Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Check's in the Mail

Some of our geography books.

It really is. In the mail, that is. The check. Along with our registration for the 2010 National Geographic Bee. Sent certified.

The folks at NatGeo are amazing. About 6,000,000 children compete in the Bee every year, from thousands of schools and homeschooling groups. The efforts to organize this thing must be phenomenal. I can't even imagine.

And do you know what those good folks did? They called me to make sure we were registering this year.

G studying with maps that H made.

Let me back up a bit. Austin Area Homeschoolers (actually yours truly, for the benefit of yours truly's oldest kid) has been the organizer for the Bee for homeschoolers in Austin for the last three years. NatGeo allows only one homeschooling Bee per city or town, probably to keep homeschoolers from having a bunch of small Bees in each city. So in Austin, we're it - at least we have been for the last three years.

This year, I needed to talk to someone at NatGeo before sending in our registration, and I hadn't gotten around to it yet. (I know ... shocker.) You can imagine my surprise when I picked up the phone and heard, "Hello, this is Erin from the National Geographic Bee."

It turns out that another homeschooling group in Austin had sent in their registration. I would have figured that it would be "First come, first served." I certainly wouldn't have expected that they would take the time to call.

I know it's not like one of them said, "Hey, here's a registration from a group in Austin that's not Austin Area Homeschoolers. Hmm. Maybe I should call Camille and see what's up." It's just that I think it's nice to have the personal touch occasionally, especially from such a huge organization. And it's awfully nice that they gave us the option of hosting, especially since they could have said, "You snooze, you lose."

Guess their mama raised them right.

G at last year's state bee.

So we're it once again. This year G wants to go all the way to Washington. Indeed, he wants to make Texas the first state to win the National Bee two years in a row. He has a tough road ahead of him, but I know he can do it if he continues to study the way he has been and has a smidgen of luck.
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Geography Games and you might want to check out G's GeoBee study site, GeoBee Universe.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Following a Child's Wonder

I'm a bit slow on the update sometimes.

When did you "rediscover" your sense of wonder at the world? If you're like most parents, your eyes began sparkling at new-fallen rain and your ears began ringing to the tunes of early morning birds awaking to the dawn. Perhaps you walked through the world hunched over, following your toddler around, noticing the yellow brilliance of the daisy and the pungence of freshly mown grass.

Then again, maybe you were like me. I spent those early years of toddlerhood mostly slogging through the days, grateful if I got a shower, if my kids ate something other than peanut butter on a spoon out of the jar, and if we were no more than thirty minutes late to playgroup. I was so busy surviving the challenges of a high-need preschooler while dragging along an unwitting toddler and newborn that the nuances of a sunset or the harmonic shades of an orchestra went entirely unnoticed.

I probably would have liked to have enjoyed them; I just didn't notice.

For me, my reawakening to the wonders of the world didn't come until my kids were old enough to start having real discussions - with me or each other. When they were mature enough to have their own opinions and debate their merits, well, that was when my brain really clicked in.

Wow!, I thought. These kids look at the world in an entirely different light! Where they see crimson or scarlet, I see red. Where they hear rain pattering or bacon frying, I hear static. Where they see rainbows and swirls, I see oil spots on the driveway.

Their creativity has opened by mind to vast possibilities I'd never before thought about. History interesting? You don't say! Geography useful and fascinating? Who would've known! Drama worthwhile? Couldn't have imagined it! Improv mind expanding? No kidding!

Now that my kids are older, my mind expands farther than I ever expected. I used to think that I loved to learn, but my kids have taught me otherwise - I only thought I did. Now I know what loving to learn means. In part, it means opening your mind enough to learn about things that you never thought you were interested in, and being thrilled to find that there was an entire world out there that you'd missed. It means admitting that you don't know much and letting others teach you - others who might not be otherwise seen as likely teachers. It means stretching your views to encompass more than what you believe, to perhaps have your mind changed by lively, enthusiastic, and sometimes even hot-headed debate.

