Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Last week's Spring Break...

Last week we...

  • celebrated Violet's birthday

  • completed our annual testing
  • gave the girls' room a spring cleaning
  • spent time with my Mom shopping, playing games, and hanging out
  • completely cleaned out our basement for DH's Saturday cookout and did a few spring cleaning items around the house
  • celebrated Jessie's birthday

  • celebrated DH's birthday with a cookout
  • and I spent Sunday afternoon getting ready to restart school after a very busy Spring Break and vowing next year to try to take an actual break during Spring Break

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 11, 52 in 52

I realize that I am a latecomer to the Harry Potter series of books. It's probably the first time in my life that I've actually seen the movie (at least the tv version of it) before actually reading the book. I'm also the last in my family to get around to reading the books. Both my parents, my sister, and her husband have all read the series. Still my oldest has been asking when I would let her read the books. (She saw the portion of the movie with the quidditch match in it and loved it.) I've been putting her off with the vague "when you're older" excuse which can only buy time for so long. I finally decided it was time to wade through the books myself, so I can make an informed judgement about them rather than relying on someone else's evaluation.

As expected, I found the first Harry Potter book to be completely delightful and managed to find enough time to finish it in under 24 hours. I can see why so many people fell in love with this series when it first came out. Harry makes a wonderful protagonist as he struggles to learn who he is and how he fits into a new magical world while trying to do the right thing and help those around him. The scariest scene in the story when Harry, Hagrid, and a few others go out into the forest at night to search for an injured unicorn comes across much more tamely than it's visual counterpart in the movie, so I have no concerns about it causing nightmares. Overall, I would have no problems giving this book to my oldest if it were a stand alone read. Since it is part of a larger series, I will reserve my final decision until I've finished the entire set knowing that she will not want to stop with just one book.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Well Educated Mind - Book 10, 52 in 52

I FINALLY finished!! YEAH!!

The Well Educated Mind by Bauer is designed to help an older student or adult to educate themselves in the classical tradition through the reading of classics. The book starts by laying out 4 steps.
  1. Set aside time 4 days a week.
  2. Practice reading at a pace that allows you to absorb the material.
  3. Keep a journal of your reading.
  4. Take all the little pieces and put them together for a better understanding.

The remainder of the book is divided into 5 literary types. For each time there is an overview of the history of that type, questions and steps to study the book at different levels (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) of understanding, and a list of books in chronological order to start reading.

I liked the journal set up that she proposes of writing summaries, taking notes and jotting down quotations that strike you, and writing thoughts/reactions in a different color is very well thought out. I found it useful to see how a reading journal could be set up, but I don't expect to follow the recommendations exactly. Instead I plan to tailor it more to my own needs.

For me, a lot of the material was a bit overboard. Reading the history of the different types of literature was excruciatingly tedious and helped me remember why I always passionately hated literary criticism and English class in general. The questions under each literary type seemed a bit limited to me, and I prefer to use the Socratic list of questions from Teaching the Classics for myself instead. My third disagreement is one with sticking with one type of literature and progressing through it in a chronological fashion. I personally would prefer more variety and do not plan to be bound by a timeline when choosing what classic to tackle next.

I guess my take away is that like The Well Trained Mind, The Well Educated Mind provides one method of achieving a classical education by reading through the classics. For some, following the lists and questions strictly will be an excellent fit. Others will need to adapt it more to their own personalities or pick and choose from the ideas. Whether I use the suggestions in our homeschool when my oldest reaches that point remains to be seen. I'll have to make a judgement on whether or not the material is a good fit for her just as I would for any other text.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 29: A More Normal Week

We finally had a week without any extra outside runs or activities. It wasn't completely normal, since DH threw out his back on a call Wednesday and has been hobbling around the house since then. Everyone has pitched in to get things for him or pick things up, and the kids have tried very hard to remember to be quiet since DH has been taking lots of naps due to his pain medication. We didn't quite get everything done because the weather has been so beautiful that I've been trying to get the kids outside. Here's what did get done.


