Monday, March 30, 2009

Take a Hike

At Wilder Ranch State Park.

I almost didn't because I got lost and showed up 30 minutes late. Fortunately, my most kind Brownies troop waited for us to arrive. Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you. It was terribly disappointing when we thought we had arrived so late that we missed the hike, especially after the crazy drive.

Crazy because it was over a winding mountain where everyone was going 20 miles over the posted speed limit. I grew up in a flat place where the roads were laid out on a grid. I don't do curvy driving. I'm a right angle kind of girl. The things we do for our children.

Was it worth it? And then some. It was a perfect day and we saw so many amazing things. Click on any photo to enlarge.

We started by petting some (huge) horses. Well, some of us just hung back and watched (yup, that one's mine).

And we're off:

The girls rest among the forget-me-nots under a gnarled redwood tree and fill in their scavenger hunt sheet:

Here's where some of us started to feel the burn. No, I'm not resting, I'm, um, taking pictures:

Resting at the peak:

But what are we looking at? This ocean:

Heading back down we stopped to watch and listen to red-winged blackbirds. Can you see him?

One more shot?

Taking a Week Off

I hadn't planned to take the week off even though I had considered it for a brief shining moment. We already had plans in place to take Wednesday off for an, ahem, educational trip to the Napa Valley. (Gotta learn to drink some time).

And Monday was going to be a short day due to a Brownies hike in the afternoon. AND I really needed some time to get ready for a visit from my in-laws AND I've been haunted by the specter of Spring Cleaning.

But I persevered and decided to get the week done around our other events. Then we ended up heading out to the emergency room on Sunday night while I was in the throes of organizing the weekly binder and the bulletin board. Seems that a certain 4-year old girl was picking almonds off of the tree when some debris fell into her eye and then rolled way down while I was looking at it. Panic ensued, though I hope I kept it largely internal.

It was a long wait for a three-minute fix involving drops and long handled cotton swab. A wait during which we barked at several people to please get this thing out of her eye before it scratched her cornea. Still nothing compared to the 16- and 17-hour waits just to see the triage nurse like in some socialized medicine countries. We saw the triage nurse within 20 minutes and were sent home after 3 hours.

But getting home well after 9:00 to a schoolroom that was a good hour from being really set up and a binder that would take about another half-hour, and with the spring cleaning beckoning...I made an executive decision and declared the week officially off.

We'll have to make it up come June but that's June's problem.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Week in Review

For the last year and a half I have stuck to a 4-day school week which seemed like a wonderful deal for everyone. The kids got three free days and I would have an extra day for cleaning and lesson planning. The results were four days that ran longer than any of us really loved and one day spent recovering and not getting much of anything accomplished because, you know, I had EARNED that day off.

That attitude, however, runs in direct opposition to my broader philosophies about what it means to earn something. Never mind the more pragmatic consequences. I am officially declaring my 4-day school week a failure and moving to a 5-day school week that I hope will result in 4 somewhat shorter days and one half-day. My intention is to do our second history day on Friday which will hopefully incorporate the project. Eleanor's writing project will now have an extra day. That's all I've worked out so far.

I'm dismayed by our lack of read-aloud time this year. I have not done a read-aloud that was not attached to nature study or history or geography since before Christmas. Bleargh. Rick reads to them at night and we've listened to almost the entire Little House series on CD (we are listening to Farmer Boy now and will not be listening to The First Four Years) and, like I said, I've read many things tied to our other lessons so literature has happened but, I like a stand-alone read aloud time and I've let that slide.

This week we tackled the Crusades. I had intended to read Diane Stanley's Saladin but was troubled by the tone so I set it aside until I can do more research. The Story of the World says that the Crusades were instigated in part by the Christian's and Jew's lack of access to Jerusalem. Saladin makes no mention of this and in fact, seems to suggest that Christians were just thirsty for blood and land. I don't have a dog in this particular fight except my grudge against modern interpretations (based on feeling, political correctness and anti-establishment sentiment rather than scholarly analysis) of history so I will need to do more research before deciding whether or not I want to to read this book. Based on Amazon reviews I'm leaning toward "Not".

