Saturday, December 29, 2007

I see the light!

O and I are finally starting to feel close to our old selves again (at least I am, and O is settling in to his new, manly body) We've really shut down on outside activities, field trips, formal work at all, so it will be nice to get back into some sort of routine come January.

Our next school "term" will be starting January 7th--more like a date to aim for being more active and cutting down on the tv/internet/video game usage. O has chosen his field trips for the season, and, unfortunately, the Zoo is still at the top of his all-time favorite places list. Not that I don't love the Zoo, even in winter, it's a great time to have the place to yourself, and to get a really good look at the animals, but I've done so many winter Zoo trips and I was kind of hoping for something different this time. Oh well. He's also picked the Conservatory this time, something he's never been interested in before, but I find it really helps the cabin fever to spend some time in a huge tropical greenhouse.

O and I are also going to start working through the set of Boy Mechanic books he got for Xmas and I'm really looking forward to that. Spending more time working on fun projects at home with O is one of my New Years resolutions.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Let's never fight again

I have been neglecting you, dear blog-o-mine. It's not you, it's me, really. It's just that I've been so busy. It's not another blog, really, you gotta trust me baby.

I promise I'll be a better blogger from now on, now let's never fight again.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


We've been having a bitch of a time in the last few weeks, both of us sick for ages, then 11 days straight of work for me. O's football team was knocked out of the playoffs in their first game. The new cat got a urinary tract infection and has been pissing everywhere. Just not a lot of fun, let's say.

On the up side, we did start the History Odyssey curriculum last week, and so far, so good. O really seems to enjoy the straight-forward, reading/research/writing-based learning of the program, and appreciates that there are very few "make learning fun" kind of activities. He really seems to like the very basic, old-fashioned, 3 R's approach to learning, and doesn't have much tolerance for craft-projects, reading responses, "pretend you are a Roman Centurion writing a letter home to mom" kind of assignments, that I always did like when I was in school, mostly as a break from the stuff he loves!

He also commented to me recently that he likes to write, but just doesn't know what to write about. Ok, so the years and years of incredible resistance to any form of writing was just about not quite knowing what to write??? I don't think so, but maybe this means he's going to be more open to some writing exercises.

He also seems happier to be doing some more structured work, and seems quite open to starting the daily schedule we have planned for starting in November (after the next spate of events in the arena.) It's taking months of talking it through, but I think he's seeing for himself how much he misses out on when he lays around all day doing nothing.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Plan 9

As usual, while I've been trying to figure out the best way to organize our life, O has been quietly going about his thing, and has developed a bit of an obsession for etymology. He's starting to figure out bits and pieces of Japanese from the 2-3 hours of anime he watches nightly online, and has been toying with the idea of learning German through the free Rosetta Stone site we have access to through our library. Still throws a wrench in my hopes to ever have a French conversation with my child. Seems he thinks that since I already speak a Romance language, he doesn't need to learn one, he'll just ask me. Oh well, at least he's efficient, lol.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Homeschooling links

Stellarium - a super cool downloadable planetarium simulator

New York Times Learning Network - lesson plans based on current events, and access to historic front pages

Metropolitan Museum Artwork of the Day - pretty self-explanatory

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fun stuff

O's been spending time lately on Nation States, a build-your-own-country game, and he's managed to create a "liberal Scandinavian paradise" where the citizens enjoy almost total civil freedoms and often walk around naked. Ahh, my little libertarian.

What a great day!

O and I stayed home, took the phone off the hook, and watched NFL football all day. O explained some of the more obscure aspects of the game to me, and we watched the whole days roster of games, plus post-game shows. O was so happy to have me sharing his day and his interests, and I'm so happy that we finally seem to have found something that we both enjoy again. It seemed for a while there that we didn't have anything in common anymore, I just couldn't get into car stats and first-person shooter games, and he's not exactly fascinated by knitting or the finer points of broth-making.

I've found, though, that I really enjoy football, both the game itself (now that I know what's going on) and the trappings of being a football mom (sitting in the bleachers on a crisp fall day, cheering on the team, drinking cocoa, eating hot dogs and cheeseburgers and chatting with the other moms, all of whom don't think there is anything at all weird about hsing, how cool is that?)

We took a walk to Dairy Queen for blizzards, and watched the cars going by (Sunday night is cruise night on the major street nearby, so there are loads of classic cars, souped up hondas and hyundais, a few ridiculous hummers and pimped out suvs, basically cheap entertainment for a car nut kid. Watched more football when we got home, read part of the intro to Gilgamesh (it's a lot racier than I expected, don't think I'll be reading this one aloud, don't think O would survive the embarrassment of hearing his mom say some of those phrases, lol)

O finished reading The Lightning Thief and asked me to put the other two volumes of the series on hold at the library. I guess he enjoyed it. We watched Mean Girls and talked a bit about what it was like for him to go back to school 2 years ago in grade 7, he said he felt as odd and out of touch as Cady in the film. After that we watched more football, post-game shows, and two episodes of Spaced while O played more football on the Game Cube and now he's watching Mythbusters. I'm off to bed soon, happy that I have had a completely non-productive day, and that I plan to be even less productive tomorrow, though maybe with a bit more movement and a bit less screen time, lol.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New week, new plans, new job (I hope)

I think I've finally decided to find a new job, the one I currently have just impinges too much on my family life and hsing and stresses me out waaaaayyy too much.

