Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Beware Mutant Cantaloupe

Shira and Ben have amused me no end this morning. They've been belting out, "Where the deer and the cantaloupe roam".

Ben has just replaced the "cartilage" in his fountain pen.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jump rope class

Today Ben and Shira started homeschool jump rope classes. They loved it. I just have to wrap my head around the fact that jump rope, that old playground favorite from my childhood, now has its own classes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Preschool Explusions

I've just read an article on ABC news about preschool expulsions being on the rise. They talk about preschoolers acting in antisocial ways, biting, hitting etc.. They give really "interesting" reasons for this behavior - crowded classrooms, poverty, poor parenting and poorly trained teachers are the top ones.

I'm just stunned that anyone actually thinks that antisocial behavior in the preschool crowd is unusual. Kids are antisocial, our jobs as parents is to socialize them, to teach them how to behave in public. We do that by modeling behavior in our own homes.

I vividly remember how my children's behavior would deteriorate when we had too many play dates. Preschoolers copy everyone around and if they are surrounded by more unsocialized preschoolers than socialized adults, then their behavior only deteriorates.

Parents need to wake up. Preschoolers belong at home with loving parents where the ratio of adult to child is not 1:20, or worse. I pity teachers who have to manage classrooms of preschoolers. They are outnumbered and I don't think they stand a chance.

To think that some politicians are deluded enough to think that universal preschool is the answer to our education woes.

I worry about all these kids who spend all day long in child care from the time they are babies. I wonder how well they are socialized.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Self defense

Ben and Shira take karate lessons at our local Y. Somewhere in a lesson Shira heard that self defense is a very important skill for women. She asked me why this was so. I was at a loss, I didn't know what to say to a 6 year old so I told her that sometimes boys want to kiss girls against their will and knowing karate for self defense helps the girls stop the boys from kissing them. She thought about this for a moment and then said, "But mommy, sometimes you want the boys to kiss you.".

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Obliviot is one of my favorite words. It describes a huge sector of the community so aptly - oblivious idiots. I've met more than my fair share of obliviots this last week. Last Saturday we saw a woman driving her car while doing a crossword puzzle. I kid you not. She had the paper folded neatly on her steering wheel and the pencil in her left hand. To make matters worse, this was no quiet, country road, this was I95 in busy traffic.

Later that day, also on I95, we passed a woman who was watching a DVD on her dashboard as she drove.

i wish I had had the presence of mind to whip out the cellphone and take movies of them to post to YouTube. idiots like that need to be publicly exposed and humiliated.

Last night we went to Noodles Cafe in Naples, FL. We were pleased to note that they had a gluten free menu. Ben and Shira go to eat noodles in a restaurant for the first time in their lives. Our table was so dark that we could not read the menu. We asked the waiter for more light and he brought a tea light. What he thought that tiny, flickering flame was going to do was beyond me.

i should have known that this was not a harbinger of a good dining experience. Ben, Shira and I all ordered GF pasta. It arrived super al dente. It crunched when chewed, so we sent it back. The waiter asked me a few times if I was sure that it was undercooked. When did waiters start questioning their customers?

I was a little confused when they took B&S's food but left mine on the table. The kids just wanted plain noodles. I had noodles with broccoli, mushrooms and sundried tomato. Turns out that they just tossed B&S's food back into the boiling water for a while and then cooked me more noodles. They brought out a small bowl of pasta for me and told me to move my veggies from the other dish onto this pasta.

When I explained to my waiter that I would not be doing this, that I expected a warm veggie sauce placed on top of my noodles and I expected it to be done in the kitchen, he was most bemused. He told me that this was how they always did it. I retorted that I didn't care that this was how they always did it, the correct way was to take the dish back to the kitchen and to bring the correct one back to the client. He did it because I insisted but you could see he thought I was a pain in the ass.

I then asked to speak to the manager who also expressed amazement at my wishes. I can't believe that service levels have dropped to these levels.

This was in such stark contrast to the meal we had at Clyde's in Chevy Chase, MD last week. Our waiter, Saheed, couldn't have been more helpful or more understanding of dietary restrictions. Nothing was too much trouble for him.