These days my children are the leaders in so many things. I rarely consider myself a teacher. I'm more a facilitator or an enabler ... or a student.

And that's just fine with me.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy What We Give Our Kids.

Photo by gamier20 from here

And "The Giving Tree" Goes to ...

Victoria! Who doesn't need to go to the library for the book now. Hope you, Bean, and Miss O enjoy the book!

Thanks to everyone who entered, either through comments or off list!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Maces, Chain Mail, and 4-Year-Old Knights

Last Friday's co-op class was great fun. We talked about the Middle Ages and knights, which lasted for all of about 6.5 minutes, which also seems to be the attention span of a group of seven boys between the ages of 4 and 7.

The first thing we did was try on chain mail and a full-size helmet, generously lent to us by another mom in the co-op.

T modeling the chain mail.

Next on the agenda was making maces. I'd thought about making flails, but the chain seemed too iffy, considering that young kids would be doing the work. One nice thing about these maces was that they were too delicate to whack. So the boys carried them reverently home instead of swinging them willy nilly out in the parking lot.

Our "authentic" mace. Looks pretty good, doesn't it? This one was made by a 6-year-old.

Here the maces stand (paint drying), like bizarre torturous flowers that Roald Dahl might find lining a lush green yard.

This class is turning out to be a hoot. Granted, we hang by our fingernails on the edge of mayhem just about every minute we're in there, but our fingernails are mighty strong. Actually, the first 3 or 4 minutes are pretty calm, when the kids pick out the country we're studying on the world map and tell me all about what they know about it. So that only leaves, say, 57 minutes or so of hot glue, duct tape, sticks, whacks, and scuffles. No problem.

Surprisingly, it's difficult to find a craft for weapon making for this age group. The craft needs to do 3 things: 1) be doable for 4-year-olds, 2) look reasonably authentic, and 3) be safe. You'd be amazed at how hard it is to come up with something that meets all those requirement that you can do in an hour.

S's turn to model the armor and helmet. Can ya dig that warrior grimace?

So, did you guess yet how the maces were made?

Candy corn, along with wooden dowels, styrofoam balls, and metallic paint. Pretty clever, huh?

Our not-so intimidating unpainted maces. Now these look like they were made by 4-year-olds!

If you liked this post, you might enjoy Casualties: 1 ... and Counting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Today I'm oh so grateful for running water. Recently our water pressure decreased drastically for a short while, and I was amazed at how nervous that made me. My parents live out in the Texas Hill Country, and they live off a spring. At the height of this year's drought, they were squeaking by on a trickle of water until it finally went dry for a few weeks, when they were living off of water stored in plastic jugs. The town a few miles away was being delivered water by truck.

Their water is running again, and their pump is working now, so all seems to be okay. They can shower, wash clothes, wash dishes, and make ice. It was tough for them for a stretch.

But it makes me hyperaware of how much we depend on water. Now every time I rinse my dishes I notice how much water runs into the drain. Every time I wash my hands I think of all that clean water that's wasted.

Every day I'm reminded of our dwindling water supply and how we need to preserve it. No great ideas here tonight, just gratitude for the recent rains and for indoor running water, available, hot or cold, at a moment's notice.

Photo of dripping water by naughty architect from here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Giveaway - The Giving Tree

In honor of all the offers of help I received when my parents came into town unexpectedly with a medical crisis a couple of weeks ago, I'm giving away a copy of The Giving Tree.

Entry is a two-step process this time (I'm going to make you work for it):

1. Comment here or email me offlist at about whether you love or hate this book (or have no opinion at all), and

2. Tell one of your homeschooling friends or attachment parenting friends (or any other friends) to enter too!

(Obviously, I won't know if you've done #2 - oops, sorry, that sounds bad - so you're on the honor system.) I'll pick the winner by random drawing on Tuesday morning. Deadline is Monday at midnight CST.
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Sunday's Gratitude Post from September 13.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Geography Games

I frequently have people ask me how G studies for geography, and I never have a good answer. He uses tons of different resources - atlases, encyclopedias, online sources, books, audiobooks, videos, map work with Dad, and other resources - so there are far too many to list. (If you're really interested, you can look at our geography bee website, GeoBeeUniverse, to see an incomplete listing under "Resources.")

