27 June 2006

RightStart Geometry

Yes, it happened. It was a rainy afternoon, and the kids were so bored that they pulled out school books to do school work. Kid1 really wanted to do spelling, but I was busy so she ended up doing math.

Lesson 28, Product of a Number and Two More

This is an incredibly sneaky lesson. It started out explaining that there's a relationship in multiplication between numbers like 2 times 4 and 3 times 3. This was followed by a brief discussion of "squares" and exponents.

Next, Kid1 started drawing rectangles ... first a rectangle that was 2 by 4. She then made this into a square by taking the 2 unit-squares off of one end, swinging them around the side, and adding another unit-square. Et voila, a square of 3 by 3. (Really, this is easy-peasy when you see the diagram in the book).

The worksheet involved drawing various rectangles, swinging the unit-squares around to almost-but-not-quite make a square, adding another unit-square to complete the square. Next, she wrote out the formulas for the various rectangles and squares (2x4=8, 3squared=9, 3squared-1=8). Then, a little nudge to go further ... without drawing rectangles or squares, try figuring out 6x8 and its "near square" (which is 7x7).

After a few of these problems, she was asked to put the concept she had discovered in her own words. This resulted in much moaning and gnashing of teeth. I suggested she tell me ("pretend I'm absolutely clueless -- how would you explain this to me?") then write out what she had said.

Next, more complex problems -- apply the concept to equations like 19x21, 49x51. This would've worked better if she were better at basic multiplication (sigh). She kept muddling up place value.

Then, a drum roll for the final problem: (n-1)x(n+1). More weeping and wailing. She was sure she couldn't do it. I read over what she had so far. She had been using the term "the middle number" to explain how to work the problems, so I suggested that a lazy person wouldn't want to write out or say "the middle number" each and every time they wanted to refer to the middle number ... maybe they would call it TMN. And, if that person doesn't feel like even writing out TMN they might choose to simply call it ... N. Or maybe it's too much trouble to even capitalize, so it just becomes (yes, you've got it) n.


When Mr.V got home from work I announced the Kid1 had figured out (n+1)(n-1)=n squared - 1 (NB: obviously I need to figure out how to do exponents in this wordprocessing program before I write much more about this math program). Mr.V was blown away, totally excited. Of course, he was assuming that she had derived it algebraically. Upon finding that she hadn't, he insisted that we all spend the evening, yes, deriving (n+1)(n-1)=n squared -1.

Kid1 commented as she was brushing her teeth at bedtime that she doubted she would remember all that they went over. A lot of it was on the order of "what is chair times 1? Chair. What is cat times 1? Cat. Okay, so what is n times 1? N." And the more complex "chair times negative 1 is negative chair. Cat time negative 1 is negative cat. So what is n times negative 1?" And the slightly loopy "chair times chair is chair squared. Cat times cat is cat squared. My foot times my foot is what?" "Are we including your big toes in this? Because your big toes squared are sort of gross with that damaged toenail that's peeling off." It was sort of like being in an Italo Calvino short story, like something out of t zero .

At least, if you're slightly warped out on math it was.

22 June 2006

The Rhythm of Our Days

We spend the mornings in doctors' offices.

We have lunch, during which I read aloud from An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott, and something else. The "something else" has included things like Kevin Crossley-Holland's Norse Myths, Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur, or maybe some Shakespeare since it's the solstice and therefore time to read Midsummer Night's Dream once again (although the version I copied off the Internet had annoying typos, including in Oberon's famous line "Ill met by moonlight, Titania").

Then we go to the pool.

Somewhere during all of this I realize that I forgot to get various necessities at the store (toilet paper, popsicles). So, we stop by the store, get ONE item and forget all the rest.

I think my brains are melting in the heat.

20 June 2006

Still no sign of Geometry

Plenty of action here, but most of it doesn't have to do with school.

Kid1 got a new bike. It's a Jamis, and has handbrakes and gears. You really need gears around here with all of the hills. Much time has been spent riding bikes.

It's incredibly hot and humid. Disgustingly hot and humid. We go to the local pool a lot. It's the one without all of the big fancy slides and water sprays and tunnels and towers and huge Lazy River. We tried one of those, and we didn't like it. It was too loud, busy, noisy, and annoying, sort of like the water version of Chucky Cheese. The pool we go to has a couple of moderate slides, a little Lazy River you can walk through, some sprays, a couple of diving boards, and lots and lots of flat water.