On a bright note, I do actually have two days off, in a row (how freaky is that?!?) And I vow not to spend these days on housecleaning and errands and all the other stuff that hasn't gotten done around here. It's going to be two days of me and O, and hopefully a little bonding time.

The weather has been gorgeous lately, just getting into the beautiful part of fall, all bright primary coloured leaves and huge blue prairie sky, crisp days and cool nights, before it gets to the wet and cold and moldy and mucky and gross part of fall, and before the snow falls in October. I'd love to get out to the zoo tomorrow, if O is still interested. He's changing so much lately, I never know what will still pique his interest. The zoo always been a favorite place, though.

We've also been trying to find the time, though, to get out to the electrical supply store to browse and pick out some projects for O to tinker with. Maybe we'll do that instead tomorrow, it all depends on when I can get O out of bed.

Speaking of which, he's still in bed right now, sleeping off both yesterday's football game (they won 47-13, and O, as the biggest kid on the team, was, as usual, the focus for, shall we say, special treatment from the defense, including one kid who repeatedly gave up a chance to sack the quarterback in favour of landing on my kid. Well, he might have lost his team the game, a lesson O took away from that kid's bad sportsmanship) and last night's Beyonce concert. Yeah, you read that right, he went to a Beyonce concert with my sis, two of her daughters, and a small gaggle of incredibly excited 13 year old girls. When asked how it was last night, all O had to say was "It was the Beyonce Experience!". And, apparently, the 13yo's enjoyed it quite a bit, spending the drive home shrieking out the car windows. Glad it wasn't me, that's all I can say.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A new chapter

My heart just isn't in homeschooling at the moment. I realized tonight that I'm just plain bored with the way we used to do things, and so is O. We're drifting into couch potato-hood because I just can't come up with any alternative activities that don't bore the crap out of both of us.

The problem is, I think, and has been for at least a year now, that O is not a kid, in any way at all, anymore. He's a full-fledged teen, and I don't know what to do for fun with a teen. I never spent any time at all with my dad when I was teenaged (at least, not if I could help it) and my dad wasn't the least bit interested in me until I was, oh, 30 or so. Since Mum died when I was 12, and I'd spent the better part of 4 years before that nursing and taking care of her, I really don't know what it is that teens do with parents, parents that are interested, involved and physically and emotionally capable of engaging with them.

I don't have the time to spend on video games like I used to with O, I don't have hours to get deeply into a campaign or dungeon and I don't like the one-off sports or battle games (my adolescent Ms. Pac-Man addiction notwithstanding.) I can't afford to go to movies or shows every weekend, and even if I could, I'm often working. O used to be willing to go around galleries and museums, but he really has no interest anymore, and if I'm totally honest, neither do I, really. I mean, the Mb Museum is pretty cool, but we can only do that so many times, and there is no way in hell I'm going to spend my afternoon making doilies at Dalnavert, or admiring textile advances at the Crafts Museum (even if that Nasak hat making course looks really cool!)

It's just such new territory for me. At his age I was spending most of my time trying to stay out of my dad's way, or at the very least not attracting his annoyance or anger. I hid in my room, or went for long, long walks alone. I don't know what any teenager does for fun, let alone a teenage boy, and I certainly don't know what that boy would do with his mom.

I was so panicked and lost when O turned 12, from that point on in my life I'd had absolutely no parenting of any sort, and I didn't know if I'd be able to figure the teen stuff out. I'd used Mum as my model for how to parent, and I really have no idea how she approached the older kids teens, Dad spent so much of their adolescence enraged about something or other, and most of what I saw Mum do was putting out fires. I've been muddling along with this mom of a teen thing, and I'm finally feeling comfortable with the whole thing, but the realization that I suddenly have no idea how to socialize with my son, without falling back on tv and movies, it's a bit of a shock. No wonder we are in such a rut.

Maybe if O were another kind of kid, we could work this out a bit between us, but getting him to pick something for dinner is like pulling teeth (I dunno, just make anything...) asking him to pick out an activity or show or event for us to do together... I'd really rather gnaw off several limbs, and so, I'm sure, would he. I don't know if he just doesn't have any opinions of any sort (beyond "monkeys are funny"), or if the Y chromosome renders any display of anything that may at some point possibly lead to an approximation of emotion, a condition that kicks in around 13 (all the boys in the neighborhood seem to be suffering from idunnosinosis.)

I just don't know how to go about engaging him anymore. It was so easy when he was younger, all I needed was to point out amusing squirrel antics, or sing a mildly naughty song. I just don't share his obsession with manga, monkeys and food of any and all kinds.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hot schooling!

What we have done this week, so far, is to watch Hot Fuzz over and over, followed by Shaun of the Dead, and then to look up old episodes of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost show Spaced on You Tube. I don't know how educational this has been, but they are freaking funny!

