Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Call Me 'Vel-Ma'..........

People who know me well know that I am missing the locator chip for necessary items such as purses, keys and now, glasses.  I set them down and the location is, somehow, instantly wiped from my memory.  Maybe it's just that I am engaging in poor multi-tasking, but the chip thing resonates with me.  Especially since discovering that my hilarious twin has the same deficit.  I must say, the benefit to entering the cell phone age is that now I can call my purse.  Heaven help me...don't EVER set the phone on silent!!  I wish I could call my glasses.  

I have had an eyeglass subscription since the early 1990s but, after losing my glasses (in the early 1990s), I went without until last year.  I need them now.  I like clear vision.  I like depth perception.  I need one of those chip things they put in your pet for my glasses.  Or maybe one of those bracelet thingies you can put on your small child that beeps if they move out of a certain proximity.  I need some kind of locator signal.  Yesterday, Thirteen decided that my name should be 'Vel-Ma'.  Ha ha.  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Wonderful

Yesterday I ran the sprinkler on our fall/winter garden.  What month is it?  October?  The 'deluge month' in western Oregon?  No complaints here, however.  It has been a rather glorious month and we've taken advantage of the fun of visiting the local farmstands and orchards for produce, fun, and October sun.  

It was a dark and starry night.....
Thirteen, Ten, El Professor and I 
donned jackets, located flashlights,
and headed for the famed 
Haunted Corn Maze.  With much 
screaming and suspense we followed the
clue cards through the maze with about 500
other people, huddling together as we 
walked through dry ice clouds and watched
for the frequent masked workers who would 
somehow startle/wag corn/or jump 
out at us.  Even with all of those people we 
managed to be rather alone at times...creepy.
The maze is HUGE.  Ultimately, we sojourned
through with a woman and her developmentally
delayed daughter, solving clues and having 
a ball!  Next year............ definately!!!

Red and gold trees, sunny afternoons, mild weather...with this mix I have piggy-backed our piano lesson outings into 'hit the farmstands before heading home' events.  This fall I have been transporting another home school family's 12 year old to piano lessons.  This has made for some fun friend time.  One day we met up with Bella and her crew for some apple picking and another day we spontaneously took the 'economy pumpkin patch ride'.   (The economy ride went something like this..."Guys, I'll buy wagon rides, but let's skip the pumpkins.  They're .25/pound."  To which our 12 year old friend replied, "We all already have a pumpkin, anyway."  The farm we all visited the week before had given each of the kids a free pumpkin.) 

I have a serious supply of apples around here and some tucked away smiles.  It's been a great October. 

Fall Summit

Saturday the weather was fabulous!  We spent the afternoon with my hilarious twin and my nephew hiking up Spencer's Butte.

We departed from the main trail which switchbacks pleasantly up the butte, and took one of the steep side trails.  The old growth trees were amazing. 

Hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city and surrounding countryside.

The Three Sisters to the east....we're still hoping to tackle the South Sister next summer.

We spared our quads and took the more gentle, main trail back down.  On the way down we encountered this tree.  My hilarious twin informed the kids that some people like to head for the woods to see the 'swiss trees'.  
Taking advantage of the mild fall sunshine is the recipe for a wonderful day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home School...What's Working (Middle School)

This is year eight around here in Home School Land.  Even after eight years, however, the spelling of this phenomenon eludes me.  It seems that it depends on how 'home school' is used. For instance, we 'home school' therefore, we are 'homeschooling' or are 'homeschoolers'.  Hmm. We should pick that apart in our Essentials of the English Language class.   

We are approaching week 8, given that our Classical Conversations classes meet on Thursdays, and it seems like we are finally getting into the swing of things.  This new program has been a huge change from our 'relaxed' homeschooling past.  Several weeks ago Thirteen commented that he felt like he was on a tennis court with one of those machines that fires out balls and it was shooting balls at him so quickly that he was having difficulty hitting them.  I thought that was very insightful, especially since we don't play tennis.  So, getting into the swing of things is a nice feeling.  

On one of our evening walks I commented to El Professor that I am the busiest I have been, I think, since becoming a parent.  Actually, I still worked part time as a classroom teacher in the public schools up until Thirteen was three, which was busy, but the kids' school and teaching the 5th/6th grade portion of Ten's Foundations class is keeping me at a clip.  That, with the varied tasks of homemaking on a budget.  As my Hilarious Twin says, though, everyone is busy.  Especially you homeschoolers out there.  

Focusing on the middle school portion of our home school life, and being thankful for getting 
into the swing of things, here is what's working.....

