31 July 2006

How the Non-homeschooling Majority Lives

Last week the kids went to yet another Vacation Bible School, put on by the church we were attending last spring. This one was Group's Fiesta. Group VBS tends to have better music than other brands, and this was no exception (interestingly, the church putting this VBS on has really crummy music). Also, there was a smattering of Spanish to learn, although Kid2 tended to shout "Vita!" instead of "Viva!" If Group decides to have a Toga Party-themed VBS she's ready.

The significant thing about this VBS was that it ran from 9am to noon Monday through Friday. This would be a week like "normal" people have, dropping off kids in the morning and picking them up later.

Monday: The kids got up at 7am, anxious to start their first day. This totally messed up my morning routine (I expected to drag them out of bed at 8). After dropping them off, I scurried home, exercised and cleaned. Woohoo. Mr.V thought this was a total waste of a free morning ("I would've taken a nap."). Picked up kids at noon, discovering that I am the only mom there not wearing either dark brown or green. I am so out of touch with what is trendy. Spent afternoon at swimming pool.

Tuesday: Kids again up at 7am, but this time I expected it. Dropped them off (still not wearing trendy-mom-type outfit), and ran errands. Realized the last time I was out doing adult-type stuff at 9am on a weekday was sometime in the early 1990s. I purchased a copy of Bust magazine and a cream cheese brownie to celebrate my adulthood. The celebration lasted about 15 minutes, then I had to go pick up kids. Spent afternoon at swimming pool.

Wednesday: Kids up a little later, but still determined to go (I had emphasized that they didn't really need to do this, and I have no problem whatsoever with ditching VBS). I needed to mow the lawn, but instead concentrated on paperwork, and things that work better without extra people constantly chattering in the background. Afternoon spent with tradesman coming by house to work on sprinkler system.

Thursday: Wrenched upper back while taking out trash at 6am. Managed to get the kids to VBS, stopped by vet's office for cat medication. Made cupcakes for VBS snacks on Friday. Somehow managed to pick up kids at noon, although it was becoming obvious I really shouldn't be driving around. Fed them something for lunch, although I didn't feel like eating. Afternoon spent lying on the floor with ice packs, wallowing in self-pity. Mr.V arrived home to announce that people at work are sick with stomach flu. Aha, that explains why I don't feel like eating.

Friday: Kids are still getting up at 7am. Dropped them off, then came home to watch a video while propped up with pillows. Hey, it's like lying around watching TV while eating bonbons -- isn't this what everyone else is doing?

Observations: Kid1 has decided that it's nice to have something to do in the morning, so she wants to start math and spelling. I was amazed that Kid2 lasted the week, although she was getting pretty ragged around the edges by the end. Both kids tended to fight and snipe quite a bit when they got home -- although they really enjoyed the VBS, they needed quite a bit of "decompressing" time.

Now it's Mondya morning, and we're back to our family's version of normal -- the kids are just now getting dressed at 9am, we'll read some books over a leisurely breakfast, maybe I'll finally get around to mowing the lawn. We'll still be spending the afternoon at the pool, though.

27 July 2006

Knitting Angst

I hate it when this happens:

This is Picovoli in purple. The length between my thumb and finger is the length from the neckline to the underarm ... except that it obviously isn't enough, as you can see from the Green Gable sweater under it (unless the neckline is meant to be almost in my armpit, which really wasn't my vision for this garment). When I knit Green Gable (also a top-down knit) I had to add a couple of inches to the length from the neck to the underarm. It was a tedious process of knitting, putting stitches on waste yarn, trying on, putting the stitches back on the needles, knitting a few more rows, waste yarn, try on, etc. etc.

It seems to me that someone somewhere has written a schematic on how to alter sizes for top-down knits, and hasn't really taken into consideration that shoulder-to-armpit measures don't change at the same rate that the bustline measures change.

I've found a Knit Along for Picovoli. I should probably scan through it to see if others have offered a "fix" for the problem. Really, though, I don't want to deal with it. I'm tempted to just rip it back out and do something else with the yarn. Something non-raglan and non-top-down. Something I can knit while trying to figure out how to teach Classical Writing Aesop (yes, that is what the knitting is piled on). The kids want to start school next week, and it's really too hot for a dark purple handknit top.

