Monday, January 28, 2008

Unschooling math

This is the biggest stumbling block most new hsing parents have about unschooling is math. The idea of anyone willing doing advanced math, on their own, for their own pleasure, is difficult to accept. That's why I loved this site, both for it's illustration of how math is a tool, not a mystical secret, and for it's sheer geekiness. I'd have tried to do this too, if I could do the math.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Homeschooling for free

Every few weeks this comes up on MDC, hsing for free, or at least very, very cheap. The last time it came up I realized that here, at least, I have, sadly, an enormous amount of experience and resources. I've been a single mom from the start, with no child support (O hasn't seen his father since he was 20 months old), not much family support (my parents were immigrants), and no career (at least when I had O.) So, one thing I've learned to do very well over the years is to live frugally and hs using free or used resources.

Since money is an issue for any family, no matter what their circumstances, and nobody wants to be wasteful, I thought I'd start logging in some of the sites I have found most useful over the years.

Ref Desk - this was our home page for many years, where we started our day, and the springboard for many conversations and hours spent searching new information. O is now past the age of wanting mere information, facts, or pictures, so he doesn't use Ref Desk much anymore, he has his own set of reference sites, but it's a great starting point online.

Budget Homeschool - just what it says, an enormous clearing house of links. Some links are broken, and some are trial and error, but it's still very helpful.

Ambleside Online - a free, e-text based, Charlotte Mason curriculum

An Old-Fashioned Education - another free, complete curriculum, based on public domain e-texts. Christian but still useful.

Free Curriculum on the Internet - this is by no means a comprehensive list of free curriculum and educational sites. Anyone with other clearing house type sites, please comment and let me know! I love to collect links (as you may be able to tell.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

41 Below

That's what the current temperature with wind chill is. For those of you who think in imperial, that's...-42 Fahrenheit. Yup, you learn new things when you live in a deep freeze. One of the things I learned when I first started going online and talking to Americans (and therefore having to translate my wacky Canadian ways of thinking) is that the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales meet up at about -40. So anyway you slice it, -40 is freaking cold!

O is skipping his last day of football camp. I'm none too impressed, but he has had a cough, sore throat and fever since he started camp, and was near tears at the idea of doing 6 hours of blocking and running today, so, there you go.

Something I've struggled a lot with on my hsing journey has been how much to push O. I mean, it's not like I'm making him take piano lessons or something. Helikes football, nay, loves football, wants to play at a high level, aims to play in college and dreams of playing professionally, this is something he wants to do. But he gives up so easily, as soon as he's uncomfortable, or bored, then he regrets having dropped out of what he was doing.

My struggle has been, if I push him, am I imposing my will on him, or supporting him in doing something he wants? If I don't push him, am I teaching him to honour his body and interests, or to quit when the going gets rough. I never know if I'm doing the right thing. Left to his own devices, though, he has gladly spent hours every day in front of the computer, gone weeks without going outside, and gained at least 30 lbs back from last football season. It seems he's shown that he is just not able to push himself to get going.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Football camp

O had his first day back at football training tonight, and his only comment so far has been "I've always taken breathing for granted up till now." Hopefully this is a lesson learned not to spend the entire off season in front of the computer next year. He's way out of shape and is going to have to work hard on his conditioning for a few months at least to be able to participate in practices in time soon.

Speaking of football, O is still mulling over attending school next year, at least for a few courses, in order to participate. The difference in the program between high school football and the community club teams is just so big, plus the reality of having to walk around the really, really, really bad neighborhood where his team would be located is having us both reconsidering school. Plus, the one school he's really interested in has had an hsing student before, and they sound like they might be willing to work with us to develop a program we could both live with.

I really don't want to lose any more family time than I already am with my job, and I really don't want to have some outside authority dictating my family life, and what my son should be interested in, not to mention how much I don't want him becoming bogged down in the social aspects of high school (especially the social aspects of being a high school football player!) But, ultimately, it's his life and therefore his choice, and being on a football team is such a huge motivation to him to get out of the house, to get in shape, and to hold himself responsible to someone other than himself. I don't want to deny him something worthwhile, and something he loves, because I'm attached to hsing.

