May 31, 2005

May Reading List

Far from complete this monh will be - I think I am going back to a single list for the entire summer as I miss too many of them these days.

Roley and the Rock Star - Bob the Builder
Counting Kisses - Katz, Karen
Pumpkin Pie - Ziefert, Harriet
If You Hopped Like a Frog - Schwartz, David
Is That Josie - Narahashi, Keiko
Magic School Bus at the Waterworks - Cole, Joanna
Story about Ping - Flack, Marjorie
Growing Frogs - French, Vivian
Cinderella - Great Illustrated Classicss
Ugly Duckling, The - Anderson, Hans Christian

Frog and Toad - Lobel, Arnold
Frog and Toad are Friends - Lobel, Arnold
Oso pardo, oso pardo que ves ahi? - Carle, Eric
Animal Noises, copycats - Powell, Richard
Jimmy's Boa Bounces Back - Noble, Trinka
If You Hopped LIke a Frog - Schwartz, David
Pumpkin Pie - Ziefert, Harriet
My u book - Moncure, Jane Belk
My k book - Moncure, Jane Belk
My i book - Moncure, Jane Belk

Jafta - Lewin, Hugh
Kitten Called Moonlight, A - Waddell, Martin
My Many Colored Days - Dr Suess
Good Morning Good Night - Mitchell, Melanie
Baby's Boat - Titherington, Jeanne
House for Hermit Crab, A - Carle, Eric
Snow White - Walt Disney
Frogs in Clogs - Samton, Sheila
Trudi and Pia - Hegi, Ursula
Daisy and the Egg - Simmons, Jane

Georgia the Jovial Giraffe - Marian, Grandma
Kente Colors - Chocolate, Debbi
Frog - Kitchen, BErt
One fish two fish red fish blue fish - Dr Suess
ABC - Geddes, Anne
Amazing Animal Alphabet - Edwards, Richard
Casey's New Hat - Gardella, Tricia
In the Night Kitchen - Sendak, Maurice
Skywalker Family Albulm: Star Wars - Alfonsi, Alice
Tuesday - Weisner, David

Hop Frog - Chrustowski, Rick
Tell me the Story of Jesus - Beers, V Gilbert
Hello Benny: What It's Like to be a Baby - Harris, Robie
Kissing Hand, The - Penn, Audrey
Marvin K Mooney will you please go now - Dr Suess
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You Hear - Carle, Eric
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
Today I feel Silly and other moods that make my day - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Sailor moo Cow at Sea - Wheeler, Lisa
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear - Wood, Audrey

Miss Spider's Tea Party - Kirk, David
Wide Mouthed Frog - Faulkner, Keith
Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak, Maurice
Bluberry Shoe - Dixon, Ann
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl, Roald
Ten Little Ladybugs - Gerth, Melanie
You are Special - Lucado, Max
Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery, LM
If You Give a Moose a Muffin - Numeroff, Laura

Rhiannon's Reads
Eyes, Nose, Finger, and Toes - Hindley, Judy
Magic School Bus Hops Home - Cole, Joanna
Secret Under the Tree, The: Adventures of Benny and Watch - Warner, Gertrude
Princess Mayblossom - Great Illsutrated Classics
Henery and Mudge and the Wild Goose Chase - Rylant, Cynthia
Great Kettles, The - Morrissey, Dean
Mother Goose - Little Golden Book
Jimmy's Boa Bounces Back - Noble, Trinka
Black Snowman, The - Mendez, Phil
Angelina and Alice - Holabird, Katherine

Josef's Journal and the letter J - Klingel, Cynthia
Wild Wild Wolves - Milton, Joyce
Bear Wants More - Wilson, Karma
Seashore Boo, The - Zolotow, Charlotte
Snowy Day, The - Keats, Ezra Jack
Amelia Bedelia - Parish, Peggy
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from Ashanti - McDermott, Gerald
What Game Shall We Play - Hutchins, Pat
Chewy Louis - Schneider, Howie
My Mama Had a Dancing Heart - Gray, Libba Morre

First Bear of Africa, THe - Ichikawa, Saomi
Harriet You'll Drive me Wild - Fox, Mem
Come a Tied- Lyon, George Ella
Albert - Napoli, Donna Jo
Where Do Ballons Go: An Uplifiting Mystery - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Bread and Jam for Frances - Hoban, Russell
Cave - Siebert, Diane
Volcano and Earthquake - Van Rose, Susanna
Rotten Raplh's Rotten Romance - Gantos, Jack

Pinky and Rex and the Mean Old Witch - Howe, James
My Mama had a dancing Heart - Gray, Libba Moore
Little Bear - Minarik, Else
Three Questions, The - Muth, Jon J
Mama Do You Love Me - Joose, Barbara M
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - Steig, William
Miss Rumphius - Cooney, Barbara
Hooray for You - Richmond, Marianne
Pocketfull of Kisses - Penn, Audrey
On Morning Wings - Lindbergh, Reeve

Picture bible, The

Mommy Reads
Monkey Dancing - Glick, Daniel
Red Hat Club, The - Smith, Haywood
Fourth Perimeter, The - Green, Tim
Bush's War - Woodward, Bob
Star Wars Revenge of the Sith - Stover, Michael

Updated May 31, 2005

May 27, 2005

Hokey Pokey

Today we are having a cleaning day - we clean for 15 minutes and then the kids get to pick a reward for 15 minutes if they cleaned well and with the right heart. As one of her rewards Rhiannon asked to pick something from our idea jar, and she pulled out "Hokey Pokey" so I taught her how to do the Hokey Pokey with this great online site that has the lyrics and music to the Hokey Pokey.


People of Influence

Our pastor recently sent us an email asking us to write a few sentences about people who have influenced us and our lives. Serona's response:

Obiwan Kenobi. He taught me that, "there's no such thing as luck", to respond to threats and intimidation with kindness and possibly an offer of a drink, that power without control is dangerous and can lead to the Dark Side, and most importantly, to stay true to my beliefs even when others call them "hokey religions".

Yoda. He taught me to "Do. Or do not. There is no try.", and that wars do not make one great.

Darth Vader. He taught me to not be too proud of any technological terror I may construct. Also, that what others may view as a "sad devotion to that ancient religion" is actually quite powerful.

Luke Skywalker. He taught me to be careful of whom I kiss.

Han Solo. He taught me to not get cocky, that it's not wise to upset a wookie, and to fly casual.

Personally, my favorite description he wrote is Han Solo - though Obi-Wan is probably the most serious and probably has actually influenced Serona the most. When we were debate coaches (before the prequels) our debators referred to Serona as Obi-Wan and I was Yoda. Now that the saga is as complete as it is going to get I can say I have a whole new appreciation for Obi-Wan, Yoda and yes even Darth Vader/Anakin.


May 26, 2005

The Homeschooling Revolution book

Izzy is practically giving away copies of her book as they were damaged in shipping. Visit The Homeschooling Revolution for more details.


Dining with Books

Thicket Dweller had an interesting lunch that we should try out in our home. Enjoy Today's lessons: Dining with Books.


News Flash - Socialization No Longer an ''Issue''

Here is a news flash none of us need. Researchers Say Socialization No Longer an ''Issue''.


A Future Court Battle - Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

I am sure it will not take too long for this to end up in court. Did you know the public school system is now required to teach about the Consititution. Personally I think it is a sad testimony to the state of our education system that the government felt compelled to make it mandatory to teach about the Constitution, wouldn't that be something you expect to be covered (oh wait it is not loaded with PCisms so it is not quite as important). From a news article today:

"The Education Department outlined Tuesday how it plans to enforce a little-known provision that Congress passed in 2004: Every school and college that receives federal money must teach about the Constitution on September 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787.

Schools can determine what kind of educational program they want, but they must hold one every year on the now-named "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day." And if September 17 falls on a weekend or holiday, schools must schedule a program immediately before or after that date."

I am sure this will land in court soon enough as someone will claim that it violates the 10th amendment, what our courts will do with it will be another question entirely.

The intention of this law seems good, to ensure that our children are taught the foundation of our government. Yet it is troublesome that it is a decree coming fromt he federal government stating that a certain subject must be taught on a certain day, what will be the next government mandate, it sets a precedent that I'm not sure we want replicated. The government response to this is that they are giving the schools "freedom" to teach the subject however they wish - the school decides on the program. This seems to contradict the point of ensuring that students all learn about the constitution as there is no provision that says you need to teach the constitution even in a positive way, much less educate the kids about the specefics. Mentioning the Constitution as a document and focusing on the many politically correct ways to be citizens will cover the subject under the new federal guidelines.

Dangerous precedent for little tangible rewards. Sad that the government even feels compelled that it is a neccessity. Just another reason WWHS, some homeschoolers will be required to follow this law as well - especially the state funded charter schools that call themselves homeschools, as the law states " Every school and college that receives federal money"

Dig deeper and consider the implications. At first glance it may seem positive that the government wants to encourage better informed citizens - but in reality it belies many other truths and provides a cover for some of the true issues.

