The LEARN Writers Group

I’m learning a lot from the writing class I’m teaching. I’m learning not to panic because I’m pretty sure that children are like sharks, they can smell fear like sharks smell blood, and then really, you are done for.

I’m also learning that, unless I get real frickin’ creative, my LEARN book is going to more like a pamphlet.

I, Uh, Know Stuff

This may sound silly, but it strikes me at odd times. I mentioned Faust on Wednesday and they all just looked at me like I had grown a second head. No, strike that, I was probably on my third head by that point. Faust, however, is a fascinating subject if I do say so myself.

The questions they ask, the statements they make, take us in the wildest of directions. And I sort of love it. It reminded me of some of the cool discussions I had with Dee when she was this age.

Corralling Kids…Sort Of

I may be down to three kids, possibly a 4th returning this next Wednesday (oh Cade, of Roscoe and Greg fame, I haven’t forgotten you, I don’t think I ever could), and honestly, I cannot imagine how a teacher can manage to corral/manage/hold back et cetera a room full of kids.

Now granted, most of these kids have never had to sit still and raise their hands, but still, I was hard pressed to keep up with them. I adore you Jack, but damn kid, you are a handful!

An Argument for Better Grammar

As I worked my way around to looking at some of the things they had written, I could see we had some rules to discuss. “Okay, so you need to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. And whenever someone speaks, that’s a new paragraph. And I see that everything is underlined.”

“I like the way it looks when it is underlined.”

“Well, I can understand that, however, if you want others to read it, you need to follow some basic rules. Otherwise, it’s too hard for the reader and then they never make it to the end of your story. We want them to keep reading!”

Poor dear, she looked so sad.

There is No Original Ideas, Only YOUR Take on it

As I showed them how outlines work, Jack said to me, “You stole my idea!”

He pointed out the similarities in my story and I didn’t bother to mention that I had thought of a big part of the story around 18 years ago, long before he was even a twinkle in his father’s eye. Instead, I quoted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s interview with Marie Forleo in which she points out that, after 40,000 years of humanity there are no original ideas – there is only the story that we as an individual has not told.

So it can have the same parameters – space travel, alien worlds, even a world-killing virus – but the story itself will be completely different when it comes from another person.

There is Also GOOD News!

They all seem to love the class. Every single one of them has said it now in different variations…

“Your class is my favorite class.”

“I love your class.”

And so on.

And considering that my abilities to understand/have patience with/comprehend/tolerate children that are not mine are severely limited and ridiculously atrophied – this is really amazing feedback.

I like them too, and that strikes me as supercool.

Now if I can only get them to write about 100 pages each of fiction, poetry, non-fiction…whatever…we will have it made!


Posted in Challenges, Homeschool - Language Arts | Leave a comment

Changing the Homeschool Schedule Up




teaching quote

The last two homeschool months have been glorious. Our schedule of a daily/weekly checklist has really worked out for us.

As with all things in life, finding a rhythm for our homeschooling journey has often been challenging. I don’t want it to be academically overwhelming, but I also need at least some boxes I can check and say, “Okay, she’s learning this!”

I am sure I’m not alone in this.

I’m not a fan of purchased curriculum – if only because in one area or another I have found them…lacking, boring, or not a good intellectual match for my daughter at that particular moment in her life. And since I consider it all part of the whole price, my frugality kicks in, I’m not getting the full worth of what I paid!

Better to find social studies books from one source, science from another, and so on.

This, however, leads to a wholly new conundrum. Sometimes the schedule we put in place doesn’t work – either due to time constraints or the interest level changing.

Now for the most part I see her interest in all things spiking. And for the things she doesn’t seem particularly interested in, she tolerates them, but I always want to stay on top of the trends her interests take. Make it interesting, keep her attention, and more learning will occur.

Am I right?

Who knows.

In any case, with my eldest handling August, and now with September nearly finished, we had also found ourselves quite busy with co-op classes, LEARN Math and Science, Harmony Project and Peace Quest. Time to re-evaluate…what worked? What needed to be changed?