I would continue in this grumpy vein of thought, but I just realized that I put cupcakes in the oven to bake and forgot to set the timer, so I need to go watch them bake.

21 July 2006

Friday's Feast

Fill in the blanks: I will do something productive when I finish messing around with this meme.

Name something you use to make your home smell good.

Right now I have a bouquet on my table (thanks, L!) but usually it’s herbs and elbow grease. I can’t abide synthetic fragrances, including those in most cleaning products.

If you could receive a coupon in the mail for 50% off any product, what would you want it to be for?

A generator. Or at least a box of popsicles.

Main Course
Besides sleeping, what do you spend the majority of the hours of your typical day doing?

Being awake. Was this a trick question?

What can you hear right now while answering these questions?

The wonderful woosh of the air conditioner. There are 500,000 people in our area without power during this sweltering heat; those of us with electricity are aware of our blessings.

20 July 2006

Show-off moment of the week

For years we have used Story of the World, complete with Activity Guide. I have used the review question in the Activity Guide orally, emphasizing that we need to be able to answer the question in complete sentences. We do not answer in phrases, no sirree, we use subjects and predicates. If we forget this rule (which happens, oh, 50 percent of the time) Mommy says, "answer in a complete sentence, please," and we must restate the answer.

At Bible School the other night an adult asked, "Who remembers what our mission project for the week is?" She randomly picked 6-year-old Kid2 to answer, thrusting a microphone in the child's face. Kid2 stated in calm, measured tones, "Our mission project this week is to raise money for an orphanage in Mexico so the children can have uniforms and look like the other kids in their school classes."**

People were stunned. I think they expected some mumbled little, "ummmm, for kids in Mexico," as a reply.

Of course, it helps that Kid2 has a natural language acumen that befits a future attorney or politician.

But I prefer to pretend that it's all because of our homeschooling.

**The 30 kids in the orphanage typically dress in white shirts and blue pants to attend school. They would like to have uniforms like the other school children have so they are not so set apart as "those orphans".

17 July 2006


The church we're currently attending is having VBS this week. It's Gospel Light's Son Treasure Island, and they're doing both a morning and an evening Biblse School. We chose the evening because parents are invited to attend with their kids. So I spent yesterday evening running around in a field shouting "Aargh, aargh, aargh, " (pirate talk) while playing tag.

We have met another family with kids the same ages as ours, which is really cool. The parents are math types, which provides great opportunities for us all to be geeky together. It also provides great opportunities for me to stick my foot in my mouth regarding public schools. For example, the dad was commenting that he thought if great that his daughter had a chance to do PowerPoint presentations in 4th grade. My natural inclination was to burst out with something like "any idiot can learn to use PowerPoint; the problem is that the kids are probably developing a tendency to think slick packaging is everything in a presentation and content is nothing." The dad in question was spared this speech, but Mr.V got an earful in the car on the way home.

14 July 2006

Friday's Feast

Name one thing nice that you could do for someone else today.

What an intriguing thought. I do nice things for people all the time; it just sort of happens spontaneously. I let people go ahead of me in the grocery line if they're in a hurry, I stop and help people who are in need. It doesn't often occur to me to make a plan for niceness. Okay, here's the plan: I'm going to say (or type in comments) something encouraging to someone. Maybe it will be you.

When was the last time you were frightened by the weather?

Last year our house in Ohio was up for sale and Mr.V had already moved to the new location several states away. A huge rainstorm hit one day (I think remnants of Katrina). I walked into my daughter's bedroom and heard dripping ... the roof was leaking and dripping right through the ceiling. Aaaargh! After the storm was over I had it patched, got bids, had the entire roof replaced (the interior dried out quickly -- no major damage to repair). But during every subsequent rainstorm I would start to panic. I would lie in bed at night watching the weather channel obsessively. To this day I'm skittish about big storms, worried our new house might spring a leak.

What would you say is the most useful website or blog that you visit?

Tough call. I use Amazon.com a lot for book reviews. On the other hand, interacting on Mothering.com is certainly a sanity-saver some days.

Main Course
Who was your favorite singer/group when you were a child?

I was sure I would someday be Mrs. Donny Osmond.

Do you have any rituals? If so, what are they?