O has been studiously employed in trying to completely destroy our PC through continual Stumbling on Firefox. He's found some pretty cool stuff, but our poor 'puter can barely get through the day without freezing up once, let along half a dozen times. Nearly crashed the whole damn thing, and I think I'm going to have to move the computer into my room, so he can't stay up all night looking for weird and freaky things online.

Other than his newfound stumble addiction, O has been reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre, and From Hand Ax to Laser by John Purcell, and listening to some best of shows on Stimulated Boredom. After he was listening to the show on the battle of Thermopylae, I pointed out to O that we do own a copy of the Herodotus' The Histories, that I bought in spring, meaning to read over summer, but will most likely just stay on my TBR pile.

The plan changes

This week totally did not turn out the way I had planned, and what I've mostly gotten out of this week is that I hate following plans. Adding yet another layer of things to nag O about was not what I wanted after all, and we will be returning to a more unschooling kind of flow for our days.

The biggest problem this week has been me feeling really resentful of doing all the work around the house and O not helping or appreciating this, and taking me for granted. The school structure was supposed to help with this, and may have if I'd stuck to it for a long time, but I'd be angry, frustrated and bored out of my mind by the end of it.

I'm rethinking what it was that I wanted from a more structured school approach, and it's mainly that O is exposed to great literature and thinking, and that he has the critical faculties to understand and engage with this material. Dictating his day has only been pulling us further and further away from this goal. Every time I give him a task, it just seems to drop his standards that much more, it's one more thing that he will avoid doing.

The tv thing I'm still wrestling with. Because we both love tv, and there are some shows we will both really miss, but most of the time it's just on and we're just passively sucked in and don't really get anything out of the hours and hours we spend in front of it. And when I turn off the tv and ban it for the day, suddenly we're reading, or talking, or watching a movie we've been meaning to watch for a long time, or any of the long list of things we never seem to get around to because we're so busy watching tv all day long. I don't want to lose the option, but it's like having an easy button to push whenever I don't feel like making any effort of any sort.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The war continues...

Went in to work to do a few things I can't do at home while O went out and about with his friends. Came home to him watching tv and using the computer, while nothing on his chore list had been done. I guess all the talks I had with him last week about "no tv till your work is done" and how I would cut off the cable and internet access if he couldn't do this by himself were completely pointless. I wouldn't mind if he didn't spend all his time when I'm trying to talk to him rolling his eyes and saying "You already told me this Moooooom".

Well, it is the first day of school, can't really expect him to totally self-regulate, yet (can't I? He is freaking 14 and these are NOT new rules!!!!!) One thing I totally love about hsing, though, is that our schedule is our own. I can do my work, and tend to the house and run errands when I have the time, and we can fit our school stuff in where we can. We're finishing up the school day now, at 8pm, a school day that started with a tickle fight/wrestling match on his bed at 2pm, rather than me just yelling "Get UP!" at 7am and running around like crazy trying to get him together long enough to get out the door.

We read ch. 4 of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, O did not appreciate my French Canadian accent for Ned Land (hmmph! My talent is never appreciated! Just because he couldn't understand a word I said!) O then did his math work, just a couple pages to start with, then got to the fun stuff of making and testing paper airplanes. He couldn't test out his home-made design in the hallway, it had too much lift and kept hitting the ceiling, so he tested it out in the stairwell, dropping it the 5 floors straight down to the main floor, getting in some aerobic stair climbing as well.

Finished out the evening by listening to an Ideas episode about the politics of design in everyday objects. The part about designing limitations into a project was really interesting, how it's now thought that the designer of the California highway system was deliberately limiting access to the beaches and natural areas by designing roads and overpasses in such a way that only cars and private passenger vehicles could get to them, no busses at the beach means a nice, white, middle class crowd. That sparked quite a long conversation.

You may have won the battle, but I will win the war!

Said to me this morning by O, on my efforts to wake him up for school, spoken while curled up in a ball on the couch wrapped in a blanket.

Me: Do you want breakfast?
O: Yes, but I'm going back to sleep right after!
Me: I won't make breakfast unless you wake yourself up.
O: It depends on what's for breakfast.
Me: Either scrambled egg burritos or muesli and yogurt.
O: Scrambled eggs I predict a 97% chance of wakefulness, muesli, 13%
Me: That's blackmail.
O: Blackmail is such a dirty word, I prefer extortion.

Eventually he did wake up (does that mean I won the war?) and we got to start school work. Listened to lecture one of the Teaching Company course God's Prophet: The Religion of Islam, talked about the US war with the Barbary Corsairs and why they lost (I'd never heard of this war, O read about it on Maps of War. )

We went over the assigned reading for the month: From Hand Ax to Laser and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. O opted to start with Hero and we went through the table of contents and the illustrations, and discussed how the general idea of the hero cycle fits in to the stories illustrated (Odysseus, Gilgamesh, Perseus, Star Wars, and video games.)

Then some of O's friends, bored waiting for school to start, came over and now I'm trying to decide at what point to kick them out. I do want O to be able to maintain his friendships and social life, but they've come over to insult each other, insult O, make fun of friends who aren't here, and play with O's video games, sigh.