And this is her weekly schedule for October…


  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Spelling test from weekly list
  • Journal entry (at least five sentences)
  • One set of Khan Academy questions
  • One chapter from Life of Fred
  • Art with Danielle
  • Practice typing
  • Practice assigned cello lesson
  • Story of the World – 1 section
  • Do a full day assignment in your cursive handwriting book


  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Spelling test from weekly list
  • Journal entry (at least five sentences)
  • One set of Khan Academy questions
  • One chapter from Life of Fred
  • Practice typing
  • Practice assigned cello lesson
  • Harmony Project


  • LEARN classes
  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Spelling test from weekly list
  • Practice assigned cello lesson


  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Spelling test from weekly list
  • Journal entry (at least five sentences)
  • One set of Khan Academy questions
  • One chapter from Life of Fred
  • Practice typing
  • Practice assigned cello lesson
  • Harmony Project


  • LEARN Science and Math
  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Spelling test from weekly list
  • Journal entry (at least five sentences)
  • One set of Khan Academy questions
  • One chapter from Life of Fred
  • Art with Danielle
  • Practice typing
  • Practice assigned cello lesson
  • Story of the World – 1 section

What Are You Reading? List all book titles below:




We slimmed down Wednesdays since homeschooling during co-op was pretty difficult. Some things could be done, but not all. She insisted, however, on keeping the reading and the cello practice on, I insisted on the spelling test.

One of the parameters by which I consider whether homeschooling is successful or not is the active participation of the student. Are they interested? Willing? Do they show at least some level of enthusiasm?

We can’t always do what we want, life, real life, doesn’t work like that. There are plenty of discussions about how to make the mundane fun, or to do the stuff that is “less fun” first, and reward ourselves with the “fun stuff” afterwards.

And always there is the push/pull, weaving in and out, as we make our way, learning as we go.

Posted in Homeschool - General | Leave a comment

The Real Numbers

I have come to the conclusion that I can claim no political party as a good fit…I’m too “hands off mo fo’s!” for Democrats, too bleeding heart pro-social services and (gasp!) socialist health care for Republicans or Libertarians, and certainly not religious enough for any of them.

My friend Tom, posted this Moochers post on his website the other day…

And I seem to remember the post being discussed when it happened.

Frankly, I tend to apply my own lens to just about everything. It’s hard to see the other side, although I do try. And what came to mind was a difficult time in our lives…about six or seven years ago. I won’t say that we didn’t bring it on ourselves – we made stupid choices that we ended up paying for – and as a result, we were on public assistance (i.e. food stamps and WIC) for about one year…maybe a little less. To be perfectly clear, it wasn’t just US who paid, but the state and federal government, by providing us with benefits they used YOUR tax dollars. So it wasn’t just us paying here, you got to pay for my mistakes too.

It was temporary, but at the time it felt like forever, and struggling to understand the requirements of WIC (which was for our young daughter and myself since Em was still nursing), which is honestly NOT easy, became very public one day in a checkout line at the local HyVee.

I had picked out the wrong beans and the cashier paused in her ringing up of my few items to direct me to where I would find the correct bag of beans. I was acutely aware of the man behind me in line. I absolutely hate to keep people waiting and can be rather obsessive about it. By the time I’m in line, I’ve got my form of payment, my bags, and my shopping card ready to go. I want it to be as trouble free as possible for everyone involved.

But WIC was lying in wait for me, pointing me to the wrong beans and the cashier, blissfully unaware of the grouchy look on the face of the man behind me in line said, “Go ahead, it is just up that aisle there, I’ll wait.”

A moment later I was back. The correct size/bag/brand was simply NOT there. “It’s okay. I don’t need to get it.” I said, glancing back at the man who was now muttering under his breath. My daughter was talking a blue streak about the candy she saw in the checkout aisle and was not going to get.

The cashier insisted, “No, I’m sure it is there, ma’am, here, hold on…” And she turned to a bagger and pointed to the aisle asking for his help. The man behind me looked pissed.

“Really, it’s okay. I will just get these things.”

The cashier ignored me. By now the bagger was back and couldn’t find it either. My happy little kiddo was annoying the hell out of the man behind me and if there had been a single other line open (it was the middle of the day) I am sure he would have taken it, but there were nothing and no one, except one angry man and two overly helpful employees…and me.