Read more about the topican easy read news story, some of the legalese, and for the true researcher text of Appropriations Public Law 108-447 where the law is found. You are looking for section 111b and it states:

"(b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a
fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States
Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution."

In case you don't have a personal copy handy - here is the THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.


May 25, 2005

Tea Party

Today was a rainy cold day again. We had some friends over for a mini tea party. In days past I have done a full blown tea party with linens and little finger sandwiches and way too much food. Today I did it with what we had on hand. The kids set the table with pretty sunflower dishes, Rhia's favorites, they found matching cloth napkins and placemats for each person. They put out the teacups and helped me get the teapots ready. The table looked nice and they had a sense of accomplishment. Rhia got herself and Sirah in pretty dresses and waited for her friends to arrive, two girls from our homeschool support group in pretty dresses themselves.

The kids all played for awhile while I helped their mom finish off her first crocheting project. She made a cute pink poncho for a neighbor's birthday gift - it came out great for her first project. The kids settled down at the table for an interesting tea party menu.

Today we had three types of tea: Tazo wild orange, Good Earth green tea and Stash Wild Raspberry. We set out our good sugar and cream dishes and some honey. I think each child put all three into their cups! Then for the food we had cinnamon cookies, oreos, corn muffins, raspberry jam, and ice cream. Perhaps not standard tea party food but loved by the attendees nonetheless!

Then the kids were off in their own imaginary world for the remainder of the visit, dress up, household items and toys put to good use in their stories. Sirah toddled in and out of the mix generally preferring to spend time with me and her adopted "aunt" and chatting with us.

A nice way to pass the afternoon until the sugar crash came hard this evening. I had one of those "What is wrong with you all!" moments until it dawned on me, they had sugar and caffeine and it was raining too much to burn the energy off. Ciaran gets like the energizer bunny and Rhia gets mouthy and moody. Lucky me. So it became a race to see how quickly I could get them into bed.

I was sneaky and bribed them with a favorite of theirs which actually served me quite nicely. I gave them the choice for the evening "Would you rather read books tonight or watch a movie", knowing full well they would choose the movie. I let Ciaran pick as he has not yet learned the wisdom of picking the longest movie in our collection before bed - and sure enough he picked a nice 30 minute movie. I set out a blanket on the floor and fed them dinner as they watched, then whisked them off to bed where Rhiannon and Sirah promptly crashed (their natural response to a sugar high/crash) and Ciaran snuck a bottle of pop into his room. When I came in and discovered him on the floor behind his door with it he immediately said "Someone brought this in my room and took the top off" Instead of being mad I actually had to leave the room quickly so I would not burst out laughing!

So a great afternoon, lousy early evening and a nice early bedtime. Will need to find more indoor activities as we are slated for rain again for the next few days.


Who says Home Schoolers Get a Second Rate Education?

I am consistently amazed by the distain and hyperbole with which the ignorant, frightened, or just plain uninformed often characterize the quality of a home schooling education. They are not typically aware of things like this:
"Nathan Cornelius, a home schooled seventh grader from Cottonwood, Minn., won the 17th annual National Geographic Bee competition today, with a dazzling display of knowledge about places, cultures, cities, countries and rivers around the globe.

... the competition ... started with 5 million students nationwide ... He was one of two contestants to survive a double elimination first round that took 105 questions. ... Nathan entered the competition, sponsor by National Geographic Magazine, as the Minnesota state champ for the third straight year. " (emphasis added)

I guess they are products of their education...

Read more HERE

Homemade Game Boards

Here is a nice site to make your own game boards.


MN Legislative Alert

Received today from my statewide homeschool group:

The legislature has gone into Special Session again to finalize negotiations on 2005 legislation. One of the issues still in play is expanding the education tax credit! An expansion of the education tax credit currently exists in the House Omnibus Tax Bill HF785 and a weaker version is in the Senate Omnibus Tax Policy Bill SF1683.

The language proposed by Representative Knoblach in HF1054 that was moved into Representative Krinkie's Omnibus Tax Bill lifts the family limit on the number of children to which the credit can apply and gradually reduces the credit applicable to families by income level as it relates to the federal poverty guidelines.

Current statute allows a family $1,000 per child up to $2,000 per family and cuts off the credit at income levels beyond $37,500. These changes essentially eliminate discrimination against large families and benefit every school age child in a family. The House version also brings immediate relief, whereas the Senate version does not begin until the tax year of 2006.

The main resistance to expansion of the education tax credit has been in the Senate where a weaker version was passed. Because of this, the education tax credit expansion is vulnerable when the Conference Committee takes it up in their negotiations. We are asking you to make calls to your senator and representative and ask that they support the improvements to the education tax credit as it exists in the House tax bill, HF785.

Identify yourself as a constituent and parent of school age children who would benefit most from the House version of the tax credit expansion. It is important that they hear the message, "Please retain the expansion of the education tax credit as it appears in the House Omnibus Tax Bill." Also encourage your legislator to contact the Tax Conference Committee members and encourage them to retain the House language. You can also state any or all of the following reasons:

The House version provides immediate relief for families.
It treats families more equitably by serving all qualifying children within a family, not just up to two.
The removal of the limit to which the number of children the credit can apply eliminates discrimination against large families.
The improvement in the tax credit reaches more low income and needy families.
The House version factors in inflation to income limitations.
The tax credit strengthens the quality of education options by giving parents the opportunity to choose from a multitude of services, programs, and materials in which they can invest their money to best serve their children's educational needs.
It benefits all children, public and private educated.

If you are not certain who your senator is or what district you live in, please go to District Finder and type in your street address (it may be sensitive to how you enter your street information, e.g. use "County Road" rather than "Co. Rd."). If you already know this information you can find the telephone and email contact information for your senator at Senator Alphabetical List .

Those who live in the district of the following Conference Committee members and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson are especially encouraged to contact their senator because they will play a key role in the final negotiations of the tax bill. All phone numbers begin with area code 651.

Senate Majority Leader, Senator Dean Johnson (District 13 - Willmar) 296-3826;

Senator Larry Pogemiller (District 59 - Minneapolis) - 296-7809;

Senator William Belanger (District 40 - Bloomington) 296-5975;

Senator Don Betzold (District 51 - Fridley) 296-2556;

Senator Mee Moua (District 67 - St. Paul) 296-5285;

Senator Rod Skoe (District 2 - Clearbrook) 296-4196;

Representative Philip Krinkie (District 53A - Shoreview) 296-2907;

Representative Ron Abrams (District 43B - Minnetonka) 296-9934;

Representative Morrie Lanning (District 9A - Moorhead) 296-5515 or (800) 657-3742;

Representative Ann Lenczewski (District 40B - Bloomington) 296-4218;

Representative Dean Simpson (District 10B - New York Mills) 296-4293 or (800) 914-3172;

Senator Gen Olson, Senator Michele Bachmann, Senator Julianne Ortman, Representative Jim Knoblach, Representative Barb Sykora, Representative Joyce Peppin, Representative Ray Vandeveer all introduced bills this session to expand the education tax credit. You are encouraged to thank them for their support when you contact them.

May 24, 2005

Day in Pictures

Here are some photos we took today along our nature walk. We spent nearly all day at a nature preserve, identifying and enjoying wildflowers, birds and a great hike through beautiful nature. It was perfect weather and a great day. Will blog more specefics later.

Yellow Flowers
Someone's Home
Red bugs
Walk in the Preserve

May 23, 2005

State Capitol Tour

Last week for our field trip we went to our state capitol. We took an interesting tour with our homeschool support group and some others. We heard about the history, got to sit in the Governor's reception room and got to see teh gold horses on the top of the capitol building. We listened to the House in session for awhile and heard about different paintings and historical people.

After the tour was complete we met with a local representative and he took us into a conference room and answered the kids and parents questions. It was very ineteresting. He told us about his path into polticial life, what day might look like and a bit about his family, life as a Representative and some of the work he does. The kids had some interesting questions and it was an informative and good field trip. Serona went on this one with us as well which made it even nicer.

If you have yet to visit your state capitol I recommend it, we have done this several times now and I always enjoy it. Though young ones can be challenging and at times difficult there - overall it is a good trip.


Star Wars - It is complete

Well it has been a long and fun and tiring week. We just completed our Star Wars week. Beginning last Monday evening, every day we had some Star Wars activity planned until last night. We hosted an open house showing one of the movies each night (except Wed and Thursday - allowing people time to see Revenge of the Sith in theaters) and a variety of people come and watch with us. One night we had 9 children 9 and under - it was a hoot and they actually did much better than I would have thought! We dressed up in costumes as a family - though not every single night and we just enjoyed spending the time together and enjoying the movies with each other and with friends. But it was also draining and tiring - to have people over to your home each night got to be a bit much and in the future I would not do so many nights in a row. I was actually thankful when noone else came last night and we just enjoyed Return of the Jedi as a family.

