Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Way to Help

What do you do to help after a disaster if you can't physically go there or send supplies?

Well, if you're involved in co-ordinating a free online homeschool curriculum, you try and think of a way to use that to meet peoples' needs.

Queen Shenaynay on The Beehive blog has posted here about a plan to make Ambleside Online even more accessible for homeschool families who are suddenly without curriculum, and for churches and other groups who will need a way to start up classes without many resources.

We're working hard on it! I'm so happy that we can do at least that much.

UPDATE: The plan is now available on the Ambleside Online website here.

News on Katrina

DHM at The Common Room is keeping track of the most useful links and information on disaster relief for the storm victims. One of the victims suggested donating spare eyeglasses--one of the immediate needs for many people. Homeschooling families (and those who won't be able to send their children back to their public schools) will need supplies and books. The list of needs sounds endless.

Just a suggestion during this back-to-school shopping season ("The most wonderful time of the year" as one TV commercial puts it): would it be possible for any teens out there to forego those expensive sneakers that the media keeps telling me every kid demands for back-to-school, or some of the other hundreds-of-dollars fashion items, and to send the money saved to help someone who lost most of their clothing?

P.S. not related to Katrina: We don't buy sneakers to impress people around here, so I'm a little skeptical of the "every kid demands them" media stories. The Apprentice says that it would be irrelevant for her since when she sees her friends they're not usually wearing shoes anyway (she and most of her friends take off their shoes when they come in the house. "Nice socks.").

Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Random Reasons to be Happy

1. Green beans growing up the side of the house are finally getting beans on them.

2. Ambleside Online Year 11 is more-or-less finished, after many hours of pre-birthing pains with the Ambleside planners and some equally wonderful book reviewers and researchers who helped us out.

3. Picking up a laminated world map (that we really needed), Diane Stanley's childrens' bio of Leonardo da Vinci, and a copy of Tomie de Paola's picture book Helga's Dowry at a teacher's yard sale yesterday.

One thing that would make Mama Squirrel's world a bit brighter would be if the CBC radio strike would end; she misses her favourite shows although the canned classical music is okay too.

Magnetic letters

The Squirrels have a pile of magnetic letters and numbers--the kind that aren't supposed to be safe for little ones because the tiny magnets in them might come out. Some of the letters are thirty-five years old and the magnets are still intact, but that's not the point. Because there are parts of about four different sets, it's hard to make one whole alphabet (we have about five capital E's but not one capital I). However, Mama Squirrel came up with some homeschool possibilities for them this week (besides just sticking them all over the fridge, which is what the squirrelings mostly did when they were toddlers).

1. Mama Squirrel and Crayons just sorted out the letters into two (more or less) capital-letter alphabets plus small piles of lower-case letters and numerals. We've done the same thing with rubber letters.

2. Preschool memory game: make a row of about four to six letters or numbers (or more if you want to make it harder). Hide your eyes and the other person hides one or two of the letters. What's missing? (Crayons played a funny trick on Mama Squirrel: she hid one of the letters behind her back and replaced it with another one the same. When Mama Squirrel said she hadn't taken anything away at all, Crayons showed her how duplicitous she had been.)

3. Preschool sorting game we haven't tried yet: take a handful of capital letters and a handful of lower-case letters (we only have a few of those anyway) and sort them into two piles, capitals and lower-case.

3. Grade Three alphabetizing game: Take a handful of letters and put them in alphabetical order, as fast as possible. It doesn't matter if there are doubles.

4. Grade Three fractions game: Take all the numerals you can find and put in them in a container. Draw a line on paper to be the dividing line in a fraction. Pull two of the numerals out and put one on top, one on the bottom. What's the fraction? What does it look like? We had some plastic fraction pieces, marbles and other things sitting around while we did this, so we tried to come up with different ways of showing. Ponytails made 3/2, so she took three of the plastic "half" pieces. Mama Squirrel made 7/9, and there are no ninths in the plastic pieces, so she took seven blue marbles and two white ones, and said that 7/9 of the marbles were blue.

5. The obvious: spell things with the letters. Spill a handful and see who can make the most words the fastest. (Of course the squirrelings may not learn any "i" words, but Mama Squirrel will come up with something else for those.)

Moral: even incomplete things can still be kind of fun and educational, right?

Thirty thousand tunes

Mama Squirrel is constantly amazed by the effects of technology on our culture.

Someone Mr. Fixit knows showed him her I-Pod this week, complaining that it wasn't working anymore. She wondered if maybe he could take a look at it, since he is good at electronics. Mr. Fixit looked at it briefly and said no, they aren't fixable. But you couldn't maybe take it apart and replace something? No, they're meant to be disposable. But there were thirty thousand songs on it! Sorry, nothing that we can do.

Thirty thousand songs. Mama Squirrel marvelled at that. How would you choose what to listen to? Mr. Fixit said that you'd just set the I-Pod to play them randomly. Mama Squirrel naively asked if that wasn't the same as just turning on the radio, then? Mr. Fixit said no, radio stations don't have that many songs on their play lists.

