Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ho Ho Ho

Keeping busy leading into the holidays. Decided to skip the Zoo event last Saturday. Needed a day with nothing schedule, especially since Pete had to be in Provo all week :-(

Lots of stuff to take care of at home this week. Baked several dozen cookies and another apple pie (the rest of the apples will become apple sauce on Monday).

We also made animal keychains from a bead kit. Zack especially liked doing this, which was a big change from the past when he would complain about hand fatigue. It was a great activity for fine motor, design and following directions. Had to go over the directions several times with Katie before she would actually pay attention but she tuned in after she had to re-string the same strand twice over.

We also, after several days delay, made homemade clay ornaments. I mean that the clay was homemade too. Have had the recipe (corn starch and baking soda) for a very long time but never carved out a day to use it. It looks really cool when it heats up. It fizzes and bubbles then gets thick. Then it dries and looks a lot like cookie dough. I decided to dry them by placing on a cookie sheet and putting them in the oven on low. Didn't know it would be such a challenge to get them back off the cookie sheet!

We painted them up today:

Nice, huh?

There was also snow to play in, rain to slog in and a trip to a nature center for a presentation on how animals prepare for winter. The weather cooperated so it was a great day for it. Also, they didn't need all of the adults to hover and I was able to chat with some of the other parents. This is through a new HS group we've been doing things with. It's much smaller than the park group we had been attending and it's been good for all of us to see the same folks each week. There's more of a community feeling.

Have also joined a new food coop with a lot of these families. They offer bulk orders of the same stuff carried in Whole Foods, but at discounted prices. Email me if you want to know more.

Doubt I'll update this again before the holidays, so enjoy the season.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Down Under

We were able to see the show at Discovery Theatre and it was a very small crowd so all of our group got to participate in one way or another, which was nice. I was glad we went over the items in the teachers guide before we went, rather than after. Worked out better that way.

Today we went to the National Aquarium's new Australia exhibit. Pete was able to come too and we had a terrific time. It was smaller than I imagined it would be, considering how long it took to build, but it is a great exhibit. Plus, because this was a preview for members, we there were only 2 other people in there with us. We got to talk to all the docents, who pointed out that we should look up and around in addition to looking in the tanks. This was great advice, we would not have wanted to miss the large fruit bat, called a flyig fox to give you and idea of the size, hanging from the rafters! (My friend Julie is now saying to herself that SHE could easily have missed that!) There were also kookaburras and strange trees that drop seeds that look like candy corn into the water for the turtles to eat. It really was great.

The rest of the aquarium was also very empty. I'd say we saw maybe 6 other people. It's amazing how fast you can get through the whole building when no one is blocking your way!

On our way across the building we saw a man carrying a large didgeridoo, an native Australian horn-type instrument. Pete and I walked on by, but seconds later we heard the guy playing it and turned around to find Zack talking to the musician. We all thanked him for the demonstration. Kudos to Zack for stepping up to ask him. This is just what I want the kids--well, all of us really--to be doing. What better way to learn about something than from the people who love to do it?

Monday, December 05, 2005


We're going to a play at the Smithsonian Discovery Theatre tomorrow about all the winter holidays and I discovered a teacher's guide for it online. It had a good explanation of the solstice and several winter holidays such as Divali, a Hindu new year/harvest celebration; Kwaanza, an African American cultural holiday; Ramadan, Hanukkah and Christmas.

We made some Rangoli for Divali, these are decorative drawings to show the journey of the goddess and are symmetrical (Katie's has the hearts):

and Kwaanza mats, which have 7 lines for the 7 ethics the holiday celebrates and they are used to place under the candles lit for each night of the holiday (Zack's is on the left):

I think they'll get more out of the play--IF we get to see it tomorrow. It snowing fairly hard-for Virginia-and it's possible the city will shut down.

If so, we'll just have to study weather and build snow folks!

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Apple pie tastes even better when you've picked the apples yourself and made the pie at home to eat warm from the oven.

A fairly academic day. Leaf raking, piling, jumping and bagging this morning. The air is chilly. Good for yard work.

Off to the computer for math and the kitchen table for story writing. I'm trying to figure out how to get the stories up on this site. They are illustrated and I want you to be able to see them for yourself. Have to give that some thought.

Then apple pie-making. However, Zack got kicked off the project for not following directions and had to pull some laundry duty instead. We all got to eat the pie when it was baked though.

