29 November 2006

Feeling the Secret Pal Love

Part A:

Last Friday Kid2 took me for a walk in the woods, showing me the places they like to go. When we got back home I found a card in the mail. No return address, but I thought the handwriting was pretty obviously my friend Christine's (although it wasn't postmarked from Indy, which struck me as weird).

I opened it and found a sweet card from some non-Christine person, containing this quote from Jimmy Carter:

"It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on Earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature's gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever." Signed, Your Secret Pal

Wow, what a great thing to read after being out in nature with your child! What a pick-me-up.

Part B:

Yesterday there was a box on my doorstep. I opened it to find an absolute extravaganza!

The points are mine, but she had used red bubble wrap. Did you know there was such a thing as red bubble wrap? Am I the only one so clueless about how to ship Christmas-themed prezzies?

From left to right we see:

Jamaica Rumbonen by van Dungen -- chocolates filled with Jamaican Rum. These are a hoot. Again, something I'd never know existed.

Domino magazine. I'm a magazine addict. Buying glossy magazines at the newstands is my current self-soothing behavior. As a matter of fact, Sunday (after the relatives left) I went to Barnes and Noble and bought 3. Not this issue of Domino, though! Woohoo!

Stash Chamomile tea, beloved by our family, and an excellent choice.

Huge tower of treats. At first I thought it was all butter cookies, because there was a picture of butter cookies on the label, and also because I mentioned butter cookies about 27 times in the "things I like" part of the Secret Pal survey (subtle I'm not). But, wow, it's all sorts of treats -- 2 kinds of cookies, candy, and hot chocolate mix.

Handmade ornament, in this case a darling crocheted snowman. A handmade ornament is required for this swap, and this one is wonderful. I picture hanging it on our tree for years to come, and thinking back to TheDenimJumper and all the gang there.

A Terry Pratchett book, Witches Abroad . Tery Pratchett is one of my favorite authors, and I get giggly every time I even look at this book. I can't wait to read it.

A box of bonbons from Stam Chocolaterie , which are sooooooo good I thought my mouth would explode with pleasure. Really. You know what was really clever about this whole thing? That huge stack of treats caught my kids' attention, so they wanted to open it right away (we've been shovelling the butter cookies in our mouths like popcorn). And they totally forgot about the little box of Stam bonbons, so they didn't try to wangle one away from me (which would probably turn into an ugly little scene, if you know what I mean, because these are NOT going to be shared; I don't care if Santa himself appears at my doorstep this very moment and says, "No presents for you, Gail, unless I get a Stam bonbon," he's just going to have to drive his sled to someplace that sells them).

I am absolutely floored by the coolness of this Secret Pal package. Hope yours are equally fun.

28 November 2006

Knitters who Homeschool, and Homeschoolers who Knit

I was thinking about Mk.Km's comment about finding a knitter who also homeschools. My first thought was that, gees, there are tons of homeschooler-knitters. After all, I hang around with ... with ... well, okay, I can only think of one homeschooler-knitter in real life, and maybe I don't actually know her name (although I know all of her kids' names and ages, what they're up to in homeschool, what's the next knitting project she's thinking about doing, and, of course, where her daughter takes dance). And I have a friend who homeschools and crochets, but she's in Ohio. So. Ummm. Maybe the homeschool-knitting thing isn't quite so popular right here in St. Louis, or maybe I haven't gotten to know that many people here yet.

On the Internet, though, AHA! I can definitely find homeschooler-knitters on the Internet. The first that spring to mind, of course, are Poppins, JoVE, and Mary, who blog about both topics (and more).

Then there are the bloggers who maintain separate blogs for their knitting and homeschooling. This is more organized than I could ever be, but Penny manages it here and here. I've noticed that her friend ZooMom does the same.

I know this list isn't exhaustive by any means. I'll often be reading a blog about homeschooling and find mention of knitting, or a blog about knitting and realize that the family homeschools. Any other favorites out there?

And, a gratuitous knitting shot, since the temperature is supposed to drop about 40 degrees F on Thursday:

Thrummed mitten kit from Camilla Valley Farm Weavers' Supply. The yarn is Peace Fleece in Ukranian Red. The kids wanted red mittens like Laura and Mary had in Little House in the Big Woods. The thrums were my idea. I'm using a combination of the pattern that came with the kit, and the pattern in Interweave Knits. I wonder if I'll get them done by the time it snows.

27 November 2006

Thanksgiving Recap

I love reading the blog posts that have all the wonderful pictures of Thanksgiving -- beautiful shots of food, decorations, family and friends.

However, we didn't take any photos at all. So, it's just a verbal recap around here.