Gardening is lacksadaisical, and occurs in the early morning or late evening. At this point the landscape needs more ripped out than planted.

We've been going to various doctors' offices, establishing relationships with physicians and getting tests and checkups done for our HMO. This is incredibly tedious and annoying. It takes way too much time. It's one of the worst things about moving -- having to find doctors.

We continue our mission to rip all the wallpaper off the walls. Some rooms have multiple layers of wallpaper. Sometimes the layers all come off at once. Other times it's a long, long process of excavating through the layers of paint (waterproof) and paper.

Knitting? It seems to have gone the way of RightStart Geometry for now.

16 June 2006

Friday's Feast

Feast Ninety-Eight
What is a word that you use that would not be considered common?

There are several, but what comes to mind today is "hock" as in "watch out, the cat just hocked a hairball on the stairs."

What theme of calendar do you have on your wall this year?

No wall calendar is on my wall; a very generic calendar put out by Corporate Express is on the desk.

Name 3 people you speak with by telephone a regular basis.

Sales people from Dish Network (I can't wait until our Do Not Call status kicks in so they stop calling), and Mr.V. In that order. I can't think of a third.

Main Course
If you could buy a new outfit for someone you know - who would it be and what would you purchase for them?

Oh, I'd love to buy something new for KidV1. Something trendy, but not over-the-top. Something to take her mind off the fact that I said I'd sew a pair of pants for her, I've bought the fabric, and the fabric is languishing on the table right now with no scissors or even a hint of cutting out and sewing up in sight.

What is the last beverage you drank?

Green Magma in about 10 oz. water, right before I started writing. I drink it every morning.

EDITING BY POPULAR DEMAND: Here's a link to the Magma stuff. It's a green powder you mix in water. It sticks to the side of the glass, and you'll have to handwash rather than put it in the dishwasher. It also sticks to your lips, so you'll have to wipe them, too, unless you want people staring at you. It tastes sort of like liquid salad (lettuce and greens only). It gets a serving of green leafies out of the way early in the morning. You might want to bear in mind that although I'm okay drinking this first thing in the morning, I'm also able to use words like "hock" first thing in the morning without gagging.

15 June 2006


We stopped by the public library yesterday and signed up for Summer Read. Both kids were given a Summer Reading Club Reading Log, which is a large sheet of paper with shelves full of books drawn all over it. For every 20 minutes they read or are read to, they are to color in a book on the shelf. They get little prizes at 280 minutes, 700 minutes and 1,300 minutes.

Ever since we left the library they've been reading maniacs (and yes, it started as soon as they got in the car on the way home).

KidV1 has been reading a fictional story about the cotton mills, Trouble at the Mill, which she reviewed for me by announcing, "Mommy, you can't be mad at me about reading drivel when I'm reading this because I've learned more about the mills reading this than I ever did in (SOTW) history ... I think in history I was trying to not pay attention." I got an unsolicited review of not only the book in hand, but SOTW. Hmm.

Mr.V has been reading Racso and the Rats of NIMH as the evening read aloud, so THAT COUNTS. Woohoo.

Morning read aloud has been Eight Cousins. Alas, this didn't last 20 minutes, so I also threw in a chapter from Tales of Tiptoes Lightly . I had meant to read this to KidV2 a few months ago, but it was a victim of The Move -- I couldn't find it. The other day I was looking for another book and found it in my nightstand. Why did I put it there? Gees, no wonder I couldn't find it. So, I stuck it next to its companions by the same author.

Of course, a chapter of Tiptoes Lightly only takes a minute, so we needed still more. I picked up Kevin Crossley-Holland's The Norse Myths . KidV1 had been asking to read some Norse mythology. I associate them with snow, and sort of wanted to wait until winter to read them, but I think she might be onto something here -- we entered a world of "rivers turned into ice", and it was sort of nice to look up from the book and realize that it's actually sunny and hot. We had quite a discussion about the phrase "an unending dismal hagger", as we didn't know what "hagger" meant, but puzzled it out from the context (I tipped them off to "rime" as I read it, so that helped with "hagger").

KidV2's solo reading has been simple picture books, as that's all she can manage. I did read a Junie B. Jones book to her. Coincidentally, there's yet another thread in the MDC Homeschool forums about how awful Junie B. Jones books are. I think they're a hoot. And if we sandwich them in between Alcott and Norse Myths, they're sort of like that bit of junk food you slip in every so often in the midst of your organic, balanced diet. Phooey on the nay-sayers.

