Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sick day

Today, I was getting a cold, Alec was wandering around coughing and hacking like he had a 40 year, 3 pack a day smoking habit, and it's become painfully obvious that K is incubating another UTI. She hasn't gotten to the point that she will admit to pain and hasn't developed a fever, but she has the Smell, and has in general been a colossal pill. She has also spent the past two evenings lying down under a blanket, which confirmed for me this evening that my choice not to attempt schoolwork was the right decision. Poor bunny.

She has an appointment with her new doctor tomorrow, so hopefully we'll get a better antibiotic and a referral to a new urologist who willingly makes eye contact.

In other stellar parenting news, when K and I were doing reading yesterday, something about the way she was looking at the words made me ask her if she was having trouble seeing them clearly. No, she just has trouble reading words when she's bored, was the response. Uh huh. Probably more like she stops trying to see things clearly when she's bored. Sigh. We've been meaning to get everyone including K eye exams for the past nine months, but somehow it keeps falling to the bottom of the list, largely because we didn't like the last person we went to, so we need to find a new optometrist. And it occurred to me last night, if we want K to have an accurate exam, we need to find one who's excellent with children.

K is the same age I was when I got my first glasses. As I thought about it last night, I have to wonder if her absolute refusal to try to read the eye chart at her physical last summer was because she was having trouble seeing it and didn't want to get anything wrong. So I totally feel like Responsible Parent of the Year for letting this slide now.

FIAR : Cranberry Thanksgiving, day 3, sort of

I think we are going to try to do Cranberry Thanksgiving again next year, the week before Thanksgiving, because nobody was focusing well last week.

Today, I tried to finish up a little with some talking about Thanksgiving foods and nutrition, largely because it gave me a sheet I can include in our portfolio that shows we engaged in nutrition/health and wellness education. So first, I showed K a sheet I made up with pictures of typical Thanksgiving foods - turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans and pumpkin pie. I asked her what these foods might have in common and why they might get eaten at an American Thanksgiving, as opposed to harvest festivals in other countries. K didn't know, so we started looking up the foods in Wikipedia, and over and over, native to the Americas kept coming up. K still felt tha the thing these foods had in common is that they grew on farms, but I managed to get across that we eat those foods for our Thanksgiving because they're all native foods.

Then I had her cut out the pictures and we placed them on a printout of a plate with the food groups from by what food group they belonged to. And lo, we had one sheet to stick in the portfolio. I really don't feel first grade should be about output, but it's always in the back of my mind that I need to purposefully create some for the sake of the portfolio.

Tomorrow, Mirette on the High Wire. I had initially planned on Madeline, but while K liked the idea of learning about Paris and loved the idea of building a model of the Eiffel Tower, she didn't want to do Madeline. I looked at the FIAR list and strongly considered The Giraffe that Walked to Paris - K loves giraffes. But ultimately I decided that it wasn't a good idea to do that book when we wouldn't be able to go to the zoo, and also couldn't quite stomach the idea of talking about the Eiffel Tower while doing a book that takes place 50 years before it was built.

So that left Mirette on the High Wire. It's actually quite a good choice for getting K engaged, because the circus is always a fun topic. And I admit, I didn't plan this at all, but we went to IKEA last weekend and K begged us to buy her this set of circus finger puppets and now she's really excited by the circus. Really, I wish I had thought of it, but no, it was just dumb luck. This should be a lot of fun.

Other things accomplished today: read to the end of Progressive Phonics beginner book 1, did an MEP 1a worksheet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reading, 'riting and fainting in coils

Today, we got back to reading and math, which is a frustrating proposition in some ways, because I have no idea where to place her.

If you were to ask K, she can barely read a word. Certainly, if you want her to sound out a word, she won't oblige you. But at the same time, when she was taking the placement test for Reading Eggs, she got the first 20 questions right before getting bored and demanding an end to the test, at which point I decided it was probably better not to have her placed so high that she would be constantly frustrated and had her get the next questions wrong so we could get out of the test. But getting that far (and I suspect she could have gotten farther) required quite a bit of reading. A child who can't read doesn't start out on level 5 of a reading game. She can use our dvr well enough to find the specific episode of a tv show she wants, which you can only do by reading. And this summer, when we were looking for a dvd of "Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue," she found it and yelled, "Hey, this says 'Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Escape!'" So sure, sweetheart, we TOTALLY believe you can't read at all.

However, being fairly sure she reads much better than she's letting on doesn't tell me where to place her when it actually comes to curriculum. So I've decided to just start her at the beginning of Progressive Phonics, in the hopes that starting her out easy will help her gain enough confidence to start showing her actual skills. As I've said before, I like Progressive Phonics because it has the parent reading along with the child, which both gives K added confidence to have me carrying the bulk of the reading load and makes for much more interesting reading than "The fat cat sat" school of phonics reader. We made it to the end of the first beginner book tonight without much problem. She really likes to try to guess at words based on the pictures instead of taking the time to read them, but if you make her stop and focus on the actual word, she usually doesn't have a problem figuring it out.

