31 May 2006

Tuesday Teatime

This week it was all about the treats. KidV1 wanted to make Purple Burping Cows from Rachael Ray's Cooking Rocks, so asked if we could please have Tuesday Teatime. So we did. By the way, Purple Burping Cows are "floats" -- like a root beer float, but using grape soda instead of root beer. We used Ben & Jerry's organic vanilla ice cream and Knudsen Fruit Juice Spritzers, mostly because that's what we had. KidV2 tried it and announced that she'd rather eat the ice cream and then have a grape soda some other time -- the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

Anyway, planned poems were: Sunflowers by Heather Thomas, Afternoon on a Hill by Edna St. Vincent Millay, And What is so Rare as a Day in June by James Russell Lowell, and Sumer is Icumen In. We read/listened to the Sumer poem both in Middle English and in modern translation by Kenneth Koch.

Whenever I think of the poem And What is so Rare as a Day in June I think of the old Pogo comic strip where Churchy and Howland Owl discuss this line. And my connection to the Sumer is Icumen In poem is via a class in Middle English linguistics I took back in college (I was a horticulture major, and undoubtably the only one every to take that particular class). So, maybe my kids now associate these poems with Purple Burping Cows, but I have some pretty funky associations myself.

30 May 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 20, Measuring with Sixteenths. At a glance, this seems to combine lesson 12, which featured total meltdown and tears, with lesson 19, voted most-hated lesson so far. The instructions are to bisect, bisect, bisect, bisect, using the 30-60 triangle. And yet, she is singing while she does it. What gives? “Oh, it just seems easier.” “Do you think that’s because you’ve done this sort of thing so many times that you’ve had lots of practice?” “No. You don’t have to be so precise with this to get the right answer.”

Lesson 21, A Fraction of Geometry Figures. This involves crosshatching fractions of various figures. KidV1 is excited to do it, expecting it to be fun. She notes that she has trouble getting her crosshatching perfectly even since she isn’t used to drawing along the edge of the 30-60 (I note that she is engaging in the forbidden-in-our-house practice of pushing the pencil along the edge of the drafting tool rather than dragging it along; I don’t mention, though, that she’s been using the 30-60 in every lesson, so when the heck does she think she’s going to get comfie with it, hmmm?). She stumbles when she gets to a later problem on the worksheet -- she is supposed to crosshatch 1/4 of a rectangle that has been divided into 6 parts. She isn’t able to see how to find the precise point to bisect a line, complaining that her triangle doesn’t give her the appropriate angle. Huh? I show her that she simple needs to bisect the base of the rectangle (like she’s done about a billion times in the past few lessons -- again, I don’t utter this aloud). I think she’s irritated with herself for not catching onto this, and having to ask me.

Lesson 22, Making the Whole. I am only vaguely aware that Geometry has taken place. I’m upstairs peeling down wallpaper, dreaming of my own high school geometry class, how much I enjoyed doing proofs. (It occurs to me, though, that mostly I enjoyed being in a class with Ted Higman, and mostly I excelled at geometry to impress him. Too bad my crush wasn’t large enough to entice me into taking Latin with him instead of sticking with Spanish. Now he’s a professor of Electrical Engineering and I’m a housewife peeling wallpaper while humming “Debajo del boton”. Sort of a cautionary tale about taking contemporary languages rather than classical, isn’t it? After all, I could be peeling wallpaper while reciting Latin nursery rhymes. Woohoo.) I sneak a peek at her finished worksheet -- it has various partial figures, such as part of a parallelogram, and she was supposed to construct the entire figure from the part. I notice that she’s written “best” across the top. Cryptic. “Best lesson”? “I’m the best student”? “It’s best to do this when Mommy’s busy somewhere else”?

Lesson 23, Ratios and Nested Squares. We are bustling this morning, having discovered that we need to make a trip to Toys’r’us for a birthday gift. As I do our morning readaloud (Eight Cousins), KidV1 gets out her math materials. Homeschool multi-tasking! I happen to glance up and see the worksheet. Wow, those nested squares look cool -- each is at a 45 degree angle to the previous. “Hey, can I do this lesson? It looks fun.” No. I take KidV2 into the other room to work on phonics as KidV1 begins the math lesson. We finish phonics, I walk into the kitchen to put the phonics book away. KidV1 is sitting at the table, scraping her leg with a pair of scissors. “Look, it turns my skin white!” “Uh-huh. How’s math going?” “Oh, it’s ratios. I think ratios are so confusing.” “Well, how about the drawing part, do you understand that?” “Yeah.” Heavy sigh, and she finishes the drawing she has been working on (nesting squares) and cuts it out. Meanwhile, I glance through the lesson and ask, “Did you understand this ratio here at the beginning?” Eyeroll, and, “well, of course, because they told it to me right there.” Okay, so she understands the example, but has a fear of doing them herself. “Well, I think maybe you’ve just convinced yourself you don’t understand them, so, presto, you don’t understand them.” (Two days later we go to see Akeelah and the Bee, and I recognize the same attitude in that scene where Akeelah’s mom says she dropped out of college because she convinced herself she couldn’t do it.; I wonder if KidV1 recognizes it, too.) KidV1 continues the lesson with an air of martyrdom while I go off to other household business. I check on her a bit later. “How did it go?” “Okay, I guess.” “Did you get the correct answers?” “Yes. I wrote them down differently, but the book said that was okay.”