Wednesday night Serona and I attended the opener of Revenge of the Sith at midnight in full costume. We attended with many other fans in costume and had a good time. You can see some pictures below. We both enjoyed the film so much that we each went to see it again this weekend helping the movie break records with a 158.5 million dollar opening weekend!

I will say that I was no big fan of Episode I and Episode II, especially in comparison to the original trilogy. However, Episode III is much better than the last two and the fall of Anakin Skywalker is done in a subtle way that makes you feel for him. Having gone back and watched the original trilogy since seeing the film only makes me appreciate Episode III more. Revenge of the Sith really adds something to the original trilogy and it actually changes the way you view it. The story is really about Anakin now now Luke, Leia and Han. Yoda is much cooler and Ewan Mcgregor, Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmond really did their homework in studying their characters and the transition is seamless and very well done! I think Episode III does a good job tying it all together

For those of you with kids who love Star Wars I encourage you to preview the movie before taking your children. It is intense and I believe it deserved the PG-13 rating, I also think it is dark, heavy and intense for young children. It needed to be and I do not think it is overdone but I caution you to see it first, it is a different tone and feel than the other movies. Our own children are disappointed that we have decided they can not see it but they have accepted it - we have settled for answering questions they may have about it, atleast for a few years. There were quite a few children in the theater when I saw it on Sunday and there were even some at midnight! So others may have different opinions or standards than I but I encourage you to watch it yourself. Even reading reviews and detailed descriptions such as the one found at Kids in Mind - caution will be spoilers - do not truly capture the tone and violence in the movie.

Still we enjoyed the film and recommend it for adult fans. While I enjoyed our star wars week, our costumes, lightsaber duels, parties and all I am glad to see it come to an end for now. Of course it will never really end, as I type this Ciaran is playing with star wars action figures and ships and I am in the middle of reading Matthew Stovers novelization of Revenge of the Sith!


May 21, 2005

Seperation of Religion and Rights

When the laws were written to maintain a seperation of church and state there were good reasons behind them. They were designed to allow people to worship or not worship as they saw fit and to keep the government out of their religious beliefs and business. The law was designed to prevent national laws on what religion you can and cannot practice. Over the years we have completely lost sight of this purpose and have morphed the law into in some ways the opposite of its original intention, especially were Christians in America are concerned.

Seperation of church and state is decried everywhere primarly to stop religious expression of individuals now. Today in the news is the story of Olivia Turton, an 8 year old Frechtown NJ resident was denied the ability to sing "Awesome God" for her schools talent show.

"The girl was told May 10 that she could not sing the song. Her mother, Maryann Turton, protested at a school board meeting that night. She was told three days later by Joyce Brennan, the school superintendent and principal, that the religious content made it inappropriate at school, according to the lawsuit filed by the child's parents Friday morning."

This is not what the founding fathers intent was when they wrote the seperation laws. It is not a valid concern. An 8 year old child singing a song about God at her schools talent show is not a threat to society, it does not put anyone's religion at risk, it is a personal expression and it is her own.

Our schools are going to far when they fear allowing children to sing songs, hand out candy canes, have their own religious groups and profess their personal beliefs. This is a misuse of "seperation of church and state" and it moves into the realm of seperating those with religious beliefs who wish to express them from their own personal rights to freedom of speech.

An interesting point is made that the school is allowing a scene from Macbeth which contains witchcraft (which apparently does not count as religious content here) but not allowing Olivia Turton to sing her song.

What a mixed up world we live in. How far will it go? Read the whole story at " - U.S. & World - School Nixes Girl's Religious Song.


Minnesota Free

Here is a site with lots of free things to do in Minnesota. Check out Family Times: Free Page.


May 19, 2005

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Opening Night Midnight Show


Twi'lek and Princess Leia

Storm Troopers

Dark Side

Master Duel

Lightsaber Duel

Good vs. Evil

Revenge of the Sith

Here are some pictures from opening night of Star Wars at a nearby theater where we met up with many other costumed fans. I would say there were over 50 people in costumes, though some were more authentic then others. Personal favorite costumes included the very well done Darth Vader, Storm Troopers and the authentic jedi costumes.

I fully enjoyed the movie, there were some slow moments, especially in the beginning but the transition from Anakin to Lord Vader was subtle and well done, the scenes between Anakin and the Chancellor were some of my favorites. I did feel for Anakin throughout the movie and now I want to rewatch Return of the Jedi. I am glad we did not bring the kids - it was dark and violent for their ages.

Enjoy the pictures, we had a great time!

May 18, 2005

A Different rhythm

Today we followed a different pattern to our day. It is rainy, cold and miserable and it has been for too long. The kids are getting ancy and it really isn't nice enough to take them out unless I want to be assured of more sickness. So I let them take turns picking what we would do today knowing that meant it would be a movie day.

Sure enough we began by watching an Ewok movie, followed by playing Star Wars chess. Then it was some quiet time alone playing. Off for video games, introduced to Tetris and then playing Super Bubble pop. Some more free time while I put Sirah to sleep. Then we all sat down and watched Cheaper by the Dozen together. I was working on my knitting (yes I am slowly learning) while we watched.

Then Ciaran decided to practice writing his name and Rhiannon wrote and illustrated a short story about a family with 12 kids. Sirah woke up and nursed and played nearby. Then upstairs while I made homemade soup for dinner they straightened their rooms. Sirah and Ciaran headed into the bathroom to give all of his plastic frogs a bath and good cleaning while Rhia and I sat on our overstuffed chair and she read two chapters of Black Beauty to me while I knit.

A wonderful afternoon, a nice lead up to the events of the night. It was such a nice day on what could have been terrible because of their moods and the weather that I did not even put up a fuss when they did not want to eat the soup I made. I agreed to their request for oatmeal for dinner!

Rhiannon is starting the water for the evening baths now, some storytime and an early bedtime tonight. The last few nights have been late evenings for them watching Episode I and Episode II so tonight we should have a nice early bedtime. Roomba is on her third room, the dishwasher its second round and most of the house picked up. If I knew watching TV could make the days run this smooth all the time I might allow for more of it. Of course I will not and honestly could not do it but it was a nice break and we still did enough other things to make it interesting overall.


May 17, 2005

In a galaxy far, far away....

This is where we have spent most of our week and will through Sunday at least. We have opened our home to our friends, collegues and co-workers (family too if they lived closer) for an all week Star Wars open house, showing one movie a night until Sunday.

Beyond that we have made costumes, thanks J, and played in the Star Wars universe, with action figures, lightsabers and our imagination. The kids and I had several lightsaber duels throughout the day - it is great fun! This morning immediately upon waking Ciaran started having a lightsaber duel by himself with two different electronic lightsabers - he won in case you were wondering.

The hiss and hum of the lightsaber is one of the most common sounds in our home this week and that is just fine with me. When I got married I had a choice to make, I could either spend the rest of my life hating Star Wars and fighting about it - or I could embrace it. I chose wisely and embraced it. Star Wars is now quite a defining part of our family in a fun way. It is something fun and light (though Serona takes it quite serious)that we can enjoy as a family. It reminds Serona of his childhood and brings out the kid in all of us (yes even me), it has brought us together in something we all enjoy playing and watching together. We have gone to conventions, make family costumes, watch the movie over and over again and play games centered around it.

As I type this in our home library I look over at the entire bookshelf of Star Wars books and the following games out on the table (all Star Wars versions) Trivia Pursuit - DVD, Chess, Monopoly, Risk and Roleplaying RPG books. We decided we will introduce the kids to RPG (in a controlled and adapted way) to feed their imagination and give it an outlet. The kids colored pictures today, played imaginary games and finished mine and Rhia's costumes (we are both based off of Barriss Offee - a jedi from EPII). So I would say this is probably the way much of the rest of our week will continue.


Live worm birth?

Dy, over at Classic Adventures, has a great post about her son holding a worm while it gave birth. She had difficulty finding information about this online so I tried for quite awhile as well and could only come up with worms being born in cocoons. It is an interesting read. Maybe someone else knows about worms birthing other worms and can point her, and me in the right direction as I am now very curious.


Mom's Best Friend - Digital Voice Recorder

OK I begin this by acknowledging that I am a techie, I am an early adopter and I am a geek. But I will also say that I have low patience for things that are complicated and a lot of work, Serona is much better with things like that. I am also a forgetful, scrap of paper kind of person. I haven't been able to effectively use a day planner since college, I have gone trhough Palm Pilots and just find them impractical to use with kids, the stylus is still too much work and as I have several computers it just did not sync well to keep all my info in one place. I still have it but it was not useful in some of the ways I had hoped.

I recently broke down and bought a new toy and I love it. Easy to use, effective for its purpose, multi-purposed, small and lightweight. I just bought this Digital Voice Recorder from Wal-Mart a few weeks ago.

