Monday, November 30, 2009


Life is busy so you'd think there would be so much to write about, yet I have so little to say about any of it. My attempt at posting something each day utterly failed, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing....

Homeschool -- we're staying on track, but I wonder incessantly if we are going deep enough or if he is retaining any of it. In other words, is all this work worth while? Is he challenged enough in math? Memorizing enough biology terms? Making any headway into learning Spanish?

Music -- It is the crazy Christmas madhouse of music obligations. And yet, every year I get to play such wonderful music with a great group of people that it isn't a chore, just a drain on time. I will find out tonight if my assessment of the Rutter Magnificat is right, that it isn't difficult to play, and the make or break element is how well the conductor handles all those changing meters.

Motherhood -- my oldest is flying the coop in 2 months. I wonder if I have prepared him well enough for the real world, will he know how to handle money, checking accounts, bills, the odd head cold?

Christmas -- having fun being creative in making gifts. Too bad this creative impulse didn't hit earlier or I could have gotten more done! Looking forward to making cookies in a few weeks, and really looking forward to hanging out in Hawaii!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Project Feeder Watch Starts Again!

Project Feeder Watch has begun. We'll be doing our first counts this week, and I'm already excited that we get to add Lesser Gold Finches onto our list. I finally broke down and bought some Nyjer seed, which apparently to the gold finches is the "good stuff". I had no idea they'd be so picky, or that so many of them were hiding in our neighborhood all this time.

They clearly love the stuff -- even hanging upside down to get to the one spot that is missing a perch!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thorougly Thursdays

Thursday afternoon included a team meeting for Mock Trial and a visit to the Natural History Museum, where, lo and behold, they were having a book sale!! Oh frabjous joy!!

One of the books I picked up is this fat and silly gem that was 60% off list price:
Yes, it is called 10,001 Titillating Tidbits of Avian Trivia, and that is what it is.

There is a section with 10,001 bird trivia questions followed by a section with 10,001 answers. There is also an index so you can look up titillating tidbits on your favorite bird, such as the Turkey Vulture, or Mourning Dove. Hours of nerdy fun for the bird obsessed and bird brained. Our drives up and down the freeway will be ever so much more entertaining!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

(almost) Wordless Wednesdays

Holly the golden retriever loves it when we decide to do math on the living room floor. Her boy is doing a geometry proof on the white board, so she squeezes right in between us, happy that she once again is doing her duty as Math Dog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Philosophy of Home Schooling

I've had this page in my homeschooling notebook since the first year I started homeschooling:

I don't remember exactly what my day had been like to prompt me to write this out, but I know it was written during our first year of homeschooling. It is something I still turn to if I need to remind myself of what it is that we're trying to accomplish in this crazy journey.

So you don't have to get out a magnifying glass to decipher my handwriting, it says:

What is my philosophy of education?

That learning is possible anytime, anywhere, forever
That there is nevertheless a body of knowledge that must be absorbed:
  • world history
  • world geography
  • arithmetic
  • general science
  • literature
  • arts
That there is some discipline, organization of thoughts critical thinking
  • that has to be learned
  • questioning, critiquing, categorizing, connecting>analyze
  • expressing the ideas in clear organized fashion, speaking writing,
  • logic, then and Latin added as subjects.
My problem is: how much time does it take to do this?
each day? week? year?

These thoughts that I jotted down one night still resonate 10 years later. I still struggle with balancing my unschooling impulses -- I believe wholeheartedly that learning is a life long endeavor and works best when not structured -- with my pragmatic side that recognizes the need for teaching and refining skills. This has been the method to my madness.

Did I succeed? Are my kids successful? Well, yes, they are as a matter of fact.

Did I fail in some things? Well, world geography isn't a strong suit of theirs, in spite of my best efforts. Latin? Yeah, well, choose your battles. And a fellow homeschool mom gave me grief recently (in a teasing way) because my 14yo didn't know who Benedict Arnold was. I figure he at least knows how to use Wikipedia and NOT to use it as a source in a research paper.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A real homeschooling day...

What is a real homeschooling day?

One where I'm home all day and available to help and share in every subject. It is a rare treat!

We listened for an hour to the Iliad, through Hector's death. While we listened I did some crocheting and my ds played the card game SET, and with a stack of strong magnets. He is someone who needs to fidget with something while listening. Ds thinks I should refer to him from now on as "my glorious, blazing boy" just as Hera addresses her son Hephaestus. Will watch the next lecture by Dr. Vandiver on the Iliad while eating dinner.

We played with the Rummy Roots card deck, reviewing some basic Greek and Latin root words. We hadn't looked at those cards in years -- I found them while searching for SET. Planning on using the Rummy Roots game cards for fun once in a while. Ds suggested we combine it with Mad Libs...

DS watched a biology lecture, and is continuing with a Douglass Adams natural history book. It makes him laugh out loud from time to time.

We did a geometry lesson together -- the text that was perfect for his brother is a mixed bag this time around with this kid. I think we'll stick with it and fill in the time with algebra review and maybe some algebra word problems (if I can find that perfect suplement...)