Overall, this course seems to zing us from math agony to math ecstacy on a lesson-by-lesson basis.

And, in this afternoon’s mail, a big envelope arrives from Activities for Learning. It’s the rest of the pages for Geometry! When I tell KidV1, she is very excited, just like we had recieved a surprise present.

RightStart B is on hiatus. We’re going to do some Waldorf-based math, then take a math-break for summer.

26 May 2006

All wound up about ...

Knitting -- thinking about presents. It's all about cold-weather gear here. Yes, it's 90 degrees out, and I'm suddenly inspired to dive into some KidSilk Haze or Malabrigo. I'm agonizing over colors. I suspect the colors one picks when it's so hot and sunny are different than what one would choose in fall or winter. So if I get some yarn I'll need to knit it up quickly before I change my mind.

Homeschool -- reading Mungo's book on The Latin Centered Curriculum . Dithering about Latin programs, which are starting to stack up around the house. Not that we're using many of them, but we're stockpiling. Sort of like stockpiling for natural disasters or Y2K. You know, like, "what if we suddenly have 27 more kids, each with a different learning style, how will we teach them all Latin?" Are you prepared for that contingency?

Wallpaper removal -- I think I need to start a new blog about removing wallpaper. It will feature poetry, like An Ode to Dif. It will analyze the former residents of this home (which were they -- stupid, lazy, or under the mesmerizing influence of Christopher Lowell? I can offer compelling evidence for each theory, including the state of the lawn, the way the painting had been done -- egads, folks, remove the outlet covers before you paint! -- and the total and tragic fascination with peel-and-stick flooring). It will offer reviews of various removal theories, most of which don't really work.

Mostly, though, I'm working myself up about all of the above so I don't have to ponder the really BIG questions, like "what is that puddle of water under the refrigerator" and "why is the cat suddenly terrified of the yew outside the back door" (the latter strikes me as something out of a scifi/horror movie -- if we suddenly disappear, assume we have been shipped off to some slave-planet by some terrifying little creatures that our cat tried to warn us about).

25 May 2006

Cool things I've seen on the web


If you're on the MDC webring you've probably seen Green Mountain Mama's Swiffer cozy. The rest of you need to check it out. It's amazing. I sort of want to go buy a Swiffer just so I can make one. Maybe if we get around to installing wooden floors I'll do that.

Also, did the rest of you know about Drops Design ? All those free patterns? Am I the only one who didn't know about this? My Secret Pal sent the link. And, yes, Weaver, it includes crochet patterns.


Lynx has a Plan... a plan that runs all the way through high school. I'm in awe. I have only a vague idea of how we're going to get through the day, let alone the week or month, and here she is, pencilling in the next several years.

24 May 2006

Tuesday Teatime

You want to know how cool my Secret Pal is? Early Tuesday morning she sent an email to me with a poem about a doll, because she knew we were thinking about a doll-themed Tuesday Teatime . (Secret Pals are going on over at The Denim Jumper, which is a fantastic secular homeschooling board).

After much struggle, I also found Secrets from the Dollhouse at the local public library (they do their best to hide all of the poetry books, but occasionally one slips onto the shelves).

We had our teatime outdoors on a blanket. Four dolls attended, each bringing along their own doll. Plus my kids put on a bunch of makeup, thinking this made them look more doll-like. We had Sir Strawberry juice from Trader Joe's, Joe-Joe cookies, and Piroulines which, when broken off, fit nicely in the dolls' hands.

Secrets from the Dollhouse is free-verse, which was a change of pace for us. The kids seemed to like it, though. KidV2 asked me to read the entire thing over again once I was done.

23 May 2006

RightStart Geometry, RightStart B

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson15 Drawing Rhombuses. Introduces the concept of a rhombus. Easy lesson, apparently, as I am treated to eye rolling when I ask how it went.

Lesson 16 Drawing Squares. This looks amazingly like what KidV2 did in RightStart B the other day. I like the comment in the sidebar “A common error in drawing squares is to guess at the length of a side. That’s a no-no.” I like the slightly breezy tone. KidV1 finds it easy and fun.

Lesson 17 Classifying Quadrilaterals. This lesson takes longer than previous lessons. At one point when I walk through I’m asked, “what’s a perpendicular?” KidV2 show up, and the discussion turns to quadrilaterals (how the Geek Family spends its time -- discussing quadrilaterals around the kitchen table). The lesson involves 2 worksheets, Venn diagrams, reading charts. KidV1 declares, “ This lesson is the most fun of any lesson so far.” Her face is bright and shining.

Lesson 18 The Fraction Chart. This involves making a pencil rendering of the fraction puzzle you can buy from RightStart. The lesson takes about an hour. Towards the end KidV1 comments, “My tenths are going to be slightly off, and at this point I don’t really care.” The idea is to bisect lines using the 30 60, and see the relationship between the fractions. It is TEDIOUS work, and KidV1 comments that sometimes it takes several tries to get the lines correct (I assume a wrong line early in the chart will lead to a mess later in the chart). Her chart looks good when I glance at it. She hated this lesson, though.