Progressive Phonics has a handwriting component, but K really wanted to use the handwriting book we had been using with the online school, and since it's a perfectly good handwriting book (Zaner Bloser), I was fine letting her continue with it. She was really excited to discover she had moved from writing individual letters to actual words (her response: "Real words! Score!"), so I'm hopeful she'll respond well when we finish this book and move onto Writing With Ease, a writing curriculum that will involve writing quite a few words.

Math presents a slightly different problem. I have a pretty good idea of where K's math skills are, but in switching curricula, I'm not sure where to start in the new one. MEP levels 1a and 1b seem to be the equivalent of the first grade math she's been doing, but not necessarily covering things the same way. From what I can tell, 1a covers addition up to 10, which K can do pretty well, and 1b covers addition from 11 to 20. But looking at the sheets at the end of 1a, I'm afraid she would be a bit lost if we skipped straight to 1b, at least partially because the style of problem is so much different than the straightforward style of addition and subtraction problems she's been doing that she'll get too frustrated. So I've been skimming 1a and picking out some sheets just to get her used to the more game-like style of problem. Also, while we've certainly covered greater than and less than, she's never used the actual < or > signs, so the first sheet I pulled out tonight focused mostly on that.

I feel like we need to get her to the point that she knows the addition and subtraction facts up to 10, without having to figure it out with fingers or counting cubes. She has the theory down just fine, but again, there's a confidence issue holding her back. I'm hoping maybe some time with some math games will help cement some of these basic sums so she can move on to more complicated problems with confidence.

Tomorrow, a last day of activities based on Cranberry Thanksgiving, then we move onto Paris and the circus with Mirette on the High Wire.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's time to light the lights...

We went to see the Muppets on Thanksgiving. It was just so awesome I can't express it more eloquently than that. I said a couple months ago that I thought it would take Gen-Xers who grew up loving the Muppets to regain the old magic, and by golly, I was right. Of course, the effect of having two writers who grew up loving the Muppets is that they couldn't have written a bigger (quite literal) nostalgia trip if they had tried. I would say the movie has a heavy subtext of the quest to regain the lost innocence of childhood, but it's really pretty much just plain text.

Not that any of this is a bad thing. And the thing that really catapulted this movie past a simple rehashing of the past is that they were able to pay homage to the past (they included Wayne and Wanda!) while introducing new, good material in the same style and spirit.

I have to say, if you're going to see a movie like this, I higly recommend finding a six-year-old Muppet fan to take with you. I mean, B and I enjoyed ourselves, but I looked over during the opening song and she was singing along and dancing with her doll. She loved it in the unselfconscious way you only can when you're six.

I must say, there are a lot of things I love about six. One big one is that she's made a big leap forward in bravery and can watch a lot of things she used to find too scary. There were several previews before the movie that we thought we would like to see, and for the first time, they all looked like things we could take K to. It was a long year the year she was four and just the thought of a darkened theater was too scary for her. The movie we finally got her to go see in the theater was Toy Story 3, and as I sat there holding K on my lap at the end of movie, with all of the main characters headed towards a fiery death and listening to children around me sobbing, all I could think is, "Are you freaking KIDDING me, Pixar?" An entire year of not being able to take her to a movie and they decide to load a supposedly G rated movie with prison and horror movie tropes.* But she managed to survive (although she still won't watch it on dvd) and started being able to go to select, mild movies again. And now this year, we've actually seen multiple movies, with more in the offing that we can really look forward to seeing (as opposed to movies like Winnie the Pooh, which while sweet, had most of its charm in its ability to get us out of the heat on a 100 degree day). Yay!

* Don't get me wrong, I loved Toy Story 3. But it didn't deserve its G rating. Muppets, by comparison, with absolutely nothing remotely scary or traumatic, was a PG, presumably for the fart shoes. I'm hardly one to put much stock in the movie rating system, but I do feel like if a movie is rated G, I should be able to have a reasonable confidence that it will not lead my five-year-old (as well as half of the other children in the theatre) sobbing in fear. What's the point of having ratings, otherwise?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FIAR: Cranberry Thanksgiving, day 2

I confess, the extent of our educational activities yesterday consisted of multiple viewings of "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," which I couldn't in good conscience write up. But today we managed to read some books on Thanksgiving and discuss it a bit.

We started with a book on the history of harvest festivals which described harvest festivals all over the world. Then we read Molly's Pilgrim, which related Thanksgiving to the Jewish holiday Sukkot. Then we finished up with a couple more fun Thanksgiving books. The attention span available today was rather limited, but I think we got across the idea of Thanksgiving as a harvest festival and time to share our blessings with others.

Books used today:

The autumn equinox : celebrating the harvest by Ellen Jackson
Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
Thanksgiving at the Tappletons by Eileen Spinelli
Sometimes it's turkey, sometimes it's feathers by Lorna & Lecia Balian.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

FIAR: Cranberry Thanksgiving, day 1

We're celebrating Thanksgiving this week with Cranberry Thanksgiving, a book I remember fondly from my youth and devilishly hard to get my hands on presently. Buying it was out of the question, because the cheapest copy I could find online was $50, used. I've already complained about how the Philadelphia library allowed the copy I had on hold get checked out by someone else. So I tried one suburban library only to discover it had been checked out in the four hours between when I checked the catalog online and getting to the library. I finally tracked it down at another suburban library.