Later on today, we'll get to math, our read-aloud, O will pick his current reading from the suggested reading list, and we'll read about aerodynamics and put together some paper airplanes from the imaginatively named Paper Airplane Book. Dictation from The Once and Future King, and some housecleaning will round out our day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait!

School starts tomorrow! School starts tomorrow!

Ok, I'm a little excited, I love the first day of school, always have. Shopping for new clothes, new lunchbox and sneakers, new books, school supplies, just getting that list sent me into little ectasies.
Even the first day of homeschooling is a great first day for me. Going out to the bakery for croissants, hitting the newly empty playground, walking down by the river bank looking for turtles and beavers, celebrating back to school with the librarians at our local library (they are oh so happy to see the kids go back to school!)

O, on the other hand, has never really been as enamored with the smell of new markers, the squeak of new sneakers. He just always could really care less, even when he was in school. At 14, the back to school ritual is even less evocative for him.

All to say that, I'm really excited and O keeps saying "what? school? oh yeaaaah..."


No TV week

I've decided to go with Monday as our 1st day of school. I have been planning on a "no-screen" week for the 1st week of school, meaning no tv, no video games, no computer. That's going to be a tough one, I think, no passive entertainment of any sort. It's going to be a bit of a shock for O!

Friday, August 31, 2007

O's foot is not quite so gross today, but to make sure it actually heals, I'm having him rest completely. Which means a lot of video game and tv time, again. I did suggest we "start school" a few days early, but it didn't go over too well, lol.

I am really looking forward to the new school year, even though I'm already having to rearrange our schedule and turn down field trips and events. We've never yet managed to get out to a "Not Back to School" picnic, and this year will be no different, thanks to the 2.5 hours a day that my boss has scheduled me for next week, 2.5 hours right smack dab in the middle of the day, sigh.

I do want to make sure we make a library trip as soon as possible into the school year, and since our books are due on the 5th, it gives me a good excuse to push O out of the house and into the actual (gasp) outdoors. I'm hoping to brainstorm a booklist with him this weekend, for the first month or two of school. I have some suggestions in my list, but unschooling would go a lot more smoothly if O had an opinion as to what he was going to do!

Big Owie

O has absolutely mangled his foot! He is actually missing a large patch of skin on the top of his foot where he got the huge scrape last week. It is beyond gross, the "skin", if you can call it that, in the infected patch looks like the interior of an eye socket (and yes, I know what that looks like, my bf when I was a kid was blind and wore glass eyes, she had to take them out nightly to wash, the inside of a human eye socket without eyes is fish belly white with hundreds of tiny red capillaries running all over it.)

He can't really walk or get around well right now, which is something I should be used to by now, he's incapacitated about 1/3 of the time lately, this year alone it's been a broken collar bone, sprained ankle, strained back, sprained the other ankle, and now his foot looks like a special effect from a Wes Craven movie, yeeeuuch!

Between his franken-foot and my migraine yesterday, we've pretty well been wallowing in the frat boy lifestyle (we actually ate potato chips for dinner last night, and even that was too much for me, the crunching hurt my head and jaw sooo bad. I hope to never have another migraine as long as I live, and with the memory of how bad yesterday's one was, I'm even trying to stick to my diet now.) I now have to work afternoons for most of the month, though only 2.5 hours most days. I have to do some major hiring again, but will hopefully be able to fit that in to the catering I'm doing.

This will all, of course, impact the schedule I have planned. A week until school starts and I'm already starting to drop stuff, lol!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I do this every year!

I'm already hating the schedule I came up with! I do this every year. I hate how sloppy and disorganized we are, so I spend weeks coming up with schedules, plans, lists, and then I hate following them by two weeks into the school year.

This time around, we haven't even started the school year, or the schedule, and I'm already chafing under my own bit. I don't want to go to bed early, I don't want to get up early and get busy and be productive. Well, I want to, but I want it to be easy and fun and involve late night tv.

I think it's the tv thing that's really bothering me the most. I like tv, I like vegging out and watching tv. That's the problem. We would both happily sit in front of the box passively absorbing entertainment rather than do anything. When the tv is gone, we are suddenly way more productive, reading, writing, going out, listening to the radio, documentaries, discussing and debating stuff. The tv has to go. I know this. O knows this. But neither of us want to be the one to cut the ties. It's like having a really fun but really irresponsible and crazy room-mate who always has something fun and stupid to do, and you know you have to kick him out and get on with a grown-up life, but life without him is totally lame. And since I have been the irresponsible and crazy room-mate in most of my friends lives, it's ironic that I'm the one to have to show tv the door.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Things to do at a cabin

I wish I'd sent the camera along with O to the cabin, then I could post some pictures. I'll have to make do with O's description of his week, which consisted of driving a golf cart around 5 gravel roads near Grand Beach around and around for 12 hours a day. Ahh, the freedom of the open road.

There were 3 of them, O, his 12 year old cousin K, and her 13 year old friend S. As O bragged to me, "I only feel off 3 times, K only fell off twice, and S only ran over my foot once." Also, K apparently nearly drove the cart into the lake several times, and just nearly missed a boat (oh, how I'd love to hear the conversation with the authorities on that one! At least, for once, it wasn't my kid injuring himself and laughing hysterically doing something simultaneously stupid, dangerous and pointless.)