I actually purchased a lot of Stanley's books (with the recommendation of the WTM, oddly enough) and now I'll have to give them more scrutiny.

We did read a great picture book version of Chanticleer and the Fox and Eleanor read a cute version of The Canterbury Tales, both of which I'll put in my sidebar.

We looked at three very cute members of the warbler family: the Common Yellow Throat, the Yellow-Breasted Chat and the Black and White Warbler. We colored and then read about lupines in two very enjoyable books: Miss Rumphius and Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers. Neither to be missed as the illustrations are gorgeous in both.

Our state's study took us to North Dakota and Minnesota. We listened to Red River Valley and I have yet to read to them about Paul Bunyon but will do so this weekend. The states study has been an excellent means of introducing lots of great songs and stories of America. I'm glad I ditched a more formal science in favor of geography this year. It has also allowed us to expand our nature study as we've touched upon the various state birds and flowers.

Eleanor finished her writing project which was a rewrite of Robin Hood from James Baldwin. We talked a lot about stealing from the rich to give to the poor and about how stealing is wrong no matter who benefits and who loses. A very important lesson at any time but in particular at this time in history where moral relativism reigns.

Eleanor finished Spelling Workout D and has started book E. In Latin we have switched from the classical pronunciation to the ecclesiastical. There were any number of reasons for doing it but it was no small matter that we both realized we just like it better. The switch is so simple that its really easy enough to learn both.

Susannah continues to learn her letter sounds. We made it through "R" this week. I was hoping to get further. Its been more challenging to integrate her into our day than I imagined and I imagined it as pretty challenging.

Henry has worked through letter "R" in cursive. He's doing really well and loves it. I think its actually easier for him than printing. He is very close to finishing the Thornton Burgess animal series.

My own lessons wobble along. I'm part of a Henle Latin study group and I'm really enjoying it. I trucked along for the first 18 exercises and then did a huge face-plant on lesson 19. The first lesson being: first know that you don't know squat. My Well-Educated Mind directed reading of Don Quixote has been equally fun and hey, who knew DQ was a FUNNY book? My economics reading fell a bit behind and then I got a little hung up on Sowell's arguments against labor unions. Still working through that. This week was Spring Break (woo hoo!) from my Renaissance class but its back to the grind next week.

Don't forget to check out the blogs in my sidebar and if you stop by and have a blog of your own please leave a link so I can check it out!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Week in Review

Another short week has left us a little off of our home school game as far as lessons are concerned. That's okay. We had a good reason for the slacking. Our resident baby turned 4 on St. Patrick's Day!

So on Tuesday, we headed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium by way of celebration. A good time was had by all:

We did manage to get all our core subjects complete and did geography. We still have not picked up with history and we did not do our nature studies.

We also did: piano, dance, Brownies, and swim. We also had a bonus day where we met with the good people at King Alfred Academy for food and fun! Thanks, Guys!

All in all, a productive week. I'll take it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week in Review: The Rest

The rest of the week hopped along pleasantly enough until Sadie got sick. That slowed us down but thankfully she rebounded by Friday.

Last week I recounted our experiences with origami. This week's project was making a coat of arms. We read about heraldry and then the kids designed their coat of arms on paper before creating them. It should be noted that the designs were colored in and not drawn by hand (click to enlarge):

We talked about Missouri and Kansas. Did a bunch of grammar and math and spelling and writing. Studied the American Redstart, Yellow Warbler and the daffodil.

We also had: park day, swim, piano, dance and OT.

Here's to another great (but short) week.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Week in Review: Monday

This week was truncated due to a Brownie's hike. Eleanor and I piled into the car Monday morning and headed to the San Mateo area. It was brisk to start but warmed up nicely.