K's reaction, upon being presented the book, was to declare she didn't want to read it and she was going to hide it under the couch, which she did. After the ordeal I went through (and the fact that I didn't have any alternate plans for the week), that was not going to fly. I told her she had to listen to it at least once, and I figured if we didn't read it again, we at least would have a basis for the rest of the activities for the week.

Sigh. There are many good things about having a child that's very independent and self-directed. And then there are the times I mentally chant to myself "Stubbornness is a trait that will serve her well in life. Really. No matter how much I want to shake her until she just cooperates without argument." At least she'll be resistant to peer pressure, right?

Anyway, after a show of plugging her ears, K did in fact listen to the story and seemed to mostly enjoy it, although she never did warm up to Mr. Whiskers, despite the fact that he's the hero of the story. Then we talked a bit about how it takes place in New England, where many of her ancestors lived. I told her a bit about her great-grandmother, who grew up in Maine. Then we watched a Reading Rainbow with a segment on harvesting cranberries. We finished with a short video on Thanksgiving.

I feel conflicted about how to teach about Thanksgiving, since I'm not fond of the idea of promoting our national myth of happy Pilgrim and Native Americans, conveniently glossing over how within 20 years, said Pilgrims would be mercilessly killing the same Native Americans. I think K should know about the Puritans, since they're her ancestors (we're direct descendants of Roger Conant, the first colonial governor of Salem). But she's a little young for a reading of Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates, which I feel does a good job of both appreciating the good points of the Puritans while showing them warts and all. So I'm mostly ignoring all that and concentrating on Thanksgiving as a harvest festival, which is how I choose to celebrate it. Tomorrow, we're reading a bunch of Thanksgiving books that talk a lot about giving thanks and sharing our blessings and very little about Pilgrims. I'm also planning to show her "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," which is Pilgrim heavy, but at least the Thanskgiving video we watched today gave a pretty accurate history, including the fact that Europeans had enslaved the Wampanoag.

Books used today:

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

Monday, November 21, 2011


I admit, I was so tired last night that I didn't even try to post. Too tired even to put up a "Gone Fishing" post crying off for the evening. And I'm still tired tonight, although the post-dinner nap helped a lot. I'm really looking forward to a holiday in the middle of the week, as well as a day off for everyone on Sunday. That's almost like a two-day weekend, right?

Anyway, here are some of the non-homeschooling things going on right now:

* We took Alec to the dentist last week and an x-ray revealed that fortunately, there was no damage to any of his teeth. Apparently the looseness was caused by damage to the soft tissue, and as it heals, the tooth will get back to normal. It definitely seems more firm to me a week later. There's a risk that it might turn brown if the blood supply has been damaged, but it's not showing any sign of it after a week and that's only a cosmetic issue anyway. I had a brown tooth myself as a small child due to an unfortunate encounter with the back of my brother's head.

* We're really enjoying this season of Next Iron Chef. I think the decision to use celebrity chefs was brilliant - we recognize many of them, so we came into it with pre-existing attachments; they're all already comfortable on camera and able to project a likeable persona (one of the things I think they didn't emphasize nearly enough in previous seasons was personality. Yes, an Iron Chef needs to be able to cook, but part of what makes the show enjoyable is that they can cook and be likeable at the same time). And one big advantage of choosing among established chefs is that all three women all still in the competition after four rounds of elimination, when previous competitions have tended to eliminate women and minorities very quickly (which isn't hard when you don't start with that many of them to begin with). That show really needs another woman since Cat Cora doesn't seem to be competing this season.

* Speaking of tv, I think Once Upon a Time is my pick for favorite new show of the season. I've always loved fairy tales, and retellings of fairy tales in new and interesting ways. This show scratches that itch very nicely, in a visually gorgeous and emotionally engaging way. The other fairy tale show of the season, Grimm, has so far completely failed to catch my attention. I think I'm just not in the mood for police procedurals right now, even with the X-Files twist of the criminals being supernatural.

* And I know there was more I wanted to write, but darned if I can remember it at this time of night. Perhaps this is a sign I should go to bed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

FIAR: Make Way for Ducklings, day 4

Today was not a great day for school. We all had a lot of trouble getting started this morning, and while cuddling together in a big pile in bed is lovely, it doesn't get schoolwork done. K was also not in a very cooperative mood because I had enacted a new policy the night before in an effort to get a response to my attempts to get her to clean up her toys besides whining and delay tactics. Perhaps I should have given her more warning last night, but sometimes scorched Earth tactics are the most effective and I was fed up. So she was rather preoccupied by the Rapunzel doll residing in my closet and not inclined to pay attention to school (but she did do a bang-up job cleaning up the living room tonight!). Then we spent the afternoon on time-consuming errands, including irnonically driving out to a suburban library to track down a copy of the book we're doing next week, Cranberry Thanksgiving.*