Cool things we did:

Archery target shooting
Walks in the woods
Kid2 learned how to play 4 square
Playing catch and softball (wow, AuntD is talented at softball! She should go pro!)
Playing Uno Attack
Eating lunch on the back porch for 2 days in a row, since it was sunny and in the 70s
Moving the piano into the living room over the new wooden floors without dinging them
Raking up 2 huge piles of leaves to jump in

And, of course, the usual Thanksgiving day stuff of eating lots of wonderful food with relatives we rarely see, followed by sitting around knitting a sock while engaging in family gossip.

Now everyone has cleared out of here, and we can reconnect with reality.

21 November 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo 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:

Leson 80 Pizza Problems

The lesson looks at unit costs. It also looks at ordering pizza based on cost per square inch. Of course, this is a silly way to order pizza, since no one eats it by the inch. Better to figure the price per slice, taking into account the relative thickness of the crust and how generous the restaurant is with the toppings. But I suppose it makes for a fun worksheet.

Lesson 81 Revisiting Tangrams

We love tangrams, and have 2 sets of plastic ones. These problems are simple, yet tedious in that the student needs to draw the various parts of the tangram set. It is much easier to work through the lesson with plastic tangrams, by the way, instead of copying of the shapes onto cardstock and then trying to manipulate the cardstock tangrams.

The second worksheet shows shapes, then asks for several ways to form each shape. The answers on the answer sheet are not exhaustive by any means. I notice Kid1 struggling to come up with a final solution for the pentagon. I pause while passing by and say, “Why don’t you try this?” While she protests, “Mommy, that’s not going to work!” I come up with 2 more solutions (MrV has told me if I ever need to re-enter the workforce I should consider package engineering).

At the end of the worksheet, the student is asked which shapes cover the greatest area. The answer is based on the tangram shapes used to make the various shapes shown. Fun lesson!

Lesson 82 Aligning Objects

Working again with the shapes of the tangrams, this time learning to align right, align left, align top, and align bottom. It’s an easy concept, but all the drawing is very tedious. I suggest to Kid1 she split it up over a couple of days, since it takes over an hour.

20 November 2006


I was getting dressed for church yesterday in a black skirt and white top, and it occurred to me that I should wear something gold (because, after all, Purdue had just beat IU in the Old Oaken Bucket game on Saturday, so it would be very appropriate to wear Old Gold and Black, particularly since there are IU alums attending this church). A gold shawl would be just about perfect, y’know. Except that I don’t have a gold shawl.

So, I wore the same ol’ Morehouse Merino Melody Shawl in the Waterlilies colorway.

And when we got to church, there was Mrs.S in a new shawl -- the Bird’s Nest Shawl from Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Shawls , which she had knit in a beautiful silk/cashmere blend. So, you know, I have the same ol’ shawl on, and she has this swanky shawl on, all shiny and new.

And it’s sort of fun having someone in church that Knits, y’know. But, on the other hand, Mrs.S is one of those people who can be discussing something innocuous like sock patterns and yarn shops, and all of a sudden she’s ferretted out of you that you played tenor recorder in a Renaissance ensemble way back in college, and did you know that a group of them sometime play as an ensemble for church? And she poo-poo’s the news that you seem to have lost your pearwood soprano recorder several household moves ago (no problem; she has a rosewood soprano and a pearwood soprano, and a pearwood tenor, and an alto, too, for that matter, just in case you want to learn alto, and you’re welcome to borrow one) and also poo-poo’s the news that the only ensemble you’ve played in is a homeschool co-op group of kids that you taught to play stuff like Mary Had a Little Lamb, because, y’know, how are you going to get back in the swing of playing more advanced pieces unless something forces you to make the stretch (since she’s just decided we should all get together and work up a number for Easter; and I’m already starting to feel queasy at the thought).


So, in the meantime, I was looking at the shawl Poppins is knitting. Hmmm, I had thought about knitting one of those last spring, but Colorsong Yarn (my favorite Fleece Artist vendor) didn’t offer it in a color I wanted. But, check this out -- they do have it in gold of all things. Eery coincidence, right? Almost like it’s waiting there for me to swoop in and buy it?

I’m still deciding. Right now we’re busy filling our Heifer Ark:

We’re putting in “found” money (mostly change, but I also found a $5 bill in a parking lot). We counted the number of faucets in our house, and put in a quareter for each one to show our gratitude for running water. We counted the pairs of shoes we own, and put in a dime for each pair (this was prompted by the pictures of barefoot children on Ryan’s blog; the dime each was to help make it affordable for Kid1 and Kid2, who get a skimpy allowance). Today we’ll count the electrical lights in our house and put in money for each, as a way of giving thanks for electricity.

It sort of seems like maybe I should put in some money for each shawl I already own, and get over the Shawl Envy, y’know. That’s what a big person would do. I'm just not sure it's what I will do, though.

