Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to The Emperor!

 Yes, The Emperor had another birthday!  In commemoration of this glorious event, I give you, not one, but two seriously fuzzy selectively focused pictures.

I am suffering from phonecamsloth (a sad disorder in which you convince yourself that your phone camera will do the job, even though you know it won't, because it's too much work to find your actual camera).

 But, we all had a great time, and it was all clearer and brighter in real life.

Although, going bowling with The Emperor did give us warm and fuzzy feelings!

We did duck pin bowling - it uses smaller pins and balls, and is much easier to do with mixed ages.

In honor of this birthday, I give you 4 big things about The Emperor, and 3 little things.

Four big things about The Emperor:

1. He reads to us!  Currently, he is finishing up Ozma of Oz with the kids and he just started a new Conan story with me.

2. He does a fun and fantastic Catholic Youth Group!

3. He works hard so we can stay home and have Great Adventures in Homeschooling.

4.  He can answer all the obscure comic book and super hero related questions that the kids can come up with.  If that seems small, you've never had dinner with us: We know that Spider-man has been a member of the Fantastic four (kinda), and that he is currently a member of the Avengers, but why did he leave the FF, and have the other members of the Fantastic Four ever been members of the Avengers?  Also, what is the deal with the guy with the crowbar?

Three little things about The Emperor:

1. He loves puns and tongue twisters: Sally's success seemed surprisingly suspicious.

2. He's an awesome (and frequent) Nerf sword fighter.

3. He gives little kids walks... on the ceiling!

4.  He makes me tea (swoon).  It's not just the tea, it's the I'm in a rush to get to work on time, but I'm thinking about you, and I love you, and I want to leave you with something nice to start your day.
Maybe that's not so small, either!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


We're having a nasty sore throat/ bad cold go through the house.  It cancelled a planned visit to my folks last Friday, and today I cancelled Chemistry at the last minute.

I had spent a big chunk of the day telling myself I was just "really tired," but not too tired to teach stoichiometry.  Eventually I realized  that "really tired" plus "weak and dizzy" was a bad combination in a chem lab where you're setting things on fire.

Klenda, the only Zoomlian not affected by the cold, got an unrelated ear infection so severe that it broke her ear drum.

The doctor mentioned this casually during our second panicky visit due to extreme pain.

Doctor:  Mmmmmmm.  Looks like her ear drum burst.

Me: (stunned horrified silence while I process that Klenda will be deaf in one ear)

Doctor (still looking in Klenda's ear): Yep, it burst... So, don't let her swim for 6 weeks.

Me: Six weeks???

Doctor, Wellll, it might not take that long.  But, she can just wear an ear plug when she swims.

Me: You mean ear drums heal?

Maybe my problem is just stress.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Playground Hop!

I love Maryland this time of year! Yes, the summers are too hot, and the winters are not cold enough, but springs and falls are long stretches of comfortable weather.

On Tuesdays, the oldest four Zoomlians are taking a 2 1/2 hour history class, so it's all Choclo and Oob time!

I will be doing lots of focused educational stuff on some of those days, but, for our first time out, I decided to do a playground hop (like a pub crawl, but more fun!). 

7 and 5 are really golden ages for playgrounds.  We dropped off the older kids and spent the time going from playground to playground... playing!

Sometimes it's as easy as that. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


 Mxyl and Zorg went to the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Antietam last weekend with their scout troop!

Here they are in front of a replica of an early hot air balloon.
Lots of horses, lots of cannons!

Mxyl: "One of the things they did was shoot mortar cannons!
The weather was quite nice, but also hot--I imagined a sound being rain drops when it was actually electricity crackling in wires overhead (good thing it didn't rain then).  I had problems with my foot that day, so I tried to stay off it.  Unfortunately, that was right before our scoutmaster decided to have our Troop pick up and carry (on our shoulders) several tables filled with bags of candles and sand.  Our Scoutmaster did some of the work too.

"However, each table was meant to resemble a dead soldier.  I felt really great in doing it, since it was a service project I--we--had only one shot at doing; and we did it.  I realized that there won't be another 150th anniversary; and (unless I stay in reaaally good shape) I won't be able to do it again when I'm 65.  Zorg, my Troop & I did our best  for the memory of Antietam and we're proud of it."

