Wednesday, December 30, 2009


oops, chasing the sled :D

We went sledding two times before Christmas (well, W and J did the sledding part while C and I played in the snow). W had never been before, and loved it. Last year with a newborn we hadn't gotten a chance to take him, but he surprised us and took right to it. The second day we had the opportunity to meet up with several homeschoolers and all the kids enjoyed sledding despite the cold weather (the Moms on the other hand got cold quickly!) C liked sitting in the snow although it was pretty cold so after a while he got fussy both times. Now that most of the snow is gone here I am finally getting a chance to upload pictures. It is still extremely cold out however. ;) W cannot wait for a storm that will provide the elusive "snowman snow" as this stuff was very fluffy and did not pack into snowballs or men at all.
We had a lovely Christmas and enjoyed our family parties. Between C's first birthday being in early December and then preparing for the holidays the whole month seemed to fly. I can hardly believe that it is almost 2010! Have a happy New Year! I have learned a lot this past year and now we are unschooling for preK. I look forward to all that this year brings in our homeschooling journey.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

sick boys (and mama too) :(

W has been sick with a fever since Tuesday. I am hoping he gets better today, we have been monitoring him and the doctor's office said if he develops any worse cough let them know, but so far so good. Overall it has gotten way worse at night, and besides being a bit grumpy he has been in good spirits and had lots of jello and popsicles. Sadly we will miss storytime this week and there are only one or two weeks left. C seems to have just a stuffy nose and sneezes, but at least no fever.

W has been wanting to watch Christmas movies since he has been stuck on the couch being sick, so already we have watched more than our share for November, but it is nice to get in the spirit of the season a bit early. We have also listened to holiday music on, which lets you choose artists you like and then plays similar music along with those artists. It is such a great idea to get a bit more variety.

edit: as thursday wore on C and I developed low grade/ mild fevers and coughs, blah :( Hoping we will be over this by next week.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

nature walk

Well, we took a rail trail nature walk yesterday. W and his friend gathered many leaves to put on sticks, and loved seeing all the acorns and little empty acorn shells. I will have to incorporate them into some kind of craft today. The stretch of rail trail that we walked was beautiful this time of year, you can look into the woods and see the leaves floating down.

After reviewing our route on google maps, it seems like W must have walked about 4.5 miles yesterday, of course taking some breaks here and there to rest and play. No wonder he was so tired. :) It is more difficult pushing the double stroller and taking 3 kids out, but it was such great weather yesterday I am glad we all got outside for the better part of the day. C was very laid back and content in the stroller so that made it easier than it could have been.

Friday, November 6, 2009

a bad apple

Today we went to the library as usual for storytime. W went ahead to the storytime room for the activities while I held C and watched S play. All went well for the most part, until W was done with the craft and came out to meet me. He was very proud of the page he drew, his name with a sun in the sky and he pasted the mouse on the bottom in the page over the preprinted letters in a creative way (although not anatomically correct but I was proud of him that he did it himself and he was proud of his artwork). A stray kid with his Mom nowhere in sight proceeded to make fun of W’s drawing and W in general. I wanted to slap him but of course restrained myself and asked the child where his mother was, and to please go to her and leave my son alone. He did not cooperate but I told the kids in frustration that we needed to leave any way to get home since we have a handyman coming this afternoon. If I did not have all 3 kids in tow it probably would have been easier to find the other mom and tell her, I do feel badly because I would want to know if my kid had been that rude to somebody because that deserves punishment. I feel sorry that he is such a brat to come up and taunt kids.

The next time I see the boy and his mother I hope to tell her how much he hurt W’s feelings and to please talk to him about it. The sad thing is the Mom probably has no clue he behaves this way and he will probably be let loose in some school to do the same to countless others. Why do some children do this to others? Perhaps it is because they themselves are picked on or are just seeking attention even if it is negative.

It is too bad how a few little words can mar a perfectly good day. And most of the time storytime is such a great social outlet and a pleasant experience for all the kids, so I will try not to let this incident bother me too much. And as usual as a parent I am sure it bothers me more than my son. :) W and S certainly have their moments of misbehaving sometimes, but they are very kind hearted and helpful children so I want to use this example to show them how not to behave and also try to teach them to stick up for themselves in these types of situations which unfortunately are a part of life.

