Monday, April 30, 2012

What we did in school today (Crayons' Year 5)

We read the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and sang Morning Has Broken.

Crayons started a Math Mammoth worksheet about months and years.  Her homework is to calculate how many days old she is.

We read a little bit of Evangeline.  Evangeline is still waiting for it to be tomorrow so that she can go hunt down Gabriel.  But these are my favourite lines from this section:
Then from his station aloft, at the head of the table, the herdsman...spake to his guests, who listened, and smiled as they listened:--
"Welcome once more, my friends, who long have been friendless and homeless,
Welcome once more to a home, that is better perchance than the old one!
Here no hungry winter congeals our blood like the rivers;
Here no stony ground provokes the wrath of the farmer.
Smoothly the ploughshare runs through the soil, as a keel through the water.
All the year round the orange-groves are in blossom; and grass grows
More in a single night than a whole Canadian summer..."
Aw, c'mon, we do get summer here too, you know.
We read about Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in June, 1897, using this short guide to the Royalty and Empire exhibit created in 1982.  This led into a discussion about Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, and the Queen's family, and what happened to Princess Margaret Rose (Crayons remembered her from an American Girl movie), and the hats that the princesses wore to The Wedding (which was a year ago yesterday).

Crayons did some copywork, and we did a quick review of the writing lessons about paragraphs.

We also read about how Alexander treated the female relatives of Darius after the battle of Issus (kindly), and about the reluctant king Abdalonymus of Sidon. (It's a good story, even if it seems like kind of a historical urban myth.) Crayons recreated both stories with her dolls afterward.

Oh, and we started reading Orphan at My Door, by Jean Little, one of the Dear Canada diary series.  It begins in the spring of 1897, is set in our part of Ontario, and it mentions the Jubilee, which is particularly important to the main character because her name is Victoria.  And that seemed an appropriate way to end the school day.  If you don't count a swimming lesson tonight.

What's for supper? Garlicky pasta casserole

Tonight's menu:

Pasta casserole:  Shell pasta, jarred Alfredo sauce (because we bought two jars and the Apprentice didn't use hers), cottage cheese-spinach layer (like lasagna), and mozzarella cheese
Mixture of cooked carrots and frozen vegetables

Choice of leftover/thawed cookies

Teaching them to read...and more...for very little money

Good reading for this week:  Valerie's post Teach a Child to Read for $1 or Less, at Frugal Hacks.

I taught the Apprentice to read for very little money, too, when she was between three and four years old.  It wasn't so much that I pushed her to learn so young, but she had been picking out alphabet letters for months already and was now demanding the rest of the reading secret.  She partly taught herself; I just filled in the gaps.  We used a combination of Ruth Beechick's reading booklet, a couple of library books (The Chalkboard in the Kitchen), and a yard-saled copy of Sidney Ledson's Teach Your Child to Read in 60 Days.  (And we found lots of books to read together.)

With the other Squirrelings, we used more of Charlotte Mason's reading methods (computers and printers make cutting up sentences a snap); but we included Ledson's Cheerios-and-egg-carton reading game (like this one) as well, because by that time it had become a family rite of passage to play "the game."

In any case, Spalding or Cheerios, Professor Phonics or Crayons' method, we agree with Valerie:  learning to read (for most children) does not have to be complicated or expensive.

A new era in Treehouse life

As of today, Mr. Fixit is taking leave from a stressful office job to pursue self-employment.

It's not something we were unprepared for, but it still feels a bit like the first time we pushed off on a two-wheeler without training wheels.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Life is too short to be too grim (Rumpole of the Bailey books)

Recently I  read two mysteries with a revive-somebody-old theme.  One of them was a recent Sherlock Holmes novel (Grandpa Squirrel lent it to us), not bad reading but with really a nasty crime at the bottom of it.  The other was a novel set in 1934 and starring the real-life mystery writer Josephine Tey as one of the main characters.  I finished it dutifully, but I really disliked it, for several reasons.  I never did figure out that blackmail subplot. And Josephine Tey didn't even get all that much to do in solving the mystery.  Besides, as someone else pointed out, Josephine Tey was just one of her pen names anyway, so it's not very believable that her closest friends would have called her that.

It wasn't until I got partway through Rumpole and the Golden Thread this week that I realized what was missing in those other books.  Humour.

I know the Rumpole books aren't strictly mysteries, they're lawyer stories that sometimes have a bit of a mystery attached, so maybe it's not fair to compare them.  But honestly, I would rather have a few 1980's laughs courtesy of John Mortimer than read any more of those grim and gritty newer novels, at least for awhile.  Rumpole doesn't forget that we need to laugh sometimes, even when life is less than perfect.  It's kind of the same reason we still like watching The Rockford Files.

And besides the frequent quotes and misquotes from The Oxford Book of English Verse, they enrich my vocabulary immensely with words like plonk.

P.S.  Grandpa Squirrel says he likes them just for the cover art.

What did we do in school today? (Crayons' Year 5)

We did the same group of opening songs and Bible verses that we've been reading all week.  I personally was a bit O-Canada'd out by today, but Crayons' two teddies (that have been participating this week during school) requested it again so they could practice their French.

We played a round of Professor Noggin's History of Canada card game.  Crayons won by two cards.

We read about how Evangeline was reunited with the father of her sweetheart Gabriel, but that she had just missed Gabriel himself going the other way (through the alligator swamp?).  Gabriel's father promises that they will track him down. 

We worked on a page of fractions review.

Mama Squirrel had planned that we'd read some of The Tempest together, but Crayons requested another chapter of The Adventures of Robin Hood instead. 

Our weekly work in Write Source 2000 continued with still more details about Mr. Brown the Gym Teacher.   Mr. Brown is dissected in descriptive paragraphs, narrative paragraphs, expository paragraphs, and persuasive paragraphs.  After discussing the difference between these, we each got out a novel, picked out a couple of good paragraphs to read to each other, and tried to sort them into their various types.  (Some did fit, some didn't.)

We read all about the Battle of Issus in Stories of Alexander the Great.  King Darius jumped out of his royal chariot and ran.  Alexander, bleeding and dirty but victorious, commandeered the tent of Darius and enjoyed the monarchical bathtub. Seriously:
But Darius' tent, which was full of splendid furniture and quantities of gold and silver, they reserved for Alexander himself, who, after he had put off his arms, went to bathe himself saying, 'Let us now cleanse ourselves from the toils of war in the bath of Darius.'

'Not so,' replied one of his followers, 'but in Alexander's rather; for the property of the conquered is and should be called the conqueror's.'

Here, when he beheld the bathing vessels, the water-pots, the pans, and the ointment boxes, all of gold curiously wrought, and smelt the fragrant odors with which the whole place was exquisitely perfumed, and from thence passed into a pavilion of great size and height, where the couches and tables and preparations for an entertainment were perfectly magnificent, he turned to those about him and said, 'This, it seems, is royalty.' --Plutarch of Chaeronea
Alexander the Great, by Rembrandt

Happy weekend!

Are your Yahoo groups not posting?

Yes, there's an issue with Yahoo Groups today.  Apparently their engineers are working on it.  That's all I know.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crochet Class #7: Final Project

We had our last in-real-life crochet class last Saturday, but I'm just getting around now to posting about it.

The girls had their choice of projects.  I suggested one of these two amigurumi pieces:

Cupcake, from Ana Paula's Amigurumi Patterns & Random Cuteness (photo: theirs) (I would suggest not working with such dark yarn for the base, though, especially if you're still new to crocheting.  Lighter colours make it easier to see the stitches.)
Birds of a Feather, from the BitterSweet blog (photo: theirs)

We had a few takers for the cupcake, and I think two for the bird.  Crayons decided to make a hamster instead (from a library book). (No photo yet--we'll take one when she's done.) 

All three patterns are very similar:  you start by making a flat single-crocheted circle (just like the mini hat), and then when it's big enough, you stop increasing and just work straight up for a certain number of rows.  The new technique that everyone had to learn was decreasing, because when you get near the top you have to get smaller again!  In the bird pattern, decreasing is written as "sc2 tog," meaning that you single crochet two stitches together.  The cupcake pattern calls it "dec 1," meaning that you decrease one stitch by working the two stitches together.  (Pattern reading is a skill in itself.)

Nobody got completely finished in the last class, but they all got off to a good start on the projects.  Each girl took home an "Each One Teach Two" certificate stating that she "is now qualified to be known officially as a crocheter; is granted all rights and privileges for the use of yarn and hooks in a fun and creative manner; and is authorized to share this new talent with at least two others."