He muttered a little louder.

I was acutely aware that I was a) in his way and delaying him, and b) dependent on an agency that made getting $44 in food through WIC like a demented treasure hunt each month as I looked at labels, compared it with the printed guidelines and tried my best to match it all up without pissing anyone off. Something I had quite obviously failed at.

Perhaps because his words hurt so much and embarrassed me even worse than I already was, I cannot remember his exact verbiage. Basically, he said something really, really rude and disparaging about me and how I should stop mooching off of others and expecting this or that, and then he stormed out of the store. The employees were in shock, and I, after a moment of just standing there saying nothing and feeling like absolute crap, began to cry.

I never used the WIC coupons again after that. The WIC people would call and I would just say, “I’m fine really.” Nothing could compel me to go through that again. There had been other incidents, frustrated, rude, and quietly condescending cashiers, the works. The angry man was simply the last straw.

The food stamps came in the form of an EBT card that was not screamingly obvious. You just swiped it and if you had non-food items then it would give you a total and you paid for that with cash, check or a debit card. I still made sure not to let the cover of the EBT card show, and I would lean close to the cashier and mutter “EBT” hoping no one behind me in line heard. I didn’t want to give anyone in line behind me a reason to say anything.

The demented treasure hunt for my beans, peanut butter, milk, fresh veggies and evaporated milk was over. I could breathe safely again and know that, as long as I hid the cover of my EBT card, no one would ever know I was a moocher, a loser, and a leech on society.

Was I those things? Yes? No? I don’t know? I guess that depends on who you ask.

All I know was that it was hard. And that I was facing losing a lot more – and those groceries really REALLY helped.

And as for those real numbers.

According to…

In 2012, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid just $36 towards the food stamps program.

That’s just ten cents a day!

And here is an article on how spending on food stamps compares to corporate welfare.

Lately, there is a trend to vilify the poor, the needy, or those who are different from us. Or perhaps it isn’t just a thing as of late, but I find it distressing and rather depressing. Yes, I would rather donate my money and direct it, rather than pay taxes to the government to misspend or misappropriate – but I do not begrudge the money that goes towards helping ensure the needy have food.

I’ve been there. It isn’t easy, not at all.


Posted in Challenges, Community | Leave a comment

Seize Those Moments

Yesterday evening a message came across my Facebook feed. It was from a friend posting on our homeschool co-op group, letting the group know her kids wouldn’t be attending class today. I only knew why because I had talked to her just a few days before, and knew that her new job had her scheduled on Wednesday, the day we meet at a local community center for co-op classes.

I immediately sent her off a Facebook message offering to take the kids today. “Just drop them off and I’ll get them to co-op.” And that is just what we did…and what we will do next week.

The kids came over this morning, shortly after eight, and immediately began playing with Em and having a great time. This probably had at least a little to do with the fact that they were entranced by our coin-operated candy dispenser that a neighbor recently gave us. And yes, I let every single child have candy before taking them to co-op and setting them loose. You can thank shoot me later.

The kids didn’t give me a lick of trouble – including my own who typically views the morning feeding of chickens something to dread, not enjoy. She had a ball showing the kids the chickens. We drove to co-op where I set them loose under their older sister’s guidance and by the last class my friend was there to pick them up. All was well. And since next week is the same issue, I told her to just plan on bringing the kids by next Wednesday and we would repeat the adventure.

Two thoughts on all of this…

#1 – Seize Those Moments

I knew immediately what was going on when I saw my friend’s post. And I remembered the countless kind acts others have done for me when I needed help. It was easy to offer, even if I’m not the most patient/nurturing type of person, because I knew she needed a helping hand.

Reaching out a helping hand reminded me that I belong to a community. It was a great feeling to know this. Years ago, when Em was first of the age to go to the co-op, I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know one single human being, not one, at that co-op. For some people, that doesn’t really matter, but for me it was downright terrifying. What if they didn’t like me? What if they didn’t like my kid? What if I didn’t fit in?

I was a mess that very first day…and for weeks afterward. Eventually I learned to chat with the other mothers, make friends, go on playdates, join other co-ops and my nervousness faded.

