27 September 2006

Girl Scout Mania

After looking through the Junior badge book and the Brownie try-it book, they've come to a decision about which badges to work on: all of them.

Kid1 is doing this in a very methodical way, earmarking 2 or 3 to work on at a time. When finished with those she will move on to others. This isn't the way I would do it ... I would do all of them concurrently. I'd make some sort of spread sheet to show what I've got done on each and every one, and track my infinitesimal progress. Then I'd be all exhausted and discouraged after setting up this massive system, and ditch the whole idea of earning any more badges.

Kid1 didn't inherit that slow-and-steady-wins-the-race gene from me.

But, check it out, the socks match our current mania -- the stripes have Girl Scout colors of blue, brown, and green:

Knit our of Regia Strato in colorway Orion, which is discontinued. I know it's discontinued because MrV commented that he really liked them and would like to have a pair for himself. I looked the color up, and discovered the grim news that we might not be able to knit a pair for every person in our family ( but if I did knit a pair for MrV or anyone else, I'd do them toe-up so I didn't end up like Poppins and the Regia socks she's knitting for her husband, especially since I don't have relatives in Germany who can bring me more yarn).

We were at Old Navy over the weekend, and discovered socks with the same stripes. So, Regia has already abandoned these stripes, Old Navy and I are just now getting on the bandwagon. What does this tell us?

26 September 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 11yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 11yo 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 57 Squares on Right Triangles

Still building up to the Pythagorean Theorem, which Kid1 has heard of before (notably in the book Murderous Maths). The lesson is simple and to the point.

Lesson 58 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem

Finally, geometry with proofs. The lesson gives some history of the the Pythagorean Theorem (The Egyptians, the Chinese, and Hindu mathematicians knew about it before Pythagoras; James Garfield wrote a proof for it). The lesson also gives a brief explanation of what a proof is. I’ve been casually explaining this to her as we go along. Finally, the lesson highlights “You need to know” pointing to c squared equals a squared plus b squared.

The worksheets involve playing around with congruent figures, stating the theorem in your own words, and working through an informal proof.

Lesson 59 Finding Square Roots

Students learn the square root symbol, review simple square roots (like the square root of 25, say, or 64) and practice doing square roots on a calculator. Some lesson time is given to learning to use the calculator efficiently, something I was never taught to do, because of which I tend to avoid the Memory key. We do not own the calculator sold by the RightStart program; this isn’t a problem, since the directions are pretty generic.

Kid1 whips through this lesson

Lesson 60 More Right Angle Problems

Two pages of worksheets. The first takes over an hour, as I am not available for questions and she has to slowly figure things out on her own (By the way, she seems to have learned the skill of looking at the answer and then working backwards to figure out how she should have done the problem).

Most of the worksheet problems are practical story problems which involve a squared plus b squared equals c squared. One involves fitting skis into a trunk (later, at supper, we discuss that life is never that simple because a trunk isn’t actually a rectangle, and you always have a lip and the hinges to deal with; really, the best way to see if skis will fit in a trunk is to try to fit them in and see what happens). Another involves screen size of a television (although MrV points out that screen size is no longer such a big deal; what matters is whether they’ve put the speakers on the sides or on the top, thereby ruining your chances of ever fitting it onto the shelf).

21 September 2006

Tuesday Teatime

We read all of Got Geography. The poems were great, the collection wasn't too terribly long, and BONUS! it somewhat assuaged that nagging feeling that we don't spend enough time on geography in its many forms.

We dined on slice and bake chocolate chip cookies. The refrigerated dough was on sale this week, plus it was cool enough to turn on the oven to bake. I must admit, though, that the cookies and dough aren't as good as I remember them (yes, I sample the raw dough -- I figure it's pasteurized). But they still smelled wonderful in the oven, and sometimes that's pleasure enough to make up for lack of taste.

And, of course, milk in our china cups. For dunking.

Whew, September hasn't been the best for Teatimes. But this was a nice little break in a busy day within a busy week.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I just got a wonking huge box from Webs . It is time to dump everything else I should be doing, and swatch.