-The science portion of the 'Challenge' program is natural science and Thirteen has to research and write a report each week with a bibliography.  I printed a six page bibliography 'booklet' we are keeping in his binder.  He can now write a bibliography himself.  The class has covered topics such as single-celled creatures, wild flowers, trees, mollusks, and herbs.  For his herb report Thirteen dried some mint from our garden and made mint tea for the class.  He typed one report, but the program wants these reports hand copied with an illustration so that each student will end the term with a personal booklet of reports and illustrations.  Thirteen's handwriting is finally getting some attention/serious opportunity for improvement. 

-Using IEW (The Institute For Excellence in Writing) has been wonderful.  Ten's program is using the US History-Based Lessons while Thirteen's is the Bible-Based Lessons.  The two programs are interfacing enough that I can do some 'together' teaching on some of the stylistic techniques they are covering.  If, in the future, we end up back 'on our own' homeschooling, I will continue to use this program.   

-Scheduling a daily SSR for both kids keeps them reading.  SSR is 'Silent Sustained Reading'. When I was a classroom teacher for first and second grades, we called it DEAR time for 'Drop Everything And Read'.  It is simply an assigned recreational reading time.  Given that my kids don't gravitate toward reading recreationally, this ensures that they are reading something outside of their content work everyday.  

-Paperbackswap.com has been a great resource.  Thirteen is into the Warriors books and we've nabbed two of them through this site. 

-The chore of trying to organize chores can be a constant challenge.  Given that I am not a super organized person, the chores programs I have seen commercially make me want to toss the task cards and run for the hills.  A daily list for each kid has been pretty effective around here because the kids like to have a list to scribble out.  This week, however, I have stretched beyond the daily list to a weekly list.  Friday's chores are TBA.  I put the list in a sheet protector so they can still revel in scribbling out the list. 

-Teaching Textbooks ROCKS! Ten is still using Saxon Math but crossing over to Teaching Textbooks (TT) after Math 7/6 has been great, great, great.  Unfortunately, prior to Pre-Algebra, TT is not Mac compatible.  

-Using small white boards for math has cut WAY down on paper use around here.

-Did I mention that I'm not a super organized person?  Having a weekly assignment schedule has been a huge improvement around here.  Thirteen has a weekly assignment guide through CC, and I schedule out the assignments on a chart.  He loves to scribble out what he has finished.  Now that we are into the swing of things I am not having to write in detail on his chart.  At first, his assignments needed to include more details.

-Daily Grams continue to be a daily assignment and I highly recommend them.  Daily Grams and a grammar reference book such as The Nitty Gritty Grammar Book go a long way in infusing grammar, editing and sentence combining into your curriculum.  I have twice purchased and twice sold off my Easy Grammar program as it was too 'clunky' for me, but we have stuck with the Daily Grams.  

-Beseeching El Professor to work with Thirteen on his Latin assignments has been a salvation for me!  I have often envied other families  who share the homeschooling between both parents. For some families the bread winner has a flexible work schedule, but a classroom teacher is gone all day.  This year, however, I have organized (loosely, loosely--I'm not the organized one, remember?) Latin so that Thirteen does the book work during the day and then El Professor does flashcards and declensions/conjugations as evening homework.  Just having a bit to do in the evening is helping.  

-Mirriam-Webster Online is a great resource.

It's been a relief to feel like we are getting into the swing of things, but there is always a lot of room for improvement.  I feel like I am being tutored this year in how to run a core program.  A few years ago I began to think ahead to high school, hoping/intending that the actual arrival of home school high school wouldn't be a total panic ridden shock experience.  This is 8th grade and I am thankful for the opportunity to step into a program, even if it is only for this year, that gives me a sense of the 'how'.  Up to this point we have been a fairly relaxed home school, and that has worked for us.  With high school approaching, however, we have felt the need to step up the pace and expectations so that we can be ready for classes that we may want to plug into during the high school years.   I am also thankful for a year to come alongside a program where I am not generating the kids' 'core', but rather I am a tutor/supporter/facilitator.  


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The forecast--low 30s. 

It has been a busy, bustling two weeks with school and a little foray out of town to my parent's mountain cabin.  One of the busy-making things is my favorite, though...getting out in the garden and gathering 'the crops'.  Early this morning I went into the garage to start a new load of laundry and had to smile (not at the laundry--ugh).  The counter out there has several bowls of tomatoes and various peppers.  El Professor loves all things pepper-related and we give him pepper plants every year for Father's Day.  This year I planted quite a variety.  We've chopped and frozen bags and bags of different colored Bells which work well in recipes that call for 'diced green chilis'.  There are Italian Sweets which look like hot peppers when they ripen because they are long and red.  There are also several hotties such as Anaheim Chilis, Habaneros, and Cayennes.  Each year we dry peppers on plates, turning them every few days and tossing any that begin to mold, but this year I'm going to string several of them on dental floss instead. 

About that forecast...this might be the weekend that that garden dies.  All except for this...

I planted the winter lettuce a few weeks ago and some of it has doubled in size.  Late yesterday I put plastic  over the hoops...I hope the slugs don't move in.