I use it for a variety of things and I really like it. So far I have used it to remember appointments, errands, and things I want to blog. I have the kids do their narrations on their which I can then easily transfer to the computer or audio blogger. We also take it with us on walks so we can record what we are seeing on our nature walks. For example we bring a nature guide with us to look things up, then I or the kids can say what it is and when we come home we have an easy list to remember. I recently went away on vacation and I had each of the kids record me a message so I had it with me. Of course listening to Sirah sing "winkle tar" (twinkle twinkle star) made me miss her all the more!

It is relatively cheap for all the conveinances it gives me. For under thirty dollars I think it is great! I use it for homeschooling, household and personal use and for my kids. You can save things in different folders and each time you record something it creates a new file so it is easy to go back through and find what you are looking for and erase it when you are done. No tapes to mess with, 3 hours of recording and normal batteries. It is a good value for the money. Hope it can help someone out!

PS: Thanks Dad in Maine for the inspiration, I was walking around a park with the kids and I was frustrated I knew I would not remember what we had seen and I thought of you and the way you use your tape recorder!


May 16, 2005

Star Wars Printables and Games for Kids

Here are some fun sites for kids related to star wars

Free Star Wars coloring pages

More Star Wars Coloring Pages

Free Online Star Wars swapper puzzles

Star Wars Internet Scavenger hunt - for older kids

Star Wars Returns

Pit Droid demo game

Official Star Wars kids site

Making your own Mustafar Volcanoe - where Darth Vader and Obi-wan fight

Luke and Leia Star Wars Paper Dolls

Star Wars for Parents

Here are some sites parents may enjoy. Share them (or not) with your children at your own discretion. Some may not be appropriate.

2005 Fan Film

Store Wars: Join the Organic Rebellion

I Miss Biggs: Luke Skywalker's Journal

Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster

Troops - not for kids

Episode III: A Lost Hope - not for kids

Stick Wars


Lego Wars

One Man Star Wars

Captain Returns

After a much enjoyed vacation the "Captain" has returned. I hope you have all enjoyed reading Serona's humorous coverage of his weekend with the kids. He is clearly the more creative member of our family! So now it is back to dull and straightforward me, but I am thankful he spiced things up a bit. The family enjoyed the time as well and we are ramping up now for our Star Wars week. With Revenge of the Sith opening this week, we are hosting Star Wars parties every night this week showing a different film each day.

Hope you are well.

May 15, 2005

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day Three afternoon

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.
If you've not read Day One, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two afternoon, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early evening, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two late evening, read it here.
If you've not read Day Three morning, read it here.

Father's Folly
I must be a very wicked jack-dandy. Subsequent to our acts and offerings of obeisance to the Secret God the weather turned. The crew and I were overjoyed. Topside, we took the opportunity to scrub and swab and mend that which the days of neglect due to weather had made all the worse.

My Trimmer took the opportunity to stretch his arms and legs and monkey calls. Almost by necessity this meant that he swung away from me as fast as he could (and much faster than I could pursue). No amount of calling, cajoling, offering, or threatening could bring him down, until a promise of the stocks once we made landfall was made. That got his attention and (though short lived) attention for a moment.

My First Mate was incredibly helpful, even suggesting direction and approach at times, in ways that were both appropriate and showed a budding sea sense. She'll make a fine captain some day, that one.

My deck hand, the wee one, so overcome with joy at being top side and feeling the fun on her face decided to promptly soil herself. I can only account for this as excitement at our apparent turn of fortunes. The expression of joy and relief so profound upon her face. To tell the truth, I was a bit relieved to see (no, smell) that she had since the binding nature of our meager fare and the salt air of late had truly taken its toll on her small frame. The rest of the crew (myself included) shared her joy for quite a time.

Yet all this revelry was short lived as, going below decks to the galley to gather a nibble, I found that our cold-box was evidently overcome with joy as well since it had decided to spill its oil across the galley deck. This oil is important to keep the system cool, it is not olive oil for cooking, rather it is a black and sticky substance, the sight of which means trouble. And this is why I am convinced of my wickedness. The Secret God is taunting me, clearing the skies, giving us swift sailing yet causing the cold-box to belch forth it's black blood.

So I set about cleaning, the crew is topside, enjoying the feel of the breeze in their hair whilst I, on my knees, make another atonement for sins as yet, unknown.

This ship is cursed.

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day Three morning

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.
If you've not read Day One, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two afternoon, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early evening, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two late evening, read it here.

I was awoken by an overwhelming sense that I was being watched. It was still dark outside. I looked around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. As I closed my eyes, the wall moved. I sat up with a start (and, I admit, a bit of a fright) to find the wee one standing silently by my bunk side. She was just watching me, saying nothing, silent as the ghosts that some say haunt these waters.

I swung my feet over my bunk, and made to lead her back to her bunk but decided, rather to rise and get a jump on the day.

Going topside I saw, much to my dismay, that the clear skies of last night did not last. Rain laden clouds are scudding across the sky mocking my desire for one day just one day when I can turn the crew loose above decks. I am being punished. I am sure of it. I'm not sure of my sin but it must be great. I will plead my case before the Secret God today. I will abase myself. I will take my crew with me.

We make ready now for the ceremonies but not before allowing the crew a sugar bomb. They'll need the energy to make their entreaties for fairer weather strong enough.

May 14, 2005

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day Two late evening

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.
If you've not read Day One, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two afternoon, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early evening, read it here.

The Captain was right, this crew is magnificent. While there were moments where they threatened revolt, when they set about their duties, they were the best I've seen.

As the late afternoon gave way to eventide, the weather broke and we were able to see enough blue sky to make a dutchman's pants. We now steer by the stars. The water is calm, the night chill but clear, and the wind cool and at our backs. Things seem so much quieter.

There was a point when I'd begun to believe the crew and their jibs, Father's Folly and all. But now, in the quiet salt spray of the night, all becomes so much clearer. We've come so far today. What started as folly (to some) has proved to be such a great, grand source of pride. This vessel was aptly named, originally that is. When we put in to port, tomorrow or the next day, I aim to have her relettered.

Final Duties
This evening we continued our work below decks. Down in the hold matters were worse than I had anticipated. Entry ways to supposedly secure holds were ajar and doors, such as they are on a ship, were hanging at obtuse angles to each other. The crew and I set about the mending but all too soon it was just me and my deckhand. The wee one was more interested in philosophizing about the fixes I was clapping on than she was in actually lending a hand.

At regular intervals, my Trimmer (monkey boy) would swoop in just to see what I was doing. He would ask if he could help and, while I was grateful for the sheen of thoughtfulness he displayed, I was keenly aware that his duties were anything but complete. When I would get up from my tool laden tasks to check on his progress, he would mysteriously disappear from where he was supposed to be working and appear behind me, tools in hand, attempting to fix the ship himself. Not only is he not trained in proper ship maintenance, I do not believe he has ever actually fixed anything in his life. It seems that he is more about unfixing things. So you can imagine my chagrin when, after finding his quarters suffering the after effects of a sugar spawned tornado, I return to find him attempting to drill holes in our hull. “I just got this bucket of bolts back together, I'm not going to let something tear it apart!” I yelled.

Crew Maintenance
The event (and several more like it) vexed me so that I had to stop and get a drink for fear of throwing the lad overboard. Of course, the rest of the crew all had their opinions of what appropriate punishment was. The little devils. But when I would actually suggest something, suddenly they would all turn on me! Ahhh leadership. And to think, I wanted this. To be the captain. To sail my own course. I did, of course, realize that, in order for my Trimmer as well as the rest of the crew to respect my command, I would have to lower the boom. Why is it that discipline is so much easier when you are watching someone else dole it out? There were no shortages of opinions on the method of punishment. The First Mate lifted her nose out of a book (She Captains I think it was. I can only imagine the ideas that is putting into her head) and suggested hanging by his thumbs from the mizzen spar. The wee one kept repeating “pank, pank” which I think meant she wanted to see him walk the plank. Violent little bugger that one.

In the end it was between him and me (keep the others imagining – it's much worse for them that way). But it all turned out for the best.

We dined this night together on the sea's own bounty. Some seaweed salad and seaweed wraps like the exotics from the orient eat. We supplemented with some more dry goods rice this time and pickled ginger, but it was enough.

Physically we are all still doing well. Our Trimmer boy (he is prevalent isn't he?) required assistance in the head but when I got there, he was eager to try his hand at, well you understand. Suffice it to say that the boy is still learning. The amazing thing is that, here is a lad who has the coordination to swing and leap and fix and drill but not for some of the more basic actions. Oh well, I suppose we all learn at different paces.

I think the wee one is bound up by the sea air. There was no movement from her at all today. If this persists, it could require medical attention or maybe just creative use of our harpoon.

