daily article I've linked to here goes on to say
In northern and middle European countries (including Britain and Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and Germany) there was a "distinct quickening" in the pace of advance in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression. This is striking because the period largely predates the wide implementation of major breakthroughs in modern medicine and national health services. One possible reason, alongside the crucial decline in infant mortality, for the rapid growth of average male height in this period was that there was a strong downward trend in fertility at the time, and smaller family sizes have already been linked with increasing height.
Other factors in the increase in average male height include an increased income per capita; more sanitary housing and living conditions; better general education about health and nutrition (which led to better care for children and young people within the home); and better social services and health systems.

All well and good. Except one thing. They think that smaller family sizes result in taller children? Um, no. As long as children with genes for height receive plenty of nutritious food to eat and don't suffer from terrible diseases when they're young, they will grow up big and tall regardless of how many brothers and sisters they have. In prosperous countries with plentiful, affordable food, wise eating habits can be practiced in large families just as easily as in small families.

I served an LDS mission in Poland less than ten years after the "Iron Curtain" came down. LDS people, along with Catholics, are known for having larger than average families. The American young men serving missions in Poland were nearly all tall and rather appallingly healthy in contrast to the Poles of the same age who had grown up in want (thanks, communism) and breathing polluted air.

There are so many times that correlation is mistaken for causation. Someone should start a blog dedicated to showcasing examples of that. I'd follow it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cease to be idle - check!

After waking up early to take our children to a special event downtown, I spent 1.5 hours this morning doing yardwork. Then I went out and did errands. Then I sanded and stained the piano for approximately 10 hours. After cleaning up myself and the rooms where I sanded, I sat down to read and prepare the Sunday School lesson I agreed (while out doing errands) to substitute teach tomorrow morning. It turns out that I will be be teaching 9 & 10 year old boys about the importance of work and learning to do things. I'm so glad my piano fixing project is going to help me illustrate these principles tomorrow morning. One of the scripture verses we'll be discussing is D&C 88:124:
Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean, cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.

It's nearly midnight right now. I'm not such a good example of "retiring to my bed early". Sigh. Isn't it great that we never run out of ways to grow in this life?

Friday, August 30, 2013

More on that piano...

So now that I've fixed keys, tuned, and reglued a dozen or so catcher shanks in the action, I'm refinishing the piano's wooden case. I wasn't going to do it. But they make a product that doesn't require using chemical strippers. I'm refinishing the piano with Miniwax's PolyShades (American Chestnut color). Of course, the finish isn't going to be as nice as if it would be if I took the piano all apart and stripped and sanded the wood to it's original unvarnished glory before putting on new finish. BUT 1) this piano will be in a dark wood paneled room with lighting issues so blemishes in the finish will not be obvious unless you're looking for them, and 2) I don't have to move the piano much or even take off more wood panels than I have already (although I have to be very protective of the carpet). I'd better take a photo of it now so that I can post a before/after comparison later! If I ever finish this project....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Untangling the Mind - review

I just finished reading the book Untangling the Mind: Why We Behave the Way We Do. It was one of those books that I read over the course of weeks because I was learning so much from it. It was written by David George, a psychiatrist who is a professor at GWU. The book doesn't actually try to explain all human behavior, despite the ambitious title. Dr. George focuses on the PAG (periaqueductal gray matter), amygdala, and cortex to explain why many people overreact to perceived threats with extreme anger, depression, fear, or predatory behavior. As I understand the gist of his book--I'm no expert on the brain--due to past experiences with threats, alcohol, or brain variations, the amygdala (the part of the brain most focused on reacting to help us survive dangers), which works much faster than our cortex (the conscious, thoughtful part of our brain), unnecessarily propels us into harmful fight, sadness, flight, or shutdown behaviors.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. He clearly discusses how past events and current issues can trigger destructive behavior and how various treatments work to overcome the amygdala's unwanted impulses. For instance, talk therapy is helpful because it works to engage the cortex and slow down the fight, sadness, flight, or shutdown behaviors. Quitting drinking alcohol helps because alcohol impairs our brains' own mechanisms to inhibit impulsive behavior. SSRIs and other prescription drugs can help by allowing the brain to slow down. We can change our environment so that we are less likely to face threats that will act as triggers. This book is helpful to everyone, not just those dealing with people with diagnosed mental issues, for I think we all have amygdalas.