20 September 2006

More Sock Thoughts

I've decided that what I like about toe-up socks is that they require practically no planning. You just cast on some stitches (note to OliveOyl: I was inspired by this sock in Knitty to cast on this way for 18 stitches on 2 double points). You increase until it looks like it will fit around your foot, then knit merrily away. You stick in a heel (I didn't like the heel in the Widdershins sock, as it involved too much thinking, so I used the heel in Wendy's toe-up sock instead, modifying for the number of stitches I was using). Also, you stick a couple of safety pins in to remind you where you put the heel, so you have a clue when you knit the second sock.

Then you just knit as long as you feel like it, and bind off whenever you want to.

How relaxed this all looks, lounging on the big comfy chair! Really, you wouldn't know looking at all this comfy coziness that we're dealing with the ongoing water-heater drama (I have not one, but two new water heaters in my basement right now, neither of which is in that great of condition, both of which probably need to be removed; speaking of which, when you remove these could you please not slosh water -- nasty rusty water, especially -- all over the carpet and gouge holes in the walls, or at least tell me there's a problem instead of leaving me to walk downstairs and discover it myself?), that we're getting ready for a vacation that has morphed into a disaster-on-wheels before we've even packed the car, that we're in the throes of more birthday celebrations than we have people in our family (how did that happen?), that we're trying to do school, repair the driveway, get used to going to dance and choir and swimming (which means I need to have planned menus done hours and hours ahead of time that we can eat as soon as we can get home ... and they need to be gluten free, dairy free, almond/cashew free, pinto/kidney bean free, no trans fats, low saturated fats, no beef or pork as major ingredients, and take into account long time between prep and serving) ....

September is sort of a stressful month around here. Toe-up socks are mindless. It's a good combination.

19 September 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 54 Rectangles Inscribed in a Triangle

In lesson 53 Kid1 was unable to bisect a side of a triangle -- she forgot to draw a perpendicular back up to the line segment she was bisecting. I had showed her how to do it, and wondered whether she had really learned what to do.

The same thing happened in this lesson. This time it was a matter of a quick, “Remember, you go straight up here.” Ah. I think the lesson will sink in more with the repetition. I know I’m getting better at it.

Lesson 55 Connecting Midpoints in a Quadrilateral

Kid1 has a headcold. She stops frequently to get a tissue to wipe her nose. Every time she stops for tissue she tries to sneak a peek at The Sea of Monsters to read just a few more sentences. The lesson is interminable. She is to draw a quadrilateral, find the midpoint of each side, inscribe a new quadrilateral in it, measure the area of each, compare the two areas. This last bit involves using ratios, which clearly still puzzle her. It doesn’t help that her measurements are a wee bit off, giving her a ratio of 18 to 10. I prompt, “What is that a lot like?” Her mind is stopped up with snot. I suggest she stop after the first worksheet. She does.

The next day her head is clear. She knocks off the second worksheet in no time. She comments that it is much easier than she thought it would be.

Lesson 56 Introducing the Pythagorean Theorem

I always wanted to have more Montessori math manipulatives around when the kids were little. I thought it would be cool to play around with some of the Pythagorean stuff.

The lesson involves drawing squares, each using the side of the triangle as one side of the square, then comparing the areas. Easy. Kid1’s unsolicited comment: “This lesson was short and fun.”

14 September 2006

If our socks could talk...

" 'There, that's finished,' Mama said. She stood and held her knitting up to the window. It was a gray stocking for Papa.... A year ago those stockings had been crinkly wool on the back of one of those merinos. Papa had sheared the fleece from the sheep's back, and Mama had washed it and combed it smooth with her spiky-toothed carding brushes. Then she had spun it into yarn on her spinning wheel. And now that yarn had been knitted into a pair of stockings.

"Charlotte looked at these stockings, flat and soft and gray in Mama's hands. It seemed to her they were made of more than just wool. There were words and thoughts knitted into them like the tiny prickles of grass seed that sometimes stayed stuck in the wool even after it had been washed and carded and spun. All the words that had been spoken while Mama's quick hands made the needles cross and uncross around the endless strand of wool -- all those words about the war, and Mr. Madison, and the cannon-heavy ships -- they were all there, knitted into Papa's stockings."
(From Little House by Boston Bay, by Melissa Wiley)

I imagine the stockings in the book looked a little like this.