Slower still, came that sense of community that I now feel. But that was only because I was so busy being wrapped up in my own fears.

Seizing the opportunities to help someone, in our community or not, doesn’t just help that person, it helps the helper…to be more connected, and to bring quality and depth to our own lives.

#2 – Give Yourself Permission…to Ask For Help

I have told this story before, but it bears repeating. When we decided to move to the house we live in now, the idea of moving all of that furniture, all of our stuff, was completely overwhelming. i had been packing like a madwoman (actually lost count of the number of times I tried to start packing the fridge…months before moving), but there were some truly heavy items to lift. Plus I had over 13 years of living in one home, there was crap in every corner.

I put out a call on Facebook and asked for help. It wasn’t easy for me to do and I know I’m not the only one. We pride ourselves on being independent, resourceful, able to take care of ourselves, our kids, and our lives – with little or no outward difficulties. That’s what being a grown-up is all about, taking care of yourself and not depending on others, right?!

But we don’t live in a vacuum. There are legitimate moments when we need help, when we need others to step in and do just a little thing that makes all the difference in the world.

Give yourself permission to ask for help. Because we all need it at one time or another. My early adulthood was a series of hot messes…oh the tales I could tell…but I know that now I’m in a good place. I’m not rolling in affluence, but I’ve got most of my bases covered and working on making it better. But I still remember how it was – being a single mom, struggling for everything I got. It was hard.

So those are my take aways today. It wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t have to go out of my way or really do anything any more different than have four kids in my car instead of just one. It worked out a-okay. Next week we will do the same thing. The kids win, my kiddo is over the moon about having extra kiddos around, and no one has to miss their co-op classes. A win across the board!



And knowing when to ask for, offer, or accept help.

p.s. i fed them candy…before the co-op started…CANDY. i have a feeling they will be happy to return next week…



Posted in Advocacy, Community | Leave a comment

Stealth Reading


Emily giving me the stink eye at the bank a month or two ago. She was reading quietly and all I wanted was a picture!

I’ve never particularly liked the word “sneaky.” Perhaps I was labeled sneaky as a child and have never recovered. Instead, I’ll call what I do with Emily…stealthy.

One section of our library is devoted to homeschool books. And occupying a solid five inches or more of one shelf are most of The Magic School Bus books. I bought them years ago when Em first showed an interest in The Magic School Bus videos.

For those not in the know…The Magic School Bus is a great introduction to science for kids. Through imaginative storytelling, and a little bit of school bus magic, a child is transported into all kinds of science adventures that explain everything from the ocean, to internal processes (digestion, colds, and more).

At that time, the books didn’t interest her as much. And I could barely read through the first two or three pages before I faded out. (Reading out loud makes me fall asleep. It’s a problem…a BIG one)

In any case, a few days ago I was at the homeschool section looking for something and I saw the books. Now that Em is reading (rather voraciously, I might add), she particularly enjoys reading graphic novel formats. The Magic School Bus books are written in a format that looks similar enough to be attractive to her.

And again, in true Sugata Mitra form, I picked out one of the books and left it in an obvious spot for her. And this morning the trap was sprung. She headed into the library and noticed the book, “Oh look! The Magic School Bus!”

I hid a smile and let it spin out naturally. “Oh, by the way, we have a bunch of the books over here on this shelf if you are interested.”


“Yep, here they are.” I pulled out and handed her a big stack. “You might just go through them and see what interests you. You know where the books go, so just put them back when you are done looking through them.”

I don’t make a big deal of it. Which is kind of funny because secretly inside is an internal monologue that goes something like this…

Okay, okay. You’ve got her on the hook. Stay cool. Show her the book. Don’t act like it is a big deal. Oh look, she’s sitting down with a book. OH MY GOD, book book book book. She’s reading. She’s smiling. YES YES YES!!!!!

[small mental dance ensues…be relieved that you cannot see this because of my many talents, dancing is not one of them]

She’s reading and enjoying it. And she’s learning! I just gave her the book and she’s learning ALL…ON…HER…OWN.

Must figure out how to make this happen ALL THE TIME.

But I’m cool, see. I’m hip. I say nothing while the party goes on inside my head.