But I did manage to get some geography in, thanks to Google Maps (the FIAR manual keeps suggesting things like looking up maps in your Worldbook Encyclopedia - how quaint). We found Boston first, and looked at how far it is from Philadelphia (and then we looked at Michigan, and Illinois, and Hawaii - I never said we were particularly on task today). Part of Make Way is drawn from a duck's eye view flying over the city, so it looks something like a map. I zoomed in on the map of Boston and we were able to identify where on the Charles the mallards built there nest, and then trace the route they took to walk back to the Public Gardens. We used as much of Google Streetview and the satellite view as we could to see the Gardens themselves. We could see some swanboats, but I had to go look up the statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings that are in the Public Gardens, since K really wanted to see them. I'm quite certain we won't be able to get out of a trip to the Public Gardens on our next trip to Boston, which is just fine with me.

If I can manage it, I'm going to try to read two more McCloskey books, Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine with K this weekend and discuss how he uses the same artistic style for all of them. But even if we don't, I think we've made a decent showing of our first week of rowing, given how recently I started preparing. We're going to do Cranberry Thanksgiving next week, but continue to go easy on other subjects, then try to start up with reading and math as well as FIAR the week after Thanksgiving, which will hopefully get us past both the school fatigue and the holiday distraction (for the moment, given how soon Christmas distraction will start up).

*I would like to extend a gigantic raspberry to the Free Library of Philadelphia on this issue. Last Monday, there were three copies listed as available in the system - two were checked out and one was available, but at a branch on the other side of the city. So I put it on hold so it could get transferred to my branch. For three days I kept checking its status and it just kept saying it was still on shelf. Then yesterday I checked again and it had been CHECKED OUT. What exactly is the point of putting a book on hold if no one can be bothered to take it off the shelf and HOLD it for you? I truly have more sense than to be trying to track down a popular Thanksgiving book a week before Thanksgiving, but it was because my own library failed me, apparently through being too lazy to actually retrieve books people have requested.

Friday, November 18, 2011

FIAR: Make Way for Ducklings, day 3

Today was pretty simple, because we belong to a homeschooling group that meets at the park during the summer and at a local gym during the winter for socialization/running around like maniacs time every Thursday afternoon. K gets more than enough exercise on these afternoons for me to consider it a free-form phys ed.

We started the day reading Ducks Don't Get Wet, and then we followed the instructions at the end of the book to prove how ducks stay dry. Actual ducks stay dry because they have an oil gland they use to spread oil over their feathers (this is why you see ducks rubbing their bills over their bodies so much; it's called preening). For our experiment, we spread vegetable oil over a feather:

and then sprayed it and a dry feather with water:


(K insisted on the goggles. It really is just harmless water in the spray bottle). And the water beaded up and rolled off the oily feather while soaking in the dry feather. Pretty nifty.

Tomorrow: some language arts and hopefully geography.

Books read today:

Ducks Don't Get Wet by Augusta Goldin

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FIAR: Make Way for Ducklings, day two

N.B.: I'm not planning on making this an all-homeschooling, all-the-time blog. But I need to keep track of what we do every day for portfolio purposes and I can't do both this and NaBloPoMo at the same time, so I'm sorry if the homeschooling stuff bores you, but we're over halfway through November and there's a holiday next week, so there won't be too much more of this. At the end of November, I'll be creating a separate homeschooling blog that anyone who's interested can follow.

As I suspected, today wasn't greeted with quite the same enthusiasm as yesterday. My child, she loves her some science. We started the day reading Make Way for Ducklings, and then I asked K if she thought the story took place in the present day or some time in the past. I was firmly informed that this was a make-believe story and therefore my question was absurd. Okay then. After trying to point out that even make-believe stories are usually meant to take place at a certain point in time, I took a different tack and asked her to look at the cars, and then pulled up a picture of Doc Hudson from the movie Cars, who was a '50s era Hudson Hornet. Did he look anything like the cars in the book? A bit, but not an exact match. After promising to look up pictures of Lightning McQueen when we were done with schoolwork, I pulled up a Wikipedia article on the history of cars, which is well-stocked with pictures of cars from every decade. I scrolled to the end to pictures of present-day cars and scrolled backwards until we hit the cars of the '30s and '40s, which looked very much like the cars in the book. Having established the book takes place in the '40s (it was in fact published in 1941), we looked at some other clues that it was from a different time - everyone was wearing hats, all of the women and girls were wearing skirts or dresses, Office Mike uses a telephone from a police telephone booth to call his precinct.