I had intentions of noting all the books we've read over the past 24 hours. Really, I can't remember. Suffice to say that KidV1 has almost reached the 280 minute mark already. I suspect that if I went upstairs right now I'd find an unmade bed and clothes thrown all over her room, but she HAS managed to eat, sleep, bathe, and wash the breakfast dishes.

I wonder if it will occur to her that reading the RightStart Geometry book counts as READING.

14 June 2006

RightStart Geometry? What's that?

KidV1 was the one who chose to continue RightStart Geometry through the summer. Then, after seeing Akeelah and the Bee, she decided to alternate a week of math with a week of spelling.

I got tired of saying, "Okay, dear, why don't you go ahead and do your spelling/math now." Hey, I want some time off, too! So, no mommy-nagging about schoolwork. She decided to do this, so she can do it without my constant reminders.

And as soon as I started my vacation-from-nagging POOF! the schoolwork stopped. No spelling. No geometry.

I have kept my mouth shut for days about this. Even when she's wandering around the house with that I-don't-know-what-to-do look I have refrained from saying, "gee, if you're looking for something to do you could ...." Does she remember that she wanted to do math? Did she change her mind? Is she trying to drive me nuts? Seeing how long I can go before I crack?

12 June 2006

Bits and Pieces


Much knitting is happening. But it is Stealth Knitting. Surprise Knitting. Gift Knitting. About all I can say it that it involves very soft yarn and Addi needles. Someday I may be able to post pictures about it, and rave about the yarn.


It's summer. KidV1 said she wanted to alternate weeks of working on math with weeks of working on spelling. I decided to let her set her own pace. I've kept my mouth shut (this is absolutely amazing in itself, and possibly the most startling statement I will ever make in this blog). She has done ... nothing. Well, nothing insofar as math and spelling. She's been reading quite a bit, and was toting Using Latin Book One around for several days (it's an old textbook, of course, and has writing in it ... her favorite part so far has been a handwritten note in the back with the old poem "Latin is a dead language, As dead as it can be; First it killed the Romans, And now it's killing me."). But spelling and math? Nope.


I just got a free 3 month trial of Amazon Prime. It's exciting, but a bit useless. I usually ponder book purchases for several weeks before actually submitting them, so speeding up the delivery process isn't particularly helpful. Now, if I'd gotten a notice more along the lines of "we were going to offer you Amazon Prime, but decided instead to give you an extra 50% off everything on your wishlist" THAT would be news.

09 June 2006

Our Fabulous 24 Hour Vacation

Since we've moved to a new area of the country we've decided to take our summer vacation to explore our surroundings. We had part 1 of summer vacation 2006 this week.

We started off with a free concert in a local park. Being small-town hicks, to us the words "free concert" mean "oh, maybe 100 people show up if the weather's nice." Of course, this concert advertised fireworks, so we suspected a few more folks would show up...but, wow, we weren't prepared for Life in the Big City. Hundreds and hundreds of people, swarms of people, all on blankets and lawnchairs, most of them eating birthday cake and ice cream (it was a celebration of the area's birthday, complete with free cake, which we didn't eat ... plus, we took our own ice cream substitute, in this case fruit juice sweetened Soy Delicious). Gobs of kids running around, dancing to music. Before the fireworks the kids were all told to go find their parents (how? Did they all have GPS?). Then we all settled down to an amazingly nice fireworks display. Again, we are used to the more, umm, small town sensibilities in regards to fireworks. This was on par with some 4th of July celebrations we've seen.

Next day was Zoo Day. I was on animal overload after about an hour, but the kids wanted to see EVERYTHING. We didn't, thankfully. We left after about 3 hours. We also stopped by to see the turtle sculptures at Turtle Park (okay, what really happened is that we parked in Turtle Park and walked across the bridge to the zoo, since the zoo is free but parking is $9, and we are CHEAP. And, yes, we carried along a cooler with food to the zoo, but no ice cream this time).

We got home from the zoo, made the delightful discovery that one of the balls had fallen out of the trees in the backyard (you know those really big play balls you can get? that are about 5 foot circumference? We had 3 of them stuck about 30 feet up in the trees in our backyard, along with a soccer ball we threw up to try to knock the big balls down. I tried to get a picture, but on-ground photos can't really do justice to the way we're transforming our yard into an Easter Egg Hunt for Young Giants).