And if you've followed us this far, you can go ahead and print one out too!  Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thrift Store Wednesdays: Liars, Rascals, and More

Found at the thrift store today (along with a bag full of little balls of yarn in interesting colours):

A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces, by Frederick Buechner

Books and Reading: A Book of Quotations, edited by Bill Bradfield (Dover Thrift)

Liars and Rascals: Mennonite Short Stories, edited by Hildi Froese Tiessen. I used to have a copy of this but sold it, so I brought this one home to look at a couple of the stories that I particularly liked. (Some I particularly didn't, so be warned.)

Also a couple of other books that might end up being gifts for people, so I can't say what they are.

Best book I didn't bring home: the great big Janson's History of Art. I priced it at $5, which is still a really good deal for somebody; I just didn't want it myself right now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

From the archives: Northrop Frye on young poets and weasel words

First posted April 2005

Two nice quotes from Northrop Frye:

As long as [a young poet] is writing primarily for himself, his thought will be rooted in private associations, images which are linked to ideas through his own hidden and unique memory. This is not his fault: he can write only what takes shape in his mind. It is his job to keep on writing and not get stuck at that point....Then he is likely to pass through a social, allegorical, or metaphysical phase, an awkward and painful phase for all concerned. Finally, a mysterious but unmistakable ring of authority begins to come into his writing, and simultaneously the texture simplifies, meaning and imagery become transparent, and the poetry becomes a pleasure instead of a duty to read.....Every once in awhile, we run across a poet who reminds us that when the lyrical impulse reaches maturity of expression, it is likely to be, as most lyrical poetry has always been, lilting in rhythm, pastoral in imagery, and uncomplicated in thought. –Northrop Frye, "Letters in Canada," 1953 (reviews collected in The Bush Garden)

He realizes that the enemy of poetry is not social evil but slipshod language, the weasel words that betray the free mind: he realizes that to create requires an objective serenity beyond all intruding moral worries about atomic bombs and race prejudice.–Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden, 1952 (speaking of Canadian poet Louis Dudek)

What we're doing in school today (Crayons' Grade 5)

Besides waiting for some predicted snow...this morning we had lots of reading.

We sang O Canada in English and French. Crayons is just beginning to learn the French words, so she mostly listened to that part.

We sang through the books of the Old Testament. Then Mama Squirrel sang it with "empty spaces," which Crayons had to fill in.

We read Psalm 148:1-6 together. ("Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord from the heavens.")

Mama Squirrel read a passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

We read a hymn by George Herbert ("King of glory, King of peace / I will love thee") and some of Longfellow's Evangeline.

Crayons finished a page from Math Mammoth.

We read a chapter (M.S. read, Crayons listened) about Alexander the Great. King Darius (the third) counted up all his troops by ten thousands, and took an inventory of all his shiny war stuff, in preparation for a battle with the Macedonians. When he asked the opinion of an advisor, Charidemus, Charidemus told him that what he needed was not more equipment but some well-trained Macedonians. King Darius responded, of course, by having Charidemus executed.

We reviewed where Alexander and King Darius fit into our big timeline; also Daniel (who lived during the time of Darius the first), David, Solomon, and George Washington.

We read two chapters from our new natural history book, The Loghouse Nest, about chickadees and cardinals.

We don't have much left for this afternoon except for copywork and science. We might fit in some Brahms. Also some crocheting--Crayons is making a hamster. Really. And she has some homework: one page of math, plus reading from The Prince and the Pauper.

Image from Wikipedia.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's not about recycling

"At the Global Tomorrow Coalition conference in Los Angeles in November 1989, a passionate young man from the Philippines, Maximo Kalaw...was asked what reforms he would need to see happening in North America to believe that we had indeed changed and would be fair and equitable partners in a sane, sustainable development process. He did not mention carpooling, recycling or even reduced consumer spending. He cited two things:
1. Beginning to work once again in community to solve our problems.
2. Reconnecting with our spirituality."--Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life, 1992
What do you think?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quote for the day: that's an all right kind of ignoramus to be.

"...I am nothing more than a plain unlettered man, not read in foreign languages, as a gentleman might be, nor gifted with long words (even in mine own tongue), save what I may have won from the Bible or Master William Shakespeare, whom, in the face of common opinion, I do value highly. In short, I am an ignoramus, but pretty well for a yeoman."--Lorna Doone

Friday, April 20, 2012

From the book sale

The pickings were a bit slim in the children's room, but the prices in there were reasonable and I did bring home a few books for the Scholastic shelf.

TX 1159 Charlie the Lonesome Cougar
TX 801 The Mad Scientists' Club
TX 1111 The Shaggy Dog
TX 945 Hans Brinker--oops, this one is abridged
TX 3330 The Magic of Oz
TJ 2904 Pigeon of Paris, by Natalie Savage Carlson (TJ's are harder to find)

I also found a French workbook...sort of a workbook...called Pourquoi? Comment?  I'm still figuring out what that's about.

In the main room I found copies of J.B., by Archibald MacLeish; Howard's End is on the Landing, by Susan Hill; a nice copy of Longfellow's Evangeline; an extra copy of Babies Need Books, probably to give away; and an Abbey Classics copy of Lorna Doone.  The cover art made it look like it's abridged, but I don't think it is--I'll check it against an online version, but it looks pretty genuine from here. (It turned out to be somewhat abridged, which surprised me since it was still full of dialect and didn't appear to be dumbed-down. Also I can't find anywhere on the book itself that says "abridged" or "adapted." But the Project Gutenberg version is definitely longer.)

So--not a bad trip!

What's up today in the Treehouse?

1.  I'm trying to get used to Blogger's new interface.  I feel like someone redecorated my house when my back was turned.  (Is that what the DHM meant about feeling like someone reorganized her kitchen?)

2.  The Apprentice is almost done her first-year exams.  I think she has one left next week.

3.  It's a teacher-development day for the public schools, so Ponytails is out sewing with some homeschooled/previously homeschooled friends. 

4.  Tomorrow is our last crochet class.

5.  Tonight and tomorrow are the big annual used book sale.

6.  Mr. Fixit has been hunting old radios lately.  He bought one to fix up called a Tombstone.  (When he told me he wanted to get a Tombstone, I was a bit worried until he explained.)

Photo found here.

Two kinds of oat flour muffins

Last night I had a committee meeting here, and the snacks had to be wheat free and dairy free.  (Oats were okay.)  So I ran some rolled oats through the food processor and made a batch of mini-muffins from the Common Room's Banana Oatmeal Bread recipe.  I had enough oat flour left to make these Carrot Spice Cupcakes from Canadian Living.  They're not meant to be wheat-free, but the oat flour does work in them--I just added a bit more than the cupful of all-purpose originally called for.  I also left out the nuts, and blended the last little bit of oat flour with some oil and cinnamon sugar to make a streusel sprinkle for the tops.

It worked!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thrift store Wednesday: memoirs and mysteries

The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln, translated by Marvin Lowenthal.  This is on the free reading list for Ambleside Online's Year 8, and Crayons is only in Year 5, but it's not the sort of book that comes around very often, so I bought it.

Rumpole and the Golden Thread, by John Mortimer.

Rumpole and the Age of Miracles, by John Mortimer

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, by John Mortimer

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What's for supper? Chicken thighs cacciatore

Tonight's dinner menu:

Boneless chicken thighs and mushrooms, baked in the toaster oven with Mama Squirrel's Diner-Style Sauce (clarification: the sauce ingredients, without the ground beef)
Butterfly (bow-tie) pasta
Cooked carrots

Vanilla pudding with blueberries

A fun way to learn about the Last Spike (Canadian History)

As shown on the Rick Mercer Report, 2010

From the archives: "Real world homeschoolers"

First posted December 2006.

The Deputy Headmistress keeps me up to date on Spunky's blog, where you can get a regular dose of the politics of homeschooling. As in, some people think we're weird. Some people think we're scary. That's what Athena was referring to--the recent Dr. Phil-related uproar over unschooling, homeschooling, and our poor kids who won't be able to handle the real world after their twelve years in the convent home.

The DHM mentioned this comment that somebody made on Suburban Turmoil [2012 updated link] (it's in the comments after the post she was talking about, and I think they were serious):
"I couldn't help but think that 12 hours in the typical public JC [junior college] would undo 12 years of homeschooling... or at least confuse the heck out of the kid. (Mom, there were people there with metal stuck in their tongues! And they were smoking! But they were nice: One of them offered to let me have one of the pills he was taking....)"
Listen, my kids, even the younger ones, have seen people with metal stuck in their tongues and other parts of their faces more times than I can count! One of the girls who checks out our groceries (it's a little hard to make out what she's saying sometimes, though--mumble mumble is thith romaine lettuth?); the woman who cuts their hair when it gets too wild for Mr. Fixit to handle; one of their (male) Sunday School teachers sported an earring...not to mention a teenage cousin who showed them her lovely belly button piercing...And gee, yes, they have seen people smoking before. And yep, they do know what taking drugs does to you...if they don't, we'll require that they watch Up in Smoke at least once before graduation.

