Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oobi Gets Shoobis

Yes! We finally got Oob his first pair of shoes!

No! You can't see the shoes in this picture!

In fact, it is very hard to ever see Oob wearing the shoobs, I mean shoes.

Partly, this is because he loves his shoes: he loves to bite his shoes, he loves to play with his shoes, he loves to carry them around, and, of course, he likes to rub them on his head (and why does this child need to experience everything by massaging it on his scalp? Is that a Zoomlian thing?).

Partly, as the picture shows, he has better things to do than wear shoes.

Even cute Oobi shoobis.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Words of Wisdom

Just because your dishwasher is leaking, it does not mean that the pipes in your walls are not also leaking. The only way to find out is to repair the damaged ceiling on the floor below....

Hope to get back to blogging soon, my camera/computer/etc. are acting up.

Things are not as bad as all this sounds! We are having a grand time! The pipes are repaired, we have learned (perhaps more than we wanted to know) about what is inside our walls, we have plunged back into Ancient Egypt, the home school co-op, the 2 mile morning hikes, the math-u-see, and tons of other stuff I want to blog about.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guest Blog by Mxyl: Oob, Terror of Things with Plugs

I was following Oob up the stairs , which I like to do.

When we reached the top, Oob suddenly started charging wildly toward The Grand Emperor's bedroom!(Yes, even Zoomlians go to sleep.) I followed him, and soon we were in the bedroom.

I lay down on the bed, while Oob turned on the radio built into our clock and then tossed it and our lamp down to the floor.

Ah, Oob. Always so delightful. Crazy, but delightful.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Istanbul Not Constantinople

In case you have had this going through your head for the last few days/weeks/months/decades (for which we thank Organic Learning!), this video has a slide show of Istanbul with some stunning shots of the Hagia Sophia (high on my list of imaginary travel plans).

And here is an excellent explanation of why the name was changed to Istanbul. Yes, yes, I know it is nobody's business but the Turk's... The answer is long and complicated (well, um, it's Byzantine, actually), but it's worth it! I, for one, learned that the city had a different name for nearly a thousand years before it was Constantinople!

I also did not realize that the song was a cover from the 1950s. We watched a number of Jazz and Big Band versions on You Tube, comparing notes with the ubiquitous They Might Be Giants version (which itself must have a dozen videos). It was interesting to watch so many versions of the song and talk about different musical and artistic styles and interpretations: how and why do artists and musicians see the world so differently?

Real Life Education

Klenda came to me with a look of concern. "Mom, when I really, really wanted Oob to start walking on his own, I didn't realize he would get into everything!"

It took me til I was 28 (and Mxyl was 15 months) to figure that out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bumps in the Road

Sorry about the lack of posts, we hit a few bumps in the road.

Blue Streak (12 passengers) went into the shop, so we spent a lot of time carless or "squeeeshed" into White Knight (7 or 8 passengers).

The dishwasher died a gory death which caused the ruination of the ceiling in the chapel (and, even more dreadful, the hand washing of all dishes for a week!).

The washing machine died a less gory death (bailing but almost no mopping). It's old friend, the dryer, does not want to go on without it.

One of my closest friends lost her job.

My beloved MIL had a health scare.

Blue Streak is back and fixed. I was glad to have the intermittent problem make up its mind to break and be done with it in a visible way while still under warranty.

I've never been so happy to have an appliance die as I was when the dishwasher went. It had stopped actually cleaning the dishes a while back and it was driving me crazy.

We put a washer and dryer on the top floor when we built it a few years ago (suggested by my brilliant MIL!), and it was the 30 year old pair in the basement that quit. Hard to find fault with that!

My friend is starting her dissertation and will be able to focus on that before she needs to look for another job. Not what we would have chosen, but we'll stick together through it.

My dear MIL's scare was by far the worst thing, but it looks like she's all right.

It's really a matter of perspective, isn't it? Also last week, my SIL asked for prayers for a friend of a friend. Her name is Hyatt and she is a young mom with a three year old and a 5 month old. Last week her heart suddenly stopped. She was fine and then her heart just stopped and she stopped breathing. She's in intensive care now and basically needs a miracle. If you'd like to know more, her family started a blog here. We're praying for her. Please also pray.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Sojourn in Egypt Part II, or, Shaduf!

Half way through as I write this, this is what we've done so far.

First off, resources:
Hands down best book ever: Great Ancient Egypt Projects You Can Build Yourself by Carmella Van Vleet. This book is a well thought out unit study! Fantastic information, interestingly presented and tons of interesting, impressive, not too difficult projects about meaningful things. Umm. I like it. And she 's written a bunch of other books! The first 2 pictures are from projects from this book. The first is a "gilded papyrus" boat (floating in my yellow bathtub.) The second is a working (!) miniature shaduf (imagine a seesaw with a rock on one end and a bucket hanging from the other end. It allows you to draw enough water from a river or canal to irrigate your fields). The book also tells you how to build a much larger shaduf, but we lacked space. And big enough sticks. And a pond. The only down side to this book: no color photos. But there are other books for that!