She spent about twenty minutes reading from the book before wandering away to get dressed and eat breakfast.

It is moments like this when I think that I never want to do anything but homeschool this child and infuse her with a love of learning like no other.

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Posted in Advocacy, Bonding | Leave a comment


Em belongs to a Girl Scout homeschool troop. We meet every two weeks at a local conservancy center and while the girls are busy doing Girl Scout things, the moms sometimes talk or, in yesterday’s case, swap ideas.

I mentioned that Em loves Minecraft. And I do mean loves it. Right now, to the exclusion of everything else. Which in itself is kind of an “oh, duh” moment, now that I think about it.

When Dee showed an interest in art, I bought her tons of art supplies, whatever I could (and sometimes couldn’t) afford. When she showed an interest in books, I bought books too, lots of books. So I guess I’m a little late to the “hey, your kid is enjoying this, figure out a way to boost that interest!” party.

In any case, one of the moms said, “Have you heard of this educational Minecraft company? They have these six week classes they offer.”


I looked it up. GameEd Academy – where learning and gaming collide.

I didn’t get much further than learning that an intro six-week class in Minecraft, one of which starts on 9/21 and runs through the end of October, was just $14.95.

There were others. This particular course is called Race for Space Lite. If Em likes it, then we will probably delve into more, there are plenty to choose from. Check out this list of classes!



Intro level courses are designed for students, age 6 to 12, that have little or no Minecraft experience. They are also the perfect option for non-readers. For more information on Intro level courses please visit the Picking a Class page.

Price: $14.95 for a 6 week course

Session 1 – Race for Space Lite (Sept. 21 – Oct. 30)
Session 2 – Mad Scientist Party Lite (Nov. 9 – Dec. 18)
Session 3 – Einstein’s Space Lite (Jan. 11 – Feb. 20)
Session 4 – Castles and Cannons Lite (Feb. 29th – Apr. 9)
Session 5 – Redstone Academy – Lite (Apr. 18 – May 29)




Core level courses are designed to complement or supplement your existing curriculum. The curriculum assumes that your student is comfortable reading chapter books. For more information on Core level courses, please visit the Picking a Class page.

Core-Ungraded: $15.95 for a 6 week course
Core-Graded: $19.95 for a 6 week course

Session 1 – Sept. 21 thru Oct. 30

7 Wonders of the Ancient World (Ancient History)
Castles and Cannons (Ancient History)
Voyage to a New World (U.S. History)
Trouble in Boston (U.S. History)
This Amazing World (Science/Geography)
Poverty Project (Science/Economics)
WordCraft (Creative Writing)
Stories Alive! (Creative Writing)
Europe – Isn’t it Influential? (World Studies)

Session 2 – Nov. 9 thru Dec. 18

Castles and Cannons (Ancient History)
Viking Victories (Ancient History)
Trouble in Boston (U.S. History)
Revolutionary Ride (U.S. History)
Discovery of Bones (Archeology/Geology)
Einstein’s Space (Science/History)
A World of Imagination (Creative Writing)
Journey to Kokoroe (Creative Writing)
Asia – Isn’t it Exotic? (World Studies)

Session 3 – Jan. 11 thru Feb. 20

Viking Victories (Ancient History)
Mysterious Maya (Ancient History)
Revolutionary Ride (U.S. History)
Underground Railroad (U.S. History)
Creature Planet (Science)
Redstone Academy (Science/Engineering)
Master Chef (Creative Writing)
Flight to the Citadel (Creative Writing)
South America – Isn’t it Interesting? (World Studies)

Session 4 – Feb. 29 thru April 9

Mysterious Maya (Ancient History)
Monumental Travels (Ancient History)
Underground Railroad (U.S. History)
Voyage to a New World (U.S. History)
Race for Space (Science/History)
Redstone Academy (Science/Engineering)
Build Your Own Adventure (Creative Writing)
Into the Valley (Creative Writing)
Africa – Isn’t it Inspiring? (World Studies)

Session 5 – April 18 thru May 29

Monumental Travels (Ancient History)
Castles and Cannons (Ancient History)
7 Wonders of the Ancient World (Ancient History)
Trouble in Boston (U.S. History)
Revolutionary Ride (U.S. History)
Poverty Project (Science/Economics)
Mad Scientist Party (Science/History)
Master Chef (Creative Writing)
Oceania – Isn’t it Unique? (World Studies)

Holy cannoli that is a lot of classes!