Lesson 19 Patterns in Fractions. “This is a short lesson, so you might have time to get started on the next one.” Hah. As if that’s going to happen. The lesson involves drawing fractions on a line, using a fraction chart for guidance. This same sort of thing has been in previous RightStart levels. I notice that she has the answer page out as she’s working. When I ask, she explains that she didn’t understand the directions until she looked at the answer. I think she’s seen me do that sort of thing before (looking at the answer to figure out how to get from here to there). After a glance at the answer sheet she could work the problems on her own.

She announces that she does NOT want to stop math for the summer. Although we are not officially schooling in June and July she would like to continue doing RightStart Geometry. How’s that for a testimonial?

RightStart B:

Leson 26 More Hundreds & Building Rectangles. We review hundreds by looking at the number cards. KidV2 hesitates, starting to say, “I don’t remember how to say it in Chinese....” “You just say ‘hundred’ for these, remember?” I say, touching the 00s as I say the word hundred. Once we have that cleared up, we sail through the lesson. She is supposed to partition one of the hundreds in her math notebook. I happen to try it myself, and discover that you have to turn the page sideways to fit in all of the digits. I find this annoying -- what if I hadn’t tried it myself first? She would’ve ended up with a mess. Couldn’t the book mention this in passing?

At the end of the lesson we are supposed to work with rectangles again. This time we number them 1-5, and try arranging them to make new rectangles. As we work I yell out, “Hey, look! The numbers add up!” Whee -- once again Mommy is so excited about the math program she wants to take over. A couple of minutes later I notice the book says, “If the child notices, discuss the pattern of the numbers.” Whoops. “Oh, honey, I was supposed to let you notice that yourself. Sorry.” “That’s okay, Mommy, I wouldn’t have noticed it anyway,” she replies confidently. It occurs to me that I shouldn’t be upset about the book not telling me to rotate the math notebook for the partitioning, since there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have read THAT little tidbit either.

Lesson 27 Rectangles from Tiles and Commutative Law. Usually I look forward to these lessons about the same way one looks forward to 30 minutes on the treadmill -- you know you’ll feel good once it’s over, but you hate to get started. For some reason, though, this lesson appeals to me. We begin by making squares using 6 tiles of 2 colors. I think we’re supposed to be discovering multiplicaton, but at our house we become absorbed in making interesting patterns out of the red and green tiles.

Next, I am supposed to draw 2 part whole circles on the blackboard so we can discover commutative law. I draw the circles, draw a line in the “whole” circle to put the answer in, realize the lines look like mouths, draw eyes, draw tentacles, say, “Hey, don’t these look like those monsters at the end of Chicken Little?” Silliness ensues. I count the green tiles in Spanish, the red tiles in French; the tiles talk to each other in their respective accents. KidV2 already knew commutative law, so this is playtime.

I tell her there are 2 worksheets but she only has to do 1 (the other is in case a child needs more chance to discover commutative law). She opts to do both.

Lesson 28 Thousands & Patterning. Struggle. The ephemeral concept of thousands. I build 1000 from 10 abacus tiles. We discuss what it would be like if we had more abacus tiles; I wish I had some abacus cubes to use. I wish I were in a Montessori classroom with unlimited golden bead material. Hours later I realize that we did have 2 dozen abacus cubes left from KidV1’s journey through RightStart ... from RightStart Transitions, I guess. I wonder why we don’t use them in Level B. Hmmm. It’s hard for KidV2 to visualize what it would be like to have more tiles or maybe some cubes. She needs something concrete.

Once we have thousands nailed down (somewhat), the story problems we discuss are easy. And the patterns? These are a fun break.

Lesson 29. Tens and Ones & Right Triangles. My head is stuffed up. We are supposed to use the abacus to combine tens and ones, while also using the place value cards. KidV2 understands how to do this. We could whip through this lesson easily, but she wants the abacus beads to “talk” to each other as they’re moving along the wires. I am bleary eyed, and don’t want to play.

We move on to right triangles. She is confused -- those 2 words sound a bit like “rectangle”, and she has trouble differentiating. We draw a dozen different triangles on the chalkboard, discussing what makes a triangle a “right triangle”.

We discuss taking a break from RightStart. Next week we will do Waldorf-based math. After that we will take a summer break.

22 May 2006

Knitting Update

Green Gable in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece color Tea Rose, knit on size 6 circs. My guage was larger than that in the pattern, so although I knit the size 34 directions it came out closer to a size 36. I added over an inch in the length from neckline to underarm, and about another half inch or so to the length of the body (I was in a car with no ruler or chance to try on, so just guessed when to finish it off). I used slightly less than 2 skeins of the yarn; the pattern called for 3 skeins for the size 34.

Sorry for the flaky picture. Our camera battery charger is currently in Indiana, so this was a quicky early this morning after Mr.V left for work.

Speaking of Mr.V, his immediate reaction when he saw it yesterday when I got dressed for church was, "Wow! That's cute! When did you get that sweater?" Uhhhh, I was sitting in the car knitting it last weekend, remember? He was impressed at how well the shoulders fit (not that you can see it in the picture). Raglan sleeves tend to make my narrow shoulders look like the top of a pyramid, but these don't. Perhaps it's the strong horizontal of the lace inset. He kept commenting on the cuteness and good fit all day (since I wore it all day).

And KidV1 declared that I looked like something out of one of those catalogues I order clothing from ... "you know, like Hanna Anderson." I'm not quite sure what to make of that comment, except I do tend to order clothing instead of going to shops, and maybe this sweater has more of a manufactured look (as opposed to homemade). That may be because there are no seams to mess up -- you can't wonk up the finishing because there's not much to finish. I didn't do my super-cool bind off for K1P1 rib, but it still looks okay.