Jessie finished the IP section on averaging, and has started a new section in the textbook and workbook on rate. Basically, it's been all word problems. Some asking for the rate. Others giving the rate and asking either how long something will take or how much can be done in a fixed amount of time. Based on her work this week, it looks to be another easy section, so she has been finishing early and had plenty of time to work on her Sudoku puzzle craze. (She started working on them again when she was sick on Saturday and seems determined to finish all the puzzles in her book.) I need to check to see how many weeks of school are left and how many weeks of math are left. If we're behind any, this will be a good time to catch up.

Violet spent the first half of the week doing review exercises in the textbook and workbook. With those done, she started a new section on volume. Thus far, she's been introduced to liters and milliliters, given various beakers to read the amount of liquid each contains, and was told that 1000ml=1l but hasn't had any conversion practice as yet. After struggling a bit with reading the pictures of the scales in the last section, she did an excellent job determining the volume of liquid in the beakers. I'll be checking her pace to see if she needs to do any doubling up as well.

Benny has started subtracting numbers within 20. The main focus so far has been to take a problem that he already knew like 5-2 and change it into 15-2 so he can see that the answer in the ones place remains the same. The next step was to eliminate the first problem and just subtract the second one using a picture. He did very well on both. In Miquon, he is almost finished with the addition and multiplication section. If you didn't see my Wednesday post scroll down, there are some great pictures of Henry "helping" him with his Miquon.


Jessie scored another perfect score on her spelling lesson for the week. In grammar, we've talked about how certain prepositions can be used either as prepositions or adverbs and how to tell the difference, when to leave out unnecessary prepositions, and how conjunctions are used and diagrammed. In CW, our model for the week was "The Cyclops" from The Children's Homer. In analysis, we finally covered the final step in the six sentence shuffle where you write a new sentence using the same grammar parts as the model sentence. Jessie's version is on the right. In literature, she's still progressing slowly through Robinson Crusoe. Of course, she's progressing faster than I am, so I'm just hoping the narrations are accurate.

Violet finished another unit in grammar and has started on the last unit for the year! So far, she reviewed dictionaries and homonyms. In literature, she completed reading The Children's Homer. We did try dictation one day instead of copywork. Her spelling and grammar were fine, but her handwriting was atrocious. I think we'll stick to copywork for the remainder of the year with an added emphasis on neatness. In CW, we analyzed the fable, "The Ant and the Grasshopper". For spelling, we're still working on words she misspells in her other assignments in the hope that she will start being more careful when she does her work.

Benny spent half the week reviewing long vowel words in Phonics Pathways. The second half of the week, we spent reading Bob books. I started him back on the A1 series for review since he seems to be trying to make every vowel have a long sound now. We'll pick back up with the phonics book in two weeks. His copywork is still going very well. The picture is Friday's work. The other paper for the week magically disappeared overnight or maybe the dog ate it ;).


We finished up our unit on the Old Testament this week. YEAH!! Jessie read most of the book of Nehemiah and wrote up a summary of the events. Violet and Benny finished reading about Ezra, read about Nehemiah, and had a short chapter on the events between the Old and New Testaments. Both girls completed a map showing what Israel looked like at that time. For timeline figures, we added Ezra and Esther from last week and Nehemiah from this week.

We also finished up our unit on Greece this week. Double YEAH!! (Also a YIKES, I'd better get myself in gear and get the unit on Rome ready fast!!) Basically, the girls covered the events from the division of Alexander's empire to the fall of Greece to the Romans. I just had Jessie takes notes and give me a summary of the events. Violet actually had 4 chapters and summaries covering Ptolemy, Pyrrhus, Cleomenes III, and the fall of Greece. Both girls completed a map showing the division of Alexander's empire and drew a picture of the lighthouse at Alexandria using the Draw and Write Through History book.


Alas, it didn't happen this week. Better luck next week.

It all got done.


I don't have anymore cute Henry pictures to post. Besides helping his brother with math, Henry's started using the signs for book and water. I also broke down and decided enough was enough as far as his eating. The pureed pears were met with a tremendous temper tantrum on Thursday, but I still managed to get them in his mouth at which point he had no choice but to swallow them. The pureed peaches on Friday also met with objection but not nearly as much as the previous day, so I'm hopeful we can make some continued progress next week.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WW: Need a little help big brother?

