Friday, March 26, 2010

WR: I'm a Filing Fool

We started the week with 2 significant things. Firstly, I tweaked the schedule for Cub and Flower and started a file system for them broken down day by day, complete with Master Chart, lists forCD's to be listened to, memory work memorized, chapters read and read-alouds. It is FAB. Secondly, we sorted bags full of clothes, blankets and miscellaneous stuff that have been at the cleaning company since the fire. Apparently, they stopped cleaning things, so items that were a bit damp in November, are now, in March, molded. We spent a couple of hours inventorying, (the endless, mindless, never ending inventory), re-bagged and created a pile of garbage the size of Mt. Rushmore for our trash man. Within hours, KB and I were sick. Her preferred modality was heaving into the toilet, mine was a runny (this word is just too benign to describe the reality) nose and killer sore throat. So, that was kinda the rest of the week health wise for us. But, I digress.
Back to my evil Master list, schedule thingy. I took all of the worksheets for Cub (and Flower) and sorted them by days into folders; this included all of the math for the week, story problems, thinking skills, grammar, map skills, etc. So, each day, he gets his folder and works through it. Simple. It's taken him the better part of most mornings and into early afternoon. He is working hard but he's getting it done. Then, on the Master List (a separate folder) I've separated each subject, then separated each area in the subject by what he has to complete with a place for me to initial when complete for the week. So, the Master Chart is the Big Picture and he can do lots of things on any given day or just a couple, but within the week, it all needs done.
For instance, under English is copywork (4 days), poetry memorization (3 days), Grammar CD (3 days). This is in conjunction with the 2 pages a day of grammar/reading worksheets and on-going read-aloud he does weekly. I've also included a weekly "Book Report" form and other "helps" he'll need during the week in the Master Folder, such as a world map (for maps and geography), the complete poem he is working on as well as the Latin, Bible and other memory we are working on.
Whatever he doesn't get done during the week, he gets to do on Saturday. This has been motivation enough for him throughout the week. I'd say we got through, easily, double the work we normally do, including oft neglected audio listening (Lingua Angelica, grammar songs, etc) with a much better, more positive attitude on his part. Flower has joined in and doing MUCH better on completing her daily read-alouds to me. This has been the least favorite part of her school day (and I'm not sure why. She can easily read a paragraph of math instruction to me flawlessly, but when I tell her it's "time to read" she gets really insecure and says how much she hates it). This includes puzzles, mazes, getting read to, etc. She is really my kid who thrives on academic challenge, so my struggle with her has been having enough to do that's age appropriate for her emotionally, but challenging academically (another one!).
So, we got a ton done- all of the usual, plus intentional memory work (finally getting back on track), audio resources, puzzles, games, coloring, painting- it's all in there. It was a good week work-wise.

Cool scenerio: Marvelous Mrs. M, drama teacher extraordinaire, was unable to join us today for TDA due to circumstances beyond her control. None of the kids wanted to miss drama so came up with a plan. They would teach drama themselves. Over lunch they planned an hours worth of drama games and activities and each picked an area they would lead, including allotting time per game or activity. they also realized that they would have to instruct and include one of the younger kids who had been part of Drama until recently due to schedule change. He didn't know some of the games, so those leading, really had to lead. They had a plan. I left the kitchen at one point and returned to find it quiet and empty. The kids had their plan, and proceeded to find a quiet place (of course, with some of the games, it didn't stay quiet!) and put it into action! Leadership, people. That's what I'm talking about! Dontchca love it??

Thursday, March 25, 2010

LO: L52

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
Ecc 12:12

Just finished Living Oprah by Okrant. Quick, easy read, full of great lines and wonderful insights about popular culture's influence on our lives. And yet at the end of the book my reaction was, "duh." Living up to others ideals is exhausting. Yep. No brainer. Let me 'splain. Okrant determined that she would follow every directive Oprah gave from her show and in her magazine. She watched the show daily, read the mag cover to cover and used the web-site as a encyclopedia for "LO" (i.e Living Oprah). And her year was exhausting. She lived and breathed legalism (following the way of Oprah), changing her looks, activities, habits and decor.