When they ask, I usually hem and haw and finally just shrug and smile. But one thing I tell them that we did a lot of early on was play games.

We have a number of online geography games listed on our "Fun Stuff" page on GeoBeeUniverse (one of G's favorites is Traveler IQ Challenge), but these are by no means all. There are tons of great options online; it just takes some digging to find the best.

I'll list a few of our favorite board games here.

Take Off! was a perennial favorite. We came back to this game again and again. The map (playing board) was beautiful and durable, and the kids loved the tiny little fleets of jets. One thing we all liked about it was that we could play cooperatively.

The Borderline games were some of our favorites.

Unfortunately, they seem to be discontinued in some places, but Rainbow Resource had Borderline World and Borderline Europe. We have USA and World and played them many, many times. One of the great things about this game(s) is that it's only a bit bigger than the size of a deck of cards, so it's portable. Perfect for tucking in your bag to pull out while waiting in line with cranky kids.

This game we played some, but it wasn't one we came back to as often as Borderline.

A couple of geography games that we have heard are fun but don't own:

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Cooperative Games.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A good day

Today was one of my favorite types of homeschooling days. We didn't have to be anywhere until late afternoon, and we spent the morning doing our own thing and coming together after lunch for some group work.

We laughed through my off-the-cuff writing/editing lesson, where my kids fixed my "crappiest story of all time, Mom." I can't imagine why they said that. Here, I reproduce for you my story in its entirety. I'm sure you'll agree it's prize-winning material:

bob wanted to spend the day at the beach on his vacation so he loaded up his station waggon and drove down to the beach at the end of island where there was a nice sandy quiet beach with alot of nice white sand once he was there he set up his umbrela and chair and cooler and decided to swim so he went into the water and started swimming because he thought it would be nice to have a swim he went out as deep as his knees and then thought that would be a nice place to start swimming he started swimming and saw that a big shark was heading his way he got very upset when the shark started swimming his way and then bit his legs off he got even more upset when the shark bit off both his arms bob then realized that he couuldnt swim any more he was upset when he realized that he wouldnt be able to swim back to shoar this incident made him realize that he was appropriattly named since he was bobbing in the water bob was so boring and tasteles that the shark vomited up bobs arms and legs where bob was surprised to see that they magicly reattached themselves the end

Okay, so maybe it's not great. Maybe it's not even good. Okay, okay, it stinks. That's the point. They're supposed to make it into something decent, even if the finished product doesn't approach greatness. Unfortunately, I'd made the story so very bad, so horrible, so completely without merit that we ran out of time fixing it. Poor bobbing Bob will have to wait another day to have his story written in gripping prose.

Next on the agenda was reading together. Today we read in Discover magazine"20 Things You Didn't Know about Eclipses." The 20 Things article, found at the back of every magazine, is a favorite read-aloud of ours. The highlight of today's article was when we were talking about symmetry, and S misheard me and said that symmetry was this place where people were laid out in rows after they'd died. Huh? It took me two beats to realize that she was talking about a cemetery. We rolled on the floor laughing about that one for at least five minutes.

But the best part of the day was one of those in-person learning experiences. Those are the best kinds, because the kids see the learning in real life, rather than just reading it in a book or seeing it in an educational video.

The display in my friend's beautiful house. It was splendid.