INTERMISSION:  The official Battle of Antietam 150th Anniversary website:  Yes, there's just something about a website you find and see something you did; somewhere you were...

that doesn't happen to be part of a blog you wrote.

Zorg: "The cannons were loud.  I got Clara Barton's autograph!  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; that was fun!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Air and Space

 I finally got around to downloading photos from my phone, and I am seeing just how much I forgot to blog about!

We went to Air and Space a few weeks ago...

It was one of the first weeks of September, and the museum was as empty as it ever is.  We visited How Things Fly, one of our favorite exhibits because it is wall to wall hands on science experiments! They now have an online How Things Fly exhibit here.

Besides all the those, we usually manage to catch one of their interactive presentations.  This time it was a presentation on the International Space Station (ISS).  They asked for volunteers - we can provide those!  

Zorg and Leena demonstrated how far apart the Earth and Moon are, and the relative distance of the ISS.  The Earth was the size of a basketball, the moon a tennis ball, and they were about 30 feet apart.  The ISS within that scale appears to be lying directly on the Earth.  He said it was closer than New York City to us (in DC). Wow!  

Then Klenda was selected to demonstrate adaptability.  She wore distorting glasses (modeled here by Mxyl) and relearned how to catch and throw a ball.  The glasses, besides making your eyes look cartoony,  make what you see doubled and off center.

Lastly, Choclo got to model the different layers in a space suit, a job he loved!

I'm not sure the presenter realized he had chosen every single volunteer from the same family. 

We had been exploring independently before the show started, so we showed up at different times and in different places in the audience.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Belated Talk Like a Pirate Day!

 Did we celebrate?  ARRRRRRRRR!

We were a bit busy on the actual Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th), so we celebrated over the whole week!

We made treasure maps, which we aged with tea and fire.  An process equally impressive and smelly: very piratical!

It was interesting to see how detailed and/or realistic the different maps were.

We dressed up as pirates, aided by the redoubtable Klenda and face paint!

We went on several treasure hunts.  I set one up, and then Klenda organized one, and Oob has been making treasure hunts ever since.  His clues are cryptic, but, since he wants to lead you through it by pulling you along, it all works out!

We did a number of piratey Mad Libs, and other printables.

Fantastic website with more home schooly pirate resources here and pirate car games here.(HT to Diane Kieth Flynn for both of those)

We listened to Moby Dick (not technically pirate, but also not for land lubbers). (HT to Living Books for the Ears)

And it was the last hurrah for the squid and shark!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tongue Twisters

The Emperor has been teaching a speech class, and, as part of that, has been coming up with tongue twisters.  We love tongue twisters!

Some new favorites:

No gadgetry, no strategy, just tragedy. (The Emperor)

Never cooperate with collaborators, nor corroborate their claims. (The Emperor)

 Agamemnon never maimed Menelaus. (The Emperor)

Jack asked Max to fax the "Fast Tax Facts" pack. (The Emperor)

Jack Jason jinxed Jake's junk. (Klenda)

Cannibals cook kelp and codfish. (Zorg)

Some old favorites:

Is there a synonym for cinnamon?

It's aluminum linoleum.

The enemy anemone.

Three tree toads, tied together tried to trot to town.

Toy boat (yeah, it doesn't look bad, but try it 5 times fast!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Playing Around

I don't think I mentioned that we were reading out The Orestia.  If the name rings a faint bell (or if it doesn't), it's a cycle of three plays by the great Greek playwright Aeschylus.

 I will explain.  No, there is too much. I will sum up.

The first play, Agamemnon, has Agamemnon returning victorious from the Trojan War, home to the welcoming arms of his wife, Clytemnestra.  Remember Odysseous returning to Penelope?  This is exactly not like that.

Clytemnestra has a bone to pick with her husband.  Oh, some old thing about him sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia to get the winds to sail to Troy.  The fact that he brings some chicky baby back in chains (remember Cassandra?) as his, er, servant, doesn't help either.

Clytemnestra tricks him into sacrilege and then kills him.  There's a bit more to it, but you can read the play.

The second play, The Libation Bearers, has Orestes--Agamemnon and Clytemnestra's son--return from exile and (under orders from Apollo) kill his mother to avenge his father.  It's done in a creepy mirror image to the death of Agamemnon, death begetting death.