I've been contemplating who I admire enough to try to emulate as much as Robyn and OL. Honestly, nobody living. I'm not a popular culture follower- we haven't had television in our home for years. I shop once a week for food and gas. I've been to the mall in my fair city once, the first week we lived here. I've probably done more shopping since the fire than in the past couple of decades combined. We get a handful of magazines, all of them gift subscriptions from friends and family, never get the paper and only recently got a library card. I'm always the last to watch any movie and we tend to veer towards historical documentaries anyway. My unspoken motto has been, for many a decade, "if it's popular, it must be flawed." I've missed out on a couple cool things due to this, but not much. We still read an exhorbitant number of good books, listen to awesome, awe-inspiring music, eat well and can converse intelligently with others. So, Okrant is starting at a place much, much different than where I live. She's a popular culture follower and I'm...not.

Still, the only person I came up with to try to model my life after their directives is Jesus. I have a red-letter Bible but, honestly, I'm just not there to do all He says each and every day. So, I'm really glad the phrase, "new mercies every morning" is in there." Cause yessireebob, I need em.'

I'm a little fed up with the 52 books thing. Like Robyn's year of OL, I'm feeling pressured and a vexed by my year of L52 ("Living" 52 books a year). But, like Robyn, I doubt I'll throw in the towel. Too stubborn. I just need to re-focus and re-direct. Less poplar lit and back to what feds me. So, any good suggestions for a good read- something inspiring and not too cheesy?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WW: Floors and everything!

Work on the house is cruising under the skilled supervision of master contractor, Dick Sorum. Not only is he a really terrific guy who smiles when he sees our kids coming, but he is just as concerned about not going over budget as well as keeping the historical integrity of the house as we are. (Pamela, if you are reading this, we owe you BIG!) Winning combo!
This picture is taken from about where the wall between the dining room and kitchen used to be, the kitchen to the right. The window to the right will be removed in order to extend the kitchen bathroom, adding a (gasp) door that separates the bathroom from the pantry.

Standing in the pantry, looking across the kitchen and into the dining room. The windows to the left are above where the kitchen sink will be. Cool floor, eh? (there was just a hole before).

Brand-spanking new back stairs. Woohoo!
Brand-spanking new picture window in the living room. Another one of God's provisions. This window retails for $2300. Dick found a brand new one for $900. All of the other windows in the house are going to be replaced- 23, count em'- and, not only will this one now match, but it's also double paned and insulated. Love it!
Standing in the dining room looking across the living room to the left, and the kitchen, on into the pantry, to the right.

We removed a closet in the room that leads to the walk-up attic, so added closets between the wall that is shares with the adjacent room. We are also expanding the closets in the 3rd and 4th bedrooms. With lighting. And fininshing the attic.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Biz Books

Two books this week, one kinda segued into another and they both picked up The Global Student theme. The first was What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty by Tina Seelig. Before I say anything else, let me just state, for the record, that she is uber smart. A Ph.D. in Neuroscience, author, professor, management consultant, etc. Her book is basically how to take what you have, think creatively about it and create something better. The old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" just doesn't fly with Ms. Seelig, or her cohorts around the world. Cub and I have been working on story problems almost daily and continually refer to a 4 Step chart I recently made him titled, "How to Solve a Problem." Seelig basically uses this chart to not only solve problems, but to find them. Great examples using companies and inventions that we are all familiar with, like angioplasty and Apple Computers. Great exercises in leadership and entrepreneurship; this book is chock-full of fun exercises to grow and expand in both areas.

Next up was a book I've had lying around for a couple of weeks: The Four Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferris. I almost returned it unread, but am so glad that I didn't. Great read on owning a biz, automating it and taking many mini-retirements throughout life. I'm gonna be buying this one and heartily recommend it. It puts feet to Kiyosaki's books with down to earth pragmatics. Good, good stuff.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mexican Fiesta, Ole!

We had friends over for dinner who have made their way to where the wind blows via Alaska, Europe and other far off places. I made Chicken Enchiladas, Refried beans, Rice, Mexican Corn Casserole & Fresh Fruit.
The Mexican corn casserole is a recipe of Aunt Barbara's, who we visited in El Paso, from NM whenever we could. She is hostess extraordinaire as well as hiker and National Park ranger and we loved every visit, which was always full of hiking and eating and being treated like honored guests.

Mexican Corn Casserole
4 cans of corn or 6 cups (or however much you want or have)
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese (or more or less)
2 small cans of chopped green chilies. Heat till cream cheese is melted throughout corn. If you want you can put it in a buttered casserole dish and top with crushed saltines that are drizzled with butter. Yum!