A very sweet day today. All had to go to Katie's dance class and afterwards we ran over to the Dairy Godmother (formerly the Del Ray Dreamery) for Brat Night, where we ate--what else?--Bratwurst and listened to--what else?--accordion music. After dinner we couldn't resist the great frozen custard the shop is really in business to sell. Katie made an instant friend who was just as friendly as she is and likes all the same things. A match made in Heaven.

Have a sweet day yourself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Postcard Geography

Is so fun! The postcards have been coming in since September but I had trouble finding a laminated map. Needed it to be laminated so we could plot out all the small towns and easily hang the postcards along the sides.

As you can see, we are heavy on the east coast, but it's still very fun to read about all the towns and states. Plus, we're learning about geography, which I need more than anyone :-)

THANKS again to Nanci for lending us a couple of maps to use.

Monday, November 21, 2005

And he went wherever I did go...

There are fish in the fish tank! Yay!!!

We have started with four. We'll give them some time to get the tank going and then add four more later. Katie picked out two--Angel (the 2nd) and I think she settled on mermaid for the other. Zack picked Archie (the 2nd) and Spot.

They seem happy. We went to a real fish store this time, since the last time the fish from Walmart were so sick. These seemed to at least come from a healthy tank.

So happy to have pets again, even if they are just fish.

Saturday we went over to church to help bake bread for the Sunday Thanksgiving service. It was such fun. Here's kneading the dough and after the first rise:

Even though I know the dough will rise, I still am shocked when I see it.

We tasted a small loaf that day, but didn't get to try the ones we made until Sunday. It was so good. We really ought to make bread at home more often.

What did that title mean anyway?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thank Goodnes for Girl Friends

I got great advice (and commiseration) from several good friends about the playground incident and of course, the solution lies with speaking to Katie and not the other kids. I talked to her yesterday about some choices she can make and let her know she deserves to receive nice treatment, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if we have to repeat this conversation, but if she hears it enough times, I hope it will sink in.

Special thanks to Allison, Julie and Ivanna for helping me get my head screwed back on right :-)

Our Friday playdate had to be re-scheduled at the last minute, which left us with the whole day. That worked out nicely, since there were lots of projects hanging out there that we hadn't gotten to.

Katie finished the math program! She is incredibly proud of herself, and should be--she worked hard. It took me a while to figure out how to control the difficulty level, so she was handling a lot of mixed fractions and shedding a lot of frustration tears before I could make it more on-level.

Zack is heading through the program for the second time and for him it's now getting very challenging. His was set up to stay at the easiest level for the whole game the first time through, so he breezed through it in two weeks. This time he's having to work at it and also work on his patience levels.

We made some nice votive holders, which we'll give as gifts on Thanksgiving. Crafts are still daunting to me, but this one was very easy and both kids liked it. Zack even announced that he enjoys crafts--news to me!

The one with the white streaks will dry to look like the frosted one on the right. Fun with white glue, stickers and glitter glue. Oh no!--Just realized I forgot to wash out those paintbrushes.

Oh well.

Also set up the fish tank. No fish yet, just getting the filter going. Pete was happy to notice that the filter is really quiet, since the tank is in the living room and basically just outside our bedroom door.

Cold weather is here, so I think the fish will make a nice indoor project for us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Tough time at Park Day yesterday.

It was cloudy, damp and chilly so the crowd was small and there were only two other girls besides Katie. Katie will play with the boys, but once girls arrive she wants to play with them. One is a bit younger than Kate and the other is a few years older and the girls obviously know each other from home. The older one didn't want Katie to join them but instead of saying something, she led the younger girl to ditch Katie whenever she turned around. Kate was slow on the uptake and it took a few ditchings for her to get the message.

I hated seeing this play out. It's happened before and Katie keeps trying to join in with that crowd.

I was getting pretty upset and decided we'd just leave a bit earlier than planned. Kate had a playdate with an old school friend that afternoon, so I wasn't going to stay much longer anyway.

Katie, ofcourse got over the whole thing by the afternoon, but I've been agitated about it all night! Thought dumping it here might help. It's hard to tell when I should intervene and when I should let Katie learn via the school of hard knocks. Also don't want to project my feelings about being left out onto Kate.