I am starting to think that obliviot quotients are related to latitude. The warmer the climate, the more oblviiots you meet.

Monday, January 14, 2008


A few weeks ago I started lapbooks for the kids for their work on D'Aulaire's Greek Myths. I was very skeptical about the entire concept of lapbooks as I thought they were just fiddly, crafty, busy work. However, I had seen how much the children had enjoyed them when they made them at co-op.

Ben and Shira were complaining about the writing work they had to do for D'Aulaire's when we were using notebooks, however, ever since we started doing the lapbook, they have been begging to work on D'Aulaire's. The joke is that there is more writing now, not less. However, instead of writing on pages, they are writing in booklets they made up or on miniature flash cards that go into pockets they made.

We've set up a pocket for "Facts to Learn" where each fact has its own card. Another pocket contains cards of vocabulary words and then we are making minit books. We've just finished making a minit book on the Titans.

I've realized that the children see these lapbooks as creations of their own, not school work. Shira said she is going to keep her lapbook so that she can show it to her children. Ben says that he likes his lapbook because he likes how he can go back and easily look up things.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Playing "school"

Ben and Shira are busy playing "school". Rosa the Beanie Baby hamster and Dolphiny, the dolphin are the students.

Ben is teaching them math. Interestingly enough, he's teaching them multiplication. It's especially interesting because I have not taught them multiplication. They have a vague idea of the concept because it's come up in general conversation but they have not had formal lessons in it.

I concentrate on showing the children how numbers work and how to use tricks to work things out quickly. I have just seen that Ben has taken this to heart. He has worked out some of the multiplication tricks on his own. He has just shown his students how to work out, "2x8+2x8-3+2".

Shira is teaching a class on George Washington to the animals. These are genius animals, they are learning math and history at the same time with both teachers demanding complete attention at all times. LOL.

Shira has written up a bunch of facts on Mr Washington for the animals to learn off by heart. I haven't touched on American History yet in our homeschool so I asked her how she knew the facts. The look she gave me was one for the books. "Moooom, we have BOOKS you know!". I am suitably chastened. I keep on telling the kids to look things up. I just didn't expect her to look things up for a game. Just goes to show how well lessons are learned.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I have finally bought myself a camcorder. Do I need one? Absolutely not! Do I want one? Of course I do.

I was mindlessly surfing Amazon.com on thanksgiving day and discovered their "Gold Box" and "lightening deals". I subscribed to them and that has proved to be my downfall. You will be amazed at how many "must have's" go on deal on Amazon. To be honest, this is only the third Gold Box deal that I have bought since Thanksgiving. The other two were kitchen necessities - a really good saucepan and a Braun mixer thingy. Today the Gold Box deal had a Canon Camcorder at a 55% discount.

I'm really looking forward to making little movies. I love going to people's blogs and seeing movies of their kids. I promise to try to not bore you with my movies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hand washing

Hand washing does not rate as an important pastime amongst my offspring. At least it didn't until I did some experiments to show them the importance of hand washing.

I couldn't get Ben, in particular, to understand that germs are on your hands, even though you can't see them and that whipping them past a cold running tap doesn't constitute washing them.

To illustrate my point I had them rub a teaspoon of oil onto their hands. I told them that this is to replicate the skin oils. Then I sprinkled cinnamon onto their little hands and told them that the cinnamon represented the germs.

I had them pass their hands through cold water and then check the cinnamon. Ben's eyes grew even larger than normal. The cold water did not budge the cinnamon. We progressed through rubbing with cold water, running them through hot water, rubbing with hot water and then rubbing with soap and hot water. The winner being, rubbing with soap and hot water.

They are now convinced about the merits of hand washing. They were shocked at how difficult it was to remove the cinnamon. I thought afterwards that we should have used glitter as that is even more difficult to remove than cinnamon.

I was on a roll, so I then moved onto coughing and sneezing. I had them hold their hands at varying distances from their mouths and then to cough. I wanted them to feel the air on their hands. Then we spoke about how when we cough or sneeze, the germs come out with our breathe.