19 May 2006

Tuesday Teatime


Wandering through Trader Joe's on Monday, I grabbed Joe-Joe's Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies (a known favorite of KidV2) and a box of Pirouline (unknown, but looked like something the kids would like, and one of the least expensive choices).

On Tuesday I admitted to KidV1 that I didn't have a sense of direction for Teatime -- no theme, no sense of what to pull together. She suggested dolls or Hawaii. Hawaii? Huh? I began to wonder if she had been abducted by aliens who messed with her brain, but then remembered that a recent issue of Moo Cow Fan Club had been about Hawaii. But a Hawaiian theme seems to need pineapple as a food choice, so I decided against it.

Okay, dolls ... try googling poems about dolls or doll poetry. You'll end up with a bunch of drivel written by kids about their Barbies, or else wildly pornographic themes. I managed to find one book in our library catalog. Our library takes special pains, though, to make it impossible to find poetry books on the shelves. I never did find the blasted thing, so I grabbed a volume of Jack Prelutsky (It's Raining Pigs and Noodles) and left the library in a huff.


The cookies went over really well. So did the poetry. I read random poems, including some of the shape poems. I read until the cookies were gone, and I was sick of reading poetry aloud.


I told KidV1 that if she wanted to read more of the poems herself, she may. She grabbed the book and carried it into the family room. She spent the next hour reading more poems aloud to KidV2.

17 May 2006

Knitting Update

Green Gable is almost done. I have ends to weave in, then blocking. When I try it on I look like a lumpy sausage; I'm hoping that blocking will take care of this, since it isn't really the effect I was aiming for. If it blocking helps I will post pictures. If not, I will stuff it in the back of a drawer.

I took sock yarn on our weekend trip. I took needles. About 20 minutes into the trip I realized that the needles I took were the wrong size for the sock yarn I had brought along. So, for the next 4.5 hours I knit on Green Gable ... row after row of stockinette on circular needles. I fell asleep at one point.

We were visiting relatives, and I didn't do any knitting once we arrived at our destination. After all, I was pretty sure I would be tempted to ram my knitting needles repeatedly in my ears to puncture my eardrums and possibly lobotomize myself if I had to listen to the inane political opinons want to pay attention to the erudite political disourse and witty repartee.

The only knitting related incident was going to the The Farm at Prophetstown, where we saw the sheep being sheared (we also milked cows, ate cookies fresh from the farmhouse oven, saw baby pigs, watched a blacksmith, and petted barn cats -- it's a hoppin' place). KidV2 really wanted to get the fleece, clean, card and spin it. I asked the barn workers what they would do with the fleece ... they said they didn't know. A couple of years ago some of the volunteers prepared and spun the fleece, but they hadn't heard what the plan was this year. I took a handful of the fleece with me as we left. When we had been in the fresh air a while I waved it under KidV2's nose, and explained that that's why we didn't try to get the entire fleece, stuff it in a bag, and tote it 5 hours in the car back home with us. Really, though, we're primed to get a fleece now. A reasonably CLEAN fleece. If you have any thoughts on where to get one, let us know. We also need carders.

When we got home there was a package of Bee Stripe sock yarn awaiting me. Good thing I hadn't started any new socks at the beginning of the trip, since this is for a present, and has rocketed to top priority.

16 May 2006

RightStart Geometry, RightStart B

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 12, Measuring perimeter in inches, featuring bonus student meltdown. KidV1 had commented that this was going to be just like the earlier lesson on measuring perimeter in centimeters, but using inches. She had sailed through that lesson easily, so I didn’t bother to look this over. Mistake.

On the work sheet the student makes a ruler. They measure out inch squares (using the inch tiles that they’ve been using since RightStart A, although really KidV1 used a ruler since she felt that was more accurate. By the way, she likes to tell me if she veers from strict adherence from the directions. She knows it’s okay to not follow directions precisely because in the 10 years she’s been around Mr.V and me she’s noticed that we tend to use directions as more of “suggestions”.)

Next, the student is to use the 30-60 triangle to find a point above the line, then draw down from that point to give a half inch mark ... this is to be done along the entire ruler, so that the ruler ends up being marked in inches and half inches (the ruler is then cut out, and used to measure the parallelograms on the worksheet).

But, whoops, it isn’t working out as easily as the centimeters. The method she used in that lesson isn’t working. She’s frustrated, and calls me in. But, whoops, I have no clue what’s going on, and need to mess around a bit to figure out what is going on. This upsets KidV1 more, and she tries to shoo me away. I figure out that she can make a point within the inch square and draw a line up to the half inch mark.

Later, when things have cooled down, it occurs to me that what she was doing was marking the apex of an isosceles triangle , then dropping straight down (or up) from there to bisect the base. Ah. Of course, the directions didn’t include this tidbit since it would be an overwhelming amount of info. I talk to her about it. She didn’t understand at all that she was supposed to be putting the 30-60 in the corners of the squares. That wasn’t clear to her from the directions or the pictures. I don’t know how she managed to do the centimeter lesson at all. Key learning: it’s okay to not follow directions precisely as long as you know what things you MUST do as directed.