I think I've decided, if it happens again, to pull the older girl aside and ask her to tell Katie that that she and her friend want to play alone right now, rather than running away. Then I'll try to lead Katie to a more inclusive groups of girls. I'd hate to cut out Park Day altogether. I enjoy the other parents and there's generally a mob of boys for Zack to run with. Perhaps we'll trade off with another group or simply leave earlier when there aren't friendlier options for Katie. We'll see.

Pete's been in Salt Lake City since Friday. Looking forward to him getting back late tonight. I wouldn't have tossed and turned over park day quite as much last night if he had been home.

We had a lot going on while he was gone, but I tried to keep it to manageable levels. Saturday, Katie's ballet class danced at St. Albans' bazaar. I passed on trying to fit in the Cub Scout food drive just before the dance call and when we were all feeling funky in the evening, passed on the Girl Scout dance and the UUCA auction.

Sunday I took the kids to RE at church and took a walk outside myself to get some alone time. Afterwards we went over to the Storks to play and then headed out late to go apple-picking. There weren't many apples left on the trees, but we found enough to make the kids happy and bought more to make pies.

Monday, I took the kids to my yoga class and they did schoolwork while I ohhmed. They also played around on the rec center playground and I ran into a PBS colleague's husband. Kate went to Brownies and Zack and I played legos.

Tuesday started with the 1s, 10s and 100s places--a concept we've been stuck on lately. I tried using buttons and columns, now we'll let it bake until next week. Then there was the dreaded Park Day incident, a play date,and while Katie watched a DVD on the portable player (love that thing), Zack went to Cub Scouts and I attended my first Civic Assoc. meeting.

And today it's chilly and cloudy. The kind of day I like to go back to bed. I think we'll cozy up with some books, do a little computer math and then maybe head over to the botanical garden and dream of Spring. Or, maybe we'll set up that fish tank that's been sitting in the living room empty. Thanks to Nanci and Louis for the freebie!

Friday, November 11, 2005


I don't want to make dinner, but we already ate out for breakfast this morning...bah....

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Having anxiety about math again. This always passes but until it does it drives me crazy. Just have to have faith that Katie will figure it out but not the very second I explain it!

Dreary day. Cloudy out and cold weather rolling in for the weekend. Zack has a cold and has taken a record 3 hours to get dressed. Mind you, I haven't been pushing him much since he feels so crummy but really 3 HOURS!

Zack had a little cry about Spats yesterday. It's coming up on a year since we put him to sleep and he was wishing that Spats was here to snuggle up with on the couch while he fights his cold. :-( Zack's a sweetie.

At least my candidate won the VA governorship! Also, a friend is bringing sweet treats from her custard shop to a meeting tonight. Yum!

Remembering our good cat Spats.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Surprising things and other stuff

Pete and I have been noticing how the stress level in the house has gone down since starting HSing in Sept. I figured the kids' stress would go down but not the whole family's. The days are just so much more relaxed. No fights to get the homework done between 4-5 pm--just when my energy and patience drops for the day-- sooner if there was an activity that night. No rushing home for the 3pm pick up and desperately trying to get the household stuff done before 3pm. No teacher conferences, Thursday folders or reams of paper to wade through. It's nice.

Pete's also a lot more involved in our activities. He can't go to all of them but I feel like he's more aware of everything we're up to and it has made dinnertime more chatty and fun too.

Katie is already expressing the desire to HS next year. Another surprise. I thought she would be the one missing her friends at school but neither of them mentions it much. Yesterday I was getting all twisted up because they don't seem to have any particular "best friends" or kids they see every day. Then, later in the day, I remembered that by 8th grade I was not friends with a single person I had been friends with in grade school. So I don't really know what I'm worrying about.

But those are the kinds of stresses HSing has brought to me, all the worries about what I am or am not supplying in a given second. Hopefully these stresses will pass the more times I look back and notice that things aren't such a big deal over the long haul. It turns out that Katie did learn how to count out change, playdates are being made, science is getting done, etc, etc, etc.

Did get the bad news that their closest neighborhood friends may be moving. This has happened to them over and over again and it's very tough on them. It's not certain yet, so we'll wait and see.

Find myself being harder on them than I'd like to be. Zack knocked over a can of varnish on the lawn last week and I really ripped into him about it. I'd rather mention it once and then let it go but I brought it up over and over again and I think I ended overshadowing the activity of painting the swing set. An accident isn't worth ruining an entire experience over. Signs that I need to get more sleep and plan less too.