Did the Apprentice go into culture shock when she started taking classes this year at a downtown-type, anything-goes public high school? No. She's not too worried by people with strange colours of hair (or no hair). Come on, this is the girl who told me years ago that she wanted some black lipstick...or maybe green. She knows what Goth is and several variations I've never even heard of. Does she want to be like that? No. She's always been completely her own person and, although it means we've sometimes bumped heads over things at home, it also means she's strong enough to make smart choices about fitting in or not fitting in at school. (Oh, by the way, her science teacher wrote on her report card that the Apprentice is a "role model for the other students." Proud mamma...)

Our kids are not in any sense "canaries in the minefield." Do they know any disabled people? Yes. Any non-Caucasian people? Yes, and they even have some brown Barbies. Did we design it that way, did we set up a year and a place to slot in a mixed-race family or someone in a wheelchair? No, that's just the way things go. Some people live in Detroit, some people live in corn country, some people have Somalis next door and some people go fifty years without seeing anyone of a different skin colour. You draw from what's around you, and you add to it by all those different places we get information these days: TV, books, the Internet.

Our kids have been "everyone is special-ed" to death on kids' TV shows. They've even listened to a "Free to Be You and Me" cassette (oh so '70's politically correct) and watched a video of Michael Jackson singing "We don't have to change at all" with Roberta Flack. They've also seen recent pictures of him. (What did he do to his nose?) Yes, they do know that there are people in the world who are not just like them. (Or like anybody else we've ever seen.) How could they not know?

Monday, April 16, 2012

What we learned in school today

How Alexander the Great conquered the Persians.

That Red Admiral butterflies love dandelions.

That Alexander Graham Bell claimed the patent on the telephone about two hours before another inventor showed up to do the same thing.

How Lucinda gave her little friend Trinket her first-ever Christmas tree (Roller Skates).

How Johannes Brahms wrote his Academic Festival Overture as both a "musical thank-you" and a memorial to his favourite summer vacation.  (This 1983 performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein is very entertaining.)

Forgot:  we started reading The Tempest today too.

Red admirals and dandelions

On a windy, warm spring day, we're suddenly inundated with both dandelions and butterflies--mostly Red Admirals.  I don't ever remember seeing so many butterflies in our yard at one time.  You stand in the grass and feel like you're in a butterfly conservatory.

Photo found on Wikipedia.

From the archives: This is too hard, boring, irrelevant

First posted April, 2006, just before the Apprentice started public high school; and she did eventually go on to university, but that, as we said here, was a later decision.

Mom makes us work too hard. Not another book! School is hard. If my children were talking Barbies, they might echo that unfortunate doll (who had her conversation chip yanked for saying that math is too hard).

Yes, the Apprentice and Ponytails do complain about school, lest you think that these Shakespeare-reading progeny do everything excellently without ever needing to be prodded (that's only true of other peoples' children, right?). After all, The Apprentice isn't planning on going to university anyway...she alternates between interests in hairdressing/cosmetics, photography, and computer information systems (maybe she'll figure out a way to do all of them). Why does this stuff matter?

So I have some alternatives. I could buy a fill-in-the-blanks homeschool curriculum instead of boring them with Thomas More or Winston Churchill. (Jane Austen and Charles Dickens don't get the "boring" face, for some reason.) I could let them follow their own interests completely. I could buy some of those prepared novel studies, comprehension workbooks, language textbooks, and spend a lot more time teaching them to write five-sentence paragraphs. (Squirrelings, that's not meant to be a threat--some homeschoolers spend a lot of time on those things because that's just the way they do school, and it works for them.)

I could send them to public school, so that they could develop the the following characteristics of current university students. (This list comes from Barbara Aggerholm's story "Educating the next wave" in The Record, April 24, 2006. I'm only including some of them.)
* "Doing" is more important than "knowing." In other words, what you know is less important than knowing where to get the answer. "You don't have to master the subject anymore," Sharpe said. [Associate Professor Bob Sharpe of Wilfrid Laurier University, who led a seminar about preparing for the next generation of students.]
* They have zero tolerance for delays. When they send an e-mail to a professor, they want an answer immediately.
* They're consumers rather than producers of knowledge.
* They blur the lines between consumer and creator by sampling information on the Internet and producing new forms of expression.
(That last one, in particular, intrigues me. It sounds like one of those creative report card comments that really means "He cheated on his term paper.")

Or we can keep on reading writers who are much wiser and better educated than we are, taking what we can from their thoughts, and making our responses to their books a central part of Treehouse homeschooling.

In spite of the grousing, there are those moments when I know that what we're doing is what we're supposed to be doing. Like when Ponytails asked for a James Whitcomb Riley poetry book at a booksale last year, or The Apprentice kindly found me a volume of Tennyson at this year's sale. Or when I found The Apprentice reading her Canadian history book without being reminded, or saw Ponytails poring over a map of Narnia. Or when The Apprentice found a creative way to make her science experiment work even though somebody discarded the plastic pop bottle she was hoarding. (Sorry.) Or when Ponytails was genuinely sad at finishing a biography of Galileo. Or when Crayons [then turning five] read me back part of the Charlotte's Web chapter we'd just finished together.

We'll try to understand that delays happen...there are disappointments...and that not everything's fun (though something can be enjoyable in its own way without being fun). Maybe the Squirrelings will be strange enough to think that knowing something is even more valuable than knowing where to look it up (or where to copy it from the Internet). Maybe when we've read Utopia and How to Read a Book and Whatever Happened to Justice, there won't be so many blurry lines. Maybe they will be subversive enough to think that they can be producers as well as consumers of knowledge.

If they turned out like that, I wouldn't mind at all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homeschool Store in the Cupboard: Planning for Grade Six (Ambleside Online)

Jeanne recently posted about how she goes about planning an Ambleside Online year. I've been doing some similar planning for next fall's AO Year 6, Crayons/Dollygirl's Grade 6 year. A lot of next year's material comes from our "homeschool store in the cupboard," either because we already had the recommended book from previous Squirrelings, or because, here and there, we are substituting for books we have a) already read or b) can't get hold of or can't afford, and because I want to add some Canadian content.

AO Year 6 daily lessons include Penmanship or Copywork, Math, Foreign language (French), Latin, and Musical Instrument Practice. We will not likely be doing Latin next year, and Crayons doesn't play an instrument, so those are crossed out.

The weekly lessons are Art Appreciation, Art, Grammar, work with timelines and maps, Handicrafts, Music Appreciation (including folksongs and hymns), Nature Study, One Life from Plutarch (per term), and a Shakespeare play (per term). The only major change I am making--just for this year--is that we will not be doing Plutarch in the second and third terms. That's not because Plutarch isn't important, but because those terms are already focused on Greek and Roman history and for us it seems like overkill. When I read Augustus Caesar's World last year with Ponytails, I found it was such a packed-full book that we could have used extra time on it. (It's not just a biography of Augustus Caesar: there are sections on Eastern religions, a survey of Old Testament history, a retelling of the Aeneid, lists of Roman gods and goddesses, a story by Horace, and more.  I even learned some things about King Herod that I never knew before.)

These are the booklists for the specific subject areas, with my notes:

Bible: Like Jeanne, I'd like Crayons to make Bible reading more of a personal habit rather than a school subject. But during school time this year, I'm hoping to study the first half of Francis Schaeffer's booklet Basic Bible Studies. Also, the AO year's work includes Ruth Beechick's Genesis: Finding Our Roots, the novel The Bronze Bow, and optional biographies of Nate Saint and Brother Andrew. All of those we can count under Bible and Christian Studies. I would also like to include a book by Isobel Kuhn (Crayons appreciates some female content, plus Mrs. Kuhn was a Canadian).

Year 6 History is a mixture: the first term covers the end of World War I to present day, and the other two terms are ancient history. The WWI period has always been a bit tricky to "Canadianize," whether you try to fit it in at the end of Year 5 or leave it until Year 6. I think there's just more Canadian material to cover, even for Year Sixes, than there is American; maybe because we were in the war longer, I'm not sure. Anyway, the other girls never got through WWI by the end of Year 5, but with Crayons we are going a bit faster and should be more on track with that.

For Term 1, AO suggests either the older books Story of Mankind or A Child's History of the World, plus Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World, Vol 4: The Modern Age. We'll do just the Bauer chapters, plus the 20th-century chapters from Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore's Story of Canada. We also have Scholastic's Everything You Need to Know About Canadian Social Studies Homework, and Don Gillmor's big illustrated Canada: A People's History Volume Two.

History for terms two and three includes Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber, and Story of the Romans by H. A. Guerber. We do not own the Guerber books, but we do have Mary Macgregor's Story of Rome and Story of Greece. Or we can read the Guerber books online at The Baldwin Project.