The Captain
It would seem that my hopes that reports of the abduction of the Captain were a hoax are untrue. I have credible evidence that the crew of the Stitch & Bitch Ship are behind the reports of the Captain's disappearance. While I received a brief communication from the Captain this evening, I now believe that they do have her and mean to make off with her. Worse yet, I sense that the Captain may be enjoying her carousing with them. While quite lovely, this lot o' Jennies are the denizens of the seas. Make no mistake. It is better to flee them than to engage them in open battle. No matter you advantage you always (always) lose. And no quarter is given. They may stay an immediate execution, but it is only to be able to watch you twist in the wind. The original list of demands for the safe return of the Captain make more sense now. Still, after looking again (and again and again) at their profiles (only to better understand my foe! I swear!) I can sense a weakness. Look closely at their images, do not quail at their site. On the sea you cannot defeat them. But on land, On LAND dear sailors, you need only run down hill and you will be able to get away as they overbalance and tumble forward. Don't understand? Look again.

I'll be sure to share this critical intelligence with the crew on the morrow. We will stay close to the shore to be able to put in quickly should we spy that fearsome vessel.

But for now, a good even to you.

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day Two early evening

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.
If you've not read Day One, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two afternoon, read it here.

A meager meal after working
We're well in progress towards getting everything ship shape by the time the Captain returns but the crew is growing restless. This foul weather is not helping matters. Sun will flirt with our minds, dappling the surface of the water and making it sparkle. Then it will be consumed by rain bearing clouds that lash us for having the temerity to venture topside and enjoy the light and heat on our cheeks.

The beasts are the only ones who seem not to mind, if indeed they notice at all. They are as like to frolic in the rain and mud as they are to seek shelter. I think their wits have left them, if they ever possessed them in the first place.

Our afternoon meal was meager but sufficient. I must write in praise of the little bean from the Orient. It is incredibly useful. Today we ate a kind of cheese or curd made from the milk of the bean. The crew actually requested this squishy foodstuff then expounded on the physical benefits of eating it. So much the better for them.

I was also able to locate some dry goods that we were able to boil and smother with some melted cheese (cheese lasts forever, especially in this salt air). The crew loved it. Myself, I took the smaller portion to ensure enough for the crew.

After a bit of play we are back again on task, making ready. We sail under the same accursed sky though the breeze is cool. We are making good headway.

My deck hand, the wee one, usually so practical about going about topside in bare feet (the better for balance you know) has taken to a particular pair of black shoes about two sizes too big for her. Despite several tumbles she persists. I have tried to dissuade her but she will not give up. Well, so long as she gets her tasks done...

Rumors and Hearsay
There was a rumor that the Captain had been abducted while on leave. I want to put this rumor to rest, for, when I read outloud the demands of those rapscallions, those scallywags, those ne'er do wells who ply the black seas of piracy, the crew was quite distraught. Yet there was, too, a tone of levity in their "ransom" demand that begs me to believe the threat a hoax.

We shall see. Meanwhile, it is back to the tasks at hand.

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day Two afternoon

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.
If you've not read Day One, read it here.
If you've not read Day Two early, read it here.

Setting To (finally)
My goal is to get all standing by supper. To achieve this, the desire of every ship's captain, we need a combination of luck, weather and ship readiness. I feel that, though the weather is poor now, the lightening of the persistent cloud cover portends a break in the rain and fairer skies ahead. My task is to be ready for that.

Right now the Father's Folly is anything but ready. I gathered the crew and had a heart to heart. A captain must know when to be hard and when to be flexible. This was a time for flexibility but I started by letting them know that I was disappointed in the lack of responsiveness I was, heretofore, perceiving. They all, at first, made protestations to the contrary with the littlest simply repeating every third word or so I spoke (was she mocking me? I let it slide). At the end, I think they understood.

I am of the belief that a captain should give his crew as much information as possible so that they know why they're being asked to do what they are. Sure, sometimes leadership demands strict and immediate obedience, but I find that the crew is more able and capable when they know the stakes and the direction we're heading. After all, we're all on this ship together. So I told them.

Our goal was not just to survive our voyage together until the Captain returned from her shore leave. Rather, we would impress the Captain with our completion of preparations for the following week when delegations from all over the known land would come aboard to celebrate the completion of the chronology of the War of the Stars.

We decided an orderly approach would be best so we made a task list. We reviewed the ship: centerline to all regions athwartship. The list was vast. The crew saw and appreciated the magnitude of the task. Yet, (and here I find myself impressed) they neither balked nor shied from the job.

The only members of the crew who did not agree and still refuse to take up the mantle of responsibility are the beasts. I have washed my hands of them for now and given them free roam topside. Later the crew and I will wash them, literally, and no small task will that be.

We have set to (finally), and the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds.

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day Two early

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.
If you've not read Day One, read it here.

High Seas
The day broke with an ill wind and gunpowder skies. I don't know how they do it but the crew woke with boundless energy. It is a curious energy though. Boundless when they set about tasks of their choosing then, incredibly, sapped to the point of enervation, when I give an order. I had to beg, cajole, threaten and promise just to impress on them the need to keep an orderly bunk. In the end, it took the lure of sweetmeats to break our fast that set them about the job. And then it required them several attempts to get it right. I reassure myself that they are learning and will do better the next time.

I have decided to ignore the epithet "Father's Folly" for now. I am in no position to rewrite the lettering on the stern. I suspect that it is no more than playful baiting. But I will not let it chafe. Instead I will embrace it and let my actions, my leadership, and my results speak for themselves.

New Crew and Frightful Weather
The weather has soured. A cold steady rain has driven us below decks. The crew entertain themselves with sport, wrestling and the such, whilst I journal. It is soothing to me. I just wish that their exercise did not entail so much undoing of the tidying that we've already accomplished.

In an interesting turn we have picked up two new crew (I use the term loosely). They are, in fact, the two dirtiest, smelliest, most rambunctious beasts I have ever laid eyes upon. I'm not sure what help they can actually be but the crew are quite taken with them. I think that, at one time, they were dogs, but they are little more than dirty beasts now. Maybe having them around will endear the crew to me.

I am always amazed at how the crew can learn some things and not others. For instance, they still chafe at my command (when they bother to listen at all) yet my Trimmer (monkey boy), has just informed me and the crew about his intestines. Fascinating.

How to channel this energy? I must set about my tasks. There is bunk inspection, washing, and maintenance to complete. I will not let the Captain down. This is my oath.

May 13, 2005

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Day One

If you've not read the prologue, read it here.

In Port
I was a bit unsure about this crew at first. But the Captain assures me that, though rough looking, they are hard workers and will perform their tasks diligently. The Captain suggested rewarding them with grog but I think that I had better wait to better determine their collective disposition.

Rough looking is an understatement. These are grizzled veterans of many of the Captain's campaigns; rumpled, red, haggard, and gaunt. The one I've chosen for my First Mate is a gaunt and wiry one. A bookish sailor who is vastly more capable than she lets on. Still, the others listen to her and, I believe, her natural leadership skills may come in handy.

My trimmer is a lad more ape than man. But this suits him as he frolics among the rigging. Now, if he would only listen to my command. This one will prove to be a handful methinks.

My deckhand is indeed a wee one but the instigator of more trouble than she seems capable of. A close eye I'll need to keep on this one.

We set sail under an afternoon zephyr. I am eager to get underway but, as yet, still have no destination. I am enjoying leading this ship.

For all her talk of me being the Captain and setting direction, the Captain still managed to leave me with a (small) set of tasks to complete by end of day 3. But these are simple tasks and ones with which the crew is familiar so we will complete them with little trouble I suspect.

Ports of Entry
We have managed to complete two of the three tasks given by the Captain. The first, we needed to have part of "Father's Pride" checked out and repaired. This was done without incident though the repair has yet to be tested under stress.

The second, a health check for the crew, was all fine and the ship and her crew were all given a clean bill of health. But I soon discovered that the crew, though healthy, may not be quite as loyal as first suspected.

I thought all was going well but, upon routine inspection, I noticed that the fine black lettering on the stern that had previously spelled out Father's Pride now reads "Father's Folly". Coincidentally enough, the crew has already taken to referring to the ship and our voyage this way.

The actual re-lettering is no mean task and there are only one or two on the crew actually capable of such a sly endeavor. Yet I suspect them all, to one degree or another. This had better not continue.

The Hold is Empty
I am so mad I could spit! I had expected that the ship would be well provisioned prior to setting sail, but it would seem that the Captain had commandeered a mere husk of a ship. The stores are empty and the pantry bare but for some dry oats and hard beans. It will be a meager fare for the crew and myself until we can reprovision.

I have considered the possibility of sending up a flare for help and waiting for a restock ship to pass this way and deliver me basic necessities. They say that the HMS Simon delivers goods and necessities out this way. Yet I am loathe to admit weakness that such an act would entail just yet. I was able to find some additional basics at a nearby port but I fear that the foodstuffs I purchased will not last. Neither are they they kinds to sustain an energetic crew. They will suffice until tomorrow.