I'll fix that problem for you!
Do you think it would help it I gave him the blocks?

Better get them all out so he has enough!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mastering Your Metabolism - Week 9, 52 in 52

Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels has a completely different tone than her previous book, Making the Cut. While the subtitle on the front cover reads "the 3 diet secrets to naturally balancing your hormones for a hot and healthy book", I personally would not call this a diet book. This is more a holistic approach to nutrition looking at a variety of factors including food intake, environmental factors, and biological factors as they relate to a persons weight.

The book itself consists of 3 parts. Part 1 provides the background information: a snapshot of the average American, an overview of the hormones that relate to metabolism, a listing of various causes of obesity, and a brief introduction to the three steps. Part 2 details the three step process it. 1. Remove hydrogenated fats, refined grains, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives and colors, and glutamates (ie MSG) and limit starchy root vegetables, tropical, dried, or canned fruit, excess soy (stick to fermented soy products ie tofu, tempeh, and miso soup), excess alcohol, full-fat dairy and fatty meats, canned foods, and caffeine. 2. Restore good foods including legumes, the allium family (onions, leeks, etc.), berries, meat and eggs, colorful fruits and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, organic dairy, whole grains. She places a heavy emphasis on organic foods but does break down organic choices into always buy, sometimes buy, and don't bother buying for those on a budget. 3. Rebalance by eating every four hours, not stuffing yourself, and by eating a balanced meal of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Part 3 focuses on lifestyle. Removing toxins from your home, restoring nutrients through vitamin supplements, and taking care of yourself through sleep, exercise, and relaxation. It includes sample combination ideas for different meals with 2 weeks worth of recipes, and natural remedies for common metabolic disorders.

While I didn't learn a lot of new information as far as nutrition goes, I did find it interesting to see the link between foods or environmental factors and the body's metabolism. I wasn't thrilled with the recipes included (but then I've always been a picky eater so that's not a big surprise), but I did like the combination charts allowing you to start with any choice from column one add any choice from column two to get a balanced meal. I can actually see some possibilities that I could eat that way. The book would definitely be a worthwhile read to anyone wanting more information on nutrition or metabolism or someone like me who can use some occasional motivation to shift back into some more healthy eating habits.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 28: Finishing in Record Time

This wasn't a normal week for us. I asked the girls on Monday to try to finish as much of their work as possible by Thursday so we could shop at a consignment sale on Friday morning. They put in some long days without complaint, and we've managed to finish the bulk of our work with just a couple of loose ends left to tie up.


Jessie spent the whole week averaging different sets of numbers, taking an average and determining the total, and working related word problems. Several of the lessons were short, so she used the extra time to work ahead in other areas to have Friday mostly off.

Violet completed the weight section in her Singapore 3B textbook and workbook and has moved on to the corresponding section in the IP. Her Miquon work continues to deal with graphing which she is breezing through quickly each day.

Benny did an excellent job in math this week. His Singapore book had him adding single digit numbers with sums over 10 by making 10 with pictures. His Miquon book continues to combine adding and multiplication on the same page.


Jessie mastered another spelling lesson and completed her regular grammar work. (I know I taught her the lessons, but I don't remember any of them.) In CW, she completed the analysis for "The Wooden Horse" and has her rough draft done. (She was excited that her rough draft was a condensed narration this time.) We still need to finish editing and making corrections when she gets up from a nap. (I hope she's just tired from waking up extra early this morning for no apparent reason.) In literature she's slowly making her way through Robinson Crusoe at a rate of about 15 pages a day.

Violet and I are still doing some spelling review. We're going back through the SWO D lists for the most part. I've also started quizzing her on how to spell words that she spells incorrectly in her narrations. It would seem that most of her spelling problems stem from a lack of concentration rather than an actual inability to spell the words since she can correctly spell most of the words I pull from her narration when prompted. Her handwriting is still from the same scene in The Secret Garden. I didn't get a chance to try out dictation this week in place of copywork. Hopefully, I'll remember next week. She completed her rough draft of "The Milkmaid and Her Pail", but we still need to edit it together. She also continue to read The Children's Homer and is on the second half covering Odysseus.