Friday, October 23, 2009

falling leaves

W had storytime again today, they read a book about a moose and then made a "ghost moose" craft. Next week they will be trick or treating at the town hall so I will have to remember to dress the kids in costumes that day. I am still working on W's tree I haven't had time to finish but I will have to this weekend. The local Borders also has an event tomorrow so if we have time we may go to that so it is an incentive to finish the costume soon! Next Thursday is our town trick or treat so I am hoping the kids aren't completely wiped out by Halloween, we are going to CT to see the cousins that day.

C clapped his hands together for the first time on Wednesday. He is growing up too fast for me, I am trying to savor all these baby firsts. He loved holding onto a leaf from the yard today, it is so nice how such simple things can keep him happy sometimes. I just had to make sure he didn't try to eat it! :)

We have not been focusing too closely on the themes of the week the past two weeks so I feel like I need to get organized again, although they have been doing a lot of fall themed things lately. The kids have been keeping pretty busy between playdates and library days. It was nice to have all of the cousins over yesterday to celebrate a birthday. The kids had a great time and they all play well together.

We got Hooked On Phonics (PreK) on sale so W has started with that and enjoys the books that came with it very much. I am impressed with the DVD and it is quite entertaining to the younger kids too since it has a song about each letter.

Here are a few of our favorite Halloween themed books:

"Joey the Jack-O-Lantern" by Janet Craig
"Say Boo" by Lynda Graham-Barber and Barbara Lehman
"The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat" by Stan & Jan Berenstain
"Where is Baby's Pumpkin?" by Karen Katz

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

potato printing!

We are now in the midst of /NT/ week (as in printing), and Will has gotten better with the letter N and he is already pretty good at T. Today the kids had fun potato printing and painting. W and I read a book about Gutenberg during nap time and he couldn't fathom a time when little children didn't have any books to be read to them. The easel has been an essential tool for us lately since it is great for chalk, whiteboard, and painting with the paper roll.

The other day he watched the Yoga Kids dvd which was recommended to us by a friend after his preK yoga library class, and he loved it. I was very impressed by it also, the turtle pose is quite difficult for Mama! :) We have the Babar Yoga for Elephants book but the dvd really shows other kids doing yoga so he was really drawn in so I am hoping he can practice this regularly.

frog week & fall

Last week was a busy one! The letter sounds of the week were fr, as in frog and friend. We learned about frogs and W did some fun frog crafts with S and his homeschooling friends at our first homeschool playgroup. He loves the book Little Quack's New Friend by Lauren Thompson, and it was so appropriate for the week since he did meet some new little friends and it also had a frog in the book. The final activity involving frogs was to check out some real frogs at Petco just to visit them, although some day I hope he will be interested in having small pets when he is old enough to take care of them.
This printout used numbers to match the arms and legs to the right spots.

W has decided he will be a tree for halloween, so we bought some faux fall leaves and I am working on making his brown sweater into a costume for him. He will wear brown pants and shoes to complete the look and I am also considering making a hat of some sort to go with the outfit. C is making it easier for me since we found a Winnie the Pooh costume for him already, and it will be nice and warm for him, W usually freezes at our town's trick or treat event.

The harvest season is winding down at our local CSA, I am looking forward to more squash and hopefully a pumpkin although I have heard this season has been rough. We have stopped doing pick your own since it is so late by the time we get there in the evening it is getting dark earlier now, so although W is sad he can't go it is a great way to learn about how things change in the fall.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And they demand homework too?

A child in public school spends something like 7 hours a day for 180 days a year attending school. And yet this is not even enough for them. Teachers demand not only the in-class time, but the child's time when he or she is at home in the form of homework assignments! Families spend so little time together as it is, and after school and work there may only be one or two hours of opportunity. Is this time really best spent on classroom assignments?

Of course, demanding the child's time even when away from school helps reinforce what I consider the most evil aspect of public schooling: replacing the home with the school as the center of the child's existence; replacing one's family and community with class-mates as the center of the child's social life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seeing stars

I forgot to post these pictures last week as we were away on vacation, but here they are now. W is still having a bit of diffuculty writing the letters S and R, so he traced those on our word of the week poster but he is great at writing T and A. :) We have been using printouts of Jan Brett's Alphabet tracers for W and he loves them. On her website there are a lot of other printables, it is a great resource.