Then I pulled out the only book I could find for children on life in the 40s on short notice: Welcome to Molly's World, 1944: Growing Up in World War Two America, an American Girl supplemental book. Once I pointed out to K that her grandmother was six in 1944 (i.e. exactly her age!), she showed quite a bit of interest in it. I told her about how her grandmother had lived on the coast in Connecticut and therefore had to participate in blackout drills, which impressed K quite a bit. She asked if she was afraid during them because it was dark and I told her that yes, sometimes her mother wouldn't want to wake her up during them, so she would sometimes wake up in a pitch black house where everyone else was in the basement (I think the fact that nearly 70 years later, she still vividly remembers this says a lot about the trauma of them). That made a big impression too, since K is scared of the dark. Topics like clothes girls wore and victory gardens went fairly well. She was incensed to discover that they didn't have televisions but had to make do with radios, but perked up when we got to a page on going to the movies, which I told her many people did every week, and she also discovered that movies she's seen, like Snow White and Bambi were from that time period. Fortunately, although concentration camps and the nuclear bombings of Japan were covered, the pages didn't have any graphic pictures, so I was able to skip them without comment. K did show a lot of interest in a page on Sadako, the Japanese girl with leukemia who tried to fold 1000 paper cranes (they had a picture of hundreds of origami cranes, which caught her eye because she's very interested in origami), but I was able to just say that Sadako was a girl who was very sick after the war without getting into why. I also discovered that during pregnancy is not a good time to try and relay stories like that calmly.

Tomorrow, we are enthusiastically looking forward to our feather experiment. It might have been smarter to do it today, since today's topic might have been better received if it hadn't been in the way of something she was eagerly anticipating. But I didn't feel up to dealing with feathers, oil and a curious toddler, so it's waiting until Alec is at preschool tomorrow.

Books used today:
Welcome to Molly's World, 1944: Growing Up in World War Two America by Catherine Gourley

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FIAR day one: Make Way for Ducklings

We started our first day of Five in a Row out with a bang, with a reading of one of K's favorite books, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (although she said she didn't want to learn about Boston, she clarified the next day that she still wanted to do Make Way for Ducklings and she does love Boston, she just doesn't want to learn about it). Since most of the book is taking up with the process of a pair of mallard ducks finding a site for a nest, laying eggs and raising the hatchlings, it seemed natural to move into a study of ducks.

We started out reading Make Way for Ducklings, and then Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin, who writes a series of hysterically funny books about a farm with a very mischievous duck, just for fun. Then we moved back to more real life birds with The Egg, a book about, well, eggs and how chicks develop in them. While it was mostly about chickens, the basics of how eggs work is the same. We took a break in reading to go shine a flashlight through an egg in a dark room to show how eggs are porous. I also asked K when we got to the section on reptiles whether she thought cold-blooded animals would be able to sit on their eggs to keep them warm and she correctly deduced that no, since they don't emit heat, they couldn't keep their eggs warm (thank you Dino Dan, I guess, which is largely where K learned about warm and cold blooded animals). After that, we read A Duckling is Born, which was specifically about the mating process and fetal development of ducks. Then we read Ducks!, which was a more general book about the different breeds and types of duck. We finished with K rendering a pretty accurate drawing of a female duck on her nest.

Thursday, we're going to revisit ducks by doing an experiment to find out why ducks don't get wet. But K was so excited she got up and made her own project. She had been cradling the egg since our light demonstration, so she ran outside and got some twigs, grass and leaves to make it a nest:


She even found an obliging duck to sit on it:


I realize that male mallards don't sit on the nest, but we didn't have any female ducks available.

I don't think I can express how different today was than pretty much any day of school so far this year. The only times that have come close have been after a few science lessons. I realize not everything is going to generate this level of excitement, and I'm a little afraid it's downhill from here, but one of the big reasons we pulled her out of school in the first place is that I was afraid she was going to lose her love of learning in a sea of test preparation. Today, we able to get that back, an enthusiasm for new knowledge so strong that she had to jump up and make up her own project. I can't think of any better reason for homeschooling than that.


Tomorrow, some geography and history (I may be sneaking some information about Boston in there if I can get away with it). I'm not sure we'll achieve the same level of excitement, but it should still be fun.

Books used today (bear with me, I need to keep track of these things):
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
The Egg by Pascale de Bourgoing
A Duckling is Born by Hans-Heinrich Isenbart
Ducks! by Gail Gibbons

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Nearly missed posting for the day. I didn't have all of the books I wanted, so we're starting FIAR tomorrow instead of today, but we did at least take a first pass at Progressive Phonics, which K thought was hilarious. So that's an improvement at least. But now I have all of the books I need thanks to my special library delivery service, so tomorrow is all about ducks!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Snaggle tooth

I didn't see exactly what happened yesterday, but when I looked over, Alec was on his knees in front of the wooden castle, starting that slow cry that lets you know they're building up to a good howl because they're really hurt. It quickly became clear his mouth was bleeding, and the little inspection I was allowed to do showed all of his teeth and what looked like some scraped skin on the inside of his upper lip, so I applied pressure and cuddles and thanked my lucky stars it wasn't worse.

Well, until I noticed he kept rubbing his lower teeth against his upper teeth and that when he did, one of his front teeth was at a distinctly different angle than the other. Oh crud. A quick Googling revealed that a baby tooth knocked loose wasn't a dental emergency worthy of a visit to the dentist on a Saturday night (because of course this sort of things always happens at 4:30 on a Saturday). So I cuddled him some more and tried to control my inner freakout, because dental injuries squick me right out. It's here that his infant habit of sucking our fingers for comfort came in handy (we're trying to wean him off of it, but it's a process, and oh, don't even start), because my finger in his mouth held his loose tooth in place for what turned out to be over an hour because he fell asleep and I didn't want to pull my finger out for fear of yanking it out of place.