Today we visited the home of my gracious friend, R, who invited us to visit for Navaratri, a special festival in India - nine nights and ten days of celebration and dancing. (We were only there for an hour of it.) Our mutual friend, Deepa, sang traditional songs in the most beautiful, melodious voice. The entire house - adults and children alike - were entranced. The kids came home talking about the dolls that were displayed, the delectable food that R cooked, and the rich culture of India. She even gave me dinner - home-cooked Indian food, no less - to give to H.

G talked about how India was one of his favorite countries to study because of its incredible history and culture.

What was S's favorite thing? Well, the adorable little wooden elephant that was our gift from R, of course. It's now gracing the lock on the back door.

S's favorite part of our day.

Thank you, my friends, for making our day so special.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Dangerous Books.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Casualties: 1 ... and Counting

Boys dueling with their "shinai"

I'm a bit late in posting this, but it was too good to ignore. Two Fridays ago was the first week of our weekly cooperative, cleverly called "Friday Co-op," because, well, it's on Fridays. This semester I'm responsible for seven - yes, seven - 4 to 7 year old boys.

In a class called "Arms & Armor."

About weapons.

Weapons they make.

Weapons they beat each other up with.

Yes, you read that right. A class of seven boys, all between the ages of 4 and 7, all geared up to learn about and make weapons for the sole purpose of whacking each other with them. My challenge (let's just go ahead and call it Mission Impossible, shall we?) is to provide these little bundles of destructive energy with a safe learning experience, with the emphasis on safe and a side helping of learning.

To say that it's challenging to find a way to come up with a craft to make a replica of an ancient weapon that's possible for a 4 year old to make, that looks reasonably close, and that's safe is, well, challenging. Ha.

Gearing up to whack someone.

So the first week we visited Japan, talked about Kendo, made shinai (which you see in use here), made shurikens, and talked a bit about the samurai. And only one kid got injured. One out of seven. Pretty good, I'd say.

The boys showing off their handwork.

Last week we did blowdart guns and warrior shields from Borneo, and we talked a bit about the island and its indigenous people, but unfortunately I forgot my camera so didn't get pictures. No one got injured, and only one kid had a hysterical breakdown. Again, pretty good.

This week I'm planning on a quick jaunt to medieval Europe, with plans to make a mace (not to be confused with a flail) and a breastplate. One of our remarkable moms at Co-op lent me her chainmail to show the kids. It's amazing.

I'll post pictures of that after this Friday's class and give a casualty count. Stay tuned.
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Gearing up for School.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Was Right ... It IS a Conspiracy!

It's happened again ...

I don't know what went wrong. Was it because I left the door open between the laundry room and the kitchen? Was it because the refrigerator is in the same room as the microwave - within talking distance? Or maybe it's that the appliances are all texting each other or having conversations on their cell phones, much like this New York oven.

Whatever the reason, I know this to be true: they're all in cahoots. Today our microwave bit the dust.

At this rate, we'll have every household appliance replaced by next summer. Aargh.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like The Great Machine Uprising.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Tonight I'm grateful to be in my own home with my family. I'm grateful that my parents are back in their own home, under the temporary care of my middle sister. I'm grateful that my mom's doctors figured out her pacemaker problem and (hopefully) got it solved. I'm grateful that, for a brief time at least, my father knew me and played with my children. I'll be grateful for that for as long as it lasts.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Today I'm grateful for lots of things. My father's laugh. My mother's voice. My friends' kindnesses.

My mom was back in the emergency room last Thursday for yet another heart issue. Again, our world was turned upside down. I spent a night without sleep with my mother in the ER waiting for test results, speaking reassuring words, and hoping for the best.

The next morning was the first day of our Friday Co-op, which the kids have been looking forward to all summer. I was a wreck, but our homeschooling friends were supportive and helpful, and I even had one of them bring us dinner that night. I've had so many friends offer such an immeasurable amount of help that it truly astounds me.

One of the joys of the last few days was the time I've spent with my dad. Although he's slipping slowly into the well of dementia, he still is himself in many ways and still is joyful. The kids have always enjoyed his humor, giving him the nickname of The Teaser many years ago. It warmed my heart to see them still have fun with him.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Quote for the Day

"I'm going to beat you when we get home."