We then did a fun activity to replicate germ laden sneezes. We put confetti into balloons, blew up the balloons and then popped them. I then had the kids measure how far the confetti scattered. It's worked a charm. The kids are now vigilant about hands over mouths. (I read somewhere that you should cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. I see the logic of it, but have no intention of doing so. Can you imagine everyone coughing and sneezing into their crooks of their elbows? Way too bizarre for me)>

Cardboard boxes

I love cardboard boxes. I think there is no toy like them. Ben and Shira love Fridays because we pick up our order from the Organic Food Depot and that means boxes. A cardboard box has so many possibilities. it can be a space helmet, a car, a house, a barn, a spaceship, We have no toys that provide as many hours of happy play as boxes do.

Today we were at the library where we saw them breaking down a humungous box. A box big enough for 2 six year olds to stand up in. I immediately asked for the box and was rewarded by a huge smile from the children's librarian. She obviously agrees with us about boxes.

Ben and Shira have just spent 4 hours turning the box into a school bus. Talking about school busses, what's the fascination with school busses that homeschooled children have? My two think that the concept of going to school is a fate worse than death, yet that school bus holds great allure.

Two years ago they went to Gan Izzy for 2 days and they still talk about driving to the AMF lanes in a school bus. School busses fill me with horror, all those little kids with no car seats. I'm very anal about car seats. Ben and Shira are around 52 inches tall and I still have them in 5pt restraint harnesses. They know that they are in these seats until they reach 4ft 9. I've done such a good number on them that they get nervous in booster seats, they love their car seats.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Fiction or Non-Fiction

I've been battling an internal debate for a while. Ben does not like to read fiction. He's a straight up and down, "give me the facts", kind of guy. Shira OTOH loves to read anything and everything. I've been debating whether to try to get Ben to see the benefits of fiction or to leave him reading non-fiction exclusively.

I want the children reading good fiction because it helps wire vocabulary and good turns of phrases in their brains. I also want them reading non-fiction because they learn about the world.

Today I had an "AHA" moment. I realized that Ben doesn't dislike fiction, he just dislikes the fiction that he is able to read. He prefers more sophisticated fiction. He loves listening to stories on his iPod. (No, my kids are not spoiled brats because they have iPods. They have them for educational purposes. - that's my story and I'm sticking to it. LOL. Seriously, Ben and Shira listen to 2-4 hours of good literature on their iPods every day.). I've filled their iPods with classics and with rousing good stories.

I've decided that we're going to focus on reading non-fiction and continue listening to fiction on the iPods. That way the children can listen to stories that they wouldn't have the skills to read for a few years yet.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The best laid plans......

Lydia over at Little Blue School gave me a great idea for a science experiment. She suggested we look at how anthrocyanins, the purple pigment in plants, can work as an acid/base indicator.

i was psyched. I worked out how to teach the children a little bit about plant pigments and a little bit about acids and bases.

The little lesson on plant pigments went well. They were fascinated by the color changes this fall so this made a lot of sense to them. However, I started boiling the purple pansies before I started teaching them about acids and bases. Bad, bad mistake. Boiling flowers take precedence over exchanges of hydrogen ions.

I gave that up as a bad idea and moved onto the experiment. It all started well, I put out 6 little cups of purple liquid full of anthrocyanins and another 6 little cups, 2 with acids, 1 with a base and 3 neutral. They started with baking soda. Going well so far, then the neutrals. Scream of delight when they saw how the vinegar turned the purple water pink.

Then mom came up with the bad idea. "Why not see if the indicator changes color if you turn it basic again by adding baking soda". Mmm, know what happens when you add a large amount of baking soda to something that already has a large amount of vinegar in it? That's correct, we have a wonderful bubbling mess.

That was the end of this experiment. All they wanted to do was alternate adding baking soda and vinegar to all the cups to see who violently they could make them overflow. Thank goodness I contained the experiment on a tray.

Here you have B&S preparing the pansies.

Watched pots never boil

Aah, nearly ready

Pansy juice all lined up with acids and bases. Thank goodness for that tray. It saved me a whole lot of cleaning.