Along with the regular history books, the AO booklist includes a section of History Tales and/or Biography. The Christian-history book Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula is used throughout the AO years, but we sold our copy to someone else, so won't be using it this year. If we're already including the Christian biographies and Genesis, Finding Our Roots with the Christian studies, the only biography left in this section is Never Give In (about Winston Churchill), to be read in the third term. Some of the other free reading books are biographies or personal experiences as well, like The Von Trapp Family Singers. So I don't think we're short on those.

We may include Douglas Bond's fourth Mr. Pipes book, The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries, since we're not reading Trial and Triumph. Ponytails read it last year in Grade 8, and she found it fairly tough going.

Citizenship:  This section is not included in Ambleside until Year 7, but since we are not doing much Plutarch, I wanted to include something else such as Ourselves or an Uncle Eric book.  We just bought “Uncle Eric” Talks About Personal, Career & Financial Security, and I think some parts of it would work well for Crayons next year.  (Some parts are obviously aimed more at older students or adults.)  Also, it's meant to come before Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, which we read in Year 7.

Geography:  The suggested book is The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding.  We read about Livingstone this year already and don't really want to study him again.  But I think the suggested science book The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson could also work for geography.  We have copies of both the Young Reader's Edition, which has lots of maps, and a "commemorative edition" with photographs.  Sometime between now and September, I might have time to put together a "treehouse study guide" for Crayons.

Natural History/Science:
We are not great at sticking with The Handbook of Nature Study, although we've used some of the outdoor challenges on the HNS blog.  Some of the things that make nature study more motivating for Crayons are working in a group, going out looking for specific things (such as different kinds of autumn leaves), and studying high-interest topics such as favourite animals.  Note to self: see if we can get into some kind of co-op this year that includes nature study.

Book list for nature and science:
School of the Woods by William J. Long --moving this to free reading
The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson  --moving this to geography
It Couldn't Just Happen by Lawrence Richards --already read with Ponytails.

Instead of the other suggested alternatives, we will plan to use Christian Kids Explore Physics, since we already have that book, and since Mr. Fixit used it successfully with Ponytails in her grade 7 year.

Science Biography: 
* Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik OR Ordinary Genius by Stephanie McPherson--we don't own either of these books, but we can borrow them.  We just bought the Albert Einstein Inventor's Special DVD.
** Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick--we just bought this as well.
*** Galileo and the Magic Numbers by Sidney Rosen--we read this already in Year 3, so we may find something else to read in the third term.

Penmanship/Copywork, Grammar, Composition  Along with oral and written narrations and studied dictation, I am planning to include some work on study skills and writing from the book Write Source 2000 (a slightly younger version of Writer's Inc.).  We do have the Tan level of Learning Language Arts Through Literature (bought for this year and not used much), but there's not much point in forcing what isn't working well.  I think the less workbooky approach of a handbook would be a better choice for next year.

Mathematics:  we'll most likely be using Math Mammoth Light Blue Grade 6. Or at least starting it...if it takes us into grade 7, that's fine too.  (Just looking at all those topics, I get the feeling that it might.)
This course covers
•the four operations and exponents
•simple equations and expressions
•ratios and problems involving ratios
•proportions, scaling of geometric figures, and scaling in maps
•all operations with decimals
•primes and prime factorization
•all operations with fractions
•geometry: angle problems and calculations, area of polygons, congruent transformations, similar figures, Pi & area and circumference of a circle, surface area and volume of common solids.
•integers: all four operations and the coordinate grid
•statistics and probability
Foreign Language:  I bought the next level of Mission Monde.  I'm not sure whether to consider it a good thing or not that we will be doing a second year about Burundi.  I'm also finding this program pretty packed--you do a lot of different things in a short time, and I'm not sure how much Crayons is getting down solid.  I think we have to pick out a few grammar points etc. that we really want to focus on over the year, work a lot on those, and let some of the rest go.  I do know as well that when you get to high school French, it Starts All Over Again.  Frustrating, but true.

Latin:  I'm pretty sure that French will be enough for this year.

* Robert Frost
** Carl Sandburg / we may substitute a Canadian poet
*** Alfred Noyes

Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch ch 29 (Ulysses) - end (Druids)
* ** The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
** Animal Farm by George Orwell
*** The Iliad  - perhaps Black Ships before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff --this one we've already read, so we'll probably choose something else for this term.

Art and Music Appreciation:  We'll probably follow the AO rotation for these, possibly incorporating some Canadian artists.

Additional Books for Free Reading
I'm not including the whole list here--you can go to the AO Year 6 booklist and see them if you want.  There are a few on the list that Crayons has already read, but quite a few that she hasn't.

And that's all the planning that I've done so far.  Hey, it's only April.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Crocheting with...pajamas? (Updated with Crissy photos)

I brought two small balls of yarn home yesterday from the thrift store. They were unlabelled, so I don't know the exact name, but they're a kind of fleece ribbon yarn, in a multicoloured pink-orange-melon mix. When you crochet with it, it's like handling thin strips of very soft flannelette pajama fabric. Very fun to work with; I didn't even know this kind of yarn existed, but the Apprentice filled me in. (She used to read knitting blogs.) I think it would be great stuff for making baby blankets.  (Apparently people even make their own "fleece yarn" out of leftover fabric, just like making t-shirt yarn.  If you had a lot of fleece fabric and a rotary cutter--and the time to slice it up--it might be a good free/frugal project.)

But since I only had a small amount, I decided to make a poncho for Crayons' doll. I crocheted two 4 x 9 inch rectangles last night, and they're ready to sew together and fringe. Actually I might let Crayons do that this morning. And there's enough left for a hat or maybe a pair of pants to go with the poncho. 

UPDATE:  I finished the poncho myself, and Crayons helped me a bit with the hat. (She pointed out that this would be good yarn to learn to crochet with, since it doesn't split.)   I was planning on making the poncho for an 18-inch doll, but it was a bit small (Crissy is slimmer and about 17 inches tall)), and anyway the colours fit Crissy's 1972 style.  If you want to make one for an American Girl or other larger doll, you'd probably want to make the rectangles a bit bigger, and check to make sure it fits around the head and shoulders.

The hat honestly looks better in real life than it does in the photo--it's one of those groovy head-huggers, but the photo makes it look more like a hair dryer cap.

I used most of the leftover yarn to make a washcloth (shown in the photo).  Total cost of doll clothes + washcloth:  $1.  Yeah!

Photos by Mr. Fixit, 2012.  Bell bottoms made by Mama Squirrel.

What's for supper? Crescent roll potpie

Tonight's dinner menu (really cleaning out the fridge):

Chicken potpie, made with leftover cooked chicken, frozen peas, cut up carrots and celery, chicken-flavoured white sauce (made with milk and bouillon powder), and cheese; heated till bubbly in a 9 x 13 inch pan and then topped with the contents of a can of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls--that is, the whole flat sheet of dough--and baked until the biscuits were done.  (That sounds extravagant, but crescent rolls were on sale again last week.)

Salad made with lettuce, apples, and a bit of coleslaw mix (cabbage and grated carrot)

And things on the table for whoever wanted them:  almonds, applesauce, etc.

From the archives: just another week of homeschool, five years ago

First posted February 2007, after the Apprentice had started high school.  Ponytails and Dollygirl/Crayons were in fourth grade and kindergarten.

Over the space of two days this week I catalogued this list of activities that went on here, most of them outside of "regular learning time." Let's see...we had an art lesson with Jan Brett, and Ponytails did a couple of fraction pages. Crayons did some pages in a yard-saled pre-writing workbook (trace the round snowmen and draw scarves on them).

We read a chapter of Sajo and the Beaver People and a story from the Red Fairy Book.

They had lots of imaginary play with Lego blocks, and then got out every preschool jigsaw puzzle we have (the ones they haven't done for a year) and built them all over the floor. [Clarification on "imaginary play"--not that they imagined they were playing, but they were using all their imaginary people. When little girls play Lego, it gets combined with storytelling. Little people made of stacks of Lego blocks get new hairdos and redecorate their rooms.]

They played in the snow, and helped shovel it.

Ponytails made a quick batch of peanut-butter treats. She noticed that my Valentine's Day bunch of tulips had opened up and looked just like the flower diagram in the Botany book, so we got that out and compared. (We also read this week about seed dispersal and how that helped inspire the invention of Velcro.)

They watched "The Borrowers" (the old movie with Eddie Albert), listened to Dad's Bob Dylan and Neil Young tapes, went to their dance lessons.

They built their own Stonehenges out of building blocks, after looking at Constable's painting.

We looked at a map of southern Ontario, flipped it over to look at Northern Ontario, and noticed how far north of that Hudson Bay goes (to get an idea of Really Cold. We're reading about fur traders and Arctic exploration).
Ponytails cleaned out a dishpan full of her old papers and magazines, reading things to me as she went (such as how astronauts blow their noses in space). During that time I was writing on the couch with Crayons beside me, who is determined to read through the entire Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by herself. ("What's a burr?" she asked. A what? Oh, a bureau. A fancy word for dresser. "Okay." There, simple vocabulary lesson accomplished.)