On another topic, the new household rules are really working well, O is fine with cutting off the cable (they only had the 4 basic local channels at the cabin and O apparently rediscovered how much he likes to do things other than tv, yay!) O recognizes that we have to get a little more disciplined around here, just doesn't like having to do it. I still have to wake him up with food in my hand or he'll just burrow under his blankets, but the whole change in routine is doing both of us good.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I love books but I hate spending money...

I finally ordered the History Odyssey level 3 Ancients study guide book last night. I love looking for curriculum and books and things we might use, but man, do I hate having to actually fork over the money for it. I checked out all the books used in the program on different sites, looking for the best deal and checked out the lesson plans and book list soooo many times, mulling it over and over. And I still didn't buy the full program, just the study guide that cost me all of $40.

Since we already have most of the books used (yeah, I just happen to have a copy of Gilgamesh kicking around, that's how freaking geeky we are), I'm just going to try to cobble together the rest of the books, depending on how much of the program we wind up using.

Ooooh, I forgot to mention I received the Teaching Company set I'd won on Ebay, an older set of lectures on Islam, which will go nicely with the History of Religion course I'm planning for this year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Folk Fest stuff

O and I have been going to Folk Fest since he was 5 or so. When he was younger, we rarely left our compound in the campground. We camped with a bunch of friends and neighbors with young kids, and were surrounded by many other similar compounds, so the kids would wander the field, stopping in and chatting, playing games, getting snacks and generally ruling the roost in a dozen different campgrounds.

Now that O is a teen, the Festival itself is folding a bit more interest for him. It was really cool this year, since he was a lot more aware of bands before going in and was far more interested in the performances (and the occasional bikini-clad, fairy-wing wearing teenage girl), than he was in the back stage kitchen or campground shenanigans that held so much interest for him in years past.

We were really looking forward to The Earl Brothers and were not at all disappointed by their show, even if they did get stuck in the 11am Shady Grove spot performing for the most hung-over crowd in the place. That One Guy, whom I've been raving about here, was a gem of Fest discovery. He played the mainstage on Saturday night, never one of my favorite parts of the fest to begin with, and he didn't impress me much, but then played at the Pope's Hill stage in the campground at a 1am show and it was just amazing. Total perfect blend of music, venue, audience, and artist (he was accompanied by film collage shorts put together by a Winnipeg Film Group artist, totally surreal 70's tv animated collages.) The crowd was just going nuts, at one point That One Guy remarked "This is epic" and it was. He plays a really dancy, electronica kind of music, but uses a "magic pipe" he built himself with strings, horns, tape loops, effects pedals, etc, all on it, so that he builds up and layers sound into something totally indescribable (so I'll stop trying.)

O was so glad he'd stayed up for the campground performance. He was just going to sit back in our little nook in the campground, playing "will it burn" with the guys across the path from us. As much as throwing pennies and various bits of camping equipment into a fire was appealing to him, he enjoyed the show even more. That's the great thing about Folk Fest, though, is you never really know what you're going to see, enjoy or get into before hand. There were a few shows that sounded great in the program, but we didn't really get into (and I can't even remember the names of the bands now), but it's always the stuff you didn't expect to be amazing that jumps out and grabs you (like T.O.F.U. at last year's Fest.)

Other than the shows, O bought himself a didgeridoo and has successfully been able to produce a drone in one note for several months now. I'm really looking forward to a 2 note drone (as are, I'm sure, the neighbors.) We enjoyed the back stage food prepared for volunteers, as always, and I ran into an old friend who told me that his wife is pregnant. I'm so excited for them and I'm already trying to put together a pattern for a skull and crossbone baby blanket.

Folk Festin' is hard work

A truly horrible picture of a truly fantastic show, this, cause you probably can't tell, is That One Guy with his Magic Pipe homemade instrument

The Earl Brothers Rock!

Fire dancers in the campground, unfortunately O was so tired from his wanderings that day he slept through the whole thing!

Looking cool!

His folk fest buddy C. spent most of the weekend trying to get O to take off that hat, until some girls in bikinis told him they thought the hat was cool. Then he spent the rest of his time trying to steal the hat.

The quiet, the quiet!

So O is at the cabin with my sis for the week. It wound up that I have to work a few says this week and couldn't go, but I'm really enjoying the time alone I'm having. Spending so much time with O and on parenting and homeschooling, I tend to forget to have a life of my own sometimes.

I've spent the time cleaning up and sorting out our place, and trying to plan out some work areas so they will fit how we actually use them. We, and O especially, are function over style kind of people, but we're also clutter-bugs and our work areas quickly get over-run in crap like pamplets and magazines (me) and video game cheat sheets and food wrappers (O). And we usually tend to just put a table in the corner and leave it there, even when it doesn't really fit how we're using the space. So, while O's gone, I'm going to work on getting rid of some of the crap and move stuff around. It's not that he gets in the way when he's here, it's just that, when he's around, things seem to never get done, I don't quite know why. Not to mention moving the computer table will necessarily involve turning off the computer, something that doesn't happen often while O's awake.