This morning I read about the founder’s story on how this whole company got started. I saw similarities in her story and ours – Em’s literary skills have taken off since she started playing with her friends on Minecraft.

When I mentioned the idea of a Minecraft class to Em she sounded so excited. I figured $14.95 was a small price to pay, so she starts on Monday.

Interested in learning more? Check it out here.

I will post updates!

Posted in Community, Homeschool - Choosing A Curriculum Series | Leave a comment

Learning to Type by Touch

Memories of Learning How to Type

I have fond memories of learning how to type by touch. I learned in middle school, in the eighth grade, on a manual typewriter that had the keys covered with black electrical tape. At the front of the room was our teacher, with the ubiquitous projector and pull-down screen.

I actually enjoyed the class very much. I found it fun.

Later, at 18, I attended Heald Business School which encouraged us to get our typing speed up as high as possible. I remember being deliriously happy when I hit 34 WPM, then 38, then 40. By the 90s when I was tested at job interviews, I could produce around 70 WPM, and I think that is around the level I hover at now. Somewhere between 65 and 70 WPM.

My eldest, Dee, types almost 90 (I think). She can really crank it out, believe me!


Introducing Em to Typing

And in our modern, computer-filled world, I think that typing by touch is a must. However, as with everything I do with Em, I approach it sideways, kind of like a sneak attack.

I want her to love it too. I don’t want it to be a chore.

I seem to remember having a tough time convincing her older sister that learning to type by touch was worthwhile. Obviously, at some point, she agreed, because she certainly has me beat!

Last Christmas I ordered a stack of computer games and learning software. Unfortunately I didn’t know what I was doing, so I bought a bunch of outdated software, that might have been good five or even ten years ago, but now really doesn’t work well on our computers.

One of them sort of worked – and that was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Which I believe is the same program (albeit somewhat updated) that Dee learned how to type on. I had my husband install it and, in true Sugata Mitra fashion said, “Here it is, I don’t really know how it works, play with it.” And then I walked away.

Oh yeah, and I added it to the weekly homeschool checklist for twice per week.

By the end of Week 1, Em came in and said, “I think I need to do this typing stuff every day. Can you please change the checklist?”


I nodded, secretly cheered and did a happy dance (all on the inside, mind you, for mine is the poker face) and did as she asked.

Last Saturday she asked me, “Mama, I haven’t learned it yet, but do you use your right ring finger to type the ‘O’?”

I nodded, “Yes, that’s right, Emily.”

“Oh cool!,” she said, looking quite pleased with herself, “I really like that typing program, Mama.”

Watching her learn…is…MAGICAL.


Posted in Daily Conversations, Homeschool - Life Skills | Leave a comment

I Wish I Could Claim Credit, But…

Last Thursday, Em announced that another cellist, a boy she knows a little from the neighborhood (he lives a few blocks away) had joined Harmony Project. She volunteered to help him catch up with what they were doing.

As she left, he came running up and asked if at some point he could come over to the house and practice with her. He seems like a nice kid, and I told him he was welcome.

On Saturday, as I was walking in to go pick up Em from Harmony Project, the Director came out and said, “I need to tell you about what Emily did today. Without anyone asking her or suggesting it to her, she saw a little girl crying at the table and went over and asked the girl if she would like to be friends. I don’t know how you do it, but keep doing it, because she is great!”

And right around now, I would really like to claim credit for it. But honestly? I think I do what any other parents does. I remind her occasionally to be kind, to be nice. Em takes what little reminding I do, and takes it to the next level. She reaches out, is gregarious and positive, kind and non-judgmental, and in return we both reap the dividends.

How often have I been approached by a child or an adult, “Are you Emily’s mom?” And a story will follow, or a smile, or a request for a playdate.

I never forget how lucky I am and how much it means to me that she is the way she is. And while we normally think of how we change and alter the course of our children’s lives, I am often struck by how much she (and her older sister) have changed and altered mine.