Lesson 13 Drawing parralelograms in inches. Just like lesson 11, but in inches. Very easy. Draw 3 parallelograms with perimeters of of 8 inches. No problems.

Lesson 14, Drawing rectangles. This lesson looks almost exactly like the one I just did in Level B with KidV2. When I look over her worksheet (drawing rectangles with a certain perimeter) later I comment, “I don’t think that’s the way they wanted to you to do it.” “Yeah, but this is the way I wanted to do it.” “Okay, but do you understand how to do it correctly?” We discuss. She does understand, but had been making a stand for creativity.

RightStart B:

Lesson 23, Introducing tens. This is the lesson where we make 10 bags of 10 tiles each. I’m a little nervous about this, since KidV1 needs to use the tiles for her math to day. That turns out not to be a problem, though.

KidV2 thinks it’s fun to make the bags of tiles. We use blue and yellow to coordinate with the abacus (except we’ve apparently lost some of the yellow tiles over the past few years ... oh well, we fill in with red). KidV2 easily “gets” how to count the tens as 1-ten, 2-ten, etc. She’s heard KidV1 do this in the past. Also, KidV1’s and Mr.V’s interest in China help -- we call it the Chinese way to count (and, yes, KidV2 could probably do this exercise in Mandarin, but I wouldn’t know if she were doing it correctly since my Mandarin is limited to “the plane”).

We switch smoothly over to using the abacus. KidV2 asks if we are ever going to use the rest of the bags, considering we only actually used about 4 for the lesson. Ummm, I don’t know, but we’ll keep them around just in case.

She’s obviously having fun with this lesson. When I show 7-ten on the abacus and ask her how she knows, she says, “welll, the beads change color here, then I go 2 more and I know that I’m at 7, and that’s what I’m going to be on my next birthday -- 7 -- and then Daddy will have to start keeping track of how much allowance he owes me ....” etc. etc. This tells me she’s totally at ease with the concept.

The place-value cards are also easy. Again, she’s seen them around, as I sometimes take them out to help illustrate discussions we’re having about numbers. Really, she’s been thinking about tens and place values for months now; it has popped up many times in conversation. This lesson seems well-timed for her.

Lesson 24 Partitioning and adding tens. The warm ups include questions like 4 plus 2 and 6 plus 2. KidV2 is enchanted to discover that adding 2 to an even number gives you the next even number. We go through series several times with the abacus (2 plus 2, 4 plus 2, 6 plus 2, 8 plus 2) while she contemplates the wonders of math.

Next, I draw quadrilaterals on a chalkboard (I have a “thing” for chalkboards -- a whiteboard or some scrap paper would work just as well). Then I draw some shapes that aren’t quadrilaterals. KidV2 is intrigued by this new concept, and we spend quite a while counting sides and discussing what is and isn’t a quadrilateral. Okay, it was maybe 5 minutes, but it seemed long to me.

Then we partition 10-ten. This doesn’t make sense to her, so I back up and demonstrate how we had partitioned 10 ones a few weeks ago. She seems to catch on, so we go ahead to add tens, using the chalkboard and the abacus. She wants to continue making up problems, writing them on the board and performing them on the abacus for quite awhile. Eventually I lure her to the next step -- the worksheet. “Mommy, look! 5 plus 2 equals 7 and 5-ten plus 2-ten equals 7-ten! See how they match?!” As she chatters I realize that whe’s sometimes counting up as one would do on their fingers instead of using the abacus imagery. Is this a problem? I assume not -- surely if she uses the abacus imagery most of the time she’s “got it”.

Finally, she is supposed to write the partitioning of 10-ten in her math journal. This seems like a LOT of writing for a 6 year old, but I recall that she really enjoyed writing the 10 partitioning a few days ago. I ask her if she wants to try this, and she’s quite excited to try. I go do something else while she finishes up -- I’ve had enough math for today, although she seems ready to go for Montessori’s 3 hour work period. She bounces around chattering about her discoveries of patterns whilst partitioning 10-ten.

Lesson 25, Introducing Hundreds and Rectangle Desgin. We have hit the speed bump in the road to understanding place value. Those abacus tiles -- we discuss and disuss that each is worth 100 beads. We count the beads. We compare them to the abacus. Then, I hold up 2 of them and say, “so, how many beads does this represent?” “102” Sigh. As I reflect on this lesson, I think I should’ve used Montessori’s 3-part lesson to nail down the concept. We make it through, but I wonder how well she’s internalized it.

Then we do the rectangle patterns. I tell her “there is something special about 1 of them,” jsut as directed in the book. She replies, “Well, this one is special because it’s the biggest, and this one is special because it’s the smallest ... really, they’re all special in their own way.” Okay, I find that really funny, and decide we’ve done enough for the day. I quickly point out that a square is a kind of rectangle, and announce math is done.

It’s a short math week because we’re going out of town.

11 May 2006

Knitting Update

Green Gable is moving along nicely. I've tried it on after finishing the first skein -- fits great! -- done the wee bit of shaping in the body, and am ready to knit several inches of mindless stockinette.

Problem: We're about to do a road trip, and I'd rather save mindless knitting for times when I'm unable to pay attention (like, for instance, while reading a good book).

Solution: Find something else to knit on the trip.