Live and learn--literally!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Happy Halloween!

The lead up to my favorite holiday is now a distant blur, but I'll take a shot at a quick recap of what we've been doing.

According to my calendar:
  • We've been to the Baltimore Science Museum with our friends, the Marts. It was recently re-done and is terrific. We spent 5 hours there and no one got bored. The kids all had a great time with each other too.
  • Decorated for the holiday
  • Park Day with the Unschoolers
  • Brownies, Katie earned her first triad patch, but we don't have it yet, so she's really not aware of it
  • Cox Farm's harvest festival
  • Ready Readers at the library
  • Wolf Cubs, Zack earned his Bobcat badge and was extremely proud.
  • Bowling with the SpringTree HS group
  • Dance class for Katie
  • "Bingoween" over at the elementary school
  • Boo at the Zoo
  • Made another Halloween Pie
  • Cookies for the Brownies Halloween party
  • Pumpkin carving and painting
  • Trick-or-Treating
Somewhere in there we also made some paper mache ghosts, which turned out OK considering I didn't realize that you should pop the balloons only AFTER painting them. The paper got all soft and mushy again after the paint went on and not having the balloons to hold the shapes made it pretty tricky to do. And, you know, math, reading, talk about planets and some other schooly stuff.

Whew. All of this was great, but I'm dead and fairly grouchy, so I need to take a look at our schedule and slow us down a bit. It was a tough week with Zack too. All the crazy hours and excitement over the holiday had him completely unfocused and difficult to move along to do anything.

I really get what they mean when they tell me that the challenge with HSing is scheduling time to be home!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cracking Rocks

Got to climb trees and crack open rocks on Tuesday. Katie insisted on bringing home a lot of rocks to create a rock garden. I didn't think it would be a problem, since she dug them out of the beach volleyball court on the playground. These were really sizable rocks, ones I would not want to land on if I was playing volleyball.

We made "Halloween Pie" (a pumpkin pie recipe from the back of the book "Halloween Pie") with fresh whipped cream--which we had to whip by hand since I couldn't find the right attachment for the mixer. It was all sooooooo gooooooood.

We also did an unusual amount of worksheets this week. I needed some proof that they could actually follow directions and I let them know that if they couldn't show me that ability with their actions, they would need to fill out worksheets to prove it. They have been a bit more attentive since then. They can also add up sets of four numbers now, so that was nice to see.

Discovered that leaving a subject alone for a few days to percolate often helps. Katie was driven to tears trying to figure out how to make $1.40 out of a variety of coin choices. After explaining it a few different ways, I suggested she leave it alone for a while. Sure enough, this week she breezed right through it. So, I think we'll let fractions perk for a few weeks now too.

It's turning cold and it's nice to see my warm-weather clothes again. Katie long-legs needs new pants, last year's are all floods now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

In a Lather

This was a very cool atom/hot air expansion experiment with Ivory soap and the microwave. You put half a bar of Ivory Soap in the microwave for one minute and you get that fluffy stuff. The small piece of soap also on the plate is a different brand of soap that doesn't float and has a lot less air.

The kids were stunned, me too, but not as much because I'd been told what to expect. They were also impressed that you can still wash with it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Last Thursday and Friday we hosted Hannah, who's mom had to be in school to give her teacher evaluations, but the kids didn't have school. We had a great time and made brownies, played dress up, went to the farmers market, and read to each other.

On Friday it was the Big Apple Circus for us in the evening. It's in a real big top! It was also 12 inches of rain that day and I learned a lesson about putting off buying new tires and riding on a spare too long during the 35 mile/2 hour trip to Dulles to see the circus. I also managed to drop Pete's and my dinner down the back of the tent and had to head out into the rain to replace our concessions. The kids had a terrific time though but if we hadn't bought the tickets in advance, I would have preferred to stay warm and cozy at home!

Saturday it was still raining and I let the kids have a break from cleaning up the disaster in the basement to go play in the river of water heading down the front sidewalk.

Yesterday we made a last minute trip to Fredericksburg with our old friend Suzie, who's working down there this week. We took a tour of the old apothecary shop where Katie and Zack were grossed out by Real Leeches and a description of what they need to do to remove cataracts and unhealed broken arms--yuck!

Suz and I were fascinated by the descriptions of the herbal remedies a many of which are used in some forms today to treat the same ailments. The kids liked being able to smell the herbs and tinctures. The tour guide was great particularly because we were the only people there for the second half so the kids were able to ask questions and see everything up close.