I'm not sure how much you can do for a two-year-old with a loose tooth. Soft foods, try to stay alert to keep him from messing with it and a call to the dentist tomorrow. Apparently it will hopefully reattach itself with time. We just have to keep him from knocking it out of his fool head in the meantime, since he certainly doesn't see why he shouldn't try to practice all of his wrestling moves on his sister or use the couch for gymnastics practice. Oy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Okay, if I don't feel like posting, here's a discussion question:

I always feel a bit lazy soliciting book recommendations since I am a librarian, after all, and that's suppose to be my job. But one of my library school professors used to say that the most powerful reference tool is the telephone (and I suppose by extension these days, e-mail), so making use of the knowledge of others is a perfectly valid reference technique. Anyway:

Can you recommend any children's books that use magic, particularly where the children are doing the magic, for a six-year-old who isn't ready for something as scary as Harry Potter yet? I ask because I looked over at K the other night and she was brandishing a stick like a wand and attempting to make up incantations to make her brother disappear. My first thought was that we should start on Harry Potter, but she is very sensitive to scariness and danger. She's only very recently (as in, the past month) been willing to watch The Princess and the Frog and Tangled regularly, neither of which is all that scary but both have scary moments that were too much for her a year ago. I think she could take more scariness in books, but I think the highest level of scariness we could tolerate is the first Harry Potter. So: books about kid magicians for the scaredy-cat? I think Narnia is a given, but again, probably too scary.


I'm allowed at least a couple "I'm too tired to really post" posts, aren't I? Because I'm really tired. Tomorrow is the first day in three weeks B have had off together, and it shows. So I'm copping out for the night.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Maybe we'll do Madeline instead

Tonight, we got K to bed a bit later than we should have, which we could tell because she had reached the emotionally fragile state of tiredness. We were discussing her passionate desire to make a papier mache volcano, and B and I both agreed pretty readily that it seemed like a fine thing to do. I reminded her that one of the great things about homeschooling on our own (besides no more Fast Forward! I'm a bit giddy at the thought) is that we can decide ourselves what we want to learn, so if there's something she really wants to learn, we can do it.

"Okay," she said, "But I don't want to learn..."

She trailed off, either unwilling to say it or too tired to come up with the words.

"But I don't want to learn about..."

I braced myself, prepared to explain sympathetically that she was still going to have to do reading and math.


Well okay, sweetheart. I guess we won't start with Make Way for Ducklings after all.


I actually think we'll broach the topic again, to see if she was just tired, or attempting to express reservations about the entire FIAR concept (which I expect to dissipate pretty quickly once we start doing it, but I can understand how a completely new way of learning could make her nervous). Because if there's one thing K loves, it's Boston, where her aunt lives.

We filed the paperwork and withdrew her from school today, so we're official. We still have to hear from the school district that everything is in order, and get instructions on how to return all of the online school's stuff (you mean we have to give the computer back? Drat). I have declared the rest of this week a deschooling week, where we all recover a bit from worksheet fatigue (and give the teachers time to prepare) before starting fresh next week.

The napping house

I'm not sure if it was something in the air today, but everyone in this house has been exceptionally sleepy. Alec took a much longer nap than he has been recently (I think he's flirting with giving up his nap in the next six months. He can't get through the day without one, but they keep getting shorter and shorter). K had a massive meltdown of the sort she only has when I'm about to find her asleep in the next ten minutes. B fell asleep putting Alec to bed and I fell asleep downstairs while that was happening.

Tomorrow, knock wood, we will deliver our homeschooling affidavit to the school district, call to withdraw her from school, and we'll be flying solo educationally. Whee!

Monday, November 7, 2011


I spent most of last evening on forms; generating our affidavit and educational objectives (largely cribbed from the Internet) and medical and dental forms (ditto). And then I spent a good hour bashing my head against the Philadelphia School District's web site attempting to figure out where we should send all this. Searching the web site resulted in the names of at least four different offices, none of which could be found in the directory. I found a FAQ which said we needed to contact our Regional Office, which was a link to a 404 page, and there were no other clues on the web site as to where our Regional Office might be.

So it really wasn't a surprise when a phone call this morning revealed that it had to go to an office in the School District's main office in Center City. It can in fact be found in the directory, so this is likely the right place. One hurdle (potentially) down.

We got everything notarized this morning and I stopped by the dentist to get the form signed to prove we're making a reasonable effort to keep her teeth from falling out of her head before their time. All that's left is the TB test tomorrow, which kind of chaps me because we didn't need to do this to actually send her to mingle her germy self with other children in the public schools. I briefly considered filing an exemption request on the theory that I do feel this is a bullshit requirement, but couldn't make myself actually say that I have a religious or strong ethical objection to medical tests when really I just want to avoid a minor pain in the ass.