The third play, The Eumenides, has the furies hounding Orestes for killing his mother. Orestes turns, first to Apollo, then to Athena for protection.  Apollo is essentially an accomplice, and we see the central problem of the play: what do you do when there is no right answer? If the gods make you kill your mother, can you, should you, be punished for doing it?

Athena, with luminous grace, treats both Orestes and the furies with dignity and compassion.  She holds a trial to determine Orestes' guilt, and his fate.  Orestes is freed, but not completely absolved.  The Furies declare that the unsatisfied blood guilt will cause the destruction of Athens.

This is where it gets amazing.  What is the answer when there is no right answer?  Love.  Athena offers the Furies love and acceptance.  She offers them a home in Athens and asks them to be the protectors of her people, to be forever honored. She asks them to leave off being avenging spirits, following the old law of blood for blood, and be spirits of a new law, based on peaceful justice.

The  Furies become the Eumenides, the Kindly Ones.

We read out the plays together over the course of a month or so (not that it took that long, but just that we have so few free evenings!), and then the kids picked a three-minute scene to memorize and act out.  They selected the trial scene.  I didn't get it on film, but here they are:

Mxyl is Orestes, Klenda is Athena (nice job with the "divine fire" in the eyes!), and Leena is the terrifying leader of the Furies.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chemistry Extras: Moles and Bonds

In case you aren't completely sure about moles:

If molarity is getting you down:

or (with additional interesting information about solutions): If you'd like a bonding experience that does not involve post it notes:


We actually started the Chemistry class the week before Labor Day, so it's part of my blog back log.

I was a bit nervous about Chemistry because I couldn't remember much about it.  I know I took 4 semesters in college, and I even tutored it, so it must be in there somewhere!

It is all coming back, and I'm having a great time with it - the particular set of kids I'm working with probably helps!

I looked through about six books before deciding how to structure the class.  Both traditional textbooks were so junky, I won't mention the names.

My favorite, and the best for self teaching IMHO, was Homework Helpers Chemistry. Clear and concise, it reads like a tutoring session.  The next best (and still excellent) was Chemistry Concepts and Problems, a Self Teaching Guide. This was very good, but it did not fit quite as well into the way my brain works.  It also seems to have gone out of print in the last 6 months, but is widely available used.

I am also using The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Chemistry.  Fun, well done, but a bit more basic.  Great for teaching Chemistry in middle school, and it gives me ideas about how to present things. Also nice when I can't remember a term!

Those are the books I'm using for me, the class itself is centered around the Home Scientist's Home School Chemistry Kit and Manual.  The manual can be downloaded for free here. Be warned: the manual is over 250 pages!  I had been planning to buy a different, more expensive kit, but looking through their manual, I realized that I could build the entire course around their experiments.

So we have a very lab centered, hands-on (FUN!) chemistry course with extra explanations as we go.  What I love about this, is that all information given is immediately useful, and therefore more readily remembered.  The proof is in the pudding, I guess, they are being graded on a real world scale: the success of their experiments and the completeness of their lab books.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


 Before... and after!

Yes!  I have finally finished organizing the home school room!

The rays of celestial light filling the nice clean room are entirely coincidental, I'm sure.

I hadn't realized they would show up on camera. 

And by "organized," I mean everything where I can find it (and hopefully easy for me the kids to put away).

In the process, I discovered many wonderful resources that I can use right now (free home school purchases: finding stuff I had bought and forgotten about).
And I reworked the museum, which had grown rather shabby...

...but is, once again, a great thing for the kids to show guests.

Plus, I provided more room for future finds!

Best of all, this finishes my major reorganizing project known as "painting the kitchen," a Sisyphean, herculean, daunting task which actually necessitated the cleaning and organizing of: the library, downstairs, guest room, home school room, and, of course, the kitchen!

And now I can go back to blogging.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


 This is my 1,000th post!

 It's hard to believe I've been blogging for five years!

Back then, the Zoomlians looked like this:

Choclo was 2, and Oob was only 2 months!

Too much cuteness!!!
 Now they're a bit bigger... but, honestly, still kind of like that.

I went back and reread my earliest posts.