We also tried making our own lacing star cards. I found that thinner cardboard works best with the hole punch, and got some posterboard for trying out different shapes. W wanted to use a pen so I let him write some letters on this one, but I am sure markers, crayon or paint would look cuter and there are so many themes you can do with this. As for other crafts, W painted a picture with glitter (a starry night scene) and we also did some more stamping as you can see on the word poster, the star stamp was a success.

Some books that we read about that featured the /st/ sound were: Baby Einstein's Baby Galileo Sees the Stars (C and S loved this one especially as it has sparkly stars to touch), How Stuff Works (a Search + find book), and the Berenstain Bears classic Ghost of the Forest.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

the beach

3 beaches, 3 museums, 2 carousels, 1 giant lobster roll, and lots of fun times with family on vacation = priceless. W had a ball, and he is fascinated by digging in the sand and making sand castles, and very muddy sand piles. C also touched sand for the first time, and then attempted to eat it, so he was not as enamored with it after that. We talked about the "ch" sound as in the end of beach and beginning of children, although did not sit W down to practice writing as much this week as he was having more fun going places. Now we are home catching up on laundry and errands, but beach week was awesome!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Flower week recap & update

This week we focused on the "ow" sound as in flower, cow, and own. It was also our first full time week of having W & C's cousin S with us for daycare. S is 2 so I am trying to give W crafts and projects that he can do and S can participate to her ability level. The picture above was a fun project for all ages, making tissue paper flowers with pipe cleaners for stems, and egg cartons cut up to hold the papers in the shape of a flower. We also got the chance to pick a few real flowers at the garden, and made some flower stamp shapes out of foam. Straying from the flower crafts, he also made a handprint owl which came out really cute.

Here are a few books we read this week which W really enjoyed (I tried to tie in the "ow" theme with different words): A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni, Flower Garden by Eve Bunting, Flowers: 21st Century Jr. Library by Christine Petersen, Me and My Shadow by Arthur Dorros, Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski, The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming (also great for the younger children), and of course the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle.

W enjoys the chalkboard for writing letters and drawing.

I never updated about the stamps, but more to come on that since this week it is ST week, and we are going to be stamping more. We are going with a star theme this week. W has been very curious about the moon, the sun, stars, and space lately so it should be fun and also very relevant to what he has been interested in. Next week will be a vacation week for our family but we will probably go with the "ch" sound of the week for beach, I am looking forward to that. :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

new uses for upwords

As we have been cleaning out our storage unit, I have been finding some awesome treasures of my childhood, including baby blankets, my favorite Cabbage Patch doll, and boardgames. For anyone familiar with UpWords, you know it is a bit too advanced for preschool ages, yet it is a perfect format for little hands to play with letters, make words and talk about letter sounds.

Today W chose a few words to make into our very own crossword puzzle. Forgive him for a few backwards letters. Puzzle coolness below. See if you can find apple, tree, shape --to keep within our Sh theme of the week, zoo, clue, go, and us (and a couple other unintentional words he made). :)

C is having a ridiculously long nap, due to his top 4 teeth no doubt, so W and I have been making stamps also today, we got the idea from the best kids craft blog out there No Time for Flashcards. More pictures to come later.

Paradigmatic Example (#1) of Education Fail

I am going to post a series of personal examples that I believe serve as particularly good exemplifications of failure modes of the standard education system. After I have posted these, I will provide more general analysis and discussion, culminating in what I hope will be suggestions of how these can be avoided.

Here is my first example:

I was taking a college graduate-level course in computation and automata theory. This was one of my favorite courses because it managed to combine computer science, mathematics, linguistics, and even some philosophy in a coherent, interesting manner. The general idea of the course was to define a computational engine (e.g. a finite-state machine) and investigate what sort of problems the engine could solve, and with what efficiency. Even the most powerful machine with theoretically infinite memory (a Turing machine) turns out to have well-defined limits of what types of problems it can be guaranteed to solve.

Now, this class required us to write proofs and in so doing exercise some degree of creativity. The problems were not mere restatements of earlier theorems or problems, and their solution usually required thinking really, really hard and then having an “a-ha!” moment. I found these to be stimulating, often fun, and ultimately satisfying.