I have disliked some "pop psychology" books because I saw a friend use them to justify her own behavior ("I can't help what I do because that's just how I am, according to this awesome book.") and criticize others for not accepting everything she does. This book is great because it illustrates how the brain can be malfunctioning, provides reasons for why it could be doing so, and gives realistic steps people can take to work towards improving their own problematic behavior. It lays out a world I can accept, one where we all have different weaknesses yet possess and, in the absence of severe brain injury, can exercise free will to diminish the power of those weaknesses to hurt us and lead us to hurt others.


Dd8 has discovered the joy of highlighter markers. She is highlighting words in her music theory book, pieces of paper she's written on, and anything else with printed words which she thinks I won't mind her defacing. The worst is when she makes me read what she's highlighted--just the highlighted words and not anything un-highlighted. She giggles and thinks it is so funny. I don't (except that I think her pleasure in it is cute), and I keep coming up with excuses to not listen/read her highlighting.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Homeschooling Days (currently)

We do most of our formal academic work in the morning. We start between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. and cover a core of subjects M-Th (dd8: reading, composition, memorization, math, German, Latin, music, scriptures, spelling, and exercise; dd6: reading, copywork, memorization, math, music, and scriptures). Depending on what supplemental public school programs they have that day, we add history, science, PE, field trips (ideally on Fridays), and art as they fit into the week. Most days we finish with our own formal academic work by 11:30 a.m., at which time we eat lunch. Our children read and engage in other learning activities during much of what I characterize to them as their "free time". They often play with the learning games and kits I pick up at thrift stores and curriculum sales. I even found dd3 playing with the science kit on mineral hardness last week (I'd gotten it for free, so I didn't mind that she basically ruined the kit). Also, because their father (not a German) has a degree in German teaching and speaks only German to them, all of their time interacting with him is essentially German language instruction. Colorado's homeschool law requires 172 days with an average of 4 hours of instruction per day, and I think our school-age children are learning for much more than 4 hours a day because so much of what they consider "fun" or just normal life also teaches them "academic" material.

Thanks to both our family's approach to education and the ability to homeschool, our children treat their education as a constant in their lives, not just something done in a building for a few hours five days a week. I know it's possible to have children go to school full-time and also teach them to always be learning no matter where they are, but it's hard to deny that even the most academically-inclined children sometimes view being in school as a little like serving time in jail. In addition, children often pick up from less academically-inclined peers a feeling that they shouldn't have to learn anything once they are released at the end of the school day. Life, the world, and the lessons both have to teach us don't care about arbitrary school schedules.

Monday, August 26, 2013


My first grader (a girl) went to a birthday party for a friend (a boy) of the same age on Saturday. The party's theme was Minecraft, that online game that has lots of blocky structures and things the players build. One of the gifts the boy's mom made for all the children were Minecraft shirts, which were dollar store T-shirts on which she'd affixed a black shape known as a creeper. It looks roughly like this:

   XX        XX

My daughter loved her pink creeper T-shirt so much that she wore it to school this afternoon (she attends part-time, but is still technically a homeschooler). When I picked her up, she reported that lots of girls at recess didn't like her shirt. Only the boys liked it. In fact, all the boys liked it. And only one girl liked it, a girl who had a Minecraft creeper on her folder at school. Ah, recess. So important for properly socializing children....

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Piano Progress and an Organ Bench

I have removed, cleaned, and glued back in place about 15 catcher shanks from the hammer butts of my old, free-off-craigslist piano that I'm fixing up. I'm almost ready to finish tuning the piano and putting it back together. I want to touch up the dings and scratches, too, so that it looks nice (if it looks cared for to the children, they'll hopefully not abuse it). And I need to find/build a piano bench for it.

Speaking of benches, we got an organ for free off craigslist last year that works quite well. It has two keyboards and a couple of octaves of foot pedals, as well as options to do things like play bossa nova beats and such. I've been using it for keyboarding lessons for our children, but it's been hard to do that because we didn't have an organ bench. We usually laid a plank across two chairs, but it was too short and not entirely stable (TESB reference there). My wonderful father-in-law has been visiting us, and he built us an organ bench today out of wood we had sitting in the garage. All it cost was the price of some screws and a circular saw, which he and my mother-in-law gave to my husband as an early birthday present. :) It's going to be so nice to play the organ now. I may even figure out how to play the foot pedals.


My husband's parents are here for a visit, and we were very busy yesterday canning peaches. Colorado produces wonderful peaches, and my mother-in-law loves to come see us in late summer and can Colorado peaches for her use in the winter in a freezing part of the midwest. Unfortunately, Colorado peaches are still not really in season (the ones we found were yellow and hard) and cost $1.50-$2.00/pound, so we ended up getting California peaches (ripe and yummy, but not from Colorado) for $0.99/pound at Walmart yesterday. She bought nearly 60 pounds of peaches!