--Me, threatening my kids (in jest) to make sure they "behaved" at this week's API meeting

"At what?"

--G, spoken like a truely attached kid, who doesn't even get threats of physical violence. How am I supposed to exert my momly power when my kids aren't even intimidated?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama Stole It from Me

I have to admit that over the Labor Day weekend, I was pretty much in a hole. A nice, warm, cozy hole that I didn't want to emerge from.

That may be why I didn't read any of the pre-speech details regarding Obama's speech yesterday. Oh, I was aware that people were up in arms about it, worrying that brainwashing tentacles were going to emerge from the television set and wrap their sucker tips around the neurons of any unsuspecting school-age humans who happened to be watching. Honestly, I didn't know enough about the speech to know if it was going to be political or not. Frankly, I didn't care too much, since I don't have much in the way of political leanings.

But I did think it would be useful to have the kids watch the speech, mostly because it was a hot topic and because it was given by our president. Much in the same way that I'll have them watch at least some of tonight's speech. It's all part of our homeschooling curriculum (if what we do can be called a curriculum).

So I was pleased when we all gathered around the television today (after hours of struggling with getting the damned computer hooked up to go through the screen) to watch the few minutes of speech.

Know why I was pleased? Because Obama gave the same speech that I give on a regular basis, in slightly different wording. It goes something like this:

"Smarts aren't enough. Hard work matters more than talent. Sometimes work isn't fun. Failure leads to success. Joy, confidence, happiness, and satisfaction come from success in life."

Okay, so he elaborated a bit. My hope is that my kids will listen to him much more than they listen to me, especially when it comes to the motivation factor. S kept looking at me throughout the speech, with a look that said, "Where have I heard that before?"

I'm just glad that they heard someone else they respect saying the same sorts of things that I've said in the past. It always helps when my kids learn from more than one source, especially a source other than Mom occasionally, and from someone who's at the top of the heap.

And maybe some of it will stick.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Creativity of Children

My post today is today's blog post on API Speaks, Attachment Parenting International's blog.

I’m always amazed at the creativity of children ... which happens, frequently, in spite of my best efforts. Let me explain.

Sometimes I’m just too helpful for everyone’s own good. On those occasions when we have small day-to-day hurdles, my first inclination is to make everything better. Over the years, however, I’ve learned that the best solutions to these little life strifes is to let the kids work things out for themselves, with as much guidance as is needed, but only as much.

Like everyone else, I work to maintain family harmony. But when we have these little obstacles--and yes, we do have them (shocker!)--I try to remember that these opportunities allow my children’s stunning ingenuity to shine through. They remind me that if I just close my mouth and listen to what my children have to say, they’ll frequently astound me with their creativity.

Their ideas are fresh and honest and not shackled by memories of failures and expectations of future success. I find that I, by contrast, am hampered by constraints in my adult thinking, and if I simply let them brainstorm--and get the heck out of their way--the results are frequently startling and spectacular.

Case in point ...

Here in Texas we have a tax-free shopping weekend just before public school starts. I try to save up my shopping for the year and do it all in this weekend to take advantage of the sales that go along with it. Like many other people this year, we’ve been watching our pennies and stretching them as far as they’ll go without snapping.

This year’s shopping trip was pretty slim, since I was buying only essentials. Unfortunately, the hand-me-downs my 11-year-old daughter has thrived on in the past have run out, and she’s been inconsiderate enough to grow quickly, so she needed just about every item of clothing possible. We ended up buying just enough to get by, expecting that she’ll soon have outgrown these clothes too. Every choice she and I made was chosen with care and an eye to function and cost.

So imagine my dismay when, after spending a full day battling the shopping mobs (not something I do with gusto on the best day) and watching our bank account whittle down to token numbers, I found crumpled, discarded, and wadded up items of brand-new clothing scattered across the house.