So, here's the dilemma...can you unschool while attending ps? Here will be the experiment next year, perhaps. Not that we are total unschoolers, but I definitely want to keep the self-directed, interest-led part of our hsing going, and I don't want to see it going down the drain because of fear and neglect (O's fear of looking stupid or lazy to his friends and teachers, and my neglect of his interests because I just don't see him enough.)

He has months to make the decision, but I'm pretty sure he will opt for whatever will let him play the most football, and that is public school. We'll just have to find a way to make this work.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just call me Cleo

Ok, I just gotta accept that we are, like every other year I've lived in Winnipeg, not really going to go outside again till March. Just deal with it. No sledding trips, no late night skates at the Forks, no hikes down by the river bank. It's 31 freaking below today, that's the high, before wind chill. So just deal with it, we are indoor people for the duration.

Winter in Winnipeg is like childbirth, you don't really remember how bad it is until you're in the middle of it again. Now onward and upward until Spring.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ah, the magical balm that is football

Feeling much better today. O and I have had more than few little "talks" lately about helping around the house, and I've told him that I will try my best to let him figure our on his own what sort of schedule and routine works for him, but I really, really need more help around the house, and he seems to be trying harder to help out now that I'm not nagging him anymore. Which I knew already, but it's a hell of lot easier to nag than negotiate and discuss, right? ;)

O got out of bed on his own this aft, before 3pm even, with absolutely no input from me! I'm hoping this is a sign of the passing of this new phase. Being awake, coherent and aware before 10pm would really add to variety of activities O and I can participate in, like, say, anything outside of our home. O's getting bummed about missing Anime Club and the once a month Go tourney because he can't get himself moving in time. And since both start at 6pm, he's not getting much sympathy from anyone over this.

Since venting yesterday, I've been thinking about what's been going in with O, and really, it's almost like having a toddler around again, in a way. I knew going in that the early teen years bear similarity to toddler hood, but it's still a bit of a shock. It really is though, I was telling O this afternoon that if he could have articulated his thoughts when he was two, it would have sounded much like his usual reaction to any question right now: "NO!...maybe...hold on a minute...yes...what?" O thought that was hilarious. Just the fact that he can recognize that he's been a little belligerent and a little bit thoughtless lately, hopefully this signals the beginning of a new phase. A phase that doesn't involve staying up all night, hopefully, though I don't hold out much hope that it will involve less monkeys. I think I'm stick with the monkey fixation for the duration.

Today being the start of the 2nd round of NFL playoffs, I decided to go with the O flow, and sleep in, get comfy on the couch, and watched one of the best football games I've ever seen, Packers vs. Seattle, 4 touchdowns and 2 major turnovers in the first quarter alone! And so much snow they had to stop the game to clear the end zone markings, because the line judges couldn't see them anymore under the snow.

Not much to report today (and probably tomorrow neither), O and I will be spending the weekend relaxing and watching football. I guess given enough time, I can come up with an educational spin on a weekend spent completely absorbed in football, but I couldn't really be bothered. After 6 years of hsing, I have learned at least one thing, that rest is as important as work for a growing brain, and to trust O to, eventually, know where he wants to go.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Not so good day

Yesterday was pretty well down the crapper. I went in to work for the Xmas party (yes, it's after Xmas), and what I thought would be an hour or two of basic administrative work, and wound up being stuck in the middle of a firing and new hire of a supervisor and having to mediate and almost translate between my boss, her boss and two other managers (the big bosses in my company have a very bad habit of ambushing managers with disciplinary stuff, usually just as the GM is walking out of the office, and usually, inappropriately, in front of others.)

And my stomach still feels like I've been eating rocks, so I was pretty wiped when I got home. O's sleep has gotten even more ridiculous, he was awake when I got up for work at 10:30am, not having slept all night, and was awake still when I got home at 6pm, and basically had to be ordered to go to sleep at 4:30am. He's messed around so much with his circadian rhythm and body schedule that he no longer recognizes when he's tired, hungry, etc. He's just basically cranky and needy all the time, sigh.

And then, somehow, O managed to re-injure his arm, that's still sore from football 4 months ago, while getting off the couch, and was even bitchier before bed. Sigh.