After a brief rest, it was time to repack the snacks, re-apply sunscreen, and head to the pool. We love the local pool. It isn't very crowded and it's mostly flat water.

Evening was time to fire up the grill. Then tumble into our own beds with our own cats to keep us company ... possibly the best part of vacationing at home.

08 June 2006

Tuesday Teatime

For treats I mixed up a box of Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Brownie Mix . I'll admit, I wasn't paying close attention when I mixed them -- I put in too much water. I tried to compensate by dumping some potato starch. Maybe that's why they ended up so very tasteless. Really, though, I think it's more a function of the mix. I don't think I'll be buying this item again.

We also had some Trader Joe's French Market Limeade. Very fizzy, not too sweet. It was a hit.

And the poetry? Oh, yes, the poetry. We got out Valerie Worth's All the Small Poems and Fourteen More and enjoyed poems from the first part of the book (small poems). We also had a very loooooong discussion about why the book is entitled All the Small Poems; the sort of discussion that you think will never, ever end; the sort of discussion that leaves you questioning whether you really want to hang out with a 6 year old on a daily basis let alone try to read any poetry whatsoever beyond, say, Mother Goose (and you're not really sure about that, because there are probably some philosophical problems and linguistic issues lurking in Mother Goose you've never really thought about, but believe me, the 6 year old is lying in bed at night wondering about it because, really, when you're 6 what else is competing for your attention?).

06 June 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 24 Square Centimeters. First you eyeball a couple of rectangles and guess which has the greater area. Then, it’s simply a matter of dividing up rectangles into square centimeters, then finding the area of the rectangles. KidV1 doesn’t bother using the centimeter cubes as a manipulative. The lesson is over very quickly.

Lesson 25 Square Inches. Same as yesterday, but with inches rather than centimeters. I am fascinated by how at ease she is with the drawing equipment. She is chatting away about an unrelated subject while drawing her precise squares -- quickly ticking off the inches, then confidently zooming the pencil along the triangle to make the lines.

Lesson 26 Area of a rectangle. The lesson starts off with a discussion of the word “formula”, and shows the formula for the area of a rectangle A=w x h. Then the algebraic version is given (putting the w and h side by side with no intervening x), with a bit of explanation of various other ways this may be written.

The problems are fairly straight forward. The first asks for the area of a figure -- it looks like a rectangle with a square taken out of a corner, making a 6 sided figure. The book shows a couple of ways to find the answer. A couple of problems crop up while working on the worksheet. First, the problems require remembering the multiplication table for 9, yet KidV1 seems to have forgotten this somewhere along the line. Oops. Also, she is unsure about whether she is supposed to subtract the small rectangle inside the big rectangle ... I reply that it wouldn’t be a “rectangle” if you took out the other bit, so they must mean the entire big rectangle without subtracting anything ... she points out that in the book some of the 6 sided figures are called “rectangles” even though they aren’t ... hmmm, you know, she’s right, and "isn't that annoying?" I look at the answer sheet to figure it out -- it’s the big rectangle with nothing taken out.

After she finishes the sheet she reviews her 9s multiplication.

Lesson 27 Comparing Areas of Rectangles. The sheet in the book has a picture that looks like the Gateway Arch at the bottom -- the sidebar mentions that “the shape of this graph is called a parabola.”. It also mentions the word “calculus”, as in “this type of problem is easily solved with a branch of mathematics called calculus.” There is much balking at these scary images and words. I decide to stay available for questions. The first question is along the lines of, “In the book this says this math is really for middle school students, so should I be doing it?” We discuss. I think the bottom line is that she chose to do this math this summer; I’m okay with her deciding not to complete it right now. So far everything has been well within the capabilities of an average 10yo, particularly one who has used RightStart before.

Okay, with much trepidation she moves on with the lesson, which is calculating the area of rectangles with a constant perimeter. It’s given as a story-problem -- you have x amount of gold edging to put around a rectangular frame; you want to maximize the area within the frame. What dimensions should you use for the perimeter? (The problem in the book is written more clearly for students, but that’s the gist.) I point out that the arch/parabola is made on the graph by drawing points on the graph and simply connecting the dots. She starts filling in her own graph; I gently correct her when she starts labelling the x axis incorrectly (“I think it will work better if you put the numbers at the base of the line, see? LIke they did in the book. It’ll be easier for you to draw the final figure that way.”)