During a class, one student raised her hand and asked the professor something like “How are we supposed to know how to solve these problems?” After a little discussion of what she meant, it was obvious that she was not interested in the details of any particular problem; what she was after was a general algorithm for solving all of the problems we were given! I cannot think of a greater insult to the professor and his beloved subject. To him, each problem was intrinsically valuable. Each problem had its own reason for being, its own lesson waiting to be unlocked by just the right stroke of inspiration on the student’s behalf. But to her, each problem was merely an exercise: at best, an exemplification of some general principle that should have been already given, and at worst, something that just needed to be completed to get course credit.

I cannot overly blame her though. This was, after all, presumably what everyone in the room was used to in math and science classes: start off with being given a set of general rules, then apply them to specific examples in a mechanistic fashion. The solution is produced in the most efficient manner, and with the least amount of thinking. Just figure out where to “plug in” the numbers and turn the crank. Education as the execution of algorithms.

The professor chided her and said “This isn’t high school.” Justice was served.

But that made me think: why does even high school have to be high school?

Monday, August 17, 2009


We are in the very early stages of homeschooling, but one thing I figured out really fast: we needed a system. I liked the concept of Sue Patrick's Workbox system that I have seen on several homeschool blogs so we bought a set of 5 plastic shoeboxes to start out. I put number stickers on them and so far they are just in a pile, but eventually I would like to have it set up on a shelf. As I type this C (8 months) is getting into one of them, so I may need to do this sooner than later. We also need to put the baby gates back up this week, he is crawling so fast now!
Also I found a lesson plan book at Target a few weeks ago for $1, and it has a week by week calendar format which is very convenient to plan themes in, so it has been working out very well so far. Although I would love to be able to do things completely on the computer, it is more convenient for me to have the book to jot things down in and bring with me to the library, etc.

This week we are working on the "sh" letter combination, and the theme of the week is shells. Today after reading "What Lives in a Shell?" by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and looking at a pile of real shells while discussing the animals that once lived in them, W made shell magnets out of foam stickers and glitter (glue + glitter always = a fun time). This morning we went to the library and also found a few other good theme books for our Sh week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

recap of "ee" week

Last week we focused on the vowel combination "ee" with W. I have been finding very useful information from's letter sounds section, including recommendations for poems, books, crafts, and songs to go along with the theme. Last week's theme was trees. W painted green leaves which I then wrote "ee" words on including bee, sleep, sheep, and green and we reviewed each word as we put our tree page together. Throughout the week I also encouraged him to try tracing and writing the lowercase letter "e". He is starting to put small words together with letter magnets, and is getting good at sounding out small words.

W also painted a wooden puzzle (a paint your own sort of project) that he had gotten for Christmas from Auntie Chris. He chose two of his favorite colors, blue and green, and had a great time painting, it turned out very ocean-like. Then he wanted to make it an alphabet puzzle (which was a great idea because otherwise even I would have a hard time putting that puzzle together) so I wrote the letters for him and he finished it by writing his own name on the bottom pieces using the "gold dust" as he calls my gold colored craft pen.

Other things we focused on was making shapes and scenes out of foam shapes, and he discussed patterns with me and created his own color pattern and remembered the concept. And of course, singing "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" throughout the week. Next week I am going to also implement a number of the week plan, since he is much more confident in letters than numbers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Economics for Homeschoolers

I became very interested in Austrian economic theory in college and even went so far as to read Ludwig von Mises' tome Human Action cover-to-cover. I also took a couple of courses in economics but generally found them unchallenging, misleading, and perhaps worst, uninteresting. Whereas the courses were dominated by simple calculus math problems to "solve" contrived (and unrealistic) scenarios, the Austrian approach is essentially without math. Instead of math, there is philosophy, logic, and analysis.

Austrian theory can be expressed in plain English (though occasional graphs can help illustrate concepts), and I believe it is appropriate for high school aged students and perhaps even advanced junior-high students. In particular, I would recommend Gene Callahan's book Economics for Real People as an effective and breezy introduction to economics. Another good choice would be Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. One or both of these books could serve as the basis for a first course in economics for homeschoolers.