You know, the wording of this question is interesting. Are we to differentiate between routines and rituals? The word “ritual” implies a sacred quality above and beyond a “routine”...but, then again, ought we not imbue much of our day with the sacred? Shouldn't we approach our tasks with mindfulness, rather than mindless rote duty? The Tea Ceremony springs to mind -- serving tea can be considered a routine, or it can be elevated to ritual.

I deal with children and small animals all day long. We have myriad rituals. We have the morning Opening of the Cat Food Can. We have the Offering Up of Methimazole (thyroid medication) Hidden in Treat Food twice per day for our geriatric cat (I often feel like I am propitiating a deity when I set that saucer in front of her, whispering a prayer that she will find it worthy and not display her wrath by peeing all over the bathroom rugs). We have the Quiet Time Before the Kids Are Up during which I do QiGong. I have my personal care rituals. We have mealtime rituals -- we pray certain ways before certain meals, for instance. We read certain books aloud at certain times. Bedtime rituals. Cleaning rituals (why settle for cleaning routines when you can have rituals?). Weekly rituals, including attending church.

Life with kids and animals is chock-full of the unexpected. Many days these rituals don’t quite spring into full-flower -- someone will throw up, lose a tooth, bleed profusely, have emotional meltdown over a lost toy -- and the particular ritual of the moment will be abandoned to care for the trauma. But, there’s always the promise of the rituals that occur later in the day or later in the week to soothe us and let us know that life goes on in spite of these temporary setbacks.

13 July 2006

The Knitting Slump is Over!

First, let me tell you the depth of the slump: I had finished knitting a scarf and bound off down to that last stitch on the needle -- you know, the last one where you need to simply snip the yarn and draw the yarn through. It sat there with that one lonely stitch on the needle for 3 weeks. I would think, "gee, I should go snip that yarn and get that off the needles (if for no other reason than to put the needles away so this scarf is no longer cluttering up the nightstand)." I would head upstairs ... and decide to clean out the litterbox instead.

Yes, I preferred cleaning a litterbox to performing even the simplest of knitting tasks.

But then, something happened. The new Knitty appeared (good thing I get email notification, because I cared so little about knitting that I wasn't checking the Knitty website). And the new Knitty had a pattern for (drumroll) a Klein bottle hat! Do you realize how much I have longed for a pattern for a Klein bottle hat? It's like opening up your cupboard and discovering that a houseguest absent-mindedly stuck the Holy Grail inside.

I really knew The Slump was over when I checked out Wendy's blog and saw Sizzle . Wow. What a pattern. It would look hideous on me, but I found myself really really wanting to knit it.

So. I got out my Debbie Bliss Cathay in purple and started swatching for Picovoli. Pretty pretty yarn. No pics, though, because I have about 100 photos to download into iPhoto and I just can't face iPhoto right now. I'm in a photography slump. It's like a roving cloud of apathy must settle over some portion of my life, and right now it's photos.

And that scarf? Blocked and mailed to person for whom it was knit.

11 July 2006

Poetry Memorizaton and Recitation

I'm taking the summer off from poetry recitation for my kids.

This has turned out to be dangerous. Mr.V has rushed in to fill the gap.

So, while y'all are helping your kids develop linguistic patterns through poetry memorization , my kids are memorizing the Crackerjack jingle. Both verses, plus chorus.

This is accompanied by shopping trips to buy Crackerjack. I keep finding candy coated popcorn stuck to the carpet.

10 July 2006


My Secret Pal from The Denim Jumper homeschool forum has been sending me wonderful postcards. I really wanted to share at least one of them -- it's a picture of sheep (I lucked into a Secret Pal who both homeschools and knits). But, in order to share it here I needed to have the scanner, iMac and Blogger all work together. They're refusing to cooperate. Blogger pretended the scanner doesn't exist, then iMac started ignoring it, too ... the scanner descended into depression, and started blinking incessantly that it was "warming up". Hah. I slapped around the iMac a bit, and showed the scanner who was boss (I unplugged it -- let it try warming up now, by gum). Unfortunately, I have less control over Blogger.

The postcards have been a bright spot in my days.

Other excitement: I received a copy of The Golden Children's Bible to use in our Christian studies this coming year, as outlined in The Latin Centered Curriculum . It was 22 cents with $3.50 postage, purchased used from Amazon.com. It's in excellent condition. The postman did an admirable job of jamming it into our mailbox, but I managed to extract it with having to hacksaw the mailbox or the book (I think the postman resents the number of packages he has to deliver here, and this is his passive-aggressive way of dealing with it).