How long would it take you to listen to thirty thousand songs? If you listened to music ten hours a day and heard maybe twenty songs an hour, that would be two hundred songs a day, right? If you never had any repeats, it would take you 150 days to listen to all of them. Using the word "listen" in kind of a vague, background music sense, unless you were doing nothing else for those ten hours a day but listening to your thirty thousand songs.

We used to be satisfied with a small stack of albums or stash of tapes, bought one at a time in the basement at Woolco or whatever the comparable place was. When Mr. Fixit was much younger, he and his brother occasionally brought albums to their grandparents' house. The grandparents would scoff: "What you need to bring those here for? We have a record." (For some reason the boys weren't wildly excited by Lawrence Welk.) Times have changed...thirty thousand tunes. Actually thirty thousand tunes down the flusher because the I-Pod can't be fixed.

And that's life in 2005.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rose Fixer

This morning Ponytails and I were reading "The Sick Rose" from William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience.
Oh Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
in the howling storm

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy.
And his dark secret love,
does thy life destroy.

Crayons climbed up on the couch and waved her hands over my head. She explained, "I'm putting some water on you."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Crayons' Crafts


Crayons did not get her nickname for nothing. Lately no toilet paper tube, no box, no piece of paper has been safe from her creativity. Earlier this week she told me, "I want to make a paper plate caterpillar. I need paper plates and pipe cleaners." "Where did you get that idea from?" "I saw it on TV. So I have to make one, how about now?" (About five minutes before bedtime, this was. She finally agreed to wait until the next morning.) She did it almost all herself, with a little help punching holes to hold the paper plates together, and Mr. Caterpillar is now on the kitchen wall.

She also brought a book we have that has photographs of dollhouses and dolls, not understanding that this wasn't a craft book, and showed me a photograph of some rather weird-looking dolls. (Parental warning: preview before showing this picture to kids, one doll is a little exposed.) "Can we make this one?" Never one to say no...wait a minute...don't those faces look like white plastic picnic spoons? Which we just happened to have...aha. So, picnic spoon, pipe cleaner and straws for arms and legs, some fuzzy yarn for hair, and a Crayons-created marker face...which looks much happier than the original...and we have our dolly.

And then there are the toilet paper tubes I keep picking up that somehow have been turned into people...how can you throw those out?

I can't.

(Addendum: Ponytails made a doll later; hers is the one with the yellow hair, on the right.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Earrings, by Ponytails

Last week I got my ears pierced. Today is a week after I got my ears pierced, so today is my earrings' anniversary. The Apprentice got hers done too. The lady who did my ears took the gun and she put the earring through the gun, and clicked the button, and shot it into my ear. And it hurt! I'm being honest. :-P Actually it stinged, not hurt. She gave me heart earrings instead of balls. The Apprentice got balls. Coffeemamma, Ponytails is telling B that it doesn't hurt VERY much to get your ears pierced, and the stinging doesn't last long. It's over fast.

We started school and we finished Five Children and It. It was fun. Now can we watch the video, please???

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The deed is done

In recent Treehouse news, Ponytails and the Apprentice survived having their ears pierced and are looking forward to being able to take their studs out THE SAME WEEKEND AS PONYTAILS' BIRTHDAY. (Ponytails wants everyone to know that.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

And the answers are...

1. They waved their handkerchiefs until they turned the corner from New Dollar Street into Elm Street. Now they could no longer see the yellow house. Good-by, yellow house! Good-by!

The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes

2. That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew what it was. Its name was Happiness.

Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

3. The other [thing] is that back in our own world everyone soon started saying how Eustace had improved, and how “You’d never know him for the same boy”: everyone except Aunt Alberta, who said he had become very commonplace and tiresome and it must have been the influence of those Pevensie children.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis

4. None throws away the apple for the core.
But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
I know not but ‘twill make me dream again.

Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan (the poem that ends Book I)

5. The mouse hurried to his safe home.
He lit the fire,
he ate his supper,
and he finished reading his book.

Mouse Soup, by Arnold Lobel

6. And Montmorency, standing on his hind legs, before the window, peering out into the night, gave a short bark of decided concurrence with the toast.

Three Men in a Boat (not to mention the dog), by Jerome K. Jerome

7. To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen, is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced, that the General’s unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny,, or reward filial disobedience.

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

8. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

The Gospel of John

9. I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her. ALTERNATE ENDING I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview, for in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance that suffering had been stronger than XXX's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (he couldn't decide on an ending)

10. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said.

The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tim's Statistics

For Canadians: you know that TV commercial where the one couple is driving across Canada in one direction, and the van of guys is going the other direction, and they're both stopping at every Tim Horton's they see and keeping a tally on the window?

Well, just in case you ever wondered exactly how many doughnut places that would be, the number of locations for each province (and the US states that have them) are online here. Please note which province holds the record for the most stores. We plead guilty, we like Timbits too.
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