The Chicken Enchilada recipe is from our good friend Jeannette, who is a master Momma, Gramma, gardener, professor, chef, quilter, soap-maker and Sistah. She and Ron are 2 people from the Southwest that we miss greatly. We spent many holidays together, time in the summer eating pesto and drinking tea, yapping, praying and dreaming together . Our kids loved them and they loved each and every one of our kids. Ron is tall and big and fills a room. Jeannette is "fun size" in stature and spirit I think and pray for them whenever I make this dish that is delish!

Chicken Enchiladas
Bake chicken (how much depends on how many you are feeding - I cooked 5 chix breasts and there was plenty for 11, plus leftovers) in a couple of cups of salsa. When cooked, shred, add back to the salsa and stir in an 8 oz package of cream cheese (cream cheese is our friend). Layer corn tortillas, shredded chix, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa. For top layer pour on a 15 oz. can of enchilada sauce and a bit more shredded cheese.

Time to invite some friends over and have a fiesta of your own! Steph, I wish you were closer, cause I'd invite you= )! Enjoy!

Friday, March 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes

The biggest thing to report this week is the weather - booyah! It was a gorgeous 40+ something yesterday, the snow is almost gone and we ended the day with windows wide open and the kids romping about in short sleeves and flip-flops. Diamond, our big old hairy beast/pooch flipped out at all of the neighborhood activity- cause we weren't the only ones out and about in flip-flops- and proceeded to scare the wits out of the masses of kids roaming the neighborhood with her deep and intimidating "don't mess with me bark." We finally resorted to a "training collar" for the squirly yip-yapper KB claims as hers - just too much movement in suburbia for our "defend the land from critters" bred dogs. Hopefully we won't have to resort to a collar for Diamond. She's been depressed enough about being relegated to the garage. Just doesn't fit with her "I'm a rock-star" self image.

In other news we got through lots of math. Cub is rockin' at long division and feeling great about it. Doing the happy dance, me & him. LOVE it when hard things STICK. Just gotta get those multiplication facts down cold. Flash cards are our friends. Flower is cruising thru a second grade math book and almost at the point of multiplication. Have to get through adding and subtracting with carrying. Checked out Promblemoids by Royal Fireworks Press- oh my! Definitely on my list to purchase. And got a Critical Thinking Skills catalog in the mail this week too. ( they usually have some kind of contest or sign-up for free product, too, so check out their web-site!) So far I'm hoping to get the Science, Analogies and Math workbooks for both Cub and Flower. Not sure for Feche-Boy yet. He's hit another growth spurt and his main/brain focus these days is eating and sleeping.
I've been sifting through web-sites for thinking skills, riddles and story problems for the kids, which they LOVE. It's a great way to get them thinking beyond, "math (or English, or whatever) is a worksheet." Any resources out there that you've discovered?

English was whittled down to copywork and reading. Lots and lots of reading. On-line library ordering rocks.
History was whittled down to reading and read-alouds.
Science was whittled down to a field trip to the Butterfly House. The kids were able to see a butterfly emerge from it's chrysalis. Fun times.
Drama, Art & Music were fun, as always. For added pizazz KB, Flower and I went to a Dramatic Truth performance, hosted by my friend Leann, who housed and fed the group almost single-handedly. You can watch a short clip here: Dramatic Truth Ballet Theatre, is a professional neo-classical ballet company that tours nationally and internationally out of Kansas City, Mo. Of course, Flower loved it and has been doing more than her usual number of twirls and leaps this week. Our pastor, in a fit of inspiration, threatened to preach the following Sunday en pointe. A fascinating and scary thought!

Today we're covering basics and heading out to the property for another talk through the options with our vunderba contractor. Big decisions regarding the second floor and more fun thinking about the kitchen. Hand crafted cabinets in cherry- ohlala. Have I mentioned that the wall between the kitchen and our 4 windowed-5 sided dining room will be open. Yeah!

Found this article...painful. A irl couple let their irl dd die while they played virtual games, including raising a virtual child. Online Escapism: No Substitute for Real Community . Creepy and a little too close to what I was writing about on Wednesday.
Reading The Four Hour Work Week after a couple days immersed in What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. Very thought provoking reading; fantastic leadership, management and entrepreneurial ideas. Reviews to follow. KB is keeping on my toes with reading material. Just when I know I want a good thick juicy novel to delve into, she brings home something like the above mentioned Tina Seelig book.
As always, Jen is hosting 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diaries

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Avatar & Community

av·a·tar  –noun
1. Hindu Mythology. the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.
2. an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.
3. Computers. a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.