Time to swab the decks then to bunk. I love saying that. The crew ignore me.

HMS Father's Folly Voyage Log : Prologue

I've always wanted to captain my own ship but have long been content as First Mate to the Captain. She runs a tight ship and the crew seem to prosper under her. They respond well to her leadership, chafing at times at the ugly but necessary tasks, but always respecting her.

Still, from my post as First Mate, the job looks to be a breeze. The Captain says that I'm romanticizing it and that it's not all warm breezes and cool swells. Maybe. But I'll get my chance to see first hand quite soon.

The Captain has announced that she's going away for 3 days for some well deserved R&R. I and the crew assumed that this meant shore leave for the rest of us or at least dropping anchor and relaxing in the sun. The Captain had other ideas. "I've commandeered a ship for you" she said, almost too casually. I raised an eyebrow in confusion and a little bit of excitement. "It's time you had the chance to captain your own ship. I've already spoken to the crew." I stroked my clean shaven chin and nodded, trying not to appear nonplussed. Inside I was reeling. I finally broke and asked, "where will we head? What is the job?"

"That is the captain's decision, Captain. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you are responsible. We will meet up again in 3 days. Calm seas and fair winds to you." Wow. The excitement has started to set in. She showed me my ship my ship! the words "Father's Pride" writ large across her stern. Her prow mounted with a fearsome spar in the shape of a ram's head. This is a ship that will strike fear into the hearts of those bent on harm and mischief. This is a ship to make a man feel strong, to feel proud. I do.

Story of a Tomb

A woman died of pneumonia in the 1890's and they built this sculpture for her tomb. Her name was Asman. Her mother and father were out on a journey, a witch came and pretended to be her mother and poisoned her drink that made her fall asleep. Then she woke up when her mother came home the only way to make her wake up was to hug her. There are a hundred frogs hopping over the land and the frog kicked the woman as she died of pneumonia and they buried her in this tomb.

---Story by Rhiannon and Ciaran

This occurred spontaneously this morning as they were building blocks. I had to write it down and share.


May 12, 2005

Animals, Computers, Sewing and Drama

Today was a big day for us. The main elements are stated in the title. The morning was spent with our homeschool support group at a local library. One of the families had their grandparents in town from California and they shared slides of pictures they took while spending time in Zimbabwe. There were many different animals including elephants, lions, crocodiles, impala, hyena, wild dogs, baboons, giraffes, wart hogs, zebras and many others I am not recalling off the top of my head. The kids were interested and Rhiannon and Ciaran both wanted to ask a million questions.

This is a struggle I have often with the two of them, they are very curious by nature and asking questions is a big way we learn around here. The kids are very open with asking questions and would ask questions, especially from interesting adults all day long. Sometimes there is that brief embarrassment for them when they ask or say something strange, like today when Rhiannon said out loud when she heard how many gallons an elephant drinks “I would be drunk!”. Othertimes there is that brief embarrassment for yourself when they keep asking constant questions and they are making and forward progress impossible. Most of the time it is this fine line I walk of wanting to let them ask their questions and have them answered and wanting to teach them to be more respectful and that they can not always have every question answered immediately. A balance between respect and not killing that burning desire to know and the satisfaction of receiving an answer. Anyone have some good tips on how to handle this one?

After the slideshow and the many questions we celebrated a little girl’s 5th birthday. She is important to our family and a close friend of the kids. I made her a little purse and a shawl in her favorite color (blue) and we picked out a really cool Monet puzzle book with multiple pieces of his artwork, I think she liked them. The kids enjoyed a treat of Rice Krispy treats. Mom, you will be happy to know that one of the kids adopted aunts even gave Sirah the treat I did not want her to have!

We ate lunch and dinner (sad) on the road today. As we headed over to another friends house for the afternoon where I traded some computer expertise for some sewing. This dear friend is assisting in making my Barriss Offee jedi costume for the opening night of Revenge of the Sith. I helped her install Adaware, SpyBot, Firefox, Piccassa2 and some other things on her computer. I gave a very mini lesson in Firefox and tabbed browsing and set up the primary tabs for each computer using member of their family. Cleaned up some stuff that did not belong on there and helped introduce them slowly to some of my favorite computer programs (gmail, firefox, and piccassa2 for a few). Of course I would have done this just to help her and she would sew just to help me but it worked out nice that we could help each other at the same time. The kids all played in a room between us and we took turns with them, though she covered them much more than I did. We spent more time then I thought there but I left with a nearly finished skirt (Serona did most of it but she made the waist, sewed it up and did the top hem) and promises of a jedi cloak to follow. She now has a more cleaned and tuned computer and some new programs to play with.

Then we headed to a theater production put on by a homeschool theater troop. Two members of our homeschool support group were in the production and it was fun to see them up on stage! This was the second production of one of them, and the first for the other. It was great for the kids to see their friends up on stage and even Sirah loved it. Of course everyone knew when an animal was on stage as Sirah would keep saying the name of the animal and/or the sound they made the whole time. I kept trying to keep her in hushed tones. Our kids gave their friends flowers and Rhiannon proceeded to tell each of them that "You rock!", a new one for her. On the way home both Rhiannon and Ciaran procceeded to tell me that there were kids their age or younger up on stage and can I please find a play for them to perform in? Guess I won't be able to avoid the drama bullet for much longer.

Winding down here now. I am actually getting ready for a weekend trip with some girlfriends. Four moms (including myself) from our support group are going on a "Mom's Trip" from Friday to Sunday without the kids, the first time I have ever gone off on a "vacation" just for myself! Bless the dads and pray for them to survive. I am of course kidding, Serona and each of those fathers will do a great job as they are very involved with and giving to their kids naturally. We should have a relaxing weekend of chatting, hot tubbing, crocheting, knitting, snacking and movie watching. So needless to say blogging will be scarce but relaxation will be high! Hope you have a great weekend.


May 11, 2005

Rosetta Stone for Free

Just wanted to let you know that many public libraries offer Rosetta Stone's language program online for free - I know ours does. It is a great way to learn a foreign language for kids and adults alike. It normally retails for about 200 a program so this is a great deal. Check out the ebooks section on your public libraries website.

Wow - God's Creation is Breathtaking

Reason to Homeschool Number 103

In case you need more reasons, from today's newsCondoms Given To Middle-Schoolers At School Health Fair.

No matter where you stand on kids and sexual activity, giving condoms to preteens without their parents permision?!?!?!?!?!? Just another reason I am glad for our choices.


Free Frosty

This weekend, Wendy's is giving away free, cool and creamy Jr. Frostys. That's right, icy-cold, chocolaty refreshment, absolutely Free. No coupon needed. No purchase necessary. Just come in and say "Free Frosty". A "please" would be nice, but that's not required either. At participating Wendy's while supplies last. Limit one per customer. Friday, May 13th through Sunday, May 15th.

Factory Tours USA

Here is a fun and interesting site for field trip ideas. Check out Factory Tours USA.


Rhiannon and Ciaran's First Horse Ride

First Horse Rides

Yesterday we went to a great horse field trip. We visited a horse farm with several other families, I think we had about 14 children there. The kids learned some facts about horses including different body parts, reasons for their behavior and how to read the body language of a horse. Then they all took turns brushing the horses, learning that there are three different types of brushes to use, combing the tail and mane, touching the bone in the tail (I did not know they had a bone there) and finally riding the horses!

It was both Rhiannon and Ciaran's first time on a horse, Sirah stayed with friends from our support group, and they both loved it, their grins were so big! Ciaran was one of the first to ride and Rhiannon waited patiently and was second to last! They each got two turns on the horses, each turn making several laps around the ring. The first time they learned how to mount a horse, basic commands and just got used to it. The second time they had the opportunity to trot and they both really liked that!

At the end of the class each child had the opportunity to name three parts of the horse and then they received a certificate for either a free lesson or free trail ride. They were very excited for this as well.

I would say overall it was one of the best field trips we have done this year. The price was reasonable and the rewards were worth it. At times it was challenging for Ciaran to wait or for Rhiannon to make the right choice not to run around even if others were but they did very well overall.

I was especially proud of Rhiannon who was extremely patient waiting her turn and letting others go ahead of her. She also was protective of her younger brother when at one point children were telling him he was too young to play with them and then she helped get him involved and negotiate activities so that he could be involved in a fair and reasonable way. To be honest at first she did not realize what was happening but as soon as I pulled her aside and showed her that Ciaran was crying and she found out why she rectified the situation immediately. It was interesting because the situation involved older boys but she was not too intimidated. It was one of those moments when you just love your kids and how close they are.

I'm not sure how much longer we will be able to avoid horseback riding lessons, they both liked it so much. This summer though all that is on our "classes" list is swimming lessons. Anyway if you have the opportunity to ride horses for a field trip, do it, it was a great time!