I am kinder for it. More open. More thoughtful. More zany and enthusiastic.

There are a lot of things we can learn from our children on how to be better human beings.

Posted in Inspiration, Sentimental | Leave a comment

The “Wild Channel”

I never learned to play an instrument. And that is a shame, because I dearly love music. It speaks to my soul, and sometimes, when listening to something that I really enjoy, makes me feel as if I were lighter somehow. Perhaps so light that I could just fly away.

If I ever find make the time, I will learn how to play an instrument. Who knows, maybe I’ll just wait until my next life.

Em is enrolled in an amazing music program – Harmony Project KC. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it certainly warrants more coverage, what the folks at Harmony Project KC are doing for our local kids is phenomenal.

This program is designed for underprivileged kids (no, we don’t really qualify, but they were gracious enough to let us in) and seeks to keep kids in school, connected, and achieving by teaching them music theory and lending them instruments to practice on.

Em began with them in January and now has a cello. So exciting!

My mother, and at times other members of our family, have reminded Em that she needs to practice A LOT if she ever wants to get good at the cello. Personally, I prefer to avoid statements like, “You need to practice for 1-2 hours per day every day” which tends to leave a look of barely disguised horror on my 8-year-old’s face.

I would rather coax her into it, through encouragement, and through enjoyment. If she is anything like me (which she is, in spades) than this is the only thing that will work on a long term basis.

Right now, her cello practice, built into her daily worksheets, is pretty simple. They haven’t started using the bow yet, they are still practicing plucking the strings in time to a beat (which I provide…”1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4″). After she finishes with the assigned practice she pulls out the bow and engages in something she has dubbed “The Wild Channel.”

Basically she goes to town on the cello with bow in hand. Some of it even sounds a little like music.

I encourage this by any means necessary. If it is fun, she will keep doing it. If she feels challenged, but not overwhelmed, than she will continue improving. And that is where I am leaving that for now!

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What Life of Fred Taught ME This Week

Em loves Life of Fred. I mentioned in my last post that, after seeing it scheduled on her weekly checklist only twice, she insisted we read five chapters each week, instead of the required two.

When asked why she likes Life of Fred, Em answered, “Because it has math but it is also a story and you do time problems (reading time on the clock) and word problems and it’s funny.”

I like it because it isn’t boring her to death, it introduces a great number of concepts (incorporating history and geography and even language lessons seamlessly into the story) and is setting the stage for higher math skills. It does contain a wee bit of faith-based training in it “Fred prayed” or snippets of hymns, but it isn’t overly religious.

Here are some of the things I learned this week from Life of Fred…

Obligate Carnivores

I had not heard this term before, but according to Life of Fred, cats are obligate carnivores, in that they must eat protein. This made me re-think the kibble they are currently eating, which has corn and wheat products in it (as well as protein). Our dogs are carnivores, but not obligate carnivores.

Pacific Ocean

I did not know that Ferdinand Magellan had named the Pacific Ocean pacific (or peaceful) after emerging from a nerve-wracking 38 days traveling through dangerous seas around the tip of South America.

I Guess That Makes Me a Mathematician Too!

Late last week we were reading away in Life of Fred when it said, “Fred was a mathematician, which meant he loved patterns.” I took this opportunity to point out that I too enjoyed seeing patterns, which meant that I too was a mathematician.

Em, who has repeatedly said she “hates math” when particularly frustrated with Khan Academy chimed in, “I guess that makes me a mathematician too, because I like patterns too, Mama!”

Cardinal Versus Ordinal

I am intrigued by the fact that Life of Fred has not dumbed down anything, still using these great big words and explaining in a simple no-nonsense way some pretty big concepts that you usually don’t see introduced until the higher grades.

In this case, the terms cardinal and ordinal, which I now understand well.

Obviously, I’m not the only one learning here. Em is delighted with Life of Fred. Today she insisted on TWO chapters, literally begging me for the second. Math done right…who can argue with that?

In about a month we will need to buy more books. Right now I have the first four and we are 2/3 of the way through Cats, the third book. They are pricey, but man oh man, are they worth it!

Posted in Homeschool - Mathematics | Leave a comment