Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I've Moved to Wordpress

A few months ago I started a new blog on WordPress called Archie! Down!

I didn't publish that fact here because I was still trying to decide which platform I liked better. There are aspects of Blogger which I prefer over WordPress and there are WordPress functions I like better than Blogger.

Another factor I wanted to change was the format of the blog. I felt I was limiting myself too much by remaining in the 'homeschool' framework. My newer blog talks about all kinds of topics including homeschooling, of course.

So, here I am ready to show you my new blog 'Archie! Down!

Come and drop by some time and say hello!

Bis Sp├Ąter (see you later)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our homeschooling plans for this week

Like all homeschoolers, we are frequent visitors at the local library. A normal haul for us often runs into the 30+ books, which range from anything my daughter wants to read, to reference books, books my son is reading for school and for pleasure, and books for me (pleasure and reference alike).

This week we will read and use some of these:

Take a look!

And for me

Additionally we will choose a few experiments from these books:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Merchant of Venice

We finally finished it. Merchant of Venice. I don't think anyone here is going to ask me who the author is. This was my daughter's first introduction to Shakespeare.  She wanted to start with Hamlet, but I prevailed and we started with Merchant of Venice and plowed through it about 60% faster than we had planned because she loved it so much. Wonderful was the time we spent talking about Europe of that time. About the way people lived, the social strata, prejudice, the worldview as people had back then.  Unfortunately some school districts have banned Merchant of Venice, due to the racist issues contained therein,  but I have always felt that banning a book, story, or play, steals the opportunity to learn from it, to discuss, and does more harm in the end.

Shakespeare's plays are a commentary on the relationships people have with each other. The relationships on a large scale, such as the interaction between people of 'class' with the menial classes. The relationships of men and women, as related to romance, and as it relates to how women were seen and treated as little more than mere ornamentation and breeding vessels. Why, in fact it wasn't love that had Bassanio so obsessed with obtaining fair Portia's hand in marriage. It was her wealth. As was customary then, a woman could never be mistress over her own fortune. If she wasn't under her father's guidance, or her husband's yoke, a proper lady was under the guidance and protection of another male relative. After Portia's father died, it became imperative that she be married with haste. Clearly though, the man had high enough an opinion of his daughter that he didn't marry her off to the most suitable match and title that could be had, but designed a test of character, if you will, which would weed out the money grabbers. Interestingly enough, then, that it was greedy Bassanio who managed to see past the gold and silver.

The idea, that Portia and Nerissa were forced to take on the guise of young men, in order to plead Antonio's case, amazed and bemused my daughter.  It also speaks about the relationship people then had with other people of the world. The typical insular British mentality is shown in Portia's soliloquy, where she discusses, nay dissects, her suitors, preceded by her words, 'I know it is a sin to be a mocker, but...' All the suitors are foreigners and discarded as such. The only one who gets off with relative minor bruising to the ego is the Englishman, who is, however, mocked for his lack of languages other than his own. Arragon, and Morocco, are targets because of their skin color. In fact, Shakespeare's set directions, clearly demanded, that the actor be a 'tawny moor dressed in white.' Of course, what helped Missy understand the play and jokes, was knowing who the target audience was in Shakespeare's time. Although, some higher placed members of society watched the plays, it was primarily middleclass citizens (not a very accurate description but it will have to do for now), and the 'groundlings', people of decidedly lower socio-economic stature and usually illiterate. This helped her understand some of the bawdier jokes, as well.

It is noteworthy that the insular 'people-from-other-countries can-be-placed-into-preassigned-pegs' notion hasn't gone away. We have just changed the way we portrait it.Watch movies and sit-coms and really evaluate how someone from another country is type-cast into a particular role. And we train our kids from a young age  to see things this way, even on the Disney channel, characters are typecast according to country of origin. Don't worry though, we aren't the only ones who do this. You should see the unflattering light in which the 'ugly American' tends to be type cast in other countries. I couldn't resist but digressed and discussed why this 'stereotyping' according to appearance, coloration, language etc, evolved and how it aided our early ancestors to survive millions of years ago.