17 November 2006

Small accomplishments

Dulaan socks, finished this week:

I was proud of fnishing them, until I read that some knitters believe we should be knitting a sock a day.

Oh well. They're made from Lopi Lite, and are just a wee bit small for Kid1 (who tried them on as a test, and declared them wonderfully snuggly).

On a background of red velour from Sewzanne's. I had this wonderful idea that I would make Christmas dresses for the girls using my new serger. I didn't factor in that a) I wouldn't have time to mess with sewing, considering we're still trying to finish up floor-related renovations, and b) the fabric choices around here suck. Sewzanne's to the rescue! I'd never ordered from her before. This stuff is really beautiful, and arrived here promptly. Now it's just a matter of finding time to sew it up.

14 November 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo 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 78 Finding the Area of a Circle

TYPO ALERT! At the end of the lesson is a box which has various values for pi. The student is to compare the accuracy of these values. One of the values given is 335 over 113; it should read 355 over 113. The correct values are mentioned in the lesson, so it’s pretty easy to catch.

Other than that, the lesson deals with finding areas of squares and areas of circles. Morgan makes a return appearance, setting a round watering system in a square field -- what percent of the field is watered? (This is a good time to see how well your student remembers how to calculate percents.) I continue to believe that Morgan needs to get over this obsession with sticking circles in the middle of things.

Lesson 79 Finding More Areas

TYPO ALERT! On the second worksheet, problem 5 says to “Find the length of a side of a square that has twice the perimeter of the square below. Draw the square.” Then problem 6 says to “Find the length of a side of a square that has twice the perimeter of the square below. Draw the square.” Problem 6 should read “a square that has twice the area of the square below.”

Also, we could not get the answer on the answer sheet for problem 2. Using the same measures and values, we came up with a percent covered by the design as 70.7% rather than 70.1% (unless we set pi as 3.17 ... yes, out of curiosity, I worked the problem backwards).

No new information is presented in the lesson. It’s just a bunch of problems. The problems are well written (other than the typos). Kid1 remarked that she would like a calculator with a pi key. MrV has one, of course, but I think for now we’ll keep tapping in 3.14.

13 November 2006

The Anti-NaBloPoMo

Ever since NaBloPoMo started on Nov.1 I've had an overwhelming urge to not post. I think the NoBloPoMo bloggers are sucking all the creativity out of my brain as I sleep.

However, many of my favorite blogs continue to have wonderful posts (perhaps the writers of those blogs wrap their heads in tinfoil at night, or perhaps they are simply so creative that they have oodles of create-ability to spare).

As a matter of fact, By Sun and Candlelight has a wonderful Loveliness Fair going on, with link after link of creative Christmas crafting ideas. Oo la la! You really must visit it!

10 November 2006

Martinmas, the condensed version

This tends to be a busy time of year for us, so Martinmas get short shrift. We just do a speedy version. No lanterns will be made.

I count the St. Louis-style Trick-or-Treating as Martinmas-based. The kids in south St. Louis county traditionally tell a joke or recite a poem or sing a song for their treat. I suspect that custom comes from the German immigrants long, long ago -- their Martinmas traditions probably melted into the US Halloween traditions.

We will eat ham sandwiches. We usually don't eat pork, much to the chagrin of Kid2, so this counts as festive. I will not be fixing goose. My understanding is that pigs or geese are the meat of choice for the day.

I have been busy looking through the MotheringDotCom Holiday Helper database to see where I can donate "half of my cloak", so to speak. The kids have selected some gently used toys (actually unused) to send to other kids. I have selected some yarn to send to a mom-in-need. And we have discussed what items will be appropriate to purchase for the family we're sending stuff to. We also found a family who requested homeschool books ... oh, my! A chance to clear out some of the excess curriculum and books!

09 November 2006

No Comment

Lately I have been unable to comment on Blogger blogs. I realize there's the entire Beta issue, but I haven't even been able to make anonymous comments.

Yesterday Blogger wouldn't allow me to make a comment on my own blog. Well, now, hmmmm.

To answer Weaver's question, I can plug both the serger and the sewing machine in, but I can only fit one at a time on the end of the table. So I use the serger, move it off the table to the floor, pick up the sewing machine (which weighs a log, let me assure you -- it's an old Vigorelli, built like a tank), use the sewing machine, set it back to the floor, pick up the serger, etc. etc. It sort of makes a little weight-lifting routine built right into my sewing. Yeeha!

I find I don't get interrupted any more often when I break flow like that, by the way. My family interrupts me right smackdab in the middle of whatever I'm doing anyway. For example, between typing the word "anyway" in that last sentence and typing the period after it, I had a three minute conversation about the possible location of the good magnifying glass. I will now attempt to click on "publish" before any other interuptions ....