IT WORKS!!!! The anthrocyanins change color it the presence of an acid.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Revolting Rhymes

I bought Road Dahl's, "Revolting Rhymes" from Audible.com yesterday and we spent the afternoon after bowling, holed up listening to it. We laughed and laughed and laughed. Dahl has such a dark sense of humor. Shira was inspired to write her own dark poetry.

Bear in mind the kid is only 6 and these are her first attempts at writing poetry. She cracks me up. She has a gift for deadpan comments and now it looks like she enjoys dark humor as well.

Bubble Fun

We're a family of construction toy freaks. We all thoroughly enjoy building marvels and wonders. I became carried away a few years ago and bought a huge set of Zome Tools for the kids. They weren't even five at the time and the tools were way too complex for them. This week I was surfing their website trying to discover ways to utilize the Zome Tools in our homeschool. They have a great bubble unit that I just had to try out.

I've always thought that bubbles are a huge amount of fun, but regular little bubble blowers have nothing on making bubbles with 3D geometric shapes. I wish I was a better photographer. The pics I took did not do our bubbles justice, but I think you can see how neat they were.

This is how the bubbles look when you use a cube.

Here's Ben blowing bubbles into the basic bubble. Now that's neat!

Here's another one where we've introduced bubbles via a straw

I highly recommend this activity.

We left the 2 gallons of bubble mixture we made for this activity outside because we intended on playing with it some more. Bad idea. I forgot to check the weather and this cold snap crept up on us. We now have frozen bubbles mixture on our deck.

I have it on good kid authority that frozen bubble mixture is fun to play with.

Chemical reactions

Ben's been reading a Magic Tree House book on volcanoes. This prompted him and his faithful side kick, Shira, to build their own volcano. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am a doting mama, so please indulge me while I rabbit on about my sprogs. The two of them did almost everything themselves. They made the papier mache using some cellulose stuff I bought at the Art shop, built the skeleton out of foil and then applied the papier mache.

Then when it was dry, they went about painting it. I eavesdropped the planning process and what I heard caused my maternal heart to overflow. They must have spent a good 10-15 min deciding on what colors to mix and how they were going to paint highlights. They also made little "lava rocks" to put in the well to see what would happen when they did the baking soda and vinegar part.

Here they are making the volcano erupt. My plan for tomorrow is to teach them about this chemical reaction.

I always used to chuckle when I heard homeschoolers say that one of the beauties of homeschooling is that you can do it in your PJ"s. What me? Not a chance! I was adamant we'd always be dressed before school started. As you can see, that doesn't apply when the weather is freezing outside and we have no errands to run.

I have to comment on Ben's robe. My little munchkin dislikes the feeling of most clothing against his skin. His favorite outfit is a pair of underpants and a blanket. I became totally fed up with the trailing blanket that was dropped all over the house, so I bought a second one and turned it into a "monk's robe". Ben's in heaven. He has a blanket that fits!

Color Me Mine

My kids have a fascination with painting ceramic figures at places like "Color Me Mine". Every so often I indulge them. This is yet another thing my kids do that totally befuddles me. I once tried to join them in painting something. I was bored out of my bracket. We now have a good system going. I bring a book and get some good reading time and they paint to their hearts' content. Last week Shira painted a frog and Ben and dog.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Vacation's over

Today is the last day of our 10 day break. I've started psyching the children for school tomorrow. I always worry about us getting out of habits. We'll see how tomorrow goes. It doesn't help that Shira and I are having allergy testing tomorrow morning at around 10. We're scheduled to be at the allergists for 3+ hours. I'm trying to work out how to keep the children entertained and QUIET for that length of time. My reading voice had better be in good nick.

We're going to FL in two weeks time but I've decided to keep doing school. While we're doing our four days driving we will listen to D'Aulaire's Greek Myths and Story of the World, plus I'll do mental arithmetic with the kids. I"ll also set them a reading goal. While we're in FL, we'll do 2 hours or so of school every day before we go to the pool to soak up the sun.

I haven't told them yet, but we're going to do a tour of the Everglades. I've never been on one of those airboats and can't wait.