May 10, 2005

"Abnormality, Thy Name is Homeschool"

Despite the scary title, it is actually a decent read and not one that will make your blood boil. The writer reviews the history of education and how schooling came about. Then states the reason homeschooling seems incompatible with modern day is because our families have fallen apart.

So, yes, homeschooling does seem a little odd to many. It seems unnecessary, not a good fit for most families. And in a certain sense, that assessment is correct. Homeschooling is not a good fit for the modern family, if only because the family has, in modern times, ceased to exist. Family cohesion has been obliterated in large part by the mass school.

Our society requires massive consumption. Needy, ignorant people consume more goods and services than educated, emotionally stable people do. The quickest way to create needy people is to obliterate the family. The quickest way to create ignorant people is to divorce them from their parents. The mass school is an excellent exercise in creating a market for your goods, whatever they might be. Unfortunately, what counts as goods for the market does not count as goods for the family—or, in the long run, for society.

Read the whole thing and see what your thoughts are. In the end personally I feel that "Abnormality, Thy Name is Homeschool" by Steve Kellmeyer seems to just provide more reasons to home educate your child and be a more cohesive family.


May 9, 2005

Queen Bees in preschool

Recent research shows cliques and terrible junior and senior high behavior stats in preschool for many little girls. The Queen Bee syndrome is starting younger and younger as this research shows:

Salt Lake Tribune - Utah: "The preschool Queen Bees were well-liked and socially skilled but also tended to be more arrogant and aggressive in managing relationships.
They would exclude specific classmates from play groups, demand others not play with a specific child, threaten to not play if their needs or demands weren't met and refuse to listen to someone they were mad at. The little Queen Bees were also masters at spreading gossip and telling secrets.
This mix of positive and negative social behavior allows these girls to maintain their social standing, the researchers said - a somewhat disturbing finding.
'By the age of 4 a substantial number of children have apparently figured out from their environment that relational aggressive strategies can be used to their advantage and are rewarded with social status,' co-author Robinson said in a press release. "

Sadly in our own lives we have already experienced some of this as Rhiannon has dealt with several of these "Queen Bees" in her Sunday school class of all places. At first as a parent you don't want to believe it, you don't want to think little kids can be like this but then you realize they are and you need to be proactive as parents and help your child. Why we keep thinking kids need to know how to handle this and be "socialized" at an early age is beyond me.

Perhaps the reason this behavior is showing itself younger and younger is the increase in daycare, preschool and many other environments where parents are not directly involved with their children and can help them manage their social relationships in positive ways. I am not knocking all preschool and daycare for some I know in some cases they are necessary but I am saying as parents you need to be involved in your child's life and help them deal with kids like this who do truly exist even as young as 4! Of course the more you are with your kids the more you are able to help guide them through this relationships when they are faced with them.

Go hug your kid,

Mother's Day

We had a wonderful Mothers Day. Serona and the kids surprised me with a boat road around a nearby lake. It was wonderful, a delicious brunch, mimosas, and beautiful scenery all with my family. The kids got turns steering and driving the boat and it was a nice afternoon thankfully the weather held off.

We came home had family naps and then went outside to play, swing on the hammock and take rides on Serona's new lawn tractor! The kids think it is great, so do we as the yard takes half the time!

Out for dinner to a local Mexican restuarant we enjoy and home to work on my homeade Star Wars jedi costume. We are making a variation of Barriss Offee for my costume. Serona, Rhiannon and I all took turns sparring with our lightsabers as well.

It was a funa nd special day. Hope you all enjoyed yours.


May 8, 2005

Homeschooling and Sports

Not much new here, though I would say that it is a pretty fair article on the whole. They answer the socialization thing nicely and overall it feels positive for homeschooling. Good to keep up with what the news says about the homeschooling movement. Read he home-school challenge.


May the force be with you

Getting ready for the opener of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith? You need to take some time to read I Miss Biggs - the personal journal of Luke Skywlker. This blog is great, funny, interesting and insightful. For those of you familar with the Star Wars universe it captures the attitude and tone of Luke Skywalker quite well. For those of you just a little curious it is funny and easy to read. Check it out. My personal favorite post so far is Hyperspace. Lots and lots of space.


May 6, 2005

Day Outside

We spent nearly the entire day enjoying the perfect 70 degree weather and beautiful sunshine! We met Serona for lunch and walked around a lake near his office where we saw many snapping turtles, geese, goslings, ducks, red-winged blackbirds, robins and other birds, fish slipping in and out of the water, the first butterfly of the season, moths, and even a deer!

This afternoon the kids and I went to one of Ciaran's favorite places to hear frogs where we heard loud choruses of spring peepers and chorus frogs though we never actually saw any much to his dismay. We did however see our first frog spawn of the year. Can't wait to go back and see the tadpoles. We also saw some cowslips, purple prairie flowers and lots of dandelions. I have had my first flower bouquets and flowers for my hair of the season!

On our walk we also saw a variety of birds though many were too quick for us to identify and we are not yet proficient at the calls. We will work on that this summer. We saw more geese, a hawk and some ducks and much to our dismay we picked four ticks off of us! We even saw a rabbit that the kids were very excited about but disappointed they could not catch. The frogs were very loud and at one point we got very close to one but we must have scared it because he stopped croaking and we couldn't find him.

I am beat tired but it was a good day, hopefully they will sleep well!

Call It a Year

Well I told Rhiannon last week that she was officially done with kindergarten. Truthfully she is more than halfway into first grade work in some areas and probably even further in her reading skills. Now we will drop down for the summer to just math, reading and copywork until late August. Of course we probably will continue to have lessons from time to time as their interests or events come up. However, with the nice weather all I want to do is keep her handwriting, reading and math skills fresh and spend the rest of the time outdoors as much as possible.

Of course with being outdoors and on more field trips as is our general summer policy she tends to keep more of her nature notebook so I guess we probably spend more time on science and art during the summer than during the rest of the school year. We will still listen to classical music and observe great works of art but I am not going to do it in a structured way.

Of course we will continue to read often and a wide variety as is our general policy. So I guess not much is changing as we enter the summer. I am just removing some of the structure and stopping with certain texts until the fall. We will hold off on our grammar, history, and more formal science texts. We will also take the summer off to plan for our country of the month studies to resume in the fall with a study of Central and South America, followed by Africa. I will stick to storybooks for summer reading, unless of course they pick up non-fiction themselves (which does happen from time to time) and listen to more books on tape as we spend more time in the car driving from place to place. We will exercise more, smell the flowers and visit the pond probably daily.

All in all it has been a great year. I have been so impressed with Rhiannon's progress. She is reading fluently - she has read her Picture Bible cover to cover and is working through it again! The stated reading level for this is 9-12! Of she needs help with some of the more complicated names or cities but after hearing them once she was able to start using them properly. At first I did not believe she was actually reading it and had her read out loud to me, which she could do easily. Then as she read quietly I would ask her about it afterwards and her narrations were excellent so she really is reading it. She has also taken to reading the Great Illustrated Classics collection. She reads every day typically for an hour.

For math we worked through Miquon and we stayed in the first workbook. I also supplemented with some things from the web. She has mastered her numbers to 100, skip counting, simple addition and subtraction without manipulatives, more complicated addition and subtraction with manipulatives, number correspondence, patterns, comparisons, word problems and the beginning concepts of fractions and multiplication.

For copywork she wrote poetry, scripture, famous sayings, her letters, letters to family, family names, and some specific lesson work. Her handwriting has improved tremendously over the year and continues to get better when she takes her time.

For history and geography we studied one country a month through our coop. We looked at the customs, culture, geography, flag, food, traditions, history and government for one country a month. We also worked through some of Story of the World and some basic US history.

For bible study she has been working through her entire bible, we learned the timeline and historical overview of the nation of Israel and the main events of the bible. She worked on memory verses and copywork.

For science we covered the basics our school district required: seasons, weather, five sense, body, and we will finish up with plants as we garden this year. We also spent quite a bit of time learning about a wide variety of animals and God's creation. We threw in some fun science experiments and concepts to lay the foundation for the future. We have spent quite a bit of time on magnets as well. She has started keeping a nature journal.

For fine arts we listened to composers Vivaldi, Bach and Beethoven this year and acquainted ourselves with their music. We looked at art from Mary Cassat and Monet. Of course during our year we were introduced to many others as well. They played with musical instruments, paint and a variety of crafts. They kept nature notebooks and drew pictures and cards.

For language arts we read, read and read some more. We also worked through First Language Lessons for grammar and Phonics Pathways for phonics. We listened to many books on tape in traditional and unabridged format. Some favorites were The Silver Chair by CS Lewis, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan by JM Barrie and Pinnochio. We read several hundreds books over the course of the year, our reading lists are available throughout the blog.

It has been a great year and I have loved learning with them and teaching them. Now we are off to enjoy the sunshine.