Went to see Avatar with Feche-boy last week-end. Predictable story line, including mean militaristic Americans, a Dances with Wolves style romance and pre-requisite greenies. Despite all that, we loved it. Excellent graphics and the story was so well told we didn't mind it's predictability. We actually want to go back and do it again.

Since viewing I've been considering the movie from the angle that some people get so caught up in fantasy that they prefer it to reality. That given the choice the wonderful world of interconnected borg-like existence is a draw. Lots of folks would like to trade their disabilities for a wonderful world where they glow in the dark, effortlessly commune with the universe and ride, fly and just "see," plug in easily and tune out the stark realities of people we disagree with, problems that demand negotiations and true tragedy.

In some ways, Avatar is quite similar to The Matrix and you could certainly identify it's influence. Those who chose the blue pill can finally, really, see. It's part of an on-going discussion in our home, and kind of a joke, but in some ways not, that "you've already taken the blue pill, Neo!" Yep, some choices made, can't be taken back. And I'm considering this all within the context of some of the business books that I've been reading, and contemplating choice, determination and free will set within the context of a life of faith that banks on a reality that is greater, grander and more glorious than we are or ever will be.

Some people would call that fantasy and the pragmatic side of myself admits that they could be right. But, like I've admitted before, Puddleglum is a sort of hero round here, and the hope of Narnia, and heaven and God, beats the cold reality of this life, and any fantasy world, all hollow. So, I'm banking on it regardless. A life of faith demands discipline. Discipline to even believe, to seek truth which manifests itself in correct doctrine even when a sloppy belief system is easier to digest, to love oneself and others despite limitations, irritating bad habits and sin, to relinquish rights in favor of grace, to hope for mercy rather than true justice, to forgive ones enemies even when they deserve far less. I'm not very good at it and the stark reality of living faith rather than fantasy can be wearisome and discouraging. But every now and then I glimpse a heavenly place. It is a big. So large it contains beyond what we can imagine. It is beautiful. So glorious we'll weep in awe. It is pure. So pure, we'll know how defiled our most perfect is. It makes this world seem one-dimensional and trite. It's a place inhabited by the Holy and the dust of heaven sometimes follows me home, despite myself. It's a place I long for and know will someday be mine. It's a place I suspect lots of other are hungering for as well. A place where we'll soar, where disabilities will be healed, captives freed, sins forgiven, hunger and thirst sated. A golden city. A new Jerusalem.

I believe the Christian church has made a huge tactical error and that has to do with the fact that we suck at building and maintaining authentic on-going, heart-felt community where people don't have to hide behind avatars. Where they are accepted and loved and cared for, forgiven and sought after despite their limitations and successes. Seems as even the Internet does a better job of engaging those seeking a place to belong. As I really get a handle on what avatar means, it seems like the church in American almost demands one. Look good, be together, don't cry in public, have a need or share too much. It's too clean. It's not the mourn with those that weep and laugh out loud with those that rejoice reality that I'd hoped for years ago when I signed up. And I was hungry for that place cause I needed some people who were strong enough to cry with me and teach me to laugh out loud. I was stunted and shriveled and dying from not knowing how to do those simple things; cry and laugh. The church, from where I sit needs to ramp down the discussions of leadership and seeker sensitivity and spiritualizing everything and get back to some basics with heart-felt interpersonal connection starting simply enough by saying "hello," shaking hands, smiling, knowing each others struggles and victories, kids names and habits. Allowing people to be where they are at, accepting them there, and casting a vision for mature Godliness as Biblically mandated, not by who has the biggest wallet or cheers the loudest for the home team.
I enjoyed the 2 1/2 hour escape into fantasy land that Avatar afforded. And I'll happily admit that the creator of the film is a genius in the world of creativity. Sadly, his 2 ex and current wives, as well as those who work with him, can't say the same for his interpersonal abilities. Another example of a world that is growing increasingly technological intelligent and creatively pushing the envelope but interpersonally stunted. And certainly spiritually stunted. But maybe Avatar is part of the reason why. Fantasy replaces spirituality cause it's easier and certainly more fun. Fantasy supersedes reality. Fantasy becomes reality. And we make it up as we go.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WW: Up Close & Personal

After discovering the world of Lepidoptery through study, KB took her students to the Butterfly House to get up close and personal with the flighty critters.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Books, books, books