Benny has done very well with his phonics this week. It's been all review of long vowel words. His handwriting was his Bible verse from church. We did mostly Bible reading this week to get him caught back up to Violet, but did squeeze in a few more chapters of Charlotte's Web.


This week in the Old Testament, we covered the events through the story of Esther. Jessie wrote summaries of Ezra and Esther and completed maps showing the Babylonian empire and the route of the exiles and a second with the Cyrus' empire and the route of Ezra and Nehemiah. She also put together last weeks page on Daniel. Violet read about Ezra and Esther and completed the same maps (although she didn't add the route to one). She put all of her narrations from the last two weeks together for her notebook. To the timeline, we added the exile of Judah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and Belshazzar.

This week in ancient Greece was all about Alexander the Great. One more week and it will be time to move on to Rome. Both girls completed maps of Alexander's empire and added their Bucephalus drawings from the other week. Jessie had one summary of Alexander's early life from two weeks ago. This weeks summary contains one paragraph discussing Alexander's accomplishments and a second describing his character. Violet completed one summary of Alexander based on the chapter in Famous Men of Greece. Of course, Alexander also went on the timeline.

Not a great week science wise. We did complete to lessons covering indicators and acids. We still need to complete the hands on for those lessons. (I forgot to buy a purple cabbage to use as an indicator.)

Jessie has completed lesson 24 in LfC B. This should be our last week on demonstratives. Violet completed lesson 5 and started on lesson 6. She is just starting the 2nd declension. We did our logic.


Henry has been much more manageable than last week when I was distracted. We had time to read together and snuggle. The picture below is from Friday morning. I called to the kids to get their shoes on so we could get in the van, and Henry disappeared. A few minutes later he was back sporting Benny's outgrown boots. He thought he was ready to go and was quite proud of himself. I, naturally, insisted we get him dressed first.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Making the Cut - Week 8 of 52 in 52

I know I'm supposed to be finishing week 9 but finding time to read has been tough the past couple of weeks. I finally finished a book so here goes...

Making the Cut by Jillian Michaels

Since I was trying The 30 Day Shred DVD by Michaels to eliminate my "I don't have enough time" excuse for exercising, I decided that I would check out a couple of her books from the library as well. Making the Cut was the first book that came in on hold so that's where I started. First, for a full disclaimer, I did not read every word in the book. My overview of the menu section and the section explaining the different exercises would more rightly be qualified as skimming, but then again I consider these sections more reference as you work through the program.

Overall, I have to say I was disappointed with the book. I am not a big fan of counting calories. It just takes too much time. When I calculated the number of calories per day, I got about 1300 which seemed really low to me. The menus consisted of a lot of ingredients I don't care for or can't afford and overall would have required more prep time than I currently spend. Not all of the exercises can be done at home. Some require gym/weight machines or equipment, exercise balls, steps, weights, or resistance bands. To follow the program to the letter without a gym membership isn't really feasible in my opinion. There is also a lot of weight training, but not a lot of cardio. I've tried weight training only before and it just does not help bring down weight like a good cardio program. In the end I decided it simply wasn't a good fit for me.

The one portion of the book that I actually learned from and enjoyed was the information at the beginning about finding your metabolic type. I took the quiz to figure out my type and came up with an eating ratio of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. That is some information that I can actually put to good use.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Week 27: A partial breather

Everyone has a limit to how much they can juggle at one time, and I reached that limit last weekend. Not only did I need to do the normal school prep for the month, but my to do list also included prepping items for our local consignment sale, finishing the taxes and mailing them off (Yes, I actually use paper because it's free.), picking themes for the girls' birthday parties and mailing out invitations, and making the list for the normal beginning of the month run to WalMart. I managed the first two, still need to do the third, and have made 3 trips to town this week because I didn't do the last one which only added to the chaos. Here's a look at our crazy week. I'm definitely looking forward to a calmer week starting Monday.


Jessie finished up the percentage section in the IP book on Thursday. On Friday, she read through the textbook on her own while I was in the shower, taught herself how to average numbers, and successfully completed her workbook assignment as well. Honestly, I'm really proud of her initiative, and she did a great job.