I've also put some time into coming up with a suggested reading list for the year, or at least the first few months. I'm wanting to put on a lot of classic gothic horror kind of books for the fall, to fit in with the weather and general dark and brooding kind of tone Winnipeg takes on in October and November. I'm having trouble coming up with lists of classic books for teenage boys, though. When I google, I get loads of "great books for girls", and few, desultory book lists for boys that either have books on it that O read in grade 3 or so, or are totally loaded with the "adventure" books (meaning 3 word sentences and lots of action that publishers think boys want to read.) I'm looking for a good list of classic books. I know what I would suggest for a teen girl, but I have no background in the good old swashbuckling kind of lit, and after putting down the obvious ones like Frankenstein and Ivanhoe and some R.L. Stevenson books, I'm kind of stumped. It's crazy that the librarians are a bit stumped too. There's been so much emphasis on trying to get boys to read, that they seem to have forgotten the boys who actually do like to read.

O's rate of reading has slowed down in the last few years. That one year in junior high really killed his love of reading for a while. His interest in books is slowly rekindling over the last year of deschooling, and, since I'm gong to be seriously restricting tv and video games for at least the first few months of the new school year, he should be back to reading several novels a week, which means that I'm going to be back to my almost constant hunt for good, interesting and well-written books. It seems that at the teen age, though, publishers are focusing almost exclusively on girls.

I've narrowed down some choices for books this year, got to take a good look at some recommended physics books, and realized one was far too advanced for O, too much math for the guy right now. I'm going to pick up a copy of the other one I was looking at, Science 101 Physics, it covers exactly the sort of wave and matter questions that O has been wanting to get into lately. Though O really wants to get into electronics and electrical engines and stuff like that, I'm hoping to also delve into energy a bit more too, specifically energy use and efficiency. I'm hoping to tie this in to doing a deep study of our own energy use and waste and figure out how to run our household as efficiently as possible.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What we've learned this summer

Wii's are fun:

Cats are wierd:

Chicks dig hats:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

September plans

So I've been looking forward to using September as a special project month for O and I, but he put a crimp in my plans when he announced that he's not really interested in animals anymore, but wants to learn more about physics. Huh? The kid who read paleontological textbooks as bedtime reading when he was 4! The kid who always told me that "physics is boring and I never need to learn it"!!! Now he wants to learn about electricity and wave behavior (!!!!)

So, there goes all my plans for nature observation and writing a guide to the natural environment of our neighborhood. In come plans to design and build evil looking, but probably entirely useless, electronic devices.

I hope, also, to delve a little more deeply into astronomy than we have in the past, O is interested, but has never been really willing to do more than just learn names and places before now. I'm hoping that his newly discovered interest in the physical, and not just natural, world will lead to a deeper understanding of the physical universe. I've been dying to try using a set of lessons and experiments from UC Berkeley, At Home Astronomy. The astrolabe and measuring type lessons are especially up O's alley, and I hope will also provide a path into more advanced math work for him. He's been doing great in picking up his basic math skills to a more functional level, so hopefully he will be able to re-kindle his interest in the more abstract math stuff now that he can do some of the actual math work involved.

For Language Arts, we will just continue in the very low-key way we've been doing things this summer, reading through our TBR lists, reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as our read-aloud, and doing journal writing using A Writer's Notebook. While O still doesn't enjoy the writing process, it's becoming much less of a onerous burden, and a little more of a mild annoyance for him. Because he had such serious problems with the actual physical part of writing, and such bad experiences in public school, with the resource and classroom teachers telling him he would never learn to write, ever, just getting to the point where he will grumble a bit and dash off a quick paragraph is a huge victory for the both of us. Now I'd just like to make sure he can communicate clearly when writing (legibility is still a huge concern), and can write a few basic essay formats if needed.

For math, we're still both loving Math-U-See and O will hopefully be finishing up Delta by October and be ready to start Epsilon, which will be mostly review for him (fractions.) I want him to do this level, though, because he still has some odd gaps in his skill level, dividing fractions, and some of the more functional type of skills, percentages, stuff he'll need to understand statistics when he comes to it. I'm hoping to get him through 3 levels this year, bringing him up to Pre-Algebra in time for grade 10, and then aim to work through Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 next year. That will allow him to be finished up through Pre-Calculus almost in time to graduate at 18. If he takes an extra year or two to be ready for college, though, I would rather he go to university mature and prepared, and have had some more fun time and time to himself, than be " ahead of the game" and go to university too young.

For Phys. Ed. I still have to go down to the high school I've chosen to discuss the possibility of O competing on their sports teams while still homeschooling. This school used to have an innovative homeschool program, and it was cut by their current principal when he took over. He's notoriously not homeschooling-friendly, but I'm hoping the fact that their football team graduated all their large players last year and is having to rebuild for size will help our cause. It doesn't hurt that the school is one of the football powerhouses of the province, and has a very active, and very vocal, alumni who want to see results. I'll be curious to see if greed for a good player will overcome the principal's principles.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer laziness and Fall plans

Well, we haven't actually been all that lazy this summer, I just haven't been blogging anything. O has been doing lots of math and reading, and has joined a football team. His team is training up to 5 nights a week, so I've been letting him off a bit easy this month.