Like the Egyptian Mummies Pop Up Book! And if you want eye popping photos, there is always the DK line of Eye Witness books, including one on Ancient Egypt, one on the pyramids and one on King Tut. But really, that's just going to the library and picking out books with good visuals. One of the best things about a popular topic in early September is that you can choose the 15 best books about Egypt (as opposed to their one book about samurai...).

I also had a ton of stuff from Dover books including a nifty pop out book of 3 mummy cases (photo by Mxyl).(Oooh! On sale for $3.18!). I like Dover a lot. Great stuff, cheap and they send out free samples every week (which is what got us hooked on Beowulf)! We have several Egyptian themed coloring books from them also.

We have a number of Egyptian themed (store bought) posters hanging around, including one that came with stickers to make a scene. I am hoping to make a mural later.

Naturally, when I asked what the weekly cookies should be, they wanted mummy cookies. Hmm. Yummy Mummy cookies. I found some recipes online, but decided they were too much work, so I adapted my favorite candy cane cookie recipe. I dropped the mint and red color and added almond flavoring. They were a bit like Mexican Wedding cookies with out the nuts. The main thing was they were sculptable into mummy like shapes... I used powdered sugar at the end to make the lines more visible. I made a double batch but am giving the recipe as a single batch.

Recipe for Yummy Mummies:
1 c. butter (can be part shortening)
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
extra powdered sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar.
Mix in egg, salt and flavorings.
Mix in flour.
Roll into oblongs or mummy shapes.
Make diagonal crossing lines (for wrappings) with a knife.
Bake 9 minutes, then roll or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

That brings us to yesterday. I decided we needed to see an actual mummy, so we had a "Take Mommy to See a Mummy" day. For all the times I've wished for a more rural lifestyle, I must admit it was nice to think about which free world class museum to visit to look at their mummies.

We went to the Walters. We saw 3 mummies (a woman, a child, and a cat) complete with canopic jars and nesting sarcophagi (but none of black stone!). We also saw 2 large stone statues of the cat goddess Sekhmet, which Zorg loved. She's the one with the lion head instead of the more peaceful Bastet.

We have talked quite a bit about Egyptian religion, belief in life after death, and the intersections of Egyptian history with the Bible. It's been a good way to talk about how and why other people have different beliefs than our own.

I forgot about the cat statues we made! And the ancient Egyptian candy! What would an immersive unit study be without food! Ah, well! More later.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sojourn in Egypt Part I, or, Who Wants Their Mummy?

Actually, aside from birthday shenanigans, we've spent the last week and a half in ancient Egypt. It looks like we'll still be there quite a while, too!

This was not the plan.

The plan was to go through Child's History of the World and make side trips into interesting time periods as we came to them.

The Zoomlians laugh in the face of such linear thinking!

"Can we learn about Egypt?" Zorg wanted to know. Usually it's Leena who asks that question. Usually followed by, "Can you wrap me up like a mummy?"

I was hesitant.

I remembered a remark from the Queen of Carrots that the down side of unit studies was the repetition of subjects.

We've done Egypt. Then I thought some more: it had been 3 or 4 years since we had really "done" Egypt. Zorg would have been 3 or 4 years old!

I thought some more.

Egypt is one of those topics that begs for in depth immersive unit studies. There are so many fabulous resources it's hard to narrow it down. We haven't done a big, knock your socks off, sustained high tide thing in a while.

Plus... I was 6 years old when I went on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw their Egyptian collection. I'm not sure I ever got over the wonder and the realization of how vast and old and amazingly different the world is.

Fortunately, I did get over the terror of seeing the stone sarcophagus! It was massive, hewn from black stone. At that time it was lying in the center of a room on a dais. So big I couldn't really see inside except for the steel rod which held the lid ajar. Looking it up now was the first time I had seen it since. As a child, I don't think I saw the carving on the lid; to me it was just cold, black, primal stone. I had several nightmares about being trapped inside for thousands of years...

Looking back, I wonder if that fear is part of what made the wonder so vivid. If so, I'm thankful for it. The fear ebbed, but the wonder at the wide strange world remains.

OK! Lets do it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Golden Birthday, Zorg! (II)

Happy birthday to Zorg from Toa Jaller!

A boy and his Bionicle...

Plus the laser sword does a great job cutting ice cream cake!

Get It/Don't Get It

This is a problem the Emperor and I have been discussing. We both had this problem as kids, and he sees it in his students as well (he teaches honors and International Bacclaureate). We presumed it wouldn't be a problem with home school, but we were just starting to see it crop up in some of the Zoomlians.

Here's the deal: sometimes smart kids grasp things too easily. They "get it" instantly and, depending on the schooling they are receiving, either wait around while the teacher explains things to the rest of the class, or they move on to the next interesting thing.

Because they grasp so much so easily, when they run into something they don't immediately "get" (say a kid who can do math and reading intuitively but can't play the violin on the first try), they mentally file it as "don't get it" and avoid that activity in the future. Often enough, the "don't get it"s really are things like the violin, things they aren't positively required to do.