May 5, 2005

God's Eyes

Ciaran and Sirah's God's Eye

Cinco De Mayo Lesson

Well today we did a short impromptu lesson on Cinco De Mayo. We actually were suppsoed to attend a class and field trip with our homeschool group but runny noses and coughs prevented that. Instead I just let Rhiannon pick what to do during her siblings naptime. She really wanted to make a craft. She wanted to make a blad eagle of all things. It just popped into her head. So we took out the craft box and printed out a picture from google images and started making a bald eagle. When we were done she wanted to hang it on the wall and I asked her where, scanning the room she said right next to the American flag and George Washington since it is our nation's bird. Who was I to argue? So we did and took the pictures you see below.

Then she wanted to do another craft and we had just talked about patriotism so I thought I had a natural in to talk about Cinco De Mayo and make our craft around that. We did a few quick google searches and decided to make a Mexican flag and a God's eye. Using construction paper, I did not have all the colors of felt on hand I would need and a printout of the flag (which we cut the symbol from) we made a Mexican flag. Then we glued popsicle sticks together and made the God's eyes with the pletero of yarn I have hanging around. Rhiannon was able to do hers by herself with minimum help and Ciaran was able to do it with assistance and I just made Sirah's for her though she picked the order of the colors.

This is an easy and fun craft to make - I liked the directions and picture of this one but liked the explanation and biblical theme of this one.

For more ideas and a simple explanation of Cinco De Mayo with craft, music and book ideas check out Step by Step. We learned this simple song from there:

Come Join the Fun - sung to "Frere Jacques"

Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Mayo,
Is lots of fun, for everyone.
Many celebrations,
Loved ones get together.
Come join the fun, with everyone.

~Submitted by Cheryl's Sweethearts ChildCare


Our Patriotic Wall

We have a patriotic wall with a poster of George Washington, the first president of America. We also have an American flag and a bald eagle. Mom and I made the bald eagle together. We are having a craft time together.


Unschooling Spelling

I guess we are unschooling spelling right now. Just this week Rhiannon has taken a huge interest in spelling. She keeps saying I know how to spell x and then spelling it phonetically. It has been interesting. At first I was like oh that is nice but then I realized she is seriously interested in this and we keep going with it. She is so proud of herself and we of course are proud of her. Just, listening, praising and correcting right now.

Another upside of this is now Ciaran wants to learn his letters! Hooray! I have never pushed him for this in any way and he has shown little to no interest other than in learning to write his own name (so he can receive his own library card) but now he wants to know how to read and spell and he realizes that means he needs to learn his letters first.


Lessons They Learn

As home educators we often concentrate on the lessons we will teach that sometimes we overlook the lessons that we do teach in the meantime. Writing the Out of the Mouth of Babes post this morning got me thinking about some other things.

First, my appearance and what I am teaching my kids about their own. As I type this I am wearing my sweats that I threw on bleary eyed this morning to let the dogs out and pour some cereal and soymilk in bowls for the kids as nourishment. I have yet to brush my hair and definitely have not yet taken a shower yet. I have begun speaking in complete sentences thankfully - but that came after awhile as well. Yet I am blogging!?!?!? I know some of you think my priorities are wacky but this is an easier time for me to get to the computer while my kids are still eating and then entertaining themselves with games with each other.

Now my kids are all dressed and their beds made and rooms picked up, no joke actually! But my bed is still a crumpled mess and I am not worthy of being seen by anyone. Yet my kids see me like this all the time. Yes I need to be able to relax and just be myself in my home and not stress about what I look like - yet a part of me says I need to be better and wonders what exactly my kids are learning. What am I teaching them when I choose not to get dressed out of sweats or other comfy but rather weary looking clothes until I "have" to, until Serona comes home, until we go out, until someone other than my children will see me. What exactly am I teaching them about themselves and about myself? I want to say that I am comfortable and I don't need to put on any pretenses in front of them, which is true. Yet, I also think it says that I don't value myself and/or them as much as I value others which is simply not true.

When they were babies I never gave it much thought, after all what do they care? Though in the back of my brain I always remembered Fly Lady's advice to "Get Dressed to the Shoes" and hung my head that I wasn't/ She is right you know - you DO feel different when you are dressed and wearing shoes. Somehow it is so much easier to simply sit still or lay back down into bed if you are still in pj's and the bed is not yet made and inviting you back into it. When you wear shoes and are dressed nicely you actually feel more motivated and you feel ready to do things. It is strange to me but when I am fully dressed and wearing shoes I know I get much more done. Things seem easier and I want things to be in order. Yet when I am still in my sweats I am just content to let it go and get to it all later.

I think it goes deeper though I think getting dressed is important for my kids to see. It must be weird to them that the first thing I make them do is get dressed yet sometimes I am still in my sweats at noon (or later) and I wonder what it says to them that I would not go outside (with rare exceptions) dressed the way I do at home. I think they are still naive enough to not care or notice but Rhiannon is starting to change.

She wants to pick out my clothes, she wants me to wear pretty things, she wants me to dress up. Yesterday she came upstairs carrying my very best dress, an evening gown that I wear to weddings. She asked me if I would "pleeeasse" try it on. I said it was something I only wore to weddings and events and then she asked if we could go to a wedding and why don't we go to balls. Can you tell we have been reading Cinderella? She would not relent until I tried it on and she lit up when she saw me all dressed up. She made me feel like a princess and then I realized that is how she sees me and she probably wants me to dress that way all the time. I think she would like it if I would wear dresses like Ma in Little House on the Prairie every day. My appearance is important to her already at the age of 5. Not because she cares what anyone else thinks of me but because she wants me to look nice and looking nice is important to her even if it is not to me.

I know there is a balance to be struck here - I will never be a mom who has to "put on her face" before she faces the world. I can probably count on two hands the total times I have ever worn makeup! But I need to take more care about the way I present myself to my family each and every day. I need to be willing to get up and get dressed like I expect my kids to. Ever notice how unkempt children can affect our moods in negative ways and well dressed washed children make us smile, well I wonder if our kids feel the same way? Why wouldn't it? Okay so I am motivated to get dressed better and sooner each day.

As I type I am reminded of a second inadvertent lesson my children have learned - the computer is important to mommy. Between blogging, checking news, Iming with Serona, email, streaming music and online research I spend a good portion of my day on the computer. Not constant but often in short spurts. My kids have often been held at bay while I "just finish this email" or heard "We can do that after I check the news" or the answer to "What are you doing?" is "Writing a blog post" - in many ways the computer is my telephone and television.

Still I do use it too often and I also can make my kids angry with the computer because I spend too much time on it. I don't use the phone much and we don't have television (other than a monitor for videos) so those are not areas of weakness for me as they are for others but the computer has become my problem area.

I want my kids to see this value of the computer, I want them to know that you can find many answers here, use it for many purposes and that overall it is a good thing. So I need to be cautious that they not grow up feeling resentful of how much time their mom spends on the computer. So I need to be cautious of the lessons I may be teaching. Unfortunately I have taught them this from birth as I have nursed babies and toddlers at the computer. Even as I type now Sirah just climbed in my lap for a nursing!

To the defense of computer nursing I will say that I have spent so much of my time nursing over the past five and a half years that I have no guilt over this! In the very early baby days I did not do it much, nor when they actually want to look at you while your nursing. But let's be honest here after a certain point the babies are just about business - the closeness is important sure but they are not continually gazing into your eyes when you nurse five or six times a day so if I am at the computer for one or two of those it is fine. Nursing at the computer also helped me continue to nurse longer as I was able to double task more. Nursing is important to me and to my kids and I have continued it but I have also found ways to get other things done too. Perhaps I am feelings some guilt here that I required a paragraph to justify it but overall I am sure it has been a good choice. Yet it means my kids realize that I use the computer often and they have known that since birth! So I need to be cautious.

To be sure there are also many good lessons my children have picked up from spending so much time with us, lessons I never really tried to teach. Every one of them, yes including Sirah now, loves to be read to and it is often their first choice of things to do. They have a love for a good story and Rhiannon reads everything you put in front of her. They have been exposed to reading as a natural part of our day since birth as well and have been read to since then as well. So there is a good lesson they have learned through our example.

Another important lesson they have learned is the importance of family. I have seen my kids put their siblings before their friends time and time again. I know they are still young but I see the opposite behavior in other children their age already. Rhiannon and Ciaran both consider each other best friends and both of them love to play with their sister. All three of them would choose to play with Serona or I over their friends. The kids continually chose to spend time with their grandparents instead of their friends and instead of going on field trips when they were recently here for a visit. This I believe is another lesson they have simply gained by osmosis and the way their life is.

There are many others, just as I am sure there are many in your own lives, both good and bad. The important thing to remember is that our kids are always learning whether we want them to be or not. Just as in my faith I continually remind myself that "my walk speaks louder than my talk" our kids live with us day in and day out, what they see lived out in our lives will stay with them forever, much more than any individual lesson we teach them.

Next time when you are planning out your lessons for the day, week, year (if you even do that) think about all the other lessons that go into your day and your child's life. I better go get dressed now!