Today we went to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) for a tour set up by a HS group in Arlington. We ended up knowing one family from Sleepy Hollow Preschool days and another mom and I think we've met before but can't remember where. We split into small groups of about 8 each and we're given a 45 minute tour. The kids and I also stayed for lunch--I had buffalo stew, yummy, and to see the great movie presentation upstairs. It's a great museum and even though it seems like there's not much to it, considering the huge building, we always see something new whenever we go.

When we got home the house smelled great from Pete cooking Loubi all day. The kids begged me to take out the Halloween decorations and we put up all the indoor ones. It's still raining, so we'll hold off on the outdoor ones. Now they're working on some Halloween activity books that I picked up on sale last year, threw in the decoration box and forgot all about.

Hope your neighborhood is getting spooky too!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Guess which is lead by women...

Cub Scouts-Wolf
scarf...uh sorry, neckerchief--$9
Wolf Scarf slider--$4 (after this he'll need the Bear and Weeblo ones)

Dues etc--$50

If he goes onto boy scouts, the uniform color changes and you buy all new.

Brownie vest--$16

Dues, etc--$37

if she decides to be a girl scout, you need to get a green vest.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Butterfly Balancing

Isn't this cool? The butterflies are standing on their heads all by themselves, no glue, pins or strings. Zack's is on the left and Kate's is on the right. The bar graph charts the butterflies we've seen so far.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Still feeling yucky

It's the great conundrum of being sick for me--stay up all night with a stuffy head, or take the meds that keep me up all night without a stuffy head. I opted for the un-stuffed head.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty ragged out this morning. The perfect day to concentrate on Home Ec!

Katie and Zack discovered all the wonders of the vacuum cleaner today as they cleaned up the living room and dining room. They are really working well together lately and it was nice to hear them come up with their plan, bouncing ideas back and forth. No fighting either. And they did a great job and were extremely proud of themselves.

Next they split up an hour working on the math program. One watched while the other solved the problems. Zack had much more trouble keeping his nose out of Katie's work and kept trying to move her over to do the problem himself, but she wasn't having it.

I'm noticing they are both getting more comfortable asking for help when they don't understand something instead of trying to get it done alone to the point of frustration.

I had them read me some stories to help me feel better and then they spent the rest of the day playing outside and watching the Magic Schoolbus and PBS Kids.

Still sleepy but it looks like I won't lose the whole weekend to this cold but may need to cancel going to the Fairfax Festival tomorrow. That's a bummer. The weather has been terrific as far as I can tell from the bedroom window!

OK, I'm going to load up on the meds and head back to bed.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I've got a cold in my nose-oh

I've got a cold in my nose. So, since there's no substitute teacher coming in today ;-) we will be taking it easy and mostly reading and story writing.

Well, I really did intend to keep up with this site, but time has been flying! What have we been up to?

4 hours at the Zoo last Thursday. Very nice not to be rushing or elbowing our way in through throngs of people, just had to be sure not to trip over small kids or get in the way of strollers. We found parts of the zoo we had never seen before. Also recorded more butterflies on Katie's chart.

Kate's working on fractions on the math program. Friday she asked for worksheets. We have plenty of them so she was kept very busy with reading comprehension, directions, and adding.

Zack is on geometry (shapes/area) on the math program and much prefers it to worksheets.

I finally bought some paint and will be setting up the easel outside so they can do that without worrying about the mess. Will also use the pre-school trick of adding dish soap to the paint for easy wash out.

Pete and I cleaned out the stuff I had stored in his office and moved it over to the other room off the basement. Next, he's tackling filing and then we'll probably move on to handling his storage needs in the office. During the cleanup I came across a box we haven't unpacked in the last three moves at least. Turns out there was a Barbie dune buggy and camper for Katie and a Troll with a little troll tucked inside for Zack and my old stuffed Tiger lovey I've had since I was about two years old. Tiger! I thought he'd been lost.

As you can see, he has definitely graduated to being Real.

If you don't know how that happens, check this out:

I was off to Dallas for the weekend, where Rita turned out to be a big nothing and I caught this cold. Got back on Monday afternoon. Pete had spent the day with the kids working on books, cleaning up and something else I don't remember.