We went to Folk Fest at the beginning of July, had a fantastic time, I'll eventually post some pictures if I get around to it. Best show by far was That One Guy in the festival campground at 1am. Crazy one man band guy surrounded by 2000 half-naked dancers covered in glow sticks, running up and down the hill in the dark. A total Folk Fest kind of experience.

O is really starting to make some progress in bringing up his math skills. I wouldn't really be pressuring him so much, but he has so much stuff to make up, in terms of basic math skills, and he wants to start studying some more advanced science, and has nowhere near the math skills to do it. Thanks to Math-U-See, he's really starting to grasp division, after 6 long years of both of us banging our heads against the wall. I've decided to go ahead and buy Epsilon next, even though he doesn't need most of the program, because he still has so many little gaps and a thorough review wouldn't hurt. I hope he can get through Epsilon, Zeta and Pre-Algebra this year, so that he can start with some serious math at the same time that he wants to be doing some serious science.

Math has been so frustrating for both of us, because he's had such a hard time learning the really basic stuff, like subtraction and division, but has no problem with, and grasped at a very young age, much more advanced stuff, geometry, algebra, game theory, probability and ratios, fractions and percents. As long as he isn't required to write it down, and do something really hard like subtract double digit numbers, he's away and flying. But since he's so science-oriented and has plans, possibly, to study science at a fairly deep level, he's going to have to buckle down and try to learn the basics. He's always been a kid for whom really abstract concepts were easier to grasp than concrete basics. It's added a special flavour to our homeschooling journey. The kid who could discuss marxist theory at 10, couldn't figure out how to write on a line, not under, hovering above, or through the line.

I've been doing lots of planning over the last month. I think I've pretty much chosen our plan for next year, which will, of course, change almost immediately. I'm planning on buying History Odyssey level 3, Ancients for the fall, probably I'll just buy the course book to look over, since I have many of the books used in that level anyway. I also want to be able to have a good look through it before I commit to buying a $200 program (see, I'm learning!)

For science, I'm still looking for something that satisfies me, and will be challenging for O, without being Christian, a tall order in the homeschooling world. Another mom pointed out Spectrum Chemistry 's high school program as not being overly Christian, despite the extremely creationary bent to their life sciences junior high program. I would love to be able to use something like this, because it's so complete, but will have to look more into the religious content. The life sciences were so ridiculous in it's creationary content that doing the course, even from a point of view of critiqueing the religious content would be totally useless from a transcript point of view.

I feel perfectly comfortable putting together my own resources and programs for the history/literature/writing end of O's education, but in science I'm wading into the deep end of the pool of my personal knowledge, and I just don't know enough about actual practice (as opposed to history of science) to put something together on my own. My big fear, too, is that I don't know enough to really parse out the religious content in some programs. We might just wind up using the provincial Distance Education program for science, but the grade 9 and grade 10 program are so far beneath his level, and he doesn't have the math or lab background to go into the grade 11 programs, so that's just a place-filler more than anything right now.

I've been putting a lot of work lately into the history courses, outside of the classical history cycle, that I want to put together for O. We've decided right now on a Military history course, along with a History of Religions and Holy Wars course. I'm thinking of a History of Terrorism course. Along the way I will need to put together a History of Canada that isn't painfully boring, and a History of the US, that isn't painfully jingoistic. Probably we will do some in depth study of the Revolutionary era, that will include the American and French revolutions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


This guy was posing for me
you can just see the baby gibbon here

Squirrel Monkeys!


Ok, so it's been a while since I last posted. So much has been happening. Well, ok, I'll admit it, mostly napping has been happening.

We have, however, been busy with our new cat, Jenga. He's such an odd cat, he's incredibly limp, fuzzy, and stupid. He loves to have his armpits scratched, goes completely limp when he's picked up, has the softest fur of any cat I've ever met, and when I spray him with the water bottle he just looks around to see where that annoying water is coming from. He's basically become Oboy's cat, he sleeps on the computer chair, or next to Oboy's head, meows non-stop when Oboy goes out, and runs to the door when he comes in. In contrast to the sibling rivalry that Marbles has been subjecting Oboy to for the last few years (Marbles gets jealous when I pay attention to my human child and tries to climb between us), he's so happy to have a pet that loves him back.

We seem to have finally slipped out of our winter stupor, with leaves budding and plants growing and flowers blooming, and typical of Winnipeg, we have shot straight from winter, through a truncated and explosive spring, into a hot and sultry summer in about 2 weeks.

We went to the zoo for the first time this year a few weeks ago, with my sister and neice. My sis was mesmerized by the Squirrel Monkeys, I think they're pretty cool too. The kids were more interested in the gibbons, especially since we have a new baby gibbon, it was maybe 2 weeks old when we were there.
Oboy's been so excited to finally get out fishing. He's been reading fishing books and plans to try out a few spots on the rivers.