I celebrated by ordering Classical Writing Aesop . I'm nervous about this. It's one thing to spend about $4 on a children's Bible and end up ditching in lieu of something better (whatever that may be). It's quite another to buy an entire writing program that you may ending up hating.

I have been reading quite a bit about Traditional Chinese Medicine lately. Apparently one's ability to be decisive is related to one's gall bladder. Well. Hmmm. I think my gall bladder has made just about enough decisions for one day.

07 July 2006

Friday's Feast

When was the last time you visited a hospital?

A couple of weeks ago to have a mammogram.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how ambitious are you?

It depends. I’m about a 2 on the ambition of “getting ahead” and being considered swanky, sophisticated, and in with the in crowd. On the other hand, I feel called to eradicate wallpaper from the world, which is a fairly ambitious goal

Make a sentence using the letters of a body part. (Example: (mouth) My other ukelele tings healthily.)

Did Nigel answer?

(I spent quite a while trying to come up with something for spleen, but it never really coalesced, so I grabbed my 6yo’s Usborne First Encyclopedia of the Human Body and vowed to write a sentence for the first thing I saw. It was a picture of the DNA ladder. I thought about doing a paragraph using sentences based on the nucleotides, but decided that was too showy and ambitious.)

Main Course
If you were to start a club, what would the subject matter be, and what would you name it?

It would be dedicated to knitting and wearing Klein bottle hats . We would simply call ourselves “geeks” or perhaps “Purdue alums”.

What color is the carpet/flooring in your home?

Dirty grey and dirty brown. I think the previous owners thought it would hide dirt. Mostly it just looks ... dirty.

06 July 2006

Noeo Science

I know I've declared our homeschool a Multum non Multa zone, but the kids kept talking about the science they wanted to study.

Kid2 is obsessed with weather. Mostly she's obsessed with weather disasters, especially weather disasters that may impinge on her personal territory (specifically tornadoes, although any sort of storm is good for a panic attack). And both kids have announced that we need to study the human body during the next school year.

I was noodling around on the computer, looking at curriculum websites for no particular reason (Multum non Multa! We don't need your silly little curriculums for every cotton-pickin' subject! We are free from curriculum-purchase frenzy!**), when I happened upon Noeo Science .

Hold on, folks ... look at that Biology 1. Is that ... could it be ... they start the course with weather, then move through various biology topics including the human body? And it's all laid out for me week by week? In a nice, neat little package?

I kept coming back to the website, intrigued. Who starts a biology course with weather? What a concept! And all in a package, sort of like a Sonlight history program, but for science. And with a hefty discount for buying the package.

I took the plunge. I ordered. It arrived quickly at my door. Oooooooh, a box of books and experiments to open!

Kid2 said she didn't want to start right away. She first wanted to get used to the idea that it was here in our house (an interesting comment for a 6 year old to make). So we let the box sit for a week.

Yesterday I announced that we were going to "do" weather. We read the first assignment, which was about the layers of atmosphere and about how the Earth moves about the sun giving us our seasons. Then we did the assignment, which was to draw the Earth in 4 positions around the sun, illustrating the seasons. I had thought through this process, and decided to approach it much the same as our Christopherus drawings. I got out the "good" crayons (Stockmars, a tin each of block and stick). I drew a sample picture myself, discussing how and why I decided to draw certain things certain ways. Then they set to work.

Kid1 completed the assignment quickly and easily. She's been through this Earth-tilt-makes-seasons business numerous times, including in her recent astronomy studies. Kid2 was surprisingly confused. I was holding a paperclip on the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth-drawing she had made, saying, "Okay, now it's pointing towards the sun so we have summer here. As we go around the circle this was we end up at winter [moving paper clip through the various drawing]. What season is in between?" She kept answering, "Spring!" Hmmm. I really thought she understood this better than she did. Just goes to show that there's something to this narration and picture-drawing business, if only to remind me that a 6 year old isn't quite ready for so much abstract reasoning.

**The Rainbow Resource catalog arrived the other day. I simply threw it in a pile of catalogs. No desire to skim through it looking for cool curricula that would revolutionize our lives. I'm over that mania, at least for now.