Tuesday we had unschoolers, some math a rushed trip to Costco, Zack's fencing and we began to send out postcards for the postcard exchange. We've only received one back so far but that's fine because the big map I was expecting to get at Costco wasn't there anymore. Spent yesterday from 10:30-3 in the Smithsonian Natural Science and Am Hist museums. The kids are old enough to go into the Hands on Science room now and we fooled around with electric circuits, measuring the distance tot he moon with lasers, and did a scientist-led experiment to extract DNA which was really cool but the scientist was really boring. Too bad. We also saw lots of different kinds of lava and a giant globe of the tectonic plates.

Katie want to do flowers as her next project, Zack hasn't picked one yet, but I think it may end up being Mummies--he loved the ones at the museum or Greek gods, which he would like Grandpa E to paint on his walls. Zack informs me that Grandpa can paint anything, so it should be no big deal.

So, today I'm feeling yucky and the weather is yucky too. Think we will probably sit down with some worksheets, read lots of books and watch a Magic School bus episode. If they sun peeks out, will also send them out to do some messy stuff like painting or drawing in shaving cream. Messy play, easy cleanup. Nice.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The days go by

Tuesday with the unschoolers again and everyone had great time.

One woman was collecting stuffed animals for Katrina evacuees just as I had a bag all packed up and ready for Goodwill. Glad they will be of some use. I'm actually supposed to go to Dallas this weekend and am wondering if storm Rita will be changing my plans for me. Will have to keep an eye on the situation there. Though I really want to see my friends, the thought of flying when the weather is so awful is not a pleasant one.

I also asked around about what people are submitting to Fairfax Co. to show proof of advancement for their kids. Everyone agreed that testing was the easiest and safest. I have been stressing out over putting together portfolios. It's been keeping me up some nights. It's really hard to document every little thing and something don't really have a thing to go with them, like long conversations about the Constitution for example.

In any case, it was nice to learn that Fairfax will accept the CAT test, which is fairly painless for kids to take and reasonable to get through the mail. So, even though I will still keep portfolios going for our own purposes, we will likely give the CAT test a try. Now for some good nights' sleep.

Today was mostly taken up by dentist appointments. The kids' teeth look great, I have to go back to fix a loose filling and cracked tooth. Yecch. We tried to go to a train museum in Fairfax and were very disappointed to learn, after sitting in annoying traffic, that they are only open on Sundays. We back tracked and stopped at the Fairfax Museum which is very small but interesting. Funny-- I didn't think the kids were enjoying it much, but when we went to write in journals tonight they each chose to write about the museum. I thought they would focus on the dentist. Interesting.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Greasy Kid Stuff

We made butter today. After a long time at worksheets this morning (and a talk to Zack about making choices about how he spends his time) we were ready for some active learning by doing. Katie and I used the traditional shaking of the babyfood jar method, Zack added a marble into the jar to see if it would speed up the process. It did!

Here are the results (BTW--I don't post pictures of my kids on the internet for all the world to see. If you want to see the full version, and you know us personally, email me and I can send it to you.)


Also loving the multiplication wheels I got at the Scholastic dollar sale. Way more fun than flash cards.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Driving myself crazy

So naturally, since this is the new thing we're doing, I've been talking a lot about homeschooling with friends and family. Everyone is throwing out ideas and opinions--some great, some good and some I'm not interested in. I do very well as I'm having each conversation BUT THEN later, late at night, I lose my mind!

She thinks your crazy, my brain tells me... that one thinks you haven't researched enough...why didn't YOU think of that...maybe you should do it THAT way...on and on and on into the night.

Even the most supportive and benign comment can keep me spinning like a top.

In the morning I'm my normal self again, plugging along getting things done. Just a nut case at night.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday already

Well, the week has flown.

Tuesday was our first outing to a HS group, the NOVA Unschoolers. They were having a potluck and book/materials swap for not-back-to-school. I met my goal of dropping off more than I brought back and left with a handful of Magic Schoolbus tapes and assorted other things. Everyone was nice and there were plenty of boys and girls for Kate and Zack to play with. It was also nice to not get that cockeyed look when I said we didn't have a curriculum.

Tuesdays are going to be busy. The unschoolers have a park day in the afternoon, then home to get some work done, Zack has fencing at 5pm and I have something at 7pm. I think this was the night that Pete taught Zack the basics of the ten times tables too.