Why worry if the "don't get it"s are non-essential? Because what they are actually missing is learning how to learn something challenging. A kid can be doing algebra in 2nd grade and not be being challenged in the sense that they are intuitively grasping the concepts as they are presented.

A person needs to know what to do when they're "lost in the sauce." They need to know that when they hit the "don't get it" wall in something essential, they can outline a door and start hacking their way through.

Here is our suggestion: If you have a kid who seems to easily grasp everything, look for the things they have difficulty with and provide them with structure and support to help them learn what is difficult for them. Point out that they are learning how to learn. Be patient with them and try to teach them to be patient with themselves. I would not force a kid to stay for years with a hobby they hate, but use discernment as to what opportunities you have to teach perseverance.

Get it? ;)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Golden Birthday, Zorg!

Zorg is 8 on 8th: it's his golden birthday!

We went to Mass and got a special birthday blessing (as well as the birthday song from the assembly).

Then we went off to Watkins Park, known around here as: the-big-enormous-playground-with-the-teeny-tiny-zoo.

And we played, and played, and played.....

Then we went to their Nature Center (had the place to ourselves!) and looked at all their animals.

They rehabilitate raptors, so there were a lot of birds, but also turtles, snakes, bugs and a lizard which Choclo identified as a dinosaur.

Then back home for lunch and to play with some of those presents!!!

We'll be having the (Bionicle themed) party later. After 3 straight years of asking for cheesecake for his birthday, this year he asked for an ice cream cake.

Specifically, he wanted a chocolate cherry ice cream cake shaped like a Lego brick.

Easy peasy! I softened cherry and chocolate ice creams in the refrigerator, then put them in a loaf pan in the freezer yesterday. I separated the layers with chocolate cherry cookie crumbs from last weeks cookies (very yummy but fragile). I'll frost with some home made (cherry flavored) whipped cream.


Until this morning, when he asked if it could be shaped like a Bionicle mask.


We settled for decorating it with his birthday present from Mxyl: Toa Jaller.

I hope to post pictures tomorrow.

And happy birthday to someone else special!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Anything and Everything

The start of the new school year always makes me think over why we made the choice to home school and how we are doing - all that stuff you're probably thinking about if you have kids no matter where they go to school.

Entering our sixth year home schooling, I can see that we run into the same problem any school does: you can do anything, but you can't do everything.

I remember looking at curricula when Mxyl was Choclo's age. Mmm, didn't they look good! I could start at 3 and have Mxyl reading Greek and Latin by second grade! And Japanese! And playing violin! And maybe calculus! And lacrosse! And I wouldn't forget art (from the Old Masters), and, of course, plenty of time to play and develop his imagination!

We didn't use any of those curricula, but my, the places we've been! He did get plenty of time to play and develop his imagination. He also got a fairly large bunch of siblings, plenty of science and a heck of a lot of robots! Along the way he's picked up about as much of the 3 Rs as you would expect and quite a bit of history, geography, philosophy, theology, cooking, drawing, and woodlore. And squidlore. He's thinking. I can see him steadying and growing into the world, just starting to find his way. He's starting to hunt his own (intellectual) food. I am starting to see what a good person he is and is becoming.

I'm not at all saying: look, I got it right! I'm certainly not saying people shouldn't use curricula!
I've sure made mistakes! But it's nice to see that honest mistakes, fixed whenever possible, haven't ruined the kids.

This is what seems clear to me now: every choice excludes other choices. What seems most essential to me as a parent and as a home schooler, is to have a clear vision of what you are trying to do for your kids and why. We use the mission statement: "To help our children become who God created them to be." All of our choices are guided by that statement. When we aren't sure, we go back to it.

I was hesitant to write this, because I want this blog to be place other people can come for ideas and encouragement. I don't want anyone reading this to take it as "my way is the best way." Love and devotion to your kids is the best way! I don't actually know anyone (except by blog) who shares my home school philosophy. That doesn't bother me because I can see many other good mission statements that would lead to other choices. I'd love to hear yours! If you want to blog it, just leave a link in the comments.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We're Back!

We had a great time at Assateague! We ended up staying only one night (2 days) because if we had another night of such sleep (or lack thereof) and another day without naps, we would NOT have had a great time!

We had a lot of fun with our friends (13 other families in our social circle came). We had a great time at the beach. We loved the ponies! We saw three little bands, each with a stallion and 2 - 4 mares. We even saw a mare with a little foal!

There were signs all over saying not to approach/feed/tease the ponies. The ponies took no note of the signs. They came up to you and practically butted you with their heads as if to say, "Hey there, buddy, got any apples?" They were beautiful!

Alas, I got no pictures of the ponies and all of my beach pictures look like tons of random kids playing in the surf. Not a bad thing. Most of our home school group was there, so that's really what it was like!

We also found lots of mermaid purses (ray egg sacs) which I am hoping to dissect later.