The produce worker at Wal-Mart was a young guy who asked her curiously what she was going to do with all those peaches. She told him, and he responded by asking, "What's canning?" She tried to explain, but it's a little hard to understand what's involved if you've never seen someone go through the process of canning. It's long, hot, sticky, and rather costly if you have to pay for the fruit. But it's worth it! Home-canned peaches are much better than industrially-canned peaches. And we used some of the leftover peach slices to make peach cobbler last night; it was too late to eat it, though, so the tempting dessert is going to be calling me from the refrigerator all day.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


We live in El Paso County, Colorado, and we have had horrible wildfires for the past two years in this area because of drought conditions. Now we are experiencing a heavy "monsoon" pattern, and two people have died due to flooding in the past couple of weeks. Tonight we're facing flash flood warnings all over the region. We think we are safe in our neighborhood, but we haven't lived here very long. It's going to be a long night for our emergency service workers. We need water, but not all at once!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New old piano

We moved and left our old spinet in the prior residence, so we've been without a piano for almost a year now. I found a free piano on craigslist, and some friends helped us move it into our house six days ago. It is a Bremen console and was neglected and unused for twelve years before we received it. We think it's around sixty years old.

First, I took all the wood panels off the front of it so that I could access the dusty areas. I cleaned out the entire interior (including under all the keys) with a vacuum cleaner. Then I roughened up a damper on a string that was buzzing, glued a broken hammer shaft together (a drinking straw made that an easy fix), and started fixing (sanding, inserting and gluing felt, etc.) a couple of keys that were sticking.

After I'd had the piano for a couple of days, I realized that one of the keys was making an audible, annoying click. I researched for hours on the internet to get ideas as to what could be causing it. I ended up removing the action (the main part that holds all the hammers and dampers and thousands of other parts that allow the piano to have the sound and abilities it does) three times and replacing a couple of felt and leather pieces, but nothing worked. It was so frustrating! And besides dealing with this obsession, I started up our normal homeschool schedule last week. Housework suffered quite a bit.

One funny thing about searching for answers to this question was how often Bing's "safe search" settings kept me from viewing search results. It turns out that piano parts have some names that can set off protections: hammer butt felt, catcher buckskin, capstan screw, jack, etc. For each note, there are at least 57 parts that can go wrong.

What seems to be working now to fix the problem notes (more than one key ended up clicking) is alcohol and Vaseline on the hammer butt buckskin for each offender. These small, hard-to-access leather pieces are very old and hard, and the alcohol and petroleum jelly are a cheap way of softening them. So far I've spent three dollars at the dollar store for supplies during this piano restoration project (emery boards, petroleum jelly, and little brushes) and a few dollars on food at Del Taco so that I could take a couple of their drinking straws home without feeling like a sponge; everything else we already had at home (yes, I had piano tuning felt and leather scraps lying around in cupboards).

The project isn't done yet, but the end is in sight. Then we get to find out if the piano can hold a tune. If it can't, then at least I learned a lot about pianos....

Update: Vaseline did NOT do the job for the worst offenders. I think I have a loose catcher shank causing the click on at least one of the notes. It wiggled right out, so I am sanding it now and will reglue it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The difference between rate and quantity

One of the strengths of science-based medicine is that it can look at large numbers and learn from trends. I find myself frequently frustrated in conversations about vaccines and homebirth by the inability of many to recognize that no matter how many people they know who have had an adverse reaction to a vaccine or had a poor outcome at a hospital birth, they don't have a good handle on the relative safety of forgoing vaccines or choosing homebirth unless they look at the overall rates of negative events.

Rates are what should be looked at when deciding risk. Certain diseases used to kill a high percentage of people, especially children; now that we've mostly gotten rid of those diseases in the developed world, it's understandable to also want to eliminate the risk posed by vaccines (which is real, though quite small). But if you forgo a vaccine, you merely exchange one risk--that of vaccine side effects--for another--that of getting the disease. Which risk is greater? That's the real question, and it calls for an individual answer by each family. If a person is always going to be hanging out in the developed world with people who are never carriers of a communicable disease, than they don't really need vaccines. I want to see the wider world and take my children with me, but I don't expect everyone to make the same choices I do. Homeschoolers tend to interact less with the general public, and given their specific situations, the risk of vaccination to some families might outweigh that of contracting the disease. They should realize, though, that all it takes is one child in their circle of like-minded friends to have been infected at a potluck by a dish prepared by a recent traveler carrying polio, and an outbreak could happen with very sad results. On the subject of homebirth, I already discussed in a prior post that evidence out of Oregon and Colorado shows that homebirth as presently practiced in those states increases the rate of neonatal fetal demise by at least 2-3 times, so I won't discuss it more here.