(As an aside, I totally “get” that. I have fond memories of coming home after a similar shopping trip at a similar age and trying on every single item we’d purchased and leaving them strewn across my bed and floor - and of course, my mom getting mad. Sigh.)

You might think my first reaction was to talk calmly with my daughter about the importance of taking care of her new things, after which she immediately thanked me for my insight and proceeded to hang up her clothing with loving care and a skip in her step.

Um, no.

Instead, I started to fly off the handle--after all, we’d had this conversation a million times before, but it hadn’t stuck yet--and she began to get angry and dig in her heels. Well, I’d been down the Low Road of arguing before, and I didn’t much relish yet another journey. I stepped back, breathed, and asked her if she’d be willing to brainstorm with me. She was willing but a bit wary, since I have to fight my natural inclination to "solve" problems and make things cheery. She’s known me long enough to know that once in a great while I lose that battle and I force everybody to kiss and make up. (Hey, I’m not perfect.)

I laid out the reasons why I was angry--that I felt like my time and our money weren’t valued and thus, by default, that her dad and I weren't being respected--and asked her if those reasons made sense to her. Then I shut up. Really hard for me. Excruciating. I had all sorts of witty quips and clever solutions that I wanted to pronounce, proclaiming my mom-ish mastery of handling all things problematic.

But I shut up. She went away, ostensibly to think about it. Bad Mom figured she was simply avoiding the issue. I grumbled to myself and inwardly fumed, and Good Mom won out and vowed to give her some space. I was Keeping My Cool. Harrumph.

A bit later--not too much later--she came back. "Mom, I was thinking about it, and I have an idea of what I can do about the clothes."

Well, my mind went wild. I gleefully ran through all the ideas that I’d come up with, wondering which one of my clever solutions she’d arrived at on her own. Would it be to earn money in the future to pay for any new clothes herself? Would it be to simply offer a heartfelt apology, with the promise that she’d take better care in the future, and offer to do something for me in return? Could she ... no she couldn’t possibly ... suggest that I return the clothes--though that option had entered my mind too, as in "That’ll teach you!"

No, she was more clever than I.

"I think that what I’d like to do is buy the clothes back from you out of my allowance. That way I’ll appreciate them more."

Uh. Wow. Okay.

"Wow, honey. That sounds like a good idea," I said, pushing my lower jaw up with my hand, silently tallying up the amount she had in her allowance and realizing that she didn’t have anywhere near enough to cover it.

“Maybe I can earn extra money to pay for them over time.”

My thoughts whirled while my tongue twisted. Before she gave me her idea, I had envisioned all the finagling and compromising that would happen for us to come up with some sort of solution that would be agreeable to both of us. I remembered all the times that I’d proposed remarkably excellent strategies for working through problems, which often ... um ... shall we say ... fell flat with a resounding thud.

My daughter, studying.
My daughter, studying.

Then I remembered all the varied solutions that did work with my kids. Invariably, those solutions were ones that the kids came up with themselves. The reason they worked was, for the most part, because the kids were invested in the solution. They weren’t being encouraged (read forced) to go along with something that someone else had instigated.

I’ve learned over the years that this seems to be the case in just about every aspect of our lives. If we have a problem--whether it’s two kids arguing over a book they want to listen to in the car or the whole family deciding if we want to go to visit grandparents over the weekend--the solutions that work the best are the ones that everyone feels that they’ve contributed to. If any of the kids think that they didn’t have a say in the decision, they’re much less inclined to be invested in the success of that decision.

How, you might ask, does this relate to attachment parenting? Think of the underlying theme behind each of the 8 Principles. What is it? Respect. Respect for our children as individuals--people whose opinions matter as much as ours, whose ideas are as clever as ours, and who want to be heard and respected just as much as we do.