Rafe Esquiths There are No Shortcuts and Lighting Their Fires followed me everyone. Both talk more about Esquith's philosophy of teaching and some of his actual methods. He shares his struggles and failures and growth process as he creates a magical place in an inner city public school among gangs, drugs and poverty. If you are involved in education or work with kids in any capacity his books are worth every minute of the time it takes to read them. I've been reading with pencil and paper in hand because there are so many ideas, books, movies and resources that he shares throughout. Lighting Their Fires is more of a discourse on conformity and mediocrity. Both excellent.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, (YA Fiction) This book is a discussion about conformity, individualism, popularity and the fickleness of those who adore. Stargirl is a homeschooler who wants to go to school. 10th grade welcomes her, adores her and then despises her, but she is herself, a person not tied to "normal" or "average" throughout. With elements of "Pay It Forward" added it, it's a good book for kids who don't "fit in" or want more than "average" Coming from a different angle this is just another discussion on mediocrity and conformtity. Excellent, easy read.

Millions to Measure & If You Made a Million, companions to How Much is a Million, by David Swartz and illustrated by Stephen Kellog. "Living Math"," great reading and super cool pictures for kids learning the value of numbers. Flower and I read them every night this week-some evenings twice. Lots of fun with a purpose.

Friday, March 12, 2010

WR: Schedules & Meaning

I am a gowiththeflow type but have a couple kids that aren't. After another dramatic morning with Cub we decided together that not knowing what TIME things would happen was adding to his stress/frustration level so I came up with a detailed schedule for him, Flower and I . The week proceeded at a much better pace though it's still a challenge due to evening schedules and routines determined by Viking Man's profession.

All that being said, we did get more done- duh. Reading Rafe Esquith's books have, as usual when I read about people of excellence, challenged me to step it up. I've been having kinda a crisis since the fire/funeral, centered mainly around what I've invested the last 2 decades in; mainly homemaking and child rearing. It's a bit dis-heartening when the tens of scrapbooks that were thoughtfully created were thrown into a dumpster due to fire, smoke and mold damage; jsut a small snapshot of the bigger picture. Frankly, I've struggled with a plethora of emotions about it, wondering if all that I've invested in is just gonna end up useless and wasted? And to add to my own angst I've done too much comparing of late. Enough of our colleagues and friends, smart and educated people, have kids our kids ages and they are going to college straight out of high school, having played sports and instruments and danced while their parents work, creating a middle-class life style full of opportunities and vacations and new clothes and gadgets and college experiences that have eluded us due to choices within and beyond our control.
And too, we've taken an unique road with our kids, one that factors in God and calling far more than societal expectations. I've been accused of re-inventing the wheel, but, in response to that, we are utilizing time tested and honed pedagogy's as well as Biblical mandates. But still, to quote an oft-used phrase around here, it's not easy being green. So, while I'm clear about the reasons for and why, I'm not so sure about the outcome. Because, really, the outcome is one that we've relinquished to someOne with a higher pay grade.I'm talking faith, not a pass-the-buck response, and trust and hope. And while I'm pretty courageous about a lot of things, seemingly jumping in feet first (thought usually only after lots of research and planning) dis-couragement is my Achilles heel.