Reading that passage inspired me to start a pair of sensible socks. I have no sheep, no roving to card, no handspun wool, so I picked a sensible-looking skein from my stash, in this case some Regia:

I think knitting toe-up socks is ever so much more sensible than top-down. Top-down always strikes me as backwards and queer.

In any case, if these socks could talk, I don't know what they'd say about the sheep, or the spinning with polyamide. I imagine the conversation would be in German or Italian, though. The skein travelled through WEBS yarn store, so it was in the same state (Massachusetts) as the stockings in the above passage.

And those green needles? I don't even know where they're from. I got them from my grandma, who got them from another lady at the Assisted Living Facility. They're not even a matched set anymore.

As I knit, the socks are now able to quote from Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra (don't knock it -- that episode features Picard doing an extemporaneous telling of Gilgamesh, and also shows him reading the Homeric hymns in Greek -- a classical ed. goldmine!). They've been to dance class and met a woman who spent $800 on Sonlight curriculum for 2 of her kids this year (she was carrying a very nice Sonlight tote bag; the socks were the conversation starter, but that tote bag got us into the homeschool discussion). They have been to the playground.

Today they will go to swim class. From there, who knows? The world is open.

12 September 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 53 Connecting Midpoints in a Triangle

This ended up being the only math lesson done all week (due to a field trip and then illness). It ended up being a doozy, though.

The worksheet has a triangle on it; the student is supposed to find the midpoint of each side of the triangle, then connect the midpoints. Kid1 quickly found the midpoint of the base, next found the midpoint of one of the legs, then collapsed into tears of frustration trying to find the midpoint of the other leg.

She cried for help (in a very specific way -- the directions to parents say that the student should ask specific questions, not just a general “I don’t get it”). I, of course, have no memory of how to find the midpoint of anything other than just measuring the line and dividing by two. I absent-mindedly roated the T-square around while contemplating how to approach the problem. Kid1 huffily pointed out that the T-square is to remain in the same direction through all the work, and that had been taught in one of the early lessons (subtext: get a clue, Mom). Then I had the brilliant notion to ask her to show me everything she’d done so far.

“Well, I found the midpoint of the base, then of this line....”

“No, show me step by step. Be specific.”

She showed me. Aha, now I sort of remember how to do this. It’s a matter of using the 45 angle, dropping down to a line parallel to the base, make a new triangle, then drawing a line back from the apex of that triangle back to the line you’re bisecting. Kid1 had neglected that last step of going from the apex back up to the line; actually, I wasn’t sure this was exactly how you’re supposed to do it, but it appeared to work.

Next she connected the midpoints. She was supposed to discuss whether lines in the new triangle were parallel to the lines in the outer triangle. “Some lines seem to be parallel; you can check it with your drawing tools.” The book cheerfully prompted, “If you’ve forgotten how, look back to Lesson 33.” We dutifully turn to Lesson 33, and discover that it’s about Area of a Triangle. Huh?

I know there’s some way to use your drawing tools to figure out parallel lines, but my memory of it is as hazy as my memory of how to bisect a line segment. I suggest she eyeball it. Actually, her lines are a bit off due to the imprecision of her work. I suggest she just go with it because it makes sense to me (some sort of distant memory of 10th grade geometry, I guess) plus I peeked at the answer page.

The rest of the lesson went okay -- just a matter of figuring ratios. Well, it went okay once we had a quick review of what ratios are.

11 September 2006

Braced for the onslaught

This week marks the beginning of extracurricular activities -- all of them. This means hours upon hours of sitting and waiting while kids swim, dance and sing.

This is what I've got so far:

Two portable projects -- a Klein bottle hat, and a toe-up sock.

Last year we didn't sign up for any outside classes since we were in the midst of moving. Oh, the glorious freedom of not having to rush to anything at 4pm every single weekday! On the other hand, it was sort of lonely and isolating.

This year we have a modest schedule. Each child has church choir (meets concurrently on Sunday), a dance class, and a swim class. They have also signed up for Scouts, but as Juliettes, which are the independent scouts. This area apparently doesn't have any Interest Groups -- all the troops here are associated with schools. Kid1 used to belong to an awesome Interest Group troop full of homeschoolers.

Kid1: "I don't want to join a troop. They might want to work on different badges then I want to work on. But I still want to sell cookies."