And, and, and--the highlight--the electric typewriter. It was Ponytails' idea to drag it out of the basement and start typing on it, but all THREE of the Squirrelings needed a little refresher course on the pre-computer keyboard. (Where's the Enter key?) Ponytails typed a letter to a friend. Crayons just typed.

From the archives, on my grandfather's birthday

Originally posted November, 2005.  Reposted today because it would have been grandpa's 105th birthday.

I promised to post about some of the old treehouses I used to know, the ones that were never short of bedrooms although they didn't have some of the other frills that usually go along with big houses today.

The first was a board-and-batten house that my grandparents bought in about 1950 and lived in for forty years. When I read Understood Betsy as a child, I imagined Aunt Abigail's kitchen as looking something like my grandmother's, including the big old dog sleeping under the table. My grandfather panelled the walls of the kitchen in rec-room style knotty pine, and built the cupboards to match. Because the cellar was just a fruit cellar, Grandma had a washer and dryer at one end of the kitchen, and when they were both going at once they made the floor shake, while she worked around the house either whistling or singing hymns, always the same ones. The stove was a gas one, the kind you had to flick a spark at to light a burner. (Unique in my experience, up to to then.)

There was a door going out to a side part of the house that was my grandpa's woodworking shop...if you can imagine part of a city house that was about as unfinished inside as you can get. In some ways, this wasn't a city house at all, but a farmhouse that had somehow sprouted on a busy street corner. When you came in through the back door, you came in through more unfinished space...but who needed it fancy? It was a good place to leave your snowy boots.

The house smelled of dogs and pipe smoke, and bacon and cake and other things to eat that weren't good for you. There was a piano missing the white stuff on half of its keys, which we could bang on all we wanted (that's probably how the keys lost their white stuff)...there was a big square parking area instead of a driveway, which seemed entirely natural--didn't all grandparents need a parking lot for all the relatives' cars? I've heard stories about how my two uncles, as teenagers, used to sling a jalopy up to the nearest tree with a rope so they could work on its undersides.

There were funny slopy walls in the bedrooms: four bedrooms in the main part of the house, and another room built over the kitchen that you climbed up to from the mudroom. Ownership of the bedrooms got shifted around over the years, especially as the makeup of families shifted around and children and grandchildren ended up living back at Grandma's for a short or long period of time. My sister and I stayed there too, overnight or on days we were sick, or during spring break. I remember once doing something at Grandma's similar to the DHM's children (see her posts about The Equuschick Can Still See). I ran way too fast down the stairs into the front hall and put my hand right through the glass of the front door. I'm sure I wasn't the first person to bleed all over Grandma's house...and she bandaged me up and didn't scold too much. (I guess it was lucky she was a nurse.)

I always thought of that house as a relaxed place. Not fancy, kind of cluttered, not clean down to the last corner (how could it be with so many people coming in and out?); but in tune with the busy, giving, practical people who lived there. The dining room table magically expanded to fit everybody who showed up for Christmas dinner, and the bedrooms somehow stretched to fit as many cousins as required. So different from some of the houses we've looked at of them had a tiny dining area built on a kind of balcony...definitely meant for four and no more, and what would you do then if your grandchildren came for supper? Have them sit on the railing? And what would be so wrong with just building an upstairs with an extra bedroom?

My grandparents' house didn't have any garage at all...actually, most of the places I lived in growing up didn't have garages either. It didn't have air conditioning. It didn't have a rec room. But it did have room.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Friday school plans (Crayons' Grade 5)

Bible reading: Gospel of Matthew 25:14-46 The parable of the talents; the sheep and the goats.
Science: Soap Science. "Soap Smarts," part one of two. What happens when you mix oil and water? Why does that show how soap works? What's the difference between soap and detergent?

French: quick review of yesterday's work.

Biography: A Passion for the Impossible (Lillias Trotter), finishing chapter 10. "It fell to the three women to make sense of the endless holes and corners, to distinguish huge cupboards embedded in the walls from tiny, windowless rooms. With characteristic gusto they tackled the domestic challenge. First, they explored their new domicile, discovering twenty-five rooms (including stable, cellars, and mosque), of which only eight were inhabitable given the lack of air and light..."

English Composition, using Write Source 2000: Sections 75 to 77, Building Paragraphs. Write a descriptive paragraph of someone (human or animal), after examining the sample "Mr. Brown, the gym teacher."  (Also read Meg's description of her dog Robbie in Jean Little's Spring Begins in March.)

History and Geography games:  Usborne Map of the World Jigsaw.

Math: "Subtracting Big Numbers." What's six million minus four hundred thousand? What's one billion minus two hundred million? Not so easy to do mental math with these!

Artistic Pursuits: unit on Balance. Extra time today to make some art.

Quote for the day: After the fall(s)

"The first fall led to God's expulsion of humans from the Garden of Eden. The second fall occurred when we returned the favor."--James Emery White, Serious Times

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays

There were lots and lots of book boxes to sort at the thrift store today. The problem was that most of them turned out to be full of fiction, and the back-room shelf storage for fiction is limited, so novels mostly have to stay in their banana boxes until somebody comes in to price them. I don't usually price fiction (except for the classics shelf), because there are already other volunteers who like to do those books. So I just dug through the boxes the best that I could, to pick out the barbecue cookbooks, wedding planners, house-wiring books, Frank Sinatra bios, etc. etc.

We didn't bring much home today: a decorating book and a copy of A Man for All Seasons (the book, not the movie) for me; a few Polly Pockets for Crayons. We did drop off another box of videos and books on the way in (we're clearing a lot out).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Smells like fall, in the spring: Apple Cake

What's for dessert tonight?  Chef Earl's Streusel Apple Raisin Muffins, baked in two 9 x 13 inch cake pans.  (I made a double batch and froze most of it in sandwich bags for school lunches and quick breakfasts.)

P.S.  I left out the extra white sugar--it's sweet enough without it.

From the archives: Little Tim and the Timbits

Originally posted April 2006. Crayons was not quite five.

Tonight I was reading our family favourite Little Tim and The Brave Sea Captain to Crayons. Then she read some of it back to me. In the story, Tim stows away on a ship and is made to work as a cabin boy. And then the weather gets rough. Crayons read,

"But alas, Tim soon began to feel sick, and when he went down to the galley he could not eat any of the titbits that the cook gave him."

Only she read it "any of the Timbits."

Well, it WAS a Little Tim story.

Postscript: Crayons now says that she wants to be a sailor too.

From the archives: More fractured expressions

Originally posted August 2008

Part One:

One from the back of an Arthur video: "Will Arthur spend the rest of his life at D.W.'s beckon call, endlessly fetching ginger ale and playing Crazy-eights?"

Shame on the Arthur people for letting that one get by.

And yet when I googled "beckon call" it appeared not only on lists of expressions that certain people get confused, but in many other places online.

Just so we all know--it's "beck and call." You can beckon Arthur to fetch you gingerale, but when you make him your slave, he's at your beck and call.

Part Two:

Today Crayons told me she was so cold she was getting "goof bumps."

Aren't kids funny, I thought--isn't that original?

Well, I googled that one too, and noticed that several other peoples' kids beat Crayons to it, which doesn't bother me at all, it was still funny--but when I noticed that several adults also referred to "goof bumps," it did make me wonder. "I felt goof bumps washing over my arms. This was one of the few times I actually felt I belonged, at least partially to the group. ..." This was my favourite, though:
"I got goof bumps and everythin." Larry slammed the desk again. "You killed them. Squirrel! You shot Gus. You shot him and you shot Luisa and you shot Paul. ...
Oh my...that writing is so good it gives me goof bumps.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Don't lose the thread of the story: something to read today

The Literary Form: Friend or Foe?, by Dr. Carroll Smith, on the Childlight U.S.A. Weblog.
"Much educational practice today bypasses the story. Are we not proud of our children who have memorized all the state/province capitols? Yet, if [Charlotte] Mason is correct, it is not enough to know the facts about that state or province, but to know the people, their heroes (both male and female), their dreams and struggles, their overcoming obstacles. Memorizing capitols is to invest our children in atomised bits of information that really do not “inform” us, enrich our lives or add ideas to our minds. Throughout her educational treatises, Mason continually brings us back to the narrative or the literary form, not facts, skills, memorization, but the power and necessity of the narrative. Why might this be? What do others make of this issue?"

Related posts

Notes from a book talk
There are no guarantees, but it's still worth our time
It Makes Some People Very Nervous...
Do we pick our mental mentors, or do they pick us?

Answers to the Easter Book Quiz

The Easter Book Quiz is here.