So, I am back to basics. What's the vision? What's the goal? What's the strategy? Esquith writes extensively in his book, "Lighting Their Fires," about the disease of mediocrity sweeping our families, schools and country. He shares vignettes of crude and rude adults at public events, CEO's who promise help and don't deliver, customer service reps that laugh in the face of abysmal service and apathy about customers. And I resonate with the discussions because our vision is to usher our kids to a place where they can see and know and desire, not just merely want, but hunger and thirst, for excellence. I'm not raising kids. And I'm not raising adults. I'm raising eternal beings who will live forever, and my high hope is that they live in the presence of the Holy. And before that, that they serve Him with all of their might.
My husband and I can be singularly focused and outcome based. We are committed to vision, often, it seems, when its inconsequential and frivolous to others. But I keep coming back to the point- without vision, what's the purpose, hope or meaning? I enjoy the journey, but heck, I don't want to be the answer that is 2 degrees off and ends up out in deep space instead of landing safe and warm and at home.
With that, here's our week: Copywork for both Flower and Cub, along with dictation for Cub.Lit Analysis for Cub, individual reading and read-alouds. Math, including thinking skills, story problems, mazes for both. Geography puzzles for Flower and Friends, along with map work. History focused on reading from D'Aulaires Greek Myths and the Children's Bible. Science consisted of a Butterfly unit led by KB. Time playing and drawing was multi-tasked with listening to the Story of the World- Ancient World read by Jim Weiss and IEW's Poetry Memorization CD. I can't find the actual book of Poems so we are content with review right now. We added in a Latin phrase: Post proelium, praemium: After the battle, the reward.
Feche-Boy continues to plug away at Algebra I, Latin I, Biology, Apologetics, IEW, Art, Drama and lots of reading. This week's choice is Stephen Hawkins A Brief History of Time.
TDA consisted of Art with our uberawesome art prof, Mrs. Z; Drama with the talented and creative amazing Mrs. M, whose drama games are soo hysterical and fun that we all hurt at the end with laughing. Not only are the games a hoot but we have seen a decided increase in students confidence and ability to think on their feet. Even our most shy and "I-can't-think-fast-enough" student is jumping in on the fun factor and shocking us all with wild and wonderful witticisms. Then IEW, Apologetics, Biology or Music History and Science along with a Devotional Read-Aloud (Christiana , Pilgrim's Progress part II). The younger kids sub music for Apologetics and everyone is doing Latin Worship songs and Prayer.
How was your week? And more importantly: What is your vision? What are your Goals? What is your strategy?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just Stuff

What I'm thinking: about the economic discussion from yesterday.
What I'm reading: Lighting Their Fires & There Are No Shortcuts both by Rafe Esquith. Read with paper and pencil handy.
What I'm listening to: A spring symphony- birds chirping.
What I'm watching: Pay It Forward. Intense, dramatic & thought provoking. Full of swear words and decadence but also full of hope. Cub was furiously sad during one scene. Fortunately he's been learning lit analysis and we spent 1/2 hour talking about the protagonist, antagonist, conflict and resolution. Interesting how much peace knowledge can give one.
What we're learning: How to follow a master schedule despite living with a man who comes and goes at odd hours.
What's cooking: Way to many quesadillas.
What I'm buying: Not much. Waiting on influx of $ from insurance company.
What I'm wearing: black jeans, orange and yellow shirt that I love and black soft sweater. Black shoes that I've had forever and think of as old friends but are way to beat and kill my feet by the end of the day.
What I'm thankful for: John the Baptist and Zechariah. Great theory Viking Man told me yesterday about their role in the temple and one of the historical theories about why John wore camel skins and ate wild locust. Living with a geek has definite advantages.
What I'm creating: Lists of movies and books and unit studies. Schedules for the next school year.
What I'm Praying: What Next?
What I'm planning: Our second floor at the acreage and photo ops.
What I'm looking forward to: Gardening -just a matter of weeks to go! Seed catalogs are my friend (and KB's too).
A picture to share: Check back tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WW: Words are Inadequate at Times

Teaching Science (a unit study on Butterflies) has challenged both KB and the notsolittles. This is her after today's lesson. She literally threw herself at my feet. Don't know what the fuss is all about - the 2 younger kids are creating beautiful notebooks and KB is having a blast.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My New Hero: Rafe Esquith

I started the week reading Who's Your City by Richard Florida and delved in and out of The Rise of the Creative Class by the same author. Very interesting reading but work - I'll save my reviews of those for when I'm finished. For what I thought would be a quick and fun diversion I turned to

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire.
A terrific, quick read but full to the brim and beyond of ideas to create environments that are safe, nurturing places of education and growth.

Part I: There's No Place Like Home focuses on creating a beautiful classroom culture of safety and growth. Esquith teaches immigrants whose first language is not English in inner-city L.A. Poverty, single-parent homes, drugs and drop-outs are the order of the day so safety is a prime concern. Esquith strives to create an environment that is motivated by a personal code of behavior rather than fear. A great place to start for anyone trying to convery ideas by creating a culture of trust and respect!

Part II: The Method Rafe takes the reader across the curriculum, subject by subject and shares a wealth of knowledge; websites, books, ideas, projects. I took notes. Wonderful, creative resources!

Part III: The Madness How to go beyond the basics and teach thinking skills & economics; utilize films, field trips, rocknroll, philanthropy and finally, the peice de resistance; Shakespeare. Rafe describes in detail how to create a full blown, yearly theatrical production with music, choreography and Elizabethan language.