Monday, April 2, 2007


Oboy has finally found a way to occupy himself that doesn't involve broken furniture or bodily injury: teaching himself to use Windows Movie Maker. His first chef-d'oeuvre is well received on YouTube:

Spring is slowly creeping up on our town, but Oboy discovered this morning that Moscow is enjoying warmer weather at the moment than we are, and that Winnipeg typically has longer, colder winters than most of Russia. This was a bit mind-boggling for him, since he's been reading for years about how long and brutal Russian winters are and how the Russian winter was the reason for the failure of any land invasion of Russia in history, and he wondered what Napolean or Hitler's troops would have made of our winters. Makes us feel a little heartier, if not any warmer.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oh so tired

Still too cold, still sick, even the cat is cranky. The only bright spot of the week is listening to Scooter Libbey's trial on Stimulated Boredom-burn, baby, burn.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


It's still way too cold to anything worthwhile, and we're both miserable with colds, so Oboy and I have spent the last few days wrapped up in blankets on the couch, taking turns being petty and demanding. All in all it's been fun, if not terribly educational.

Got my latest homeschool purchase in the mail yesterday. I'm so addicted to Paypal shopping now. It's just too easy, and if it's "educational", it's totally excusable, right? Latest purchase was a series of high school history project books from History Scribe. It's a fundamentalist Christian company, but I've gone through all the books we've gotten, and the bias is (mostly) tolerable. Even where they've gone over the edge, the questions are still interesting, and I can't wait to here Oboy answer them from the standpoint of a born atheist. We were reminiscing today of the time I had to carry 6 year old Oboy out of a Catholic church, crying and wailing "It hurts, Mommy, religion huuuuurts!" Got some interesting looks that day. The incense was bugging him, but it was riotously funny (to me at least)

Oboy is looking forward to doing the Age of Exploration book. I don't know how the drawing portion will go over with Oboy, but the small area for essays is a big hit. Oboy usually has so much information about a topic he doesn't know where to start to write about it, and just gives up, overwhelmed. He's quite happy to see how little is actually expected out of an academic essay for a grade 8 student. We both read through all the topics and essay questions last night, and spent a few hours debating cultural expropriation (started with a question on how the ancient Greeks might have felt about Rome adopting and adapting their religion and culture, but we wound up talking about the current European fad for "Indian" camps and aboriginal culture in general, and how a repressed culture can wind up as a fashionable hobby, and how freaking annoying that must be.
We've been listening to Richard Dawkin's newest book "The God Delusion" on Stimulated Boredom, an interesting listen, don't agree with everything he has to say, though, I don't think that fundamentalist atheism is any better than fundamentalist anything else, and any belief system that presents itself as the only answer has to be questioned and challenged. Anyway, been listening to the book on Stimulated Boredom's Live365 feed, but mostly I've been listening to great alternative stations, after my blues and funk binge last month, I'm enjoying some punk again. Oboy has discovered a love for The Decemberists, while I've been obsessively listening to the Mountain Goats No Children over and over again, especially after I found this video on YouTube, despite the Lego, it's not for little kids.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Field trip day

Today we went on our first homeschool field trip this year, what was supposed to be a day trip to the Forks

for a winter arts/culture fun day. What we learned mostly is...Winnipeg is being left behind in the global warming fun times. It was -42, doesn't matter what scale that's in, Celsius or Fahrenheit, it's just freaking cold. We mostly learned about hot chocolate and the glorious fireplace in the Atrium at the Forks. Oh, yeah, and napping has educational value, trust me.

What we've been doing this week:


Math-U-See (program he chose over a zoo membership, hope it's better than a roomful of monkeys!)

Writing Strands: first lesson, Following Directions, to maintain his perfect score in this regard, Oboy promptly ignored the Following Directions directions

Zelda: the Twilight Princess

Planet Project: started with Nasa Planet Quest but Oboy has decided he wants to design a planet with non-carbon-based life forms and is trying to figure out if he could possibly create a uranium-based life form

Arms and Armour history project: to put Oboy's extensive knowledge of arcane weapons and explosives to good use, by making it all sound edjymacashunal, ya know. I'll try to post this project when, and if, it ever gets completed (remind me to tell you all some time about the 1 paragraph Island assignment I gave Oboy in Grade 6 that turned into his own, pre-conquered, civilization)
Oboy is currently reading:
Classics of Strategy and Counsel, the Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary, Vol. I in his never-ending quest to conquer the world, or at least, play a really good game of Chess and Go


After screwing up my knee at work last week, and coming down with more infections than a pre-schooler now that I've finally got some time off work, I've been spending most of my time lying on the couch acting like Marie Antoinette, eating ice cream for dinner, and demanding (but not receiving) foot rubs.

To spend the time, and make me happy, I've decided to embrace my inner girl and have been knitting myself a new pink hat.

I'm reading The Science Book, by Singh, Tallack and Greenfield, that I bought for Oboy for Xmas, but it's got one page sections and that's all I've got the time for lately

Been trying to get through The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, but have not time and no concentration for fiction lately. When I finally have some time to breathe, I will also finally finish Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, I love Neil Gaiman, and really want to get into this book, but just can't seem to dive in.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White