Knit something for Secret Pal over at The Denim Jumper . Problem with that: I just got my secret pal yesterday and have no stashed yarn that matches her color preferences. And I'm sure not going to miss an excuse to buy more yarn by declaring something in stash as "good enough". Nope, my Secret Pal deserves the very best. So, no Secret Pal knitting on this trip.

Knit socks. I certainly have plenty of stashed yarn for that. Problem: I would have to find needles. Somewhere in this house there are 2 Addi circs, and who knows what's going on with the double points. Plus, even if I found the needles, planning to do socks would mean actually ... well ... actually knitting socks. Which, really, I'm not all that keen on. I know everyone else keeps socks going on the side, but, really, I think they're a pain. Mostly because I keep losing the needles.

Knit something else with all the yarn I just got from Webs. Problem: would have to swatch. Would also have to decide on a pattern. Would essentially need more sense of direction than I currently have.

Ah well. Maybe I'll manage to finish Green Gable on this trip after all.

10 May 2006

Tuesday Teatime

Back by popular demand, it's Tuesday Teatime. The kids were sick a couple of weeks ago, then we had construction going on here last Tuesday. KidV1 pointed out that it was time to get back to doing Tuesday Teatime.

This one was fairly low key. I whipped up some treats ... we had some phyllo dough cups around from one of KidV1's cooking projects. I baked them in the toaster oven, then filled them with mixed berries (thawed from a frozen bag) a squirt of spritzy whipped cream, and a blackberry on top of each. I put French Berry Lemonade from Trader Joe's in champagne flutes (by happy coincidence it's a sparkling lemonade). I put Pooh napkins on the plates, grabbed a copy of Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne, and we were ready to go.

I read random selections from the book. We have had this as a book-on-tape for years -- it came as a set with Winnie the Pooh and House on Pooh Corner. We rarely listened to it, though. We discussed why ... I think it was tough to listen to an entire cassette of the poems straight through. Reading just a few seemed to go over just fine. It helped that some were old favorites, like Pinkle Purr, which we had read during our Cat Themed Teatime a few weeks ago.

Also, KidV2 was thrilled that I read The End, as it celebrates age 6. She swelled with pride as I read, "But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever." We discussed that I should've read that poem on their sixth birthdays. Alas, up until this year I've been a poetry dud. I wonder what other poems I missing out on, things that should be part of our lives. Maybe future teatimes will reveal them.

09 May 2006

RightStart Geometry, RightStart B

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 9, dividing equilateral traingles into twelfths. Well, this looks like a fun lesson! You make little designs of your choosing inside the triangles, then can color them in. And, there’s a bit of a challenge issued: “What other numbers could you divid it into? Two kindergarten girls divided the equilateral triangle into 256 equal parts. After hearing about the girls, a teacher learning drawing board geometry divided his triangle into 432 equal parts.”

I remember the teacher making comments like this back when I was in school, and how I immediately wanted to try for my own personal best. I wish I had time to do this lesson myself ....

But, deep in my heart I know that this is the death-knell for interest in our house. My kids have some deep instinct, some psychic connection to my brain, that warns them, “Alert! Alert! Mom thinks you will like this, therefore you should avoid this activity at all costs.”

And, sure enough, KidV1 does a perfunctory job on the lesson. She copies one of the designs given in the book because “I just couldn’t think of anything of my own.” Gah!

The next day we are having a couple of windows installed in our house. Workers are banging, pounding, demonstrating a wide range of power tools. We do little school while they are here. After they leave I announce that Latin and math will be done. KidV1 says she’d like to do some sort of worksheet ... something like a timed test, but harder and without a stopwatch. Something that involves division. Hmmm. For some reason the Iowa Test of Basic Skills comes to mind -- in past years we have done this in May. Perhaps this has been imprinted on her psyche, and she feels a deep need to do this sort of math this time of year. I print out a division worksheet from the Internet (consulting with her to make sure it’s the correct amount of “hard”) and also copy off a multivide sheet from RightStart E.

Lesson 10, measuring perimeter in centimeters, pops up the next day. I always dislike teaching lessons like this, for some reason. They always seem so tedious. I don’t mind the work itself, mind you, but sitting around discussing it with someone is on my To Be Avoided list. KidV1 zips through it calmly. Afterwards I ask her whether she had remebered what “perimeter” meant. She says, yeah, she always remembers area because she hates figuring it, and therefore perimeter is “the other one”.

Later in the day we go shopping, and KidV1 asks if she could please get a 3-ring binder to put her math papers in. The text is in a 3-ring binder, so all of the worksheets are already hole punched. She’d rather keep the completed sheets in a separate place. She has also completed some 3-dimensional objects in earlier lessons, as well as other things that don’t nicely fit in a binder (sometimes you cut up the worksheets). These are currently in a large ziploc. I suppose we are doomed to keep them for years and years as a momento of this year in math. They will eventually join the mummified chicken in the basement, although they will be discreetly placed in a Rubbermaid tub at some point so packers-and-movers don’t have quite so much to gossip about (that chicken ... the packers never mentioned the chicken ... when they went through all of the math manipulatives, though, they did ask if I were a teacher).

Lesson 11, drawing parallelograms in centimeters. Mr. V is home unexpectedly. KidV1 has to do her math while sitting at the table with Daddy while he eats a bowl of cereal. Words cannot convey the horror of this situation. Will Daddy continuously look over her shoulder, pestering her? I can see the panic on her face. But, Mr. V is suffering from a raging ear infection, and is only home because he’s not yet at the doctor’s office. His interest in parallelograms is zippo. I’m not even sure he noticed that math is occurring right next to him.