I just don't know how to get this schedule thing back on track. I'm sooo not a schedule person, and it feels weird and wrong for me to impose my own needs on O's body and self, but this sleeping for 15 hours every, oh, 48 hours or so (in completely random intervals), eating almost constantly, not going outside, and being too cranky/sore/sick/whatever to do any actual housework or pursue any interest, well, it's really unhealthy for him and it's pissing me off beyond belief. I've tried setting goals with him, not setting goals for him, backing off and letting him figure this stuff out for himself, nothing is working in any way that makes our lives livable together. My work schedule is so random too, that we just can't seem to get into a sync with each other. Short of quitting my job, working only Friday and Saturday night as a waitress or bartender, I can't see how this will really work out for us, short-term. I'm soooo sick of either nagging, or of doing everything myself (it took a lot of self-control for me not to blow up on O when he pulled out every single one of his video game cases, again, looking for a game he didn't put back into it's case, again, and left them all spread out on the living room floor, again, not ten minutes after I had picked them up and put them away, for the 6th time that day alone.)

I really don't want to be the nagging mom, but I also can't live my life following O around and picking up after him, when I'm not cooking a meal every 2 hours, doing the dishes so I can make yet another meal, doing his laundry again because he left all his clean clothes on the floor where the cats rolled around in them or peed on them, again.

I guess what I really want is a life of my own back. Geez, teenagers are more work than toddlers (almost, at least he's not nursing anymore, it was so much fun when he'd nurse standing up, and lean over and try to reach the remote, without letting go of my boob! I sooooo don't miss that-you know you're child is ready to wean when he's going through the tv listings while nursing, lol!)

Ok, vent over, now back to your regularily scheduled productivity:

Today's plan is, hopefully, to get down to the Forks, the trip we skipped on Monday because O didn't wake up until 4:30 and was cranky and sleepy until midnight. O wants to check out Muddy Waters Smokehouse for some meat, meat and more meat, and, just to switch things up, some smoked meat. It's pretty pricey for a restaurant where I can't, or won't, eat most of what's on the menu (no sugar, no dairy, no fried foods, whole grains, vegetables, not exactly choices well-represented on this menu), so maybe I'll try to talk him into going to the Village or the Market.

I'm hoping to establish a habit of not turning on the tv or video games until the evening, and spending some quiet time, reading, or talking, or doing something productive. Not that I'm averse to passive entertainment (ah tv: teacher, mother, secret lover!), but all play and no work makes Johnny a very dull, cranky boy indeed. We'll see how my incursions against Big Screen work in my home in the next few weeks.

Then again, it's cold and there's probably something good on tv...


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

College plans, so far

So I'll admit it, I have a problem, I have no control over it, I have been obsessed with O's college plans and opportunities, probably in inverse proportion to O's interest in that very same subject. O is quite content to stay at home and read manga, play video games and chat with friends (which sends me into a frenzy of fear that O will turn into this guy, but that's my own problem, really.)

So, after pulling many, many teeth, figuratively speaking, O and I seem to have worked out a workable plan for his college entry.

My biggest concerns have been that I just don't think O will be ready for university at 18 on the dot, considering he's almost 15 now and seems to have so much more childhood in him. He just doesn't really know what he wants to study or if he even really wants to go and I really don't want him taking out a student loan to figure this stuff out (he has all the time in the world at home to find himself.)

His big concerns have been understanding enough math to get into Engineering or Science, and where he will play football. The whole high school football thing is still an issue (O can only play on a school team if he is a "bona fide" student of the school, Manitoba High School Athletics rules, not school rules, grrr), so his choices are to enroll in high school, at least for 3 or 4 classes, in order to qualify to play football (he may be able to play rugby, since that's not a MHSA sport), or to play for the midget team in our catchment area.

Now I really, REALLY don't want him playing for this midget team. Last year, in the bantam age group (the oldest of the youth football age groups), this team was the worst in terms of dirty play, deliberately trying to injure star players to take them out of the game, and the parents were a nightmare. Almost every single parent behavior incident in the whole league were the fault of this one team's parents. This included an incident where a ref was physically threatened and almost assaulted. I really don't want to be part of this organization, and neither does O, but his old team does not have a midget level team (most players go to the local high school teams, which are very competitive and actively recruit.) His only options are to either go to high school, play for the bad team, or we will have to move into a catchment for a better team. None of these are exactly great options, sigh.