Wed, we started butterfly and volcano books and the kids labeled pictures (magma, lava, vent and caterpillar, egg, chrysalis, etc) and glued them into the books. Their printing is coming along, spelling, not so much. Went to Ready Readers at the library, we go early to pick out books and then the kids spend about 40 minutes with Miss Ginny for some stories. I'm saddened to learn they have cut this back to every other week :-( however, we'll probably still do library time Wednesday afternoons.

Zack lost his third tooth! One of the big ones on top. He was very excited and immediately put it under his pillow.

Thursday--The tooth fairy came and left 25, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 cents...gee that's a strange amount to leave, maybe you should check she left $1 Wow!

Off to the farmers market and then the National Archives which has been re-done recently with lower display cases, a movie theatre and an exhibit on the public vaults and what info they really keep there. The kids were less than interested mainly because you can't really see the writing on the docs all that well and when you can see it, it's so scrolling that they can't read it. I pointed out B Franklin, T Jefferson and G Washington's signatures and that seemed to impress. Also hit the main points of the Constitution again and 3 branches of gov't. The vault was very good and the kids were much more interested in that. Should have let them do that first, like they wanted to intead of try to ram the important educational agenda I had in mind down their throats. Are we learning yet....

Home and time to separate Kate and Zack for a while, so reading in their rooms. Then Katie was off to dance and Zack watched a volcano movie we checked out of the library.

Today was about cleaning up and getting more organized downstairs. Fairly successful. I also had the kids sort their own laundry and they helped with the grocery shopping. I explained why it's actually less expensive to buy two small jars of Skippy instead of one large jar of Jif, etc.

Home to read the great books I got from Scholastic's dollar sale. Also got some multiplication wheels, which look more fun that the addition/subtraction flash cards they've been using. So, clean up, laundry, outside time, journals, reading, math program, a study of physics ala hotwheels tracks and the PTA/Civic Association picnic and I am pooped.

Socialization--geeze, we've got plenty and we haven't even started scouts yet!

That's a full week at homeschool. Not too bad. Still winging it but generally moving along. My main concern is trying to decide what sort of "proof of progress" to supply the district with at the end of the year. Hard to determine what exactly they will want out of a portfolio. I have to decide by January, so will begin to ask around and find out what others are doing.

Hope the skies are bright in your part of the world. Looks like lazy Katrina will visit us tomorrow. Nice of her to wait until after the picnic.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A special kind of word...

It took Zack forever to get dressed this morning, for Katie to pick up Barbies downstairs and for me to make any decision about what we should be doing today.

The only thing we got done this morning was to talk about the branches of government and the parts of the Constitution, which were highlighted in the kids section of the Sunday newspaper this week. Sept 17 is Constitution Day and there's a community picnic to celebrate, so I thought they should at least know a bit about what it is.

Eventually, we got to work around 3pm with some nouns and verbs. They have been itching to get at the window markers (thanks grandma!) so I had them write as many persons, places and things they could think of on the diningroom window and then some action words on another smaller window.

We had fun and it's clear they basically know what we're talking about but need to work on spelling BIG time. Schoolhouse Rock pays off! (I also can recite the preamble because of those Saturday ditties--and now you can too, if this link works:

Zack and I then spent about an hour playing SET, a game where you have to pick sets that have 4 aspects in common or different. You really have to see it to get it. Great for Zack to take in each aspect one at a time instead of trying to grasp all the info at once. Also works on what makes a set etc. for math.

Meanwhile, Katie played the 2nd grade math program and finished the telling time section pretty quickly. I'm noticing she does much better if I'm not right next to her, she second guesses herself and asks me for the answers all the time. I originally thought she just didn't understand how to do the problems, but it turns out that she does fine if there's no one to check in with. Interesting.

I'm also concerned that Katie is still writing her b,p and ds backwards and that she can't tell the difference BTW 60 and 06. We all need to get our eyes checked, so I'll mention this when we do.

Katie had to assure her friend Mai that we hadn't moved away and that she could still come over to play, so hopefully that will materialize soon.

Tomorrow we're off to our first homeschool event, Park Day with the NOVA Unschoolers. It's their Not Back To School potluck and book swap and I'm crossing my fingers that there will be some kids Kate and Zack's age and that I connect with a few of the parents too.