1. There were two late breakfasts at the Malone home that noon....

Meet the Malones, by Lenora Mattingly Weber

2. "Maybe I'll just give up acting and design hats..."

Spiderweb for Two, by Elizabeth Enright

3. Emma had given up Little Debbies...

These High, Green Hills, by Jan Karon

4. Business was good that Easter...

The Tin Drum, by Gunter Grass

5. I was standing on the bank of the River Goltva...

"Easter Eve," by Anton Chekhov

6. Ellie and Brenda were already fighting...

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson

Saturday, April 07, 2012

From the archives: The sheep are scattered

First posted April 2007

One year when The Apprentice was very, very small--probably just turning three--I put a piece of green paper on the kitchen wall, about ten days before Easter. I cut out small paper sheep from a Sunday-School pattern, and also a shepherd. Every day we added more sheep to the picture. We may have drawn flowers and things on our "field" too--I don't remember. By the Thursday before Easter we had quite a few sheep. We talked about how the shepherd takes care of the sheep and makes sure they are all where they belong.

When The Apprentice woke up on Good Friday, the shepherd was missing from the picture. Some of the sheep were gone as well. The others were all topsy-turvy or stuck somewhere else on the wall. I told her that this is Good Friday and people were sad today because Jesus the shepherd was gone.

I've wondered since then if that was kind of a mean thing to do to a little kid. Some children (Ponytails) probably would not have taken the missing sheep too well. But The Apprentice caught the idea all right. When we went to church and things were sad and serious, she "understood" why.

The scene remained a mess until Sunday morning: and then the shepherd was back in the picture, with sheep jumping all over him. We celebrated! We hurrahed! Jesus came back! The sheep were back!

And it was--I think--later that day that an older relative asked The Apprentice if an Easter Bunny had visited her. The Apprentice looked at her blankly. The relative then said kindly, "She's just too young to understand Easter."

An Easter Book Quiz

Good, bad, sad, ugly, funny, reverent.  (Sorry I've only come up with six so far...I may add to this one later on.)  Name the book, the author, or both.  Happy Easter! Answers are here.

1.  There were two late breakfasts at the M home that noon.  One in the dining room with a color scheme of yellow jonquils and lavender candles; even the broiled grapefruit fitted into it.  That was Nonna's breakfast.  The other was out under the weeping willow in the back yard, with the warmest sun April could manage out in full force after the rain.  And the color scheme of this breakfast was as reckless as nature itself.  For, as fast as the children found their baskets of colored eggs, they ran to the table with them....Nonna's broiled chicken and dollar-sized biscuits monopolized the kitchen range.  The outdoor breakfast party ate yesterday's bran muffins with the bacon and drank cocoa.

2.  "Maybe I'll just give up acting and design hats when I grow up," said M, with pins in her mouth.  "Honestly, R, look at us; don't we look fashionable?"  "Uh-hunh, pretty sharp," said R with mild enthusiasm; he hardly seemed to see the hats at all.  But when, in all their finery, they went out to get into the Motor to go to church, the first thing they saw was Lorna Doone, the horse, greedily cropping crocuses on the front lawn, and on her head she, too, was wearing a new bonnet: a dashing creation made up of a feather duster, some paper roses, and family toothbrushes arranged in a cockade, all tastefully held in place with adhesive tape and the cord from somebody's pajamas.

3.  Emma had given up Little Debbies for Lent three years ago, a sacrifice he deeply appreciated. Being in the same room with a Little Debbie of any variety was more temptation than he could handle.

4.  Business was good that Easter, even though, at the insistence of Matzerath, who was Protestant, the shop had to be closed on Good Friday.  Mama, who generally had her way in most matters, gave in on Good Fridays and closed the shop, demanding in return the right on Catholic grounds to close the shop for Corpus Christi, to replace the boxes of Persil and display packages of Kaffee-Hag in the window with a small, colorful picture of Mary, illuminated with electric lights, and to take part in the procession in Oliva.

5.  I was standing on the bank of the River Goltva, waiting for the ferry-boat from the other side. At ordinary times the Goltva is a humble stream of moderate size, silent and pensive, gently glimmering from behind thick reeds; but now a regular lake lay stretched out before me. The waters of spring, running riot, had overflowed both banks and flooded both sides of the river for a long distance, submerging vegetable gardens, hayfields and marshes, so that it was no unusual thing to meet poplars and bushes sticking out above the surface of the water and looking in the darkness like grim solitary crags.

The weather seemed to me magnificent. It was dark, yet I could see the trees, the water and the people.... The world was lighted by the stars, which were scattered thickly all over the sky. I don't remember ever seeing so many stars. Literally one could not have put a finger in between them. There were some as big as a goose's egg, others tiny as hempseed.... They had come out for the festival procession, every one of them, little and big, washed, renewed and joyful, and everyone of them was softly twinkling its beams. The sky was reflected in the water; the stars were bathing in its dark depths and trembling with the quivering eddies. The air was warm and still.... Here and there, far away on the further bank in the impenetrable darkness, several bright red lights were gleaming....

6.  Ellie and Brenda were already fighting about what they were going to wear to church.  Since Momma got mad at the preacher three years back, Easter was the only time in the year that the Aarons went to church and it was a big deal....Ellie said she would go to chuirch if Momma would let her wear the see-through blouse, and Brenda would go if she at least got a new skirt.  In the end everyone got something new except Jess and his dad, neither of whom cared...

What happened to the crochet class?

We had to postpone our last real-life class, due to chicken pox one week (not the Squirrelings, another crocheter was poxy) and the homeschool conference last Saturday.  So the hat-making class will take place today, and later this month I'll post about the final project.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hymn for Good Friday: "From heaven you came," by Graham Kendrick

Good Friday feasting and fasting: a quote from Mitford

"Good Friday was a fast day, and though Cynthia later vowed she'd asked for something "very simple," Lily-who-cooks-for-parties had done herself proud.

"Cheese grits, bacon, fried apples, scrambled eggs, drop biscuits, and cream gravy sat in bowls and platters on the pine table.  She had also fried up half the sausage...How could he eat such a feast when his commitment was to fast?

"'Anyhow, it ain't from me; it's from Daisy.  Daisy does sausage.  I don't have nothin' to do with sausage makin'!  No, sir, it's way too messy.  I'll never make no sausage...'

"'I believe Lily is the one who also sews, dear.'

"'Oh, no, ma'am, that's Rose as sews.  I'm not facilitated to do nothin' but cook an' clean.'

"'Let's pray,' he said."--Jan Karon, Light from Heaven

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Maundy Thursday: a quote from Mitford

"The cross stood in the center of the bare pine table, draped in purple.

"Cold air, and with it a noxious sift of creosote, flowed down the broken chimney and seeped around the plywood into the kitchen. Though Cynthia had done what she could to freshen things up, the malodorous smell permeated the room.

"It was a time in the church year that always moved and jolted him. He'd sat in many a church on this night, with only candles lighting the nave, sorrowing over His suffering and death, keeping watch for His resurrection. Indeed, he'd never known any way to receive the authentic joy of Easter without entering into this dark hour....He pulled the candlestick closer and read aloud from the Gospels of Luke and John in the old prayer book."--Jan Karon, Light from Heaven

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Crayons' Grade Five: Thursday School Plans

Bible:  Matthew 24:15-31  (Signs of the end)

Readaloud:  finish the "William Shakespeare" chapter of Roller Skates

French:  Work on the preposition "à" (to).  Listen to the French story "Jonas wants a cat."

Poetry:  continue "Evangeline" from "Four times the sun had risen and set" to "Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth moved on that mournful procession."

History:  Learning about the beginnings of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Math:  Division review worksheet

Music:  More about Brahms

Literature or biography:  Robin Hood, chapter 2

Copywork:  passage from Robin Hood or "Evangeline"

Nature study:  look at the April nature calendar.  See what spring plants, critters, and birds are around.

Free reading:  The Prince and the Pauper.

Thrift store Wednesdays

Books we found today at the thrift store:
Sharks, by Ann McGovern.  Vintage Scholastic paperback.

Adventures of a Whale, by Eleanor Clymer.  Another vintage Scholastic book.  I remember reading this one!

Fire in the Sky: Story of a Boy of Pompeii, by Lois Hamilton Fuller.  "A well-plotted mystery centered around Rufus, a schoolboy, who is drawn into political intrigue."

How to Pay Less for Just About Anything: 2753 Insider Ideas to Make your Money Go Further.  Reader's Digest Books.  (This is the 2005 Canadian edition.)  And I guess I did already, since it came from the thrift store.

What's for supper?

Tonight's dinner menu after our afternoon out:

Hungarian smoked sausage (that was spicy!), cooked in the slow cooker with sauerkraut and acorn squash
Reheated kasha
Lettuce, sliced cucumbers, leftover bean salad, cottage cheese, applesauce

Fancy dessert glasses with a big spoonful of blackberry crisp, a little spoonful of vanilla yogurt, and a few extra thawed blackberries on top

Can they do enough math to know they're being cheated?