Here's a wood rat's nest:

Some Scouts:

A trail:

Giant trillium:

The trip down:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Did You Hear That?

That's the sound of me putting the brakes on my ideas about what it means to be educated and preparing to take this train back to the station.

Reading Dr. Andrew Campbell's excellent book on the heels of, "Climbing Parnassus", has had serious implications for me and for our little school.

If you are a parent these books should be of interest to you even if you don't home school and never have any intention of doing so. I remember back when we were educating our children conventionally I never considered reading books about education. I dropped my kids off at school and picked them up. I looked over the papers that came home and helped them with their homework. I gossiped with other moms about teachers we liked and didn't like. I grumbled about subjects I thought were poorly taught or a waste of time.

What I didn't consider is: what should be taught, how it should be taught and when it should be taught. The most basic elements of education and I didn't even give it a glancing notice. And I wasn't alone. I've seen moms burn teachers in effigy over unfair snack policies or bathroom rules but I've never heard a public school mom complain about the curriculum being used. I can't say that I even knew what curriculum was being used or what was the overall philosophy of education at the level of the teacher, the school, the district or the state.

Looking back I can see how completely crazy and negligent it was to just trust that the school was getting it right. The way we mindlessly hand our children and their education over to the government is an indictment of big government and its effects upon us after generations of submitting to its judgment. We don't even know the questions we should be asking because that knowledge and that curiosity has been bred out of us. Today its education...tomorrow its everything else.

I once considered myself a fairly bright, moderately educated person. Today, I know better. Its a bitter pill to swallow but, as I am being constantly reminded on this new journey, knowing I know nothing puts me in league with Plato in at least one regard. Okay, only that one but still, it is a starting point.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Week in Review

The big question being, did we do history on Friday?

No, we didn't.

Yes, OT ran late. Yes, the kids took forever to clean up. Yes, we had to catch-up in other more important subjects first. But, its possible that it still could have been accomplished. I have all weekend to remedy this situation and we will try again next Friday.

We did manage to knock down one of the planned projects: origami. This tied into our study of medieval Japan. What did we learn? We are all terrible at origami and, what's further, none of us really cares. I may not be able to fold papers beautifully but I can make lots of snide remarks about how pointless a skill that is anyway. And now, so can my children. And according to the standards of our time, being snide about paper folding is no better or worse than being excellent at paper folding. Its just different.

I kid about spreading my message of origami-hate to the children. I kept most of the comments to myself.

Other unmet goals: Henry missed one day of cursive, Sadie missed one day of reading lesson, history reading did not get finished, spelling tests are pending, Eleanor needs to complete her writing lesson. Just like conventional schools, we sometimes get "homework".

We also did not make it to park-day but that was through no fault of ours. It was pouring. Based on the number of e-mails I received from people on the park-day list boasting about who showed up in spite of the weather, I now know that I live in an area where people are obsessively prideful about how much rain they are willing to endure for absolutely no compelling reason. I don't care. Turns out that I do know enough to come in out of the rain in spite of my parents' early concerns.

Eleanor had her last basketball game of the season this morning. As a parting gift she was presented with a medal. For showing up. That is everything that is wrong with our world right there. Participation gifts should not resemble those things we typically associate with achievement. A t-shirt is also an excellent way to say, "Good work and thanks for supporting the league." Pencils that say, "Shoot for the stars", or something equally stupid. Not medals. Not trophies.

More on this later.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, March 2, 2009

Climbing Parnassus

If you have ever even considered thumbing through It has really helped firm up a lot of the half-gelled ideas I had about education. Particularly about what is real education and what is just job training. If you've ever read something written before 1930 and thought, like I have, "Ding dang, peoples used to be smart!", this book will tell you why they were. And why they aren't now. It will explain why you say things like, "I know what I want to say but I can't figger out how to say it." It will tell you why you sometimes get the kernel of an idea you know could be brilliant only to find that you've nowhere to plant it. It will illustrate why your brain doesn't seem to be functioning at the level you know - YOU KNOW - it should.