Will keep you posted.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The volcano

Here's the volcano!
Well, leaving Kate and Zack to their own devices has paid off in the creation of their first volcano. Not only did they learn about sculpting, volcano structure and the geometry of cone shapes, they also learned important lessons in negotiating, working as a team and coming up with a plan before acting. Nice!

The volcano was dry enough to set off tonight and it was underwhelming at first. I think the powder that came with the kit was a bit old. The baking soda/dish soap/vinegar combo was much more impressive.

The morning was spent at church. I worked in the nursery, Pete and the kids went to service. It was the annual water service and we always promise we'll remember to get water everywhere we go and every year we forget and have to take "virtual water" to represent all the places we've been. So in that spirit, when Katie was handed the microphone to tell where her water was from she proudly announced "it's from the sink at home!" much to the enjoyment of the congregation. September 11 and those in the gulf coast states were also remembered. (

After church we went to a nature center with friends and were treated to a nature walk with the naturalist on-duty. Katie touched a mole king snake, we all ate pears right off a tree and leaves off a shrub that tasted lemony. We also saw a LOT of poison ivy and are hoping that none of us got any. I was even pointed in the right direction to name the weed-that-eats-everything in the garden--Crown Vetch. Sadly, the main info I gained is that it's practically impossible to eradicate. Boo!

Time for the bedtime routine. Catch you later.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Holding my tongue

It is so hard to keep my mouth shut and have them figure out the answers for themselves! Right now they're trying to build a volcano and need to form a cone out of wadded up newspaper. They were fighting over how to get it done and I had to send them outside to talk over their plans so I could keep myself out of it. Ten minutes later they had a plan and are working nicely downstairs.

When I was doing my research I kept hearing over and over again that it will be much easier on me if I just trust them to figure things out. Nice, but HARD TO DO!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The First Day

Well, not really, but this was the first official day. We've actually been working on a couple of projects since August, but I never told the kids that it was "school."

Katie's unit project is butterflies and so far we have ID'ed a butterfly we found in NC at the beach, observed many in our butterfly bush and checked out and printed a book of commonly seen butterflies at the National Zoo with the intention of keeping a log we can chart in some way later. We also visited a butterfly exhibit a the Science Museum in Boston--real live butterflies and a chart we could use to ID them.

Zack's project is volcanoes. He has a volcano-building kit he got for his b-day, that we will probably crack open tomorrow. So far, he's seen live pictures of Mt. St. Helens, looked on the globe for some, read a book on volcanoes and seen pictures of a volcano in Africa that has the only flow of a certain kind in the world.

Ever notice that once you put your attention to a thing, it suddenly pops up all over the place? Who knew there'd be a special exhibit at the Science Museum or that Nat Geo mag would have a spread on a special volcano?

So, today--

After morning ablutions, clean up and breakfast, we headed off to the farmers market to learn to pick out fresh fruit and veggies and about counting change.

There was a playground and trails at the park that hosts the market so we went over to check it out. Zack hooked up with some boys and Katie chased them all over the place threatening to spread girl cooties. On the way out we tried a short trail where Katie and Zack tried to climb up a tree via a vine. It was harder than it looks in the Tarzan movies. The trail went by a wetland area so we took a look a the water lilies and noticed that there was actually a frog on almost every one. We talked about why the lily pads didn't sink, why cat tails get so fuzzy and the value wetlands have to local ecology and how they would have helped New Orleans if their wet lands hadn't been developed for building.

We also read on a sign about how wet lands help filter water and also talked about how trees need the CO2 we produce and we need the Oxygen they produce.

Home for lunch (leftovers from King Street Blues-yum) and Katie and I went downstairs to clean up the craft area so we could decorate the puppet she made last week. Zack decided to look over the Smithsonian kids' site about plate tectonics and volcanoes.
Katie made a lovely puppet:

We then did some lego building, here's Zack's Dr. Octopus blaster:

We ended the "official" school day with math. I gave the kids a choice of flash cards, a computer game or worksheets. Katie went for the flash cards, which she used with buttons from my mom's old button box (have found a million uses for these!) and Zack started in on the 2nd/3rd grade Reader Rabbit math program where he tried to make enough change to get someone out of a trap.

Katie started dance lessons today and due to a mix up of her age, ended up at a class that was really too young for her, so she stayed for the next class, which she will take from here on out.

Home for dinner, basement clean up and the night time routine and I'm about to head up to read a few more chapters of Around the World in 80 Days. Where did the day go?!

Hope your day was full too.