I had planned to repost this 2007 post today (both the part about our own homeschool and the comparison with the third grade math class at the end of the post), and then someone sent me a link to a recent Macleans' Magazine article on the sorry situation in Canadian math teaching.  It reminded me even more of the educational Blerwm (see the old post) that continues to spew, particularly in the elementary schools.  If this situation doesn't make you furious for our children--that is, the children of this generation, even if we homeschoolers have taught our own offspring better--I don't know what would. And it's not just that they grow up cheated on math:  the same applies to standards in reading, writing, and other skills that, until recently, were considered within the normal scope of a child's education.

And what makes me even angrier for these children is that we non-experts, the home-teaching parents who may or may not have college-level math courses or education credentials (many homeschoolers do have advanced degrees), seem to be doing better than the current average at math education, almost without trying.  Some of it's the curriculum homeschoolers use--certain popular programs are known to be a level or two over traditional North American math goals, so kids using them would seem a bit ahead anyway. But even if we take math slow and simple, we have this crazy advantage over the current hands-tied school situation: most of us parents, especially those of us over a certain age, were taught with traditional math methods, and that's what we pass on to our kids.  Here's how you multiply fractions, here's how you divide them.  None of this messing with paper strips. 

It doesn't matter why we do it, though, so much as whether or not it works.  Can our kids add, subtract, multiply, divide?  Can they make change?  Can they figure out a percentage?  Do they just have a good sense of how numbers work?  Apparently the kids taught with the any-way-that-works-for-you method can't, and don't. When they get to high school, where math is still taught using more traditional methods, a lot of them flounder.

Are you laughing in disbelief at this point?  I'm more ready to spit.  Crayons has been suggesting that she might like to go to public school for grade six, just to try it out like Ponytails did.  Sorry: with this amount of un-teaching going on in Canadian schools, that would be my last choice for her for next year. 

Here's the relevant part from our 2007 post:

But on the other hand, there was an article today in the local paper about math teaching in public schools, that tipped things back towards thinking again that we must be doing all right.
"Recently [the grade 3 teacher] taught the children to count by fives, using Popsicle sticks. She had them sit in a circle and line up four Popsicle sticks in a row, with a coloured one laid diagonally across each pile.

"Then she asked how many Popsicle sticks there were. One student crawled into the middle of the circle and counted up the piles: "Five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 45 . . ." he said and paused at the final two sticks. "Forty-seven" he called.

"The class applauded him. 'Good job!' she praised, and then sent the children to sit down with worksheets where they again had to add the "bundles" of lines arranged five to a pile.

"Instead of having the children write down the correct totals, though, she had them choose the right answer from some numbers printed on the bottom of the sheet. They were to cut out the right number and glue it in the proper spot.

"The children were enjoying cutting and feeling the texture of the glue stick under their fingernails.

"'Children at this age are very visual and very kinesthetic,' she said. They learn by seeing and often need to move around while learning, even if it's just working with glue."
OK, I know it's still September, and maybe that was a review lesson--but cutting and pasting answers in grade 3? And Crayons (grade 1) has been doing that same kind of counting-by-fives-plus-whatever's-left. Without crawling on the floor, I might add. Or needing to get glue stick under her fingernails.

Related posts:
Multiplication without vexation (2008)
Cookie Connections

Linked from the Carnival of Homeschooling, April 2012

From the archives: A five-year-old, a goofy math lesson, and the virtual C-rods are back!

Originally posted April, 2007. Do you remember that a site called arcytech used to have a Java version of Cuisenaire rods? Just last night I came across They have a similar Cuisenaire rods online activity, and I wanted to pass that on anyone who might like to play around with them.

People often want to know how to use Cuisenaire rods, and the main thing they think of is putting them together to add.

If their kids don't want or need to use them that way, the rods get discarded. But there are many other reasons and ways to use them! Today's math lesson with Crayons illustrated that for me.

First of all, I didn't think I'd actually be using the Orange book (the first Miquon workbook) with her this year; I had planned on waiting until first grade. However, she's an eager beaver and somehow or other I got bamboozled into letting her do a lot of the Orange pages.

A couple of days ago I decided to try--just out of interest--seeing if she could grasp the "2 3's" multiplication idea that is introduced in the Orange book. I showed her that we can write a "thing that looks like a letter X" in between the numbers and so "2 x 3" is read as "2 3's."

(Now, those of you who don't have Miquon workbooks handy, be patient--I'll try and describe as clearly as I can what went on here.)

Yesterday I had her do just the left-hand column of page F-4--several examples of repeated addition. 8 + 8, 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3, and so on. She used a pile of white rods (one cm long each, so they usually represent 1) and made groups of threes (or whatever), then counted them up to find the answer. (On this page, it's not required that you actually find these sums; I just had her do it for some adding/counting practice.)

Today I had her do the right-hand column, which is to match multiplication expressions (2 x 8, 5 x 3) with the addition expressions from yesterday. I just had her say the left-hand column out loud (how many 8's do you see? 2 8's) and then find the matching expression on the right.

THEN--for the next page, F-5, which is very similar, a column of multiplication to be matched up with repeated addition expressions--we had a bit more fun. First I took the right sets of rods for each expression (4 5's (4 yellow 5cm rods), 3 2's (3 red 2cm rods) etc.) and put all the sets on the floor underneath the book. She had to read 4 x 5 ("Four fives") and then point to the right group (she thought that was really easy).

And then this was the neat part, because Crayons kind of made it her own. (If I had said, "Gee, I have a funny idea--let's clap for the rods," it would have seemed strange.) I started having her read the right-hand column (on this page it's the reverse of the other one--the right-hand column has the repeated addition). She said, "2 + 2 + 2. 3 2's." Then she moved the set of three red rods up ahead of the rest, as if they were getting a prize at the front of the class. We both had to clap for the 3 2's. (And she drew the lines to connect them on the page.) Then the 4 5's came up to the front and we clapped. There was a bit of confusion when the 6's weren't sure whether it was the 2 6's turn to go up or the 6 6's, but they eventually straightened themselves out. The 6 6's also turned out to be terrible show-offs (they came up humming "We are the Champions"), and they boasted that they had "more wood" than any of the other sets. So at the very end (not really part of the page), we had every "team" line themselves up against each other to see which came out the longest--and sure enough, the 6 6's did come out way ahead of the others. It was also noted that the 3 7's lined up together were just a bit longer than the 4 5's.

And there was more applause for all the "teams," and the math lesson was over.

Only with a five-year-old...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

What's for supper? Something fun with salmon

Tonight's dinner menu:

Salmon Cups (a mixture of canned salmon and cream cheese baked in crescent-roll-dough-lined muffin tins; refrigerated crescent rolls were on sale last week)
Fluffy Kasha (buckwheat kasha mixed with an egg, toasted in the pot and then cooked with boiling water)
Leftover meatloaf, leftover bean salad, carrot sticks, cheddar cheese

Leftover dessert (blackberry crisp, cut up oranges)

Last night's supper menu: Something sustaining

Mr. Fixit's Favourite Meatloaf, from the Betty Crocker Cookbook
Sweet potatoes
Spinach tortellini
Bean salad (made with a can of romano beans and a can of green beans)

Choice of: no-bake brownies, blackberry crisp, oranges, yogurt

Festival of Frugality #330: Before You Take Out a Lion Edition

Sometimes I just read things too fast.

When I first looked at What Should You Try Before You Take Out a Loan?, posted at Budget Snob, I thought it said "What Should You Try Before You Take Out a Lion?"

As in, put 'em up, put 'em up.

So that's the title and theme of this week's Festival of Frugality.  Mis-readings, mis-understandings, mis-takes, and more. But first we'll give out three "Dreams That You Dare to Dream Really Do Come True" awards to some parents who (obviously) have a brain:

1. Start Investing Money presents What Does Investing in Kids Really Mean? "One of the best gifts you can give your kids is to teach them about money and how to handle it."

2. Brip Blap presents What Message Are You Sending?  "If a parent thinks they are being nice to a child by giving in to their every desire – giving them a “perfect childhood” – they are laying the groundwork for the road to (financial) hell." Brip Blap also has a question: if you were designing a financial-sense t-shirt, what would it say?

3.  Steadfast Finances presents 7 Smart Tips For Teaching Your Kids About Money.

And we present a "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" award to Money Spruce, who sent in an unfortunately-titled post with an interesting premise: "To me, it’s simple why it came out this way: we love hearing that the path we’ve chosen is the right one and the best one. We love these little stories that we can point to and say “I knew I was doing the right thing!” It’s music to the ears. At the same time, it’s often frustrating and even annoying to hear about people that disagree with how you approach things."