However, some good news from Bob Murphy, an Austrian economist, is that the Mises Institute is moving forward on a project for him to create a high school course geared especially for homeschoolers. Read about it here. While I am a little concerned about the result being "too mainstream" I have no doubt that this will be a worthwhile course and a boon for homeschoolers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The One Subject Matter for Education

Think about the terms we often use to refer to what a student studies: "material", or "subject matter". These terms suggest that the subject of study is vacuous and dead. When school education is largely the insistence of disjoint facts with no justification for their importance, is it any wonder students are so utterly non-motivated to learn? If you "master the material" and can execute the algorithm for solving a quadratic equation, but you have no sense for why this is important or when it would be useful, have you really learned anything?

Here's Whitehead:

The solution which I am urging, is to eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the vitality of our modern curriculum. There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Instead of this single unity, we offer children -- Algebra, from which nothing follows; Geometry, from which nothing follows; Science, from which nothing follows; History, from which nothing follows; a Couple of Languages, never mastered; and lastly, most dreary of all, Literature, represented by plays of Shakespeare, with philological notes and short analyses of plot and character to be in substance committed to memory. Can such a list be said to represent Life, as it is known in the midst of the living of it?

The Golden Rule of Education

Alfred North Whitehead has many great insights in his essay The Aims of Education. Here is one:

I appeal to you, as practical teachers. With good discipline, it is always possible to pump into the minds of a class a certain quantity of inert knowledge. You take a text-book and make them learn it. So far, so good. The child then knows how to solve a quadratic equation. But what is the point of teaching a child to solve a quadratic equation? There is a traditional answer to this question. It runs thus: The mind is an instrument, you first sharpen it, and then use it; the acquisition of the power of solving a quadratic equation is part of the process of sharpening the mind. Now there is just enough truth in this answer to have made it live through the ages. But for all its half-truth, it embodies a radical error which bids fair to stifle the genius of the modern world. I do not know who was first responsible for this analogy of the mind to a dead instrument. For aught I know, it may have been one of the seven wise men of Greece, or a committee of the whole lot of them. Whoever was the originator, there can be no doubt of the authority which it has acquired by the continuous approval bestowed upon it by eminent persons. But whatever its weight of authority, whatever the high approval which it can quote, I have no hesitation in denouncing it as one of the most fatal, erroneous, and dangerous conceptions ever introduced into the theory of education. The mind is never passive; it is a perpetual activity, delicate, receptive, responsive to stimulus. You cannot postpone its life until you have sharpened it. Whatever interest attaches to your subject-matter must be evoked here and now; whatever powers you are strengthening in the pupil, must be exercised here and now; whatever possibilities of mental life your teaching should impart, must be exhibited here and now. That is the golden rule of education, and a very difficult rule to follow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How I Will Use This Blog

While Beth will handle almost all of the day-to-day management for the little mens' homeschool, I will also be involved in various ways. I have ideas for several projects I'd like to drive (mostly when they are a bit older), and in general I hope to be a substantial influence in their education. We're excited to start a homeschool; perhaps most exciting for me is to have the opportunity to learn alongside our boys. I hope that their homeschooling experience will be largely self-directed with few boundaries, and that problems and projects will be open-ended. That is, I want learning for them to be an adventure, and a collaborative one at that involving the whole family.

There are several topics on which I plan to post. Some will be personal, and some will be more philosophical. I will try to use a labelling system to keep track of the different types of posts:

  • blog updates or thoughts on blogging (meta)
  • ideas for tools, techniques, or projects to use in the homeschool (schoolidea)
  • reviews of books (bookreview)
  • planning or discussion of curriculums (curriculum)
  • reasons to prefer homeschooling to other forms of schooling (whyhomeschool)
  • philosophical thoughts on education and learning (armchairphilosophy)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Getting started

We have pretty much always known we wanted to homeschool our kids. It has always been a mutual agreement between my husband and I. So now that our eldest Will is 4 and is going into the preK school year this fall, we are beginning to develop a schedule to homeschool him and try to cover all the basics but in a fun, non structured sort of way so that he can take the lead and mainly learn through play. Will knows all his letters now for upper and lower case, but now we are working on letter sounds and combinations, so I am working on making our own curriculum from a template inspired by the Brightly Beaming Resources Sound of the week plan.

I am very new to the world of homeschooling blogs and at times it is overwhelming at how much is out there. Now I know after a bit of searching it is easy to find inspiration for anything from arts & craft projects to early math, phonics, and even organization (the work box system is looking pretty good to me). Of course, once we begin we will figure out what works for us.