So, after long discussions (on my part, with O mostly trying to redirect the conversation to penguins, or monkeys, or an unholy race of penguin/monkeys--Menguins--with whom he will someday subjugate the earth,) we seem to have decided on something like a plan that will suit both our needs:

1) O will play for the local midget team for 2 years, at which point he can try out for the Winnipeg Rifles and (hopefully) play junior football until he is 21. Bonus is the Rifles are a traveling team and are seen as very desirable experience for college football, so there still may be a small chance of some scholarship money, once he decides to go.)

2) O will apply for the U of M as a mature student at 21, with my fervent hope that the U of M doesn't change any of its requirements for mature student entry in the next 6.5 years. This will mean the most amount of time for O to be a kid, allow both of us to save up some money for tuition and books, and eliminate the need for much documentation on my part. Not that I'm totally averse to documentation, but the U of M's homeschool entry requirements are that we show he has completed the equivalent of all public high school grad standards (and one of the reasons we hs is that I think much of these standards are pointless, at best) and that we demonstrate this with transcripts (official ones), outside classes, photocopies of the table of contents of text books used, etc. This means necessarily having to do much more of a school at home than either O or I are willing to submit to. I really hate the documentation game, too, because I get so caught up in "have we done something today that I can document" that I lose my appreciation for what O is doing right now. It's really pointless to live entirely in the future, trying to prepare for something O doesn't really understand, and I'm not sure if either of us want.

All in all, this whole plan has really helped me to relax from my "we're so far behind" panic, and to remember that I'm only educating O, and he's right on time for who he is. O seems pretty happy with it too, except for the midget team thing, though mostly I think he's happy with the thought of putting off adulthood for at least a few more years ;)

1st day of new term

Not that terms mean much to us on a day to day basis, but it does feel nice to break the year up a bit.

O and I had planned on going to the Forks today, checking out the toboggan run and snowboard hill, and maybe climbing around the riverbank a bit, but that was waaaaay too ambitious for us at the moment. O didn't even wake up until 4pm. And by wake up I mean I poked him, jumped on top of him, and resorted to putting his "breakfast" on his pillow next to his mouth and trying to hand feed him (he didn't enjoy the airplane/hangar game nearly as much as he did when he was a baby.)

I had to wake him up to watch Oprah, though. Dr. Oz was on with an 8ft long tapeworm, and I thought he'd enjoy it. He did.

We wound up spending most of our day indoors, well, I went out to get groceries, I don't think O went out at all today. He's still recovering from his sleepovers this weekend. I think he is using the word "sleep" lightly in these sleepovers. I'm thinking there is way more "Playstationover" or "giddysleepdeprivedMSNtalkover" going on than sleeping.

We watched the BCS championship tonight, LSU wiped the field with Ohio State, just like I had predicted, then got to "work" at around 11pm. I remember my own teen years and going on all night and well into the morning and going to sleep at 7am, but I also had little or no adult supervision of any kind from the age of 12 on, and absolutely no adult direction, so I had thought that my teen years were not very typical. Ok, so O isn't hanging out at the bar every night, and that's a very good thing, but this staying up all night, sleeping all day is getting pretty damn annoying to me (and yes, it kills me to say this, yet another sign that I'm getting so old.)

Anyway, we did have a pretty good night, once it got going. I've decided to back off a bit on the assigned work, and just let things kind of develop organically, and focus on exposing O to new and interesting things, and trying to spark a dialog about the stuff we're exploring. We're still reading 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea, read ch. 22 today, O wanted to do that last, but I wasn't sure if I could stay awake long enough to do that, so I read it first and O nearly fell asleep on the couch. I'm thinking tomorrow I'll do what he asks and read it last. We then plotted out some of the Nautilus' voyage on Google Earth. Then we read the New York Times online, an article about Greenland's melting glaciers. This sent us back to Google Earth, since they've put in a layer on environmental changes. O commented that when Google Earth first went up it only had 5 year old shot of Greenland, but with the new update, there are newer images and he could see the glacial melting at a glance, at least a few hundred miles of coast line. The shots of Greenland were pretty low res, though, so I went over to the Himalayas, where the flow of glaciers are really dramatic.

We moved on to reading the Guardian online, read through some music festival reviews and found an act that we both really like, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, described as Essex's most hirsute performance poet, and I can't think of a more accurate description. Thous Shalt Always Kill is my new favorite song.

Oh yeah, earlier we spent some time checking out Jimmy Wales new search engine Wikia Search.