Delving back into Shakespeare, let us discuss briefly how Shylock was portrayed. Many opinions about the portraiture of Shylock have been written, and I too felt compelled to take extra time to discuss Shylock with my daughter. I always felt that he was one of Shakespeare's more tragic figures. Shylock was never really portrayed as a human being with feelings and emotions. A person deserving of courtesy and kindness, something even the 'wonderful' Antonio never did. In fact Shylock even mentions being treated quite abominably by Antonio. Apparently the lovely, and oh-so honorable Antonio even spat at him more than once. Of course, Antonio accused him of un-christian usury. The double standards therein are noteworthy. First of all, in truth, Christian lenders exacted interest as well, and the Jews were not allowed to have any other occupation. They were banned from the guilds, were banned from owning or farming land, were banned from all other occupation, other than lending. When Shakespeare did give Shylock mention of humanity in the famous lines: 'Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands?...if you prick us, do we not bleed?' it wasn't meant in a context of eliciting compassion, but in Shylock demanding that his idea of perverted justice be carried out. Even when his daughter runs away with Lorenzo and elopes, stealing his property in the mean, he is mocked rather than pitied. Jews, having been banned in England since long before Shakespeare's time, it is unlikely that he ever met many. While some Jews persisted and remained in England, they were subject to pervasive and endemic racism. I spent considerable time with Missy, discussing what that meant, and what they experienced.  How can a people be understood and integrated into society when they are outcast, living at the perimeter of society, in their own enclaves and small communities.

Merchant of Venice was my first introduction to Shakespeare. Sadly enough (and because it was a school) we didn't discuss the story behind it. We didn't discuss racism, prejudice, male chauvinism, or European history of that time. What an opportunity, therefore, to get to experience it all over again with my daughter, in the way it could and should be. Not merely a lesson in Elizabethan English and Mr. Shakespeare's play crafting, but a lesson in that, and so much more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Today is Wednesday - Park Day

Oh my. That means something will happen to upset my plans to go to the homeschooler's park day meeting. Last time (two weeks ago) it was my employees' sick husband. I have a feeling it will be that again today, as he has to see a doctor at one in the afternoon. She thinks he hasn't been feeling well again. Just once, I want a Wednesday to go smoothly. Pweeeeze?

On a bright note, we have been plugging away nicely on our school work and trying to catch up on the lost days. We are almost done with Merchant of Venice, since Missy loves it so much. The other book we went through on double time was Karen Hesse's 'Out of the Dust', a magnificent historical novel written  in first person, free-verse poems, that was very hard to put down. This 1998 Newbery Medal winner, is a great homeschool resource. It led us to discuss so many things, and I have no doubt that Missy will pick this book up again and again to read on her own.

Bear has made amazing progress in reading and math. We don't do much with him at a time, and the days he doesn't want to do school, that's alright with me too. He has understood the relationship between multiplication and division. His favorite tasks are the word problems I write for him where he has to decide what is being asked, and what mathematical formula will give him the answer. Actually I never expected him to 'get it' so fast. I always introduced mathematical concepts to him well ahead of the 'normal' timeline because I always wanted him to feel comfortable around numbers and slowly grow into understanding concepts. A recent worksheet I gave him showed me that he is comfortable enough with it to have used logic to answer the questions rather than calculations. The worksheet asked the child to enter in the symbols of operation. All four of them, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. He answered twenty questions in under 10 minutes and when I asked him how he explained his methodology. He used reasoning and a clear understanding of the relationship numbers have with each other depending on the symbol of operation.  What a thrill.

The fear I have when, these kids go back to (if they go back) to public school, is 'will they still enjoy learning as much as they do now?' I am afraid I know the answer. But I also have to admit, as hard as it is, that I cannot and should not continue to teach my daughter past this year (sixth grade) in order to do right by her. And I know Bear's personality demands a bigger setting with more children. He would be devastated to be alone at home with me while his Sissy isn't here.

One little step at a time. One little step...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crazy week # 1.