When we were kids we didn’t like it when a parent, teacher, or other adult made global decisions that affected us without our input. Heck, we still don’t like it! But when we were young and small it was even harder, because the world around us told us in so many ways that we had no power. By giving our kids power over their environment, letting them come up with their solutions to their problems, seeing if those solutions actually work in the long term, and treating our children as individuals who deserve respect just as much as we do, we not only can alleviate some of the problems that arise but also help them to prepare to be thinking adults that are in charge of their lives.

So on my Good Mom days, I remember my own advice and sit back and zip my lips. As much as possible, I let my kids come up with their own ideas, which are frequently great, and we all reap the rewards.

As I’ve said before, some of my best parenting moments are when I’ve shut my mouth and listened. Not sure what that says about me, but who cares? It works!

So the clothes sit in my drawer waiting to be purchased, and my daughter visits them occasionally. Two of them have been retrieved, and the others are waiting patiently their turn. It’ll happen, and it’ll be without coercion, bribery, or threats. And that’s awfully nice.

The new-clothes drawer
The new-clothes drawer


If you enjoyed this post, you might like Does Attachment Parenting Really Work?

Monday, September 7, 2009

My First API Meeting Tomorrow

I'm not a joiner.

That may sound odd, considering I'm on about forty online groups and am the moderator or owner of half a dozen or so.

But when it comes to actually rounding up the kids, preparing everybody for time out of the house, getting in the car, and showing up some place on time - you know, meeting people in person - I'm woefully deficient. If you need some volunteer sweat, I'm your girl. Give me a computer with some menial tasks that need doing and I'm all set.

But ask me to be somewhere in the flesh ... well, that's harder for me. I'm not sure why ... I enjoy being around people and I like getting to know people in real life that I've met only virtually. Who knows? Maybe it's just that I'm a bit of a loner by nature and I march to my own drumbeat (that's one of the big reasons we homeschool - I can't stomach the idea of being on the school's schedule).

No matter, tomorrow is the first day that I'll attend an Attachment Parenting International meeting as a guest instead of a speaker. I've applied to be a leader, so it just makes sense that I actually start attending the meetings. Sorry you can't see my blush through the computer screen.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Today I'm grateful for comical stereotypes. Yes, I realize that seems a bit odd to be grateful for. But just watch this goofy video and you'll see what I mean. These stereotypes were enough to make me laugh out loud, and I needed a laugh!

Come to think of it, I wonder where those stereotypes actually come from.... I mean, I know lots of homeschoolers, and not one of them looks anything like this. Too funny.

The one comment I can make about this video is, thank God it's a joke!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday Quote for the Day

"Just you and me now, Mom."
--spoken by T this evening

H and G are gone on a camping/hiking trip, preparing for their big hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and S is off at a sleepover birthday party.

I don't ever recall a night with just the two of us at home. It's great to have that one-on-one time, which is rare enough to be virtually non-existent.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pioneer Girls

Today, in celebration of the high temperature staying under 100 degrees, S and three of her friends (along with my grumbling boys) headed out to Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms, a living history museum of life in the 1800s. Today the kids got to see a working blacksmith, replicas of Tonkawa shelters, and outhouses, among other less interesting things.

My favorite part of the day was being surrounded by homeschoolers I'd never met. Who knew there were so many homeschoolers running around? I thought I'd met just about everyone, but I guess I was wrong!

The kids at the Tonkawa site.
Right behind them is Walnut Creek.

Pumping water.
Apparently, it takes all four.

In the cotton field.
Man, how did the slaves do it?

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Last Stop ... Terra Cotta Warriors.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dangerous Books

Wendy's comment on my post yesterday on cooperative games got me thinking about some of our favorite books. These four books not only were big hits with the kids (meaning they sat down and read them and used them) but they also were my texts for a co-op class I taught a while back.

They're "must haves" for every homeschooler.

This is simply a great book. In our co-op class of the same name, we made bows and arrows, go-carts, water bombs, secret inks, and lots more "boy stuff." And the girls liked it too, of course. That was the biggest class in the history of our co-op, if I'm not mistaken, and it was great fun.