So if all goes well, I can get the medical form signed tomorrow and we can get this all wrapped up by Wednesday. Of course, we are dealing with big city bureaucracy, so we'll see.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, now that our plans to withdraw from school are underway, we're feeling astonishingly apathetic about getting work done this week. I did make K do some work today, partially just to avoid giving her the idea that we might suddenly no longer be doing any work around here. But I did then let her spend over an hour watching whatever videos she wanted on BrainPopJr, an educational video website. It was educational after all, even if it wasn't fulfilling any actual assignments. Goodness knows what we're getting accomplished tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homeschooling redux

So it took me a while to come around to it, but once I did, homeschooling on our own seemed like the most natural choice. With the online school, we have the worst of school and homeschooling: the constant accountability to someone else, living on their schedule and having no control over curriculum, but we're still stuck with our kid all day. The big advantage of homeschooling is supposed to be having the flexibility to adapt your curriculum to your particular needs. So that's what we're doing.

The logistics:

Starting to homeschool in Pennsylvania isn't very hard: you submit an affadavit to your local school superintendant with a couple medical forms (bizarrely, including a tb test, which K didn't need when she was entering a brick and mortar school), and that's that. We can call and withdraw her from school the same day we submit it. My current goal is having it all done by Wednesday so I can avoid the biweekly teacher call on Thursday.

After that, you need to keep an attendance log and enough work examples to be able to put a portfolio together at the end of the year to prove you've accomplished something. The part that makes me a bit nervous is that we also have to find someone to evaluate K to make sure her learning is on track, but I've decided to file that under "bridges to cross once we arrive at them."

So what sort of curriculum are we planning to try?

The main curriculum I'm planning to use is Five in a Row, a curriculum where you read a storybook five days in a row and do different studies based on the book (an online friend does a good job of making it look like a lot of fun at her homeschooling blog). For instance, I think we will probably start with Make Way for Ducklings, one of K's favorite books. The first day, we'll probably look at bit at the geography and history of Boston. The next day, a science lesson on ducks. The third day, a study on the art techniques used to illustrate the book. And so on. I can see a lot of reasons to try it:

* it looks like fun, and with the issues we've been having, I'm for anything that might produce some enthusiastic participation.
* it allows us to cover most of the subjects we're required to cover without having to have a separate curriculum for each one.
* it looks toddler-friendly - Alec can listen to us read the story and participate a bit in some of the activities, and we can plan messier, more involved things for his preschool days.
* it doesn't require tests or worksheets or any of the required, repetitive output that has been making us miserable.

I do plan on separate math and reading curricula. For reading, I'm planning on starting with Progressive Phonics, a free phonics program that looks like it might be a bit easier to get K to participate in. Instead of having the child read incredibly stilted and boring phonics books with the tiny number of words they know, it has the teacher read the words in black while the child reads the words in red. This allows for more fluent and interesting things to read, and I'm hoping the fact that I will be reading too will make it easier for K to read out loud. It also has a handwriting component, so that will take care of that state requirement. Once we work our way through that, I'm hoping she'll be a confident enough reader at that point that our reading can be from easy readers. We'll have to find another writing and spelling curriculum at that point, but once again, bridge, cross, once we reach.

K has been doing an online reading game called Reading Eggs, and I think I may splurge and get a subscription so she can keep doing one of the few things she's been enthusiastic about. I know there are plenty of free reading games online, but this is a really good one and I think worth the money for this year at least.

For math, I'm thinking about MEP math, largely because it's free, but also because the lessons and exercises look like they'll appeal to K. There are also any number of free math games online, so we'll try to do some of those as well.

So I think our days will go: FIAR, reading, math, plus computer time. I'm contemplating only doing FIAR four days a week and using the time on the fifth day for more science, or maybe doing history in a more organized, linear fashion. And we should fit music somewhere in there beyond what FIAR covers. I'm sure these things will become more clear as we start into it.

Friday, November 4, 2011


And after leaving on a cliff-hanger yesterday, I'm too tired to go into any detail today. Don't worry, it was just mostly blather about curriculum and logistics, which I will probably find time to do tomorrow.

I will observe that one big difference between the first and second trimester is that a month ago, I couldn't really deal with all of this except with helpless weeping as I attempted to contemplate finding the energy to deal with, well, anything, let alone our teacher issues. And student issues. Now? My dander is up and I'm feeling feisty and excited to try something new. To be honest, I've been pretty bored too. It's not that I expect first grade curriculum to be the most exciting thing in the world, but there are so many fun and exciting things you can teach a kid, even when they're just six.

Once again, more tomorrow.

One of the longer posts I mentioned

I haven't been talking much about school this year, mostly because I've been preoccupied with keeping my eyes open and food in my stomach. Truly, I don't recommend combining homeschooling and the first trimester if you can help it. But as I've started coming out of the first trimester fog, I'm realizing that quite a bit of the difficulty has been K and her resistance to most of what we're doing.

One big issue is she has a combination of shyness, perfectionism and performance anxiety that prevents her from wanting to answer a question unless she's absolutely sure of the answer (and to make it even more fun, when she's bored or feeling resistant, she sometimes likes to play dumb). This is a poor combination for a program where a teacher calls every two weeks to ask her to read out loud, let alone with standardized testing time comes along. Her kindergarten teacher last year had a reasonable amount of success with her, but we got off to a bad start with her teacher this year due to miscommunication, and while things have improved, K absolutely refused to read for her the last time she called.