Somehow I end up checking over her work with her (usually I just let her look at the key herself; this lesson had some ephemeral answers, though, so she snagged me to look them over). I notice that all of her parallelograms have the same angle -- she has used the same side of her 30-60 triangle for each and every one. Oh well, the answer sheet shows possible answers, including a square. Hopefully this registers in her mind. She doesn’t get the question about three names for these figures (polygons, quadrilaterals, parallelograms). We discuss this briefly.

RightStart B:

Lesson 20, writing addition equations. Actually, we’ve done this type of thing in our Waldorf-inspired math lessons a couple of months ago. This is repeat information, but a new context. Plus, we have the bonus of a worksheet. While doing the Waldorf math KidV2 had complained that she wanted to be able to do worksheets sometimes. Hurray for RightStart worksheets!

Lesson 21, writing more equations and introducing the concept of parallel. This lesson begins the Math Journal, with is kept on grid paper (the grids at this level are HUGE and easy for KidV2 to write in). The advantage of the grid is that the numbers always line up neatly. In this lesson she is writing line after line of 10=9+1, 10=8+2, 10=7+3 ... she is fascinated by the patterns formed on the paper by these equations. All the 10s line up! All the equal signs, all the plus signs -- they all line up! And look at these numbers -- this column is getting smaller and smaller, this column is getting bigger and bigger! She hypothesizes that one column will have more odds and the other will have more evens (we’re working a lot with odds and evens during the warm-ups). When she finishes the entire chart we count odds and evens and discover they’re the same in both columns.

Next we turn the abacus sideways to add by 2s. These equations are written as 2+2=4, 4+2=6 ... the equal sign goes at the other end of the equation. The logic behind this is explained in the book -- the child sees that equations can go either way. The instructions say, “Ask if she sees a difference between this equation and those she wrote in her math journal.” I expect KidV2 to say something like, “the equal sign is at the other end,” because that’s what I would say if I were her. No, I’m underestimating her. She explains that the first equations took a whole number (10) and showed what it was made up of, while the second type of equation shows how you build up a number from smaller numbers. I stare at her, wondering if she has a future in writing math books, since she has paraphrased Joan Cotter’s explanation.

Finally, I introduce the concept of “parallel” by giving examples. I show pencils that are held in parallel positions, and contrast with pencils held in non-parallel positions. She is absolutely fascinated, and wants to discuss the topic in detail. Lots and lots of detail.

Lesson 22, adding on the abacus and introducing the concept of perpendicular. Well, perpendicular is just as exciting as parallel. It’s like suddenly decoding the Rosetta Stone -- a new world has opened up. Antoher geometry geek is born. After this, it’s sort of hard to move on with the rest of the lesson, but we do. It’s pretty simple for her -- she’s encountered stuff like this (writing equations) before. I write them wrong and she corrects them. We do equations for numbers less than 10. When we do 3 plus 4 equals 7 I comment that it’s probably pretty easy for her because of her knitting -- she had knit a scarf 7 stitches wide and kept careful track of the number of stitches as they moved from needle to needle. The lesson ends with a worksheet . “So, it’s like you get a worksheet or a game at the end of every lesson.” The tone of her voice tells me that she considers worksheets and games the prizes for a job well done.

08 May 2006

"You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say."

Quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sort of the antithesis of what goes into most blogs, eh?

The knitting continues to be knit. Someone showed up at our house yesterday with a store-bought sweater that looked quite a bit like Green Gable. Whoops. Just when you think you're making a stand for personal creativity you realize your creative statements are copies of everyone else's statements.

The homeschooling continues to happen. We don't do much "school" on the weekends. In lieu of actual lessons we built a climbing wall, and I stripped more wallpaper in the bedroom.

None of which needs to be said, of course.

05 May 2006

Bits and Pieces


Work continues on Green Gable. I put the sleeve stitches on waste yarn, knit down a couple of rows into the body, put the body stitches on waste yarn, tried it on ... the armhole is too tight. I stared at my underarms, trying to figure out how much more I need to knit. Then, take body stitches back off waste yarn, tink back to sleeves, take sleeve stitches off waste yarn, knit 5 more rows (it looked as though 4 would do, put that last row was insurance), put sleeve stitches on waste yarn, knit 2 rows of body, put body stitches on waste yarn, try on ... the armhole is still too tight, but not so much as before. Do I have an abnormally large span between my shoulder and armpit? (Probably the rounds of weightlifting between fittings didn't help, but, please, I don't intend to let the muscles go flacid just so this top can fit.) Is my geometry wrong, and I'm knitting extra rows in the wrong place? And, just how much time am I going to spend staring at my armpit in a mirror this week?

So, I took out the waste yarn for the body stitches, tinked back to the sleeves, took out that waste yarn, knit a few more rows, and ... said to heck with it. It is what it is. I will stretch it with blocking if need be. I will shrink it with sewing if I've now made it too big.

And now I'm back to the blissfully mindless stockinette stitch in the round. I'd be able to read a book, it's so mindless ... except I'm also back to the Brown-Sheep-Cotton-Fleece-tangles-up-like-you-wouldn't-believe business.