Now on to some money mistakes.

Stupid Cents presents Don’t Buy More Vehicle than You Need. "Simply put, we bought too much car, and we paid for our mistake."

Simply Investing presents The Biggest Investment Mistakes Canadians Are Making. "Nothing can trigger an emotional meltdown like watching your investment funds diminish when the stock market is having a bad day."

Add Vodka presents Ridiculous Things I Do to Save or Make Money. Example: "In January, I waited in a parking lot for an hour and a half between meetings instead of going home, just to save gas. The thing that made this unbelievably dumb is that I was only 7 minutes from home."

One Cent at a Time presents some scary statistics in How Rampant is Impulse Buying, Info-graphics. "When we blog about impulse buying, we always talk (and probably think) about major purchases in malls that we make, usually the ones which cost more than a couple of $10 bills. But, even a $2 item can be purchased impulsively."

Credit, Eh presents Watch Out for These Top 12 Canadian Scams. "Someone shows up and offers to perform a service, such as roofing. You pay part of the money up front, and nothing comes of it."

Boomer & Echo presents a review of How Not To Move Back In With Your Parents

(How to fix your mistakes? Budgeting in the Fun Stuff presents what she learned as a Hunger Games Fan. "Have a backup plan. This applies to money and everything else.")

Watch out for things you might mis-read:

Master the Art of Saving presents Make Money While Drinking Beer?  "Over the last week, I’ve gotten two spam emails stating that I can indeed make money while drinking beer."

My University Money warns that Credit Cards Are Dangerous For Students. Simple Finance Blog has a different take on credit in Sorry, Dave Ramsey: I Still Use Credit Cards. "I learned that if I have the cold, hard cash in my house, I’ll most likely spend it." She might be interested in Card Hub's The Best Credit Cards for Every Stage of Life .

How about some misunderstandings?

Work Save Live presents 6 Things You Must Discuss Before You Get Married. "As a financial coach I’m consistently surprised as to how ignorant each spouse is of their husband/wife’s spending habits."

Married with Debt presents Wage Slavery and Money Myths. "If the wheels stop moving, people might realize that they don’t need electric toothbrushes and cloud pillows."

Mama Squirrel (that's me) had a little price misunderstanding while looking for homeschool books.

Thousandaire presents an economics lesson in Would You Destroy An Entire Industry?

Canadian Finance Blog presents Could it be Worth it to Spend More Money?. "Sometimes, it is worth it to spend more for a better experience, such as buying good quality dark chocolate." No arguments on that one. But Fat Guy, Skinny Wallet reminds you to compare your options and look for lower prices, and  Self-help Happiness Blog is also Searching High and Low for a Deal.

Got questions? Ask Professor Marvel:

Finance Fox presents How Do We Measure Success? "If the ultimate goal is to feel successful, what is the measurement we should be using to achieve that feeling?"

Faithful With A Few presents Roth Vs Traditional IRA: Which One Is Best For You?

Canadian Personal Finance presents Are Financial Advisors and Financial Analysts the Same or Different?

Now on to this week's no-mistakes frugal stuff:

How to save some money:

Living in Financial Excellence presents Intro to Couponing. . .Get More for Less. "Couponing takes time, it’s slow at first but don’t worry and don’t get overwhelmed by all the information, little by little it will sink in and you will be saving like a pro."

The Penny Hoarder presents How to Save 10 Percent on Your Grocery Bill Without Cutting a Single Coupon. "If you’re one of those people or you’re somebody who uses coupons, but wants to save even more, I’ve got an unconventional way to cut the grocery bill."

NerdWallet reviews an online bill management system in Buried in Bills? Use Manilla to Cut Down on Clutter.

Frugal Confessions presents Consumers are Sale-Desensitized, and for Good Reason. "To most retailers today, products are on sale all the time. Well, by definition that just does not work."

Money Talks Coaching presents Saving For College; How to do it and why you shouldn't feel guilty for not. And Young Family Finance presents How Much to Save for College.  What do you do once you get there? Free Money Wisdom presents What Should You Do With Your First Pay Check in College?  Maybe you can spend it with a friend: Green Panda Treehouse presents Dating When You’re A Poor College Student.

For frugal beginners: Money Infant presents 10 Things You Can Do to Get Out of Debt Starting Today, and PT Money Personal Finance presents 7 Ways to Start Saving Money Today. But if you're really desperate, check out Extreme Frugality at 20s Finances. Using public restrooms to save on toilet paper? Okay...

Smart on Money presents Why the Savvy Shoppers Are All Online. "Here are some secrets that savvy shoppers use when shopping or researching online."  Everything Financehas more shopping tips in Keeping Up with Your Technology - Buy Used and Buy Often.

How to make some money:

See Debt Run reviews

Modest Money presents Starting A Side Business. "I decided that I was going to start my own website and see if I could put my new website marketing skills to use. I just had to think up an idea." Money Reasonspresents a similar idea with Can A Side Blogging Business Help You At Your Primary Job.

MoneySmartGuides presents Buy and Hold: The Path to Wealth. "How do you avoid being another average investor? Buy and hold."

The Millionaire Nurse Blog presents Are You A Scared Twenty Something Investor? "You’re a millennial. You’re investing as if you’ve survived the Great Depression. How will you have the needed money to retire when the time comes?"

"Click your heels three times and say 'there's no place like home.'"

The Frugal Toad presents Saving Money for a Home Down Payment.

Your Finances Simplified presents 30 Tips For First Time Home Buyers.

Personal Dividends presents How to Take Advantage of the Soft Real Estate Market. "You could be the only person who’s made an offer on the property in months, and that puts all the advantages in your corner." But Funancials reminds us in Should Homeownership Still Be The American Dream? that "If you aren’t disciplined enough to save up 20% of a home’s purchase price, you shouldn’t be buying."

Financial Success for Young Adults presents How to Save in Your New Home. "Whether you are renting or are lucky enough to own your own home it’s important to make sure you aren’t paying out too much for the essentials."

Retire Happy Blog presents Moving, downsizing and simplifying in retirement.

More frugal home stuff:

One Money Design presents Six Helpful Tips to Get You Spring Cleaning on a Budget. "...households spend BILLIONS OF DOLLARS every year on household cleaning products. That is a lot being spent on fancy, name brand furniture polish, floor cleaners, and toilet scrub!"

Growing Organically found some great thrifted homeschool stuff in The power of THRIFT.

ChristianPF presents 6 Ways To Save Money Gardening.  What to do with what you grow? Prairie Eco Thrifter presents Canning Can Be Cheap! "As you can see, there is a lot of equipment and accessories that are needed for canning. But, acquiring these items need not break the bank if you know where to look."

Sustainable Personal Finance presents Building Your Home Food Storage. "With the right planning, you can create a home food storage that prepares you for the future — and is largely sustainable."

The Common Room presents Budget Grocery Shopping. "Basic tips on how plan a menu using the local sales flyers, make your shopping list and do the grocery shopping using the least time and gas possible for the most savings."

Frugal Cool breaks out her slow cooker in The must-have kitchen appliance.

Personal Finance Journey presents Quick Meals for Week Nights.

Saving Advice presents 27 Healthy Foods that Don't Cost a Fortune. "The trick to eating healthy on a budget is to eat “real” foods." (Maybe not talking ones, though.)

"Don't cry, you'll rust yourself again":

One Money Design presents Frugal Kitchen Tips: Frugal Kitchen Appliances.  "Almost everyone who has ever burned through multiple blenders, toasters, or coffee makers, dreads having to go through the process of purchasing a replacement."  Can you say "toaster oven?"

Frugality on the road:

Free Money Finance reviews some tips on The Best Days and Times to Buy a Car.

Money Counselor presents Gas Cost and Fuel Efficiency. "Many car owners are beginning to wonder: When does it pay to buy a hybrid or other ultra fuel efficient vehicle?"

Mom's Plans presents Our Experience Staying in a Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) Instead of a Hotel.

Lazy Man and Money presents Visiting New Orleans on a Budget.

In case of flying monkeys and other emergencies:

Grocery Alerts presents Where to find the cheapest drug dispensing fees in Canada? "If you take prescription medications in Canada and do not have health insurance with your employer, our post will save you some money."

Faith and Finance presents Health Insurance Options for Self Employed Individuals. "Whether you are just starting out as a self employed individual or have owned your own business for years, it’s a good idea to consider your health insurance options."

My Broken Coin presents Healthcare: Two Sides of One Story. "Not a lot of people realize or know what countries across the ocean offer to their people in terms of healthcare. When a few months ago I went back home, to Lithuania, I was fascinated by some of the benefits people have access to."

That's the end of this week's Festival of Frugality. Next week's Festival will be hosted by One Smart Dollar. As always, send your entries through the form here, before the Monday night deadline.

Images from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
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