The other issue is something it took me longer to realize: she's bored. This is too easy for her. The way she moans and whines through a list of three-letter words but brightens up when you start introducing more difficult words makes that clear. But I can't make any sort of case for accelerating her if I can't get her to show what she knows.

So she resists while we slog our way through a program with a heavy emphasis on output - worksheets, projects, constant mini-quizzes between the frequent tests. Just the thing a child who doesn't like to give answers needs. I keep thinking that if we could have at least half of her school day be things she likes, it will be possible to get her to do the stuff she likes less. But so far, that's only science, which is three days a week. No word on when we might introduce some other (state-mandated!) subjects, like social studies, music or art.

So: we have an educational program with only three subjects (reading, math and science), two of which are on too easy a level and which emphasize all of the things that she dislikes most. It demands that a child who is very shy and has performance anxiety when it comes to showing her knowledge get regularly quizzed by someone she has never met in person. A surefire recipe for success!

If we were homeschooling on our own and were having this kind of trouble, we could go out and find a new curriculum that's better suited to her strengths instead of her weaknesses (if we were homeschooing on our own, we would be required to be covering about nine different subjects, so I'm more than a little confused about why it's okay to just be doing three through school).

So clearly the answer is to start homeschooling on our own. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sick day

Well, on the plus side, it turns out K isn't sick with anything contagious. The drawback is that it's in fact another UTI. Drat. She's been on a daily dose of antibiotic (Bactrim) since early August, and other than a trip to the urologist a month later that revealed an infection so mild we hadn't noticed symptoms yet, we've been infection-free. Only apparently what it's been doing is mostly suppressing infection while letting some other bugs simmer along until she breaks out in the heavy-duty symptoms. Dammit.

I have been repeating until I'm blue in the face that Bactrim doesn't work on her infections. Or rather, it suppresses them for the time that she's on it, and then they come galloping back the second she's off. One memorable time, we missed a single dose six days into the course of medication and within twelve hours, she had a high fever and was screaming at the pain of peeing. And yet, I just keep getting these blank looks from medical professionals every time I say this as they point to lab reports that say the bacteria should respond to Bactrim. Well, usually they do, partially. But clearly there are some other bugs in there that don't, and we keep making them stronger every time we give her this freaking useless medicine.

Ahem. Not that I'm annoyed or anything.

Clearly we need a new daily antibiotic. But we were hoping to get a referral for a new urologist, one with a competent office staff and who actually makes eye contact. And we were also planning to switch the kids from their pediatrician to the family practitioner and I have been seeing (the waits in her office are like, five minutes, whereas I have never waited less than 45 minutes at the pediatrician, even when the waiting room is practically empty). So I'm sure what to do. I really don't want to go back the urologist, but do we ask the current pediatrician for a new referral? Get off our asses and do the paperwork for the switch quickly so the new doctor can give us a referrall, hoping that we can do it before the antibiotic for the infection runs out? Argh. Someone needs to tell K that being in the middle of a doctor switch is a very bad time to develop acute medical needs. Very inconsiderate of her. I don't suppose I could convince the bacteria to just put a pin in it and chill out for about a month until all of the paperwork is properly transferred, can I?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's certainly too early for this

I think the second day of November is definitely too early to be staring blankly at an empty entry box, but while I have a number of longer posts in the back of my head, K threw up tonight and now I'm too busy with my psychosomatic nausea to concentrate on them.

It's a good measure of how far I've come that this is the first time in a couple weeks I've been worried about throwing up. I still don't have any appetite and quite a lot of food is off-putting, but I can see a distant future where I might want to eat again and maybe even enjoy it. Now all I need to do is remind myself that just because K has a virus doesn't mean that I, the person who spends all day with her and has a weakened immune system, will get it too. Norman Vincent Peale, eat your heart out.

On the non-whiny front, my last birthday present from B arrived today: this t-shirt. I am very pleased with it.


Around 3:30 this afternoon, I decided that sanity dictated I not try to force a six-year-old to do any more academic work on Halloween and called an end to our school day. A couple hours later, I helped dress a princess:


and a dinosaur:


and we went out. Two hours later, all of our children were suitably hyper from sugar consumption. And I do mean all - after filching some candy, I became aware of a fluttery, squirming feeling in my lower abdomen. I guess it's true that you start feeling movement earlier every time - it was 17 weeks with K, 15 with Alec and now 14.

Anyway, a successful Halloween all around. I was particularly pleased that K got a huge charge out of passing candy out to the trick or treaters, which saved me from having to get up and go up and down stairs multiple times.


Given my posting record over the past year, I was hesitant to commit to NaBloPoMo this year. But I have more time now and the fog of the first trimester is definitely lifting (although the physical fatigue is still there, probably because I still can't properly breathe two full weeks after first getting this stupid cold), so I'm hoping I'll manage it. And it's technically already November 1, so I have my first entry done!