Violet finished the IP section on length and has moved on to a section on weight in the textbook and workbook. Reading scales on the first day was brutal because she just didn't get that you have to figure out how much each of the marks on the scale is actually worth for each new scale. We finally made it through once she quit whining and breezed through the successive lessons covering converting between kg and g, adding and subtracting with kg and g, and some weight related word problems.

Benny continues to work in the section on number to 20 in his Singapore book. He had one more day with the 10 and x makes whatever concept, a day of counting forwards and backwards/filling in missing numbers, and a day of comparing numbers and arranging them in order either by increasing or decreasing value. His Miquon continues to be a combination of addition and multiplication on the same page to cement the relationship between the two operations. I don't remember the exact exercises since he completed them on his own.


Jessie completed another spelling lesson with a perfect test. In grammar, she finally finished and tested for the unit on punctuation. In CW, she did analysis and rewrote "The Story of Damon and Pythias" after I realized that the models "Xenophon, to the Sea" and "The Retreat of the Ten Thousand" were the same story. I figured I just add another model using a scene from the Odyssey since that's what the next two models are anyway. That also finished here level 4 work, which means 4 more weeks of level 5 and on to poetry! (I guess I'd better move that up my to do list.) For literature, I've let her start reading Robinson Crusoe this week. She actually only read it two days because when she brought it to me on Tuesday to find out what to read, it got knocked into a desk drawer and lost for a couple of days.

Violet and I have begun to review her spelling. I skimmed through the levels B and C books, picked out the words I knew she still misspelled and had her work on those for a couple of days. Then we started through the level D lists. My plan is also to pull words from her written narration the rest of the year before restarting SWO F in the fall. In grammar, the lessons I remember from the week covered negative words, avoiding double negatives, and writing stories based on pictures. For CW Aesop, we analyzed "The Milkmaid and Her Pail". She also completed a full week of handwriting and read two chapters of The Children's Homer a day.

Benny and I completed one page of review with a combination of long and short vowel words in Phonics Pathways. Friday, for a change of pace, we read together prelevel 1 reader together called See Pip Point. The repetition of words does encourage guessing a bit, but it also let's us move through the story a little faster making it more fun for Benny. In handwriting, I just had him write the alphabet again this week. One change from last week is that I actually reminded him to write on the lines this time. We didn't squeeze in all of our regular read alouds since most of our errand running took place just before lunch during his read aloud time, but we did made some progress in both the Egermeier Bible book and Charlotte's Web.


History was where I chose to lighten up this week. Our Ancient Greece topic would have been Alexander the Great. I decided the topic was too important to just skim over which is what happens when lesson prep isn't done. Instead, the only history that was done this week was Biblical history. Jessie read about the last kings of Judah and covered portions of the book of Daniel. The kings were charted and a summary written of Daniel. Violet finished reading about Jeremiah and also read stories from Daniel with corresponding oral narrations. We'll put the actual notebooking pages together next week.


We finished another unit in our chemistry book. We covered catalysts with a demonstration of using a potato slice to make hydrogen peroxide convert to water and oxygen. We covered inhibitors and used lemon juice on an apple slice as compare to a regular apple slice to demonstrate. The girls also read and answered questions on exothermic and endothermic reactions, but we chose to skip the hands on. I didn't want to waste 5 eggs on the endothermic demo and I didn't have any steel wool for the exothermic one. Somehow or another I also missed taking pictures.


Jessie finished another lesson in LfC B. She learned the grammar chants for that and those. Violet is working on a review lesson (#5) in LfC A. They did complete their logic assignments. Jessie's started her last Mind Benders book, B4.


Henry, as he always does when Mom is distracted, has been up to lots of mischief this week. He learned how to toilet paper my bathroom and covered his floor in packing peanuts. He decided to try my Diet Pepsi one day at lunch (happily the spill stopped at his clothes and high chair), tried to help with dinner by tearing the chili spice bag and coating my kitchen floor with chili pepper, and endeavored to help himself to seconds of pretzel sticks by turning the bag upside down and dumping the remaining contents on the dining room floor. On the constructive side, he ran several test on gravity by rolling one of his balls down a 2x4 ramp in the basement over and over and learned to say hot dog (even though he refused to try a bite of one).