Another simply great book. Along the same lines as Dangerous Book, this one has lots of similar - but different - projects, not all girly. We made cootie-catchers, friendship bracelets, and god's eyes; we played tag and jump rope; and we made bandanas and saris.

These two books are great too and are in the same vein as the Dangerous and Daring books.

There is a bit of overlap between the books, but not enough to worry about. The Best at Everything books are smaller and more portable, but the Dangerous and Daring books have great illustrations.

These days they have lots of other extensions of these books, but we've definitely gotten our money's worth out of these four.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Lazy Dazy Summer.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cooperative Games

Last night, while I was making dinner, my children coerced H into playing a game with them. That’s not an easy task, and I was impressed by their guile. The game of the evening was Cranium, which is a long-time favorite in our house, although for whatever reason it doesn’t get pulled out too often.

That got me to thinking about other games that my kids have enjoyed and even (don't tell!) learned something from.

We tend to play games in a cooperative manner when possible, not because I insist, but because the kids like to collaborate on solutions. The games I list here easily translate into cooperative games, by playing with cards showing or by having everyone contribute to a solution. I have lots more, but I think I’ll start with these.


This is a fantastic game and one that my kids played to death. I still think it’s a great game, even after hours of playing it (and that’s saying something!). One of my favorite stories regarding this game happened a number of years ago. The game involves a set of tiles with pathways on them, and the tiles get shifted each turn. On each turn, a player’s goal is to make his/her way to an object following a pathway on the tiles. But since the tiles shift, you have to reevaluate the board every turn. I remember staring at the board for minutes on end, ploddingly following tile after tile to find a viable path, when G walked over, looked at the board for approximately 6.5 seconds, and said, "Oh, all you have to do is go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, and then you can get to the bag of gold." Gee, it was so obvious. Why didn’t I see it?

Take Off!

This creative game is a fun and painless way to learn world geography. Because of G’s interest in geography, we ended up with a lot of geography games, and this one was one of the most ingenious. The goal is to get your fleet of jets to circle the globe (actually a long map) before anyone else’s fleet. Each country has a selection of paths that your jet can fly, and the roll of the dice determines what paths you can take. This game is great because it allows everyone to give input into the best route, but the winner is largely determined by chance (a must if you have children of different ages and abilities playing). Just about any age can play this game with the help of an adult, because so much of it is spacial. It was one of the games that showed my kids that they were way better than me in the knowledge-of-geography department. (Well, that’s not that hard, actually.)

Secret Door

This is a simple little game targeted to young children. It’s a cooperative game by nature, and it’s surprisingly engaging. I figured my kids would lose interest in it after a few plays, but they played it on and off for years. It’s basically Concentration, but with a twist. The kids’ goal is to figure out what’s behind the Secret Door without running out of time first. One of the nice things about it is that it’s frequently winnable, but the kids lose often enough to keep it challenging. That balance is a hard line to walk, which most games for young children aren’t able to manage and thus end up boring.

Games play a big role in our homeschooling, so I'll try to do better at posting some of our favorites over time. Stay tuned.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like The Joys of Older Kids.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar

This skinny book, Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar, is deceptive. It looks like a little-kid book, but it holds a wealth of information. From these 44 pages, my kids learned and understood - in 15 minutes - the basic concept of factorials. It held all three of my children enthralled ... even the oldest, who at the time was 12, and the youngest, who was 8.

The illustrations are luxurious, and the author has a way of explaining math. Anno's books are a delight for the eye and the brain, and if you can find them (many are out of print and sell for big bucks) - any of them - buy them!

If you liked this post, you might enjoy "Running the Numbers"

Drumroll, please ...

And the winner is ...

... lucky #7: Jennifer Mauck!

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I'll email you off list, Jennifer, with instructions on claiming your free t-shirt. Congratulations!