Yesterday we went to the Fabulous Fox to see the musical Hairspray. We (kids, Aunt L and I) went to the matinee, having been given tickets for the show. We were sitting under the balcony, so we weren't able to see the full guady decor from our seats (I can't seem to cut and paste the asp I want -- if you follow the link, click on "auditorium" to appreciate just how gaudy it is).

Fun musical. Maybe not my first choice for young kids, but, hey, when free tickets pop up like that we make the best of it.

02 May 2006

RightStart Geometry, RightStart B

I asked KidV1 what she thought of RightStart Geometry so far. She says she still likes it. “Are you okay with doing it by yourself now?” “Yeah, because now I know that it’s really easy.”

In the past week she’s only done 2 lessons -- 7 and 8. Both deal with triangles. In lesson 7 she divided a triangle into 9 parts. In lesson 8 she drew, then cut out triangles. One set became Solomon’s Seal. When I first saw the lesson I thought she was going to be drawing Solomon’s Seal, which would be both tougher and (in my mind) cooler. I was prepared to totally butt in, because I wanted to draw Solomon’s Seal ... I started fantasizing about seguing into a Form Drawing lesson in which we would produce free-hand versions of Solomon’s Seal. It’s probably just as well it turned out to not involve drawing, since I had other stuff to do during KidV1’s math time (and, isn’t it the coolest, to know math is happening even though you’re in a totally different part of the house? I mean, really, the only time I saw her while she was working on math Monday was when she ran in to ask KidV2 and I if we wanted to see something really gross ... she had a string of snot stretching from her nose way out to a tissue ... one of those moments that I’m so glad I have girly girls instead of rough and tumble boys since boys concept of what’s remarkably gross is soooo far out there I don’t even want to hear about it).

The reason she only did 2 lessons this week is that she was horribly sick with a cold. She’s still not totally well. Usually we do some CalcuLadders, mostly as a way to convince her that speed can be a virtue. She’s quite a fan of lingering over any given project in the hopes of attaining some inner vision of perfection. You wouldn’t believe how many weeks she worked on Mary Had a Little Lamb on the soprano recorder before she was finally convinced it was okay to move on to other things. Anyway, we’re still skipping the CalcuLadders for now.

While KidV1 was cutting out triangles and performing ad hoc snot experiments, KidV2 and I worked on RightStart Level B lesson 19. Let’s see, we’re still working on days of the week, months of the year, what do you need to make 10 if you have 8, etc. Those were warm ups. Then we worked on the evens and odds. One of the first questions was about the Counting Stairs on the abacus -- does the student remember them? Ummm, well, the student saw those about 1 or 2 years ago while we were messing around with RightStart A, and we skipped the first few lessons of B, so I know that I sure don’t remember much about the Counting Stairs. KidV2 remembered them, though. She was suitable impressed with the entire concept of the Even Stairs, the Odd Stairs, the patterns she discovered the beads making. She found the work with the abacus wires vertical very amusing for some reason (really, I think much of the appeal is that Mommy is focussed totally on her during math time).

Then the time she lives for -- card games. The materials list claimed we needed several sets of Bead Cards, but the game directions all said “use one set of Bead Cards”. I’m glad I read ahead and didn’t bother making more Bead Cards. The games were all memory games -- turning over cards, looking for matches. They were all about Odds and Evens, and quickly recognizing bead patterns. There were 3 games which we played 2 times each. I think I got off easy (only playing 6 total rounds) because I kept winning.

01 May 2006

Random stuff about knitting

Weaver asked in the comments what I was using the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece for. I'm knitting Green Gable , shown here as a wad of pinkish yarn:

I'm at the point that I should drop off the sleeves and just knit the body (it's knit from the neck down), but I tried it on, and it would cut off the circulation in my arms to do that right now, so I'm going to knit 4 more rows then try it on again. The business of putting the live stitches on waste yarn so I can try it on is incredibly tedious. Other than that it's been an enjoyable knit, mostly because it's miles and miles of mindless knit stitch on size 6 circs -- easy to read a book or surf the net.

For example, the other night I knit while clicking all the way through the MDC webring ... yes, even making it through the places that I usually get hung up and bail out. There's a site (I forget whose) that doesn't read well in Safari, so all I see is her background. And there are other sites that flip me to the wrong place in the ring. Usually I'm totally confused what to do since I never can remember the names of the blogs I've read (I tend to think of the "faces" of the blogs rather than the name -- like, there's The Blog Where She Did Those My Little Pony Blankets, The Blog Where She Planted Strawberries In A Pot, The Blog Where She Put Up Those Shelves From Target I Wonder If I Should've Gotten A Set When They Were On Sale Last Week). But, I made it through, and discovered that, yes, everyone else is much cooler than I and doing more interesting projects than I am. And most of them have better hair (not that there are tons of hair pictures on the blogs, but I believe you can sense these things by the tone of people's writing, a certain je nais se qua, if you will).

However, I wasn't too terribly put out by this discovery, due to a random act of consumerism in which I got an Ace Hardware pump sprayer which I'm using to spray water on my bedroom walls and, yes, scrape down more wallpaper. Nothing like ripping wads of wallpaper off the walls to perk me up.

Tomorrow at this time Dennis-the-window-guy will be here ripping a large hole in the wall behind me to install a window. Blogging and knitting and even homeschooling might be in short supply for the next few days, depending on how this project goes.