Me: "Ummm. Well. I don't think you can sell cookies if you're a Juliette." (Exit to scream and jump with excitement at the prospect of No Cookie Sales.)

Kid2: "I don't think this is fair. I should have a chance to join a troop. I never got to belong to a troop."

Kid1: "Oh, for pete's sake. The meetings are boring. You wouldn't like them anyway."

Which is true. Kid2 likes the concept of being around other kids, but often finds the reality of the other kids downright annoying. I think she is a Highly Sensitive Child. Or maybe she's just a control freak. In any event, three programs a week is plenty for her to deal with.

08 September 2006

That feeling you get when you finish a great book in the middle of the night, and want to tell someone about it

I got a copy of Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief yesterday. On a whim, I started reading it after the kids went to bed.

I finished it at 2a.m. Y'all gotta know, I never stay up after 10p.m. Never. But, well, I kept thinking that in a few more pages I'd get to a good stopping point....

No, that's a lie. It was pretty apparent early on that this book was non-stop.

I'd love to write the witty, wonderful review this book deserves, but I'm operating on way too little sleep. Let's just say that I wanted to bounce into Kid1's bedroom as soon as I finished the book, wake her up and tell her about it. That's how excited I was.

Greek gods! Olympus! Hades! New York! Las Vegas! Los Angeles! A quest! Characters swearing at each other in ancient Greek, and the occasional Latin! General goofiiness!

Wafting around the internet this morning, I see that people are drawing comparisons to Harry Potter. Pshaw. I'd compare it more to Terry Pratchett's DiscWorld.

You need to go read it. Really. It's vital to your classical education.

05 September 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 49 Other Congruent Triangles (SAS, ASA)

The Student is to start off by doing 4 problems on the worksheet, then reading the lesson, then finishing the worksheet. The final problem makes use of the recent lessons on transversals and alternate angles (lesson 47). Kid1 gets a different answer for the last problem then that shown in the book. We look it over together, discuss why various answers may be true. I tell her that she will eventually be able to write up this discussion as a “proof”. I mean to email Dr. Cotter and ask if the answer sheet should list the alternate answers, but forget about it in the hurleyburley of life.

Lesson 50 Side and Angle Relationships in Triangles

Read about half the lesson, do the worksheet, then finish reading the lesson. The student should’ve discovered the relationship between angles and sides while doing the worksheet. I like this set up. It’s a nice change from the “we’re going to tell you about it, then you go drudge through a bunch of problems practicing what we just told you.”

Lesson 51 Median in Triangles

Major typo on this page. First there is a picture captioned “Line segments ME, DI, and AN are medians.” Then there is a blank space captioned “Line segments AR, EN, and OT are not medians.” Well, yes, given that AR, EN, and OT don’t exist, they certainly aren’t medians. But we can only speculate what other non-medians might look like.

On the worksheept the student is to draw a trinagle and construct medians, then compare answers with classmates. Sigh. Not only do we have nonexistent medians, we have nonexistent clasmates.

Lesson 52 More About Medians in Triangles

This lesson is one of those “1 or 2 days” types of lessons. Kid1 doesn’t notice this designation, and struggles through the entire thing in one day. It starts off with a materials list that requires a pencil with a new eraser, a craft stick (we cannot find any of the dozens we swear we have, and consider eating popsicles to liberate some more; in the end, she uses a pencil with flat sides). The odd materials are used to try balancing triangles on various points and lines -- a triangle can balance on a meridian, and also on its centroid point.

The worksheets require much measurement. She is to find areas of various triangles. She has forgotten how to find the area of a triangle. She is wailing and gnashing teeth. I remind her, “Remember that thing with the parallelograms?” That’s enough to remind her of one way she had derived the method for finding area of a triangle (frankly, I couldn’t remember the formula either after a 20 year lull in my need to know it; the parallelogram example is how I derive it).

But, oh, the anguish ... many of her measurements are a wee bit off from the measurements used in the book. I remember this sort of thing happening with earlier levels of RightStart -- we would often find ourselves a bit off, a millimeter here or there, from the book’s measures. So frustrating. I look at her worksheet, look at the answers, say, “Look, do you understand the point they’re trying to make? Okay, then. That’s what’s important.”

(For the record, she usually checks her own answers. This turned into a tandem math lesson, though.)