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!