Many in the homeschool community embrace holistic/alternative/complementary medicine. It's no surprise; we are people used to bucking authority. The placebo effect is real and well-documented, and I don't doubt that some people find real benefit in utilizing CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). In general, alternative medicine does no harm as long as it doesn't lead people to turn away from needed medical measures that would serve them even better than a placebo. Too many, though, who dispense anti-medical-establishment advice spread false information to bolster the alternative medicine they embrace. I have seen a promoter of essential oils claim on their website that the tetanus vaccine does no good if given after a puncture wound, conveying a completely wrong description of how tetanus attacks. What if someone believes that, doesn't get the tetanus shot for an injured child, and the child ends up with tetanus? That's risking an 11% fatality rate from a mostly preventable illness.

Today (the reason for this post) I saw someone on Facebook tell several other homeschoolers that the chicken pox vaccine causes more fatalities than chicken pox. I pointed out that a hundred people a year used to die from chicken pox and asked whether there are more fatalities than that from the chicken pox vaccine, and she had no answer to it. (I did my own brief search and found no reported fatalities from the chicken pox vaccine.) She instead linked to an unsubstantiated anti-vaccine article by an author of CAM books, and then the FB conversation turned into "the CDC is government so it is untrustworthy, some doctors told me I'm doing the right thing, we are open to education and enlightenment but let's stop talking about this now before feelings get hurt, etc." Whose feelings? Theirs? I ask for proof, and they give me answers that sound like conspiracy theories. If they feel good about avoiding vaccines for their children, that is their choice. I can understand it without agreeing or making the same choice myself. But they shouldn't spread false information to feel even more confident about the different risks that they have chosen.

Americans need better education in math and statistics, be it delivered in or out of a school building. While I'm wishing, perhaps a little more epidemiology, too.

Indonesia Week

Last week was our last week of "summer break", so we studied our last country: Indonesia. We watched videos on the internet and from the library about Indonesia, I cooked some chicken coconut curry with yellow rice one night, and the girls had some library books about Indonesia to read. Otherwise, we didn't do much due to health issues.

The whole family learned so much focusing on one country/state per week during this summer break. Getting to try food from different parts of the world was great fun and stretched my cooking skills. We plan to do this again next summer!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part seventeen)

Back to Dorothy Sayers and her essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning". The next segment I'll cover is the following paragraph:
It is difficult to say at what age, precisely, we should pass from the first to the second part of the Trivium. Generally speaking, the answer is: so soon as the pupil shows himself disposed to pertness and interminable argument. For as, in the first part, the master faculties are Observation and Memory, so, in the second, the master faculty is the Discursive Reason. In the first, the exercise to which the rest of the material was, as it were, keyed, was the Latin grammar; in the second, the key- exercise will be Formal Logic. It is here that our curriculum shows its first sharp divergence from modern standards. The disrepute into which Formal Logic has fallen is entirely unjustified; and its neglect is the root cause of nearly all those disquieting symptoms which we have noted in the modern intellectual constitution. Logic has been discredited, partly because we have come to suppose that we are conditioned almost entirely by the intuitive and the unconscious. There is no time to argue whether this is true; I will simply observe that to neglect the proper training of the reason is the best possible way to make it true. Another cause for the disfavor into which Logic has fallen is the belief that it is entirely based upon universal assumptions that are either unprovable or tautological. This is not true. Not all universal propositions are of this kind. But even if they were, it would make no difference, since every syllogism whose major premise is in the form "All A is B" can be recast in hypothetical form. Logic is the art of arguing correctly: "If A, then B." The method is not invalidated by the hypothetical nature of A. Indeed, the practical utility of Formal Logic today lies not so much in the establishment of positive conclusions as in the prompt detection and exposure of invalid inference.

Until recently, I was wondering how I would know that my oldest child was beginning to transition from the "Poll-Parrot" stage to the "Pert" stage, which would let me know that I needed to start transitioning my Trivium-influenced instruction of her from Grammar to Dialectic. She seemed quite rooted and content in the Grammar stage, and it seemed that it might be another year or more before I had anything to say on the subject of the second year of the Trivium, that is, the Dialectic.