I find myself up an hour earlier than intended thanks to:

a) my contractor photographer texting me at 5:24 AM letting me know he received the itinerary for today (when I asked him to confirm this last evening) - yes, even low volume sounds wake me up. Even through earplugs.
b) my dd (damned dog, darling dog, darned dog - take your pick) ralphing in his kennel at 5:55 AM.

nice.... real nice....

And shame on me for going to bed so late.

so sue me....

I am owly in the morning.

even when I get up after my requisite seven hours of sleep.

I hate people who can do with four or five or six hours.

I am not one of them.

Last week was crazy. My dh (husband with 'd' starting adjectives in front) left Tuesday AM for a month long family related trip. On Wednesday morning one of my employees calls me and asks if it was OK for her to take her husband (too sick to drive and no car besides) to the doc as he was doing poorly.  OK. Not a problem. I'll cover for her for a few hours. Well, a few hours later she calls and tells us they are at the ER! The doctor thought he was having a heart attack and sent him straight there. Except it isn't a heart attack but an ever increasing range of serious symptoms and no diagnosis even as of Sunday night.  A specialist is in finding zebras is coming to look at him today, so hopefully he can help. Dr. House  to room 4425 please.

Obviously I didn't get to teach the kids this week, between Monday packing, Tuesday the kids Dad leaving and Wednesday through Friday covering for my employee at the office. My employee plans to come in late and leave early and work a half day  for the forseeable future so she can both be with her husband and not burn through all of her vacation time. This should allow me to get my children's education back on track.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Helloooooo, i'm baaaaack!

It's been a long time since I blogged. A number of reasons are to blame for this. I was quite busy for a long time between November and December.  A general feeling of inertia didn't help. What to write, what to say?

Frankly, today I don't have much more to say either. For starters, let me wish all of you a wonderful New Year. May the year 2012 bring you good health, creativity, and success.

2012 will be, for us, a year which will bring many changes. My father in-law will be coming to live with us. That is a big deal. And since we cannot afford a bigger home he will be making the family room into his bedroom. I've known for over two years this was coming and for over two years now I've been telling myself not to let my imagination run wild. Try that!

We are going to try and have our children enrolled in a nearby school.  Well, nearby is relative. The school is about 12 miles away and that distance peppered by a great many red lights, and roads well attended by hungry cops waiting for anyone going even three miles over speedlimit. And  to make matters all the more challenging....school starts there at 7:30 AM! Aaaack!!!
We also don't know if that school will accept our children. We are not in their district but that public school is the only one we are willing send our children to. The three 'ifs' here are:

1. Will they accept our kids.
2. Will they work with our kids abilities rather than age.
3. Will Missy's health be able to handle it.

Our reasons for attempting school again are several. We are a self employed family. The company needs to grow in order for us to survive the economy, and in order to do that I have to be there at least 3-4 hours a day to run product development and planning. We also feel that in order for Missy to access certain academic opportunities she needs to go to a school. There is a great local private school but the tuition runs about 10K per child and we cannot afford this any longer. Bear needs more interaction with children his age and so we have decided to try this.

Frankly, I am utterly torn up about this move. I don't really want to do it, and neither does my daughter. We love homeschooling and would love to continue doing this but in our small town we simply don't seem to have the co-ops here you might find in larger cities. We are academically very focused and it appears that the primary flavors of local homeschoolers are unschooling, Waldorf oriented, or Christian based. If we had some strong local homeschool options in terms of classes, lab time etc, we would probably be more likely to continue homeschooling especially with my father in-law at home. He would be able to oversee the children doing their independent lessons while I put in my hours at the office.

One thing is certain, unless I see with absolute certainty that the kids are thriving, this experiment will be short-lived.

Both of these changes fill me with much trepidation. But there is no way out of at least one of them, and so I need to charge forward.

This is a helluva time to reduce my wine intake....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

As seen on other blogs and facebook.

A great post on Pagan Household titled Death sits next to us at supper.  Thought provoking and short. The best kind of stuff.


How True.


Oldie but still Goldie!