I read a Spanish story aloud, then had ds translate. Reviewed vocabulary and some grammar.

Ds also fit in a Logic lesson and based on the sounds coming from the next room is currently waging battle on World of Warcraft. He has an hour of Par Kour tonight.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Impending doom?

So much for daily blogging!

Friday was a busy but great day with a robotics team meeting, listening to The Iliad in the car and spending 2 hours exploring the non-public, science areas of our Natural History Museum during their annual open house.

Saturday was a rare treat -- a day at home doing nothing more taxing than vacuuming, laundry and watching a movie.

Today I am dealing with a deep sense of foreboding. I normally try to fight my inclination to be a pessimist, but I sense doom. My husband has a violent stomach flu and knowing how virulent those flu bugs are, I'm thinking there is no way to duck this one. I've got to prepare the house, kitchen and the homeschool to do list so the menfolk can function without me! And on top of that is just the simple horror and uber ick factor of the stomach flu.


Thursday, November 5, 2009


My ds and I had some time to kill in between an afternoon class and an evening meeting so we headed to the zoo just before closing. It was the perfect time to go as there were very few people and many of our favorite animals were up and about. And best of all I got to use the word "crepuscular" in its correct context. Crepuscular was a favorite adjective to use in Mad Libs, for some odd reason, I guess because it is simply fun to say. But rarely do we get to use it in everyday speech!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I'm not sure why I decided to join this daily blog posting group. I mean, my life isn't all that interesting to have something profound and worthwhile to write about on a daily basis! But, perhaps the pressure of needing to write something, or post a picture of something each day will give me an incentive to do something useful each day this month.

My useful task for the day was spending an hour doing music homework. In this instance it was listening with headphones (earbuds) to a recording of John Rutter's Magnificat which our church choir and orchestra is performing in early December. I'm concert mistress of the orchestra, aka 1st chair 1st violin, and I figure I need to know the work really well before we head to dress rehearsals with the hired guest musicians. So I listened tonight, tried to figure out all the changing time signatures and made notes about things to ask the conductor. I pencilled in bowings, marked some cues in and made sure rests are marked at page turns.

I had never heard of John Rutter until I started playing church music, and he is now one of my favorite composers. He is a modern, living composer whose music has the dissonance and changing meters of modern music yet is very melodic and deeply moving. And it is fun to play! Not quite the marathon of notes that is the Messiah and Vivaldi's Gloria, but with all the changes of time signatures it keeps us musicians busy and focused!

Monday, November 2, 2009

52 Books in 52 Weeks update

I haven't written about books since school started back up, but I'm still plugging away at the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, and am currently on book #49. woohoo!!

When I look at my list I want to categorize the titles into tidy groups by genre, because I'm somewhat smugly satisfied by all the different kinds of books I've read. Then I see the 10 or more Janet Evanovich books and think that I cheated in this challenge by devouring those books like a guilty pleasure snack. But balance is the key, and I definitely have balanced the fluff with some good stuff.

These aren't exactly formal genres, but the categories I see in glancing through the list.

Janet Evanovich's books, all except #s 2 and 3 and the newest title.
Timeline by Crichton (my 14yo son and I both heartily disliked it)
State of the Union by Brad Thor (fluff for men that I started reading when bored at the beach)
Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. (never finished it after the bad guy died -- noetics, schmoetics)
Leopard Unleashed (a pure, guilty pleasure read which leads to the next category....)

Historical fiction -- some of which are also very fluffy
Vivaldi's Virgins (about the girl's orphanage where Vivaldi taught)
Jane and the Genius of the Place (a mystery with Jane Austen as the sleuth!)
Dreamers of the Day (Paris Peace accord after WWI)
Gurnsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Society (kind of, sort of historical fiction)
Physik Book of Deliverance Dane (also kind of, sort of...)
The Reader (read the book instead of seeing the movie -- seemed appropriate)

Science most of which I wouldn't have read except my 14yo son urged me to read them
The Pluto Files by Neil De Grasse Tyson
Death by Black Hole (same author as above)
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Northanger Abbey
The Iliad
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Good Earth
Once and Future King (is that a classic?)

All My Edens by Pat Welch (a local gardening guru)
Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina
Home by Julie Andrews
The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

The Man Who Loved China (about Joseph Needham)
In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan
Gengis Khan - a biography
The Lost City of Z (I liked it so much I'm assigning it to my son next spring)
The Right Stuff

Other good books, including some sci fi:
Dune (I had never read it!)
Dune Messiah (gave up on the Dune series after this one)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (had to re-read it before the movie came out)
Life of Pi (one of my favorite books of the year)
Garden Spells (maybe this is fluff)
Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein

And finally
Non fiction
The Big Year (about fanatic birders)
To See Every Bird (part memoir, part biography of the author's dad, also about obsessed birders)
Catapult: Harry and I Build a Seige Weapon.

I'm surprised not to find a long list of mysteries as that is what I've mostly read in recent years, but they just didn't appeal to me for some reason.