No, it isn't CO2 poisoning.

It isn't lead in your crock pot.

It isn't DDT.

It isn't low self-esteem.

Its your terrible education brought to you by the good folks at, "This is just as good as that."

Keep the tissue box handy because this one's a tear-jerker.

What's in Store

We're starting the week under the assumption that nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Some weeks we have special play dates or classes scheduled that wreak havoc on the schedule but so far, this is not one of them. So, we'll do the usual.


  • Math - Saxon 5/4 Lesson 66 - "Similar and Congruent Figures"
  • Spelling - Spelling Workout D - Lesson 34
  • Latin - Lesson 11 of Lively Latin Book 1.
  • French - Last unit of Ecoutez, Parlez! Book 2.
  • CW Aesop B - Its a writing project week for "Bruce and the Spider".
  • FLL4 - I have liked this program but the format is starting to wear on me a little...I think we're switching to Rod and Staff next year...we'll have to switch to something b/c FLL ends here.
  • Memory work - in addition to reviewing previously memorized items we will continue working on, "A Grammar Rhyme" and "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
  • Extras - piano, ballet, tap, basketball, swim, Brownies.

  • Math - Saxon 2 - Lesson 83 - Differences of 1, 2 and 9.
  • Spelling Workout B - Lesson 28
  • Spanish - Escucha y hablemos! Book 1, unit 2.
  • Writing With Ease - Week 23
  • FLL 2 - Lesson 174
  • Memory Work - previously memorized items and something new...TBD
  • New American Cursive from Memoria Press- K, L, M, N
  • Extras - swim, OT.

  • Letter Uu
  • Number 21
  • Dog theme reading TBD
  • Pentagon
  • Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading
  • Extras - ballet, swim.

  • Bird identification: Whip-poor-will/Chuck-will's-widow/Nighthawk
  • Flower identificaiton: lavender
  • Geography: Arkansas and intro to the North Central Region
  • History - getting caught up with reading and projects dealing with Vikings and with feudalism, knights and samurai. Bringing time lines up-to-date.
  • Park day!
  • Projects - origami, make your own coat of arms, build a castle.
Here's to a productive week!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Historically Speaking

I'm just going to jump right back in like I've been updating all along.

We've hit a snag in our history, and I'm not speaking about the current administration. I mean our history studies. We had been working at a good clip with Story of the World until about a month ago. I started to feel rushed through certain sections that I felt required more exploration if for no other reason than I wanted to explore them more. But, in order to finish the book by June I had to skip over projects I'd hoped to do.

Now, the projects probably could have been completed in a timely manner if I'd really made the effort. Many a Friday I have blown off the projects in favor of just letting all of us just horse around after completing the work portion of our light Friday schooling and after both swim lessons, OT and dance class which also make up our Friday routine.

But, I haven't put my shoulder to the wheel and so here I am. Dissatisfied with the results. Imagine that. My output reflects my input.

Now, I can either say, "I guess this history thing just isn't working for us. We need to do what's right for our family. I'm going to slow it down and do projects when everyone is really ready to enjoy it and not according to some arbitrary schedule that I set that for us back when I didn't realize how lazy I was going to be."

Or I could say, "I'm going to do what's right." Which is to stick the plan I made when I was in a more motivated frame of mind. No. Matter. What.

Or I could do what I think I'm going to do and both slow down the history AND stick to the skeleton of the plan I made when I was more motivated. That is, I'm going to start doing our Friday projects on Friday and spend extra days on the lands and eras that really pique our interest.

I don't want to decide that "what works for our family" is to blow stuff off without a better reason than slothfulness or lack of motivation.

But, if I've done all the work and decide to lengthen the time we spend on a lesson because we're enjoying it and not just because we fell behind...I can't see where that's a problem.