08 November 2006

Still recovering from the latest home improvement project

After 3 days of severe pounding, we have a floor.

We have no baseboards. But we have a floor. We have no furniture moved back into the empty rooms (because of the baseboard situation) but we have a floor.

I would dearly love to get going on sewing the Christmas dresses, but the dining room table seems to be missing. I usually cut out the fabric on the dining room table. I also use the end of it for the sewing machine and serger. But, alas, no dining room table, so no sewing.

On the other hand, it makes a great area to lay out Base 10 cards in nice, neat rows. Oh, baby, you can really stretch out and do some 4-digit addition now!

(For the record, the floor isn't on such a wild slope. The photographer was maybe skating across the floor when she took this picture.)

07 November 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo 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 73 The Amazing Nine-Point Circle

“In 1822 a German mathematician, Karl Feuerbach, showed that the nine-point circle is tangent to the inscribed circle. [....] Because of his work, this circle is known in Germany as the Feuerbach circle.”

So, folks in Germany apparently sit around talking about the Feuerbach circle, eh? Shoot, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of this before. Given all of the history (two Frenchmen did the original proof) I’m not sure how I missed out. Hmmm.

Kid1 has problems keeping track of what she is looking for. I am called upon to explain that XO is a line segment rather than an angle, for example. Over the course of the next few lessons she will get better at this, I’m sure.

Lesson 74 Drawing Arcs

Kid1 is content drawing hearts, interstate signs, radiation warning signs, and a gothic arch. Math meets art. What could be better?

Lesson 75 Angles ‘n Arcs

The lesson teaches inscribed angles and intercepted arcs. It bandies terms like “chord”. I’ve never been too terribly fond of this stuff, and Kid1 seems to be following in my footsteps. Mostly I hope she figures it out and doesn’t ask me too many questions.

Lesson 76 Arc Length

Problem 1 on the worksheet involves finding the length of an arc to the nearest tenth of a centimeter. Both Kid1 and I measure the angle from the center of the circle to the arc ends repeatedly; we do NOT get the measure shown in the answer sheet. This means that Kid1 can NOT get the same final answer for the length of the arc as the answer sheet.. Her work shows the same steps, though -- the answer sheets give the steps for figuring out each problem.

Problem 2 features a gothic arch. I sort of blanch when I see it, but Kid1 acts like everyone knows the way a gothic arch is formed, for heaven’s sake. She explains it to me; I immediately forget.

Problem 4 is finding the distance from Earth’s poles to the equater. It reminds me of something out of Challenge Math, or some other such math book. It takes a moment for Kid1 to “get” that working in 3D isn’t too terribly different from working in 2D.

Problem 5 is a landscaping problem. I tend to dislike these, mostly since I studied landscaping in college and find myself questioning why the heck someone would want to put that in their yard. I mean, really, why would Morgan want to put bricks around a circular garden? Why not something else? What type of bricks? Will she be interplanting moss between the bricks? Will she be levelling these so she can mow easily around it? And how did she end up running out of bricks? Did she not plan? If that’s the case (that she didn’t plan for how big a circle she needed to make) it’s entirely possible that she did not plan well for plant spacing (a pet peeve of mine).

On the bright side, Morgan is working with the metric system, so when she runs short by .7 meters it’s easy to figure out how many bricks she needs (although Kid1 points out that the inside of the brick circle is a different measure than the outside, since bricks aren’t actually wedge shaped -- woohoo, that’s my girl!).

After finishing problem 3 (trefoils and quatrefoils, which are apprently as easy as gothic arches; problem 3 falls at the end for Kid1 because of the way the problems are laid out on the page), there is an option of writing a paper on the metric system. We have discussed the metric system some during the course of the lesson. Kid1 declines writing a paper.

Somewhere in the course of this lesson I realize that she needs a refresher on multiplying fractions.

Lesson 77 Area of a Circle

For the second work sheet the student figures out the width of a parallelogram as it relates to the diameter of a circle. The width is equivalent to half the circle’s diameter, but Kid1 is mortally offended that the width is therefor pi r. She says it’s just plain wrong -- she agrees that it is half of 2pi r, but feels that saying “pi r” is somehow vile and unnatural.

You can imagine what happens when she has to cut up the circle and lay it on top of the parallelogram ... the parallelogram has a height of r ... she is supposed to give the area of the circle ... sure enough, she writes” r pi times r”. She refuses to call it pi r squared. Whatever. When she was young she was mortally offended that the indefinite article used before a word that begins with a vowel is "an", and vowed never to use it as long as she lived, and to strive to convert others to her way of thinking. This is likely to be another such case.