Then a few weeks ago, dd8 started showing an ability to analyze that she had previously lacked. On an embarrassing topic, of course. She looked up from her DK Big Book of Knowledge page on human reproduction and said, "Mommy, I know why males have to be bigger than females. It's so that they can...", and her childish guess at the mechanics of human intercourse followed. I responded with one of those honest-answers-to-her-question-without-telling-her-more-than-she-needs-to-know-at-her-age and then deflected her to a discussion of nonhuman mammalian intercourse for my own nerves' sake. So sue me for being a cowardly procrastinator. Deflection is a valuable tool, and she is only eight years old. Can she just apply her new-found analytical abilities to doing her laundry properly now?

As for the pertness, that's starting to show up, too. Last week, when I told her to set plates on the table for a meal, she asked "How many?" I responded, "One for each person." She then got a little smart-alecky look on her face and asked, "One for each person in the family or one for each person in all of [our city]?" The Besserwisserchen*.

I have some logic workbooks, and I plan to cover formal logic with her. But I will wait until she is fully ready for the Dialectic stage. We still have lots to cover while she is in the last part of the Grammar stage.

*German for a little smartypants.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Back to School

I wrote up the girls' school schedules last night and posted them on the bookcase with the school books. Then I sorted the school books and put them into slots depending on which child will be using them this year. I'm almost ready for Monday.

There is a used curriculum sale (free for vendors and buyers!) in my area tomorrow where I hope to pick up some more materials in the subjects of Colorado History, Art History, Printing practice (i.e., copywork), English (having a variety of reading textbooks on hand is helpful), and Music (song collections for children). It would be great if I could also pick up an activity book for volume 4 of Story of the World. I don't really need more in most of these subjects, but it would make my life easier and keep me off the computer quite as much if I could locate a few good finds.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

England Week & Germany Week

The last two weeks were dedicated to learning about England and then Germany. However, both countries got neglected due to visits by relatives, a very large family reunion, and illness. We did watch a lot of Paddington Bear videos during England Week. Last week we watched several German cartoons on YouTube (there are some lovely Grimm fairy tales on this channel), and on Friday we finally got out of the house and made it to a German bakery for German chocolate and baked goods (I am simply not brave enough to cook with lye, which is necessary to make real pretzels).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jackie Chan Adventures

During our China Week, I let the children watch a season of Jackie Chan Adventures on Netflix. They love the show, and so I've been letting them watch the rest of the series. The little girl, Jade, always wants to go on adventures with Jackie Chan, her uncle, but he usually says, "No, Jade, you have to go to school/read your school book/do schoolwork/etc." She answers back, "But isn't it better to have this real experience and learn from it?" I agree with Jade wholeheartedly. :) Except for the getting-herself-into-dangerous-situations and general-disobedience-despite-dealing-with-ruthless-enemies, I applaud her fictional character's ability to sneak herself into real-life learning experiences.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Third Grade Testing Results

I finally retrieved the test results for dd8; she took the CogAt/ITBS as a third grader a few months ago. The results: she excels at science and problem solving, still hates basic math operations and so struggles to do them quickly, and has a solid foundation in basic language arts skills. Oh, and she doesn't listen very well ( we needed a test to tell us that...why listen to her parents when she has more interesting things going on inside her head?).

No matter how many times I point out that she'll be hindered in her scientific pursuits by her poor calculation skills, she still finds math facts boring and oppressive and doesn't want to apply herself to learning them. In the two weeks left before formal school starts, I'm going to find a video game that she loves and that will firmly fix basic arithmetic facts in her head! I need a game with the Kratt brothers or cute baby sloths or wild felines; she doesn't care about fairy tale scenes or space invaders. Anyone know of a game that would fit the bill for us?

Update: My husband has a work-provided iPad that he often brings home at night, so I downloaded some free apps for her to use in this never-ending quest to not hate math facts. She has to play them for at least an hour a day for the next two weeks. Poor child, I know.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Minnesota Week

Because it's important to learn about our own country, too, we dedicated one week this summer to learning about Minnesota. The choice was easy: my husband's parents live there, and they came to visit us this past week. We ate tater tot hotdish (casserole) and bars (cookies baked in, not on, a pan) but didn't try to make lefse, seeing as we lack an enormous griddle and other specialized equipment. We watched How to Talk Minnesotan on YouTube and laughed at ourselves saying "you bet" and "whatever". We got Swedish meatballs at IKEA in honor of the Scandinavian settlers of Minnesota. But we didn't do much serious intellectual work. We were pretty much on vacation from schoolwork. Uff da!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back in the Classroom?

I know teachers are just humans, and I think there are many great public school teachers. I don't link to this article to criticize all teachers but rather because I dislike how the school district resolved it: this teacher should not be interacting with high school students again so soon. There is no reason to think he won't engage in the same behavior on the sly again. And yet some still wonder why many parents don't feel they can trust the public school system with their children....