I believe that Education is the Transmission of Culture and I believe that Rafe Esquith is creating a beautiful classroom culture that becomes a personal culture for his students that they can take with them, realizing a world beyond the one in which they are born. I was inspired, moved and motivated by this book. Rafe ranks right up with the Educational Greats. For sure, read the book and for even more inspiration, check out the Hobart Shakespeareans:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Field Trips & Flicks

Monday -March blew in like a lamb and afforded us a lovely day at they symphony and a perfect afternoon at the Nature Center cross county skiing and snowshoeing.

Tuesday & Wednesday we worked on basics. Flower finished Writing With Ease 1 and will be done with Horizons Math 1 today. Cub worked on Division and Math Games, along with Thinking Skills. Flower continues to work through Veritas Press readers. Cub is reading lots of anything and everything. He had to write a paper, however, for Apologetics and froze (o.k. "heated up" is a more accurate description, or "came unglued," "fell apart" etc). He is still thinking that writing a paper and talking about a topic are totally removed from each other but after several rough drafts and lots of angst, finally had something resembling the assignment to turn it. (true confessions: this happened only after I vowed to cut off all forms of help and leave him to face his professor (DAD) alone. Apparently, the thought of showing up to class with several other kids, to face the Dad empty handed did the trick and we were finally able to make some progress). Feche-boy worked on scheduling last Sunday with Viking Man and has days full up beginning with an early morning jog and jobs and seguewaying right into Life of Fred Algebra, Apologia Biology, Memoria Press' Ancient History & IEW's Ancient History Theme-based Writing.
Thursday we attended TDA- Art, Drama, Music, Prayer, Read Alouds, Writing, Science, Music History & Singing, ending with Intercession. What a difference it makes for the younger kids to watch, listen and learn from Jr. & Sr. Highers. We finished the day by cleaning the rooms together and spending 45 minutes at the playground in a massive snowball fort fight.
Today is the usual for the notsolittles. The older 2 are attending a luncheon for their preferred political candidate, who is running against a favored incumbent. Still, they know him personally from TeenPact events and are excited to hear what he has to say. Tonight, the community Science & Arts Center hosts their "First Friday," meaning free admittance. While the notsolittles and I hang out at the Science Center the older kids are going to hear a presentation by a State U. professor doing a re-enactment of Charles Darwin, explaining his life and theories.

At home tonight we are watching The Gathering Storm and in the morning, Into the Storm, about Winston Churchill and his involvement in WWII. There was an interesting commentary in The Post American World that has totally piqued my interest (again) in the man. George Grant's excellent book Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, is required reading around here so we all have a basic appreciation of Churchill's contributions but now I want to know more. In other viewing we watching A&E's excellent production Victoria & Albert about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and The Winslow Boy based on an actual incident that occurred during the Edwardian Era. Both excellent.
We finally unearthed the Story of the World CD's and Cub has big plans to do a SOTW listening fest this week-end. Not much memory work and we still have a long way to go with Cub's writing but overall I'm counting it a week chock-full of educational opportunities and pursuits. How was yours?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


In the past 4 months we/I have evaluated most of our earthly possessions. I think that we are about at the end, as we handed our insurance agent another stack of sheets, 30 lines to a page, with values assigned, of items that we no longer owned. It's odd how going line by line causes one to see up close and personal what has been of value, invested in, cared for and nurtured in the life of a person or family.
I'm tired of considering. Mainly because and I'm weary of wondering. Did the money, time, thought and care that we put here, neglect or nurture well? Was it a waste or wisely invested.

One of my favorite movie scenes is in Pride & Prejudice, during the double wedding at the end of the movie. The minister is going over the reasons for marriage and the director cuts to different couples in the story; their lives are a picture for or against the principal the minister is expounding upon. And similarly, we've been given a cut-away view to each area of "stuff."Did it contribute to or against the principals that we are committed to living?

Hopefully, the last page is done. We can go to the next area of time investment, moving on from what was to what's next. And I'm glad. We're ready.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Skiing, Symphony, Simply Stupendous!

It was a picture perfect day out today. Low 30's, lots of sunshine - perfect for Xcounty skiing Cub ready to hit the trails.

KB poised for action.
Flower, snowshoeing at the Nature Center. A birding we will go...

Earth-bound Jawa... before peeling off her coat!
A boatload of kids, fresh from the symphony.
Feche-Boy getting an ear-full of nature info.
Cub hamming it up with Bambi.
Future docents introducing Mr. Fish.
All of this after a morning of excellent music; Stravinsky performed by our local symphony. Who says school is boring?