I had nearly forgotten how we started out as Zoom Times:

Why Zoom Times? The first reason is that the more kids I have, the faster the time goes and since I just had my 6th baby, we are really zooming along! The second reason is that this is a blog primarily about our homeschooling adventures which is , in turn, primarily about my crazy kids.

Usually kids ask parents the big question: where did I come from? My kids didn't ask me, they told me where they came from. They come from the planet Zoom. Never heard of it? It's in the galaxy of Oom along with a number of other inhabited planets with names like Boom, Doom, get the idea. When they arrived on our planet, the oxygen in the atmosphere caused them to develop legs. Although they were each hundreds of years old when they arrived, the legs took some getting used to, so they were raised by swamp monsters, then mermaids, and then they came to us.

Yes, my kids did write their own origin story!

I was also interested to see that my homeschool philosophy has remained quite stable:

 I think a big part of how you home school has to do with why you home school. We home school in order to allow each child to become the person God created them to be. We are interest led with an emphasis on fun. We do have certain musts: math and learning to read and write, but we are very flexible in terms of how and when they get it. We also tend to be really immersed in what we are interested in. Our high tides tend to be a week a month or a day dedicated to a particular topic (often a requested topic). We subscribe to a tidal homeschooling philosophy, with times of high and low tides.

That's still us!  Thanks for visiting Zoom!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy Birthday, Zorg!

 Happy birthday, my 12 year old!!!

What a happy dozen years we've had with you!

Twelve things about Zorg

1. He's crazy about the Avengers!

2. He has an extensive armory of Nerf weapons, and he's not afraid to use them!

3. He loves St. Joseph!

4. He has the heart of a hero!

5. He's good at drawing complicated story pictures!

6. He's constantly coming up with new and exciting super heroes!

7. He has a quirky, fast, deadpan sense of humor!

8.  He looks good in face paint (that's a shark face, courtesy of Klenda).

9. He can have fun with pretty much any kid of any age (provided they don't insist on all Littlest Pet Shop)!

10. He is this close to getting Second Class Scout!

11.  He loves camping and chemistry (but not at the same time)!

12. He's almost half way through Algebra  1!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chomp Chomp

 We have started off Adventuring again!

Last week we went off to the Natural History museum to the Ocean Hall to round off our Sea Week.  Yes, weeks do contain varying numbers of days around here!

We parked near the sculpture garden and wandered through.

The Zoomlians all wanted to stop and sketch - why not?  There's nothing like a new box of colored pencils!

The favorite ocean thing we saw was a tie between their preserved giant squid, and these reproduction megalodon jaws (with real fossil teeth!).

Our squid is bigger than theirs, but their shark teeth were definitely bigger ours!  But we have less of a budget...

They also had no less than five preserved angler fish - one of Choclo's favorites.

 We looked a bit at the dinosaur fossils and then went up to their insect zoo, a perennial favorite.

We have been there at three or four different tarantula feeding times over the years, and we've never seen one actually eat. The keeper explained that they can go weeks without eating, partly because they don't move around much.

Or this one likes crickets, but just as friends. 
But, of course, the big draw is the bugs they let you hold!

This is Choclo getting ready to hand off an unnaturally  freakishly very large grasshopper off to Oob.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sunshiny Kitchen

At long last, we've finished the kitchen!  ("Before" pictures here)

We went with a light buttery yellow with a stronger yellow on the door (and the wall with the big window) and a very light version of the same yellow for the trim.  The door picture actually shows the colors correctly, some of the other pictures look more lemony than buttery.

We liked the big open window seat so much that we decided to store the cookbooks and home school stuff elsewhere, and make it a real seat!

We couldn't find pre made cushions, so, after some hours of trying, we went to the fabric store and got foam and fabric for the seat cushion and some coordinating fabrics for pillows.  In the picture, I haven't finished the pillows, but we just did for Girls' Night!

I want to make some pot holders out of the extra turquoise duck that we used to cover the foam, to tie in the rest of the kitchen, but it really looks nice with the blue/green of the counter tops.

 But moving all that stuff out of the window meant organizing some place else to put it all: the guest room/office/planning center.

I now have all my "school" books in the same place, along with the copier and all the filing stuff.

Plus, I have a desk!

So that just leaves the home school room...