She survives. I don’t know if she feels a sense of triumph. Maybe it’s more a sense of surprise at how easy it was once she got started.

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

02 June 2006

I was going to do a knitting update, but lucky for you something more interesting came along

This is the knitting. It's a sock in Caesar's Check pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks . It's a fun pattern, but doing it with black yarn on size 1 needles means I need a magnifying glass and major lighting sources to work on it, since I keep loosing track of which stitch I'm on in the pattern. This is how much I've gotten done in 2 weeks:

My plan was to have this for a birthday gift in late August. Yeah. Right. Plus, I just noticed a dropped stitch back at the end of the ribbing/beginning of pattern. Plus, I sort of lost track of what row I'm on now. So my "knitting update" was mostly going to be freeform whining.

Then, when we got home from the vet (taking the cat for shots), I found a package on the doorstep. While the cat tried to climb my leg (since treats after a vet visit are An Entitlement), I ripped it open (unlike Poppins , who was heavily into anticipation and delayed gratification, the cat and I want our treats NOW!). And I discovered:

Secret Pal stuff! Ooooooooh!

Here we find a hand embroidered bag made by my Secret Pal, who apparently picked KidV2's favorite shade of blue for the fabric (or so I was informed by KidV2 as she was admiring it and maybe sort of hinting that I should give it to her -- fat chance, as I love bags, and this one is just the right size for knitting projects). And some Bernat yarn that Secret Pal has over-dyed in various purples ... she included the pattern for the Sophie bag from Magknits as a suggestion for what to do with the yarn. I'll likely do the bag -- I love felting, even though it never comes out quite like I expected, and, BONUS, that means another bag for me!

She also tucked in some recipes, both healthy and decadent. Some chocolate ... the Ritter bars are available locally, although I'd never tried one before ... it was just right for eating during the Scripp's Spelling Bee and maybe for breakfast this morning ... and the Smarties? Are these available in the US? When I think of Smarties I think of the little rolls like this. I love the US Smarties, and am waiting to try these Nestle Smarties until our crack team of candy tasting experts can devote their full attention to the matter.

KidV2 was delighted to see the Kool Aid. She seems to think that it was included as a drink. Really, it's to dye the yarn I got from KnitPicks a few months ago (Secret Pal is prescient, as I hadn't mentioned I had dye-able yarn just waiting for the right color to come along). And the tea? I had bought a box of that very same tea a couple of weeks ago, and it has been declared the official iced tea of Summer 2006. Really, folks, it's Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Berry and y'all gotta try it; brew some up, add sweetener and lemon and put it over ice. It tastes like some sort of fruit punch. Again, Secret Pal was demonstrating her super mind reading powers with this -- how did she know about the tea?

The CD is entitled Gail Grooves. That title amuses me to no end. And puzzles KidV2, who asked what the heck it means (have you noticed how heavily involved in this process KidV2 has been? She's fascinated by this whole Secret Pal thing). And finally, hand lotion, since my hand lotion is never where I need it, so if I amass several dozen bottles all over the house I might have a chance of finding one when I want it. If we had smell-o-vision you could all delight in the fragrance.

Overall, this just goes to show that The Denim Jumper Secret Pals was one of the truly brilliant ideas of our times.

01 June 2006

School's out for the summer

The local schools are out, so we decided that we are, too.

Actually, we're still reading a lot. KidV1 is continuing math. Both kids want to do a study of weather.

Mr.V has questioned this. He thinks we need to continue spelling (possibly because we went to see Akeelah and the Bee this past weekend; you come out of the movie ready to go spell some words, y'know?). He asked, "Have you really completed all the material for fifth grade?" I just stared at him awhile, and finally commented, "Darmok at Tanagra" . He got the hint.**

But still, he persisted. He asked if we'd done a test (we did the Iowa Test of Basic Skills each year in Ohio to turn into the school system). KidV1 zinged back that we would be doing The Test in the fall because it's cheaper then. This state doesn't require test scores to be sent in by a certain date, so why not take advantage of that?

**By the way, that's one of my favorite Star Trek TNG episodes. And, if you're into Latin Centered Classical ed these days, don't you love how at the end Riker comes into see Picard and glances at the book Picard is reading, and says something like "Greek?" And Picard explains that he's reading the Homeric hymns because he feels he should review our culture's myths and stories. If your kids start balking at reading Homer in Greek, you can point to that episode.