So frusterated!

I was just beginning to feel confident I had the major part of next year figured out when I got a letter from CVA in my inbox today that says order to survive with the recent and proposed legislation the school is going to be making some changes.  Some BIG changes in my opinion.  First of all instead of basically being able to choose whatever curriculum we as parents thought was best for our kids we are going to be limited to a selection of pre-approved options.  Now I’m sure they’ll choose some good programs, and hopefully some options for different kinds of learners in each subject, but I have doubts that some of what I want to use will be on the menu since they are from smaller or lesser known publishers.  That isn’t a huge deal breaker for me since I actually planned to buy most or all of the books myself.  The line that caught me was “Community-based Instructor (CBI) services, if offered at all…”  What?!  CBI’s are the fine arts and PE classes.  There is actually a bill (SHB 2209) presented that eliminates PE from even being an option for ALE students (and it appears to disqualify consumable student material as well- art supplies, science materials, workbooks???).  Seriously.  And if it is revised or fails and they can offer PE courses it will be like the rest, from a pre-approved list so the options are similar in all areas.  I have no idea what kinds of things that list would include, but admittedly something is better than nothing.  Yes, I could come up with something on my own.  It’s not likely to be the same caliber that a professional could offer, and certainly not as interesting or motivating (I am just not that kind of athletic person).  And some things are just done better in a group- kids games are one of those.  Yes, I could pay for them to attend karate, swimming or YMCA homeschool-specific classes (and may end up doing that) but that’s not going to be easy on the budget.  So much for thinking it was all going to be smooth sailing.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I totally understand why CVA is needing to streamline things to make it easier on staff and meet their own budget.  And that they can’t do anything about what the State of Washington declares to be legal.  The hard part is that I JUST found out what they could do for me, a nearly perfect situation and suddenly I see it floating away.

Oh, and on top of that (yes, there’s more!) it appears that our home school district is not willing to share.  When I first contacted CVA they said we could do dual-enrollment so she could continue her on-campus classes at HCA and still take advantage of what CVA could offer.  Cool, right?  Apparently we live in one of the exception areas.  Because there are exceptions to every rule.  Grr.  I do NOT understand why Evergreen would rather completely lose a student rather than share.  At all.

All in all it’s been a very frustrating week.

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Because I love planning

It’s that time of year again, Girl Scout cookies!  Oh, wait, not that.  Well I am eating Samoas as I type this, but what I really meant was it’s planning season.  And I’m one of those crazy people who loves planning, researching, revising etc so I’ve been full swing into it for the last month.   In the last post you can see I was starting to pull ideas together for next year, but of course that plan has already had some modifications.  So here’s where we currently sit (in case anyone actually cares):

Math- Math Mammoth .pdf version has already been purchased and downloaded.

Grammar, Vocabulary, Writing and Poetry- Found an awesome deal on the full set of MCT Island level books used, $40 from a friend!

Spelling- A used copy of Spelling Power is on it’s way.  Another can’t be beat find, $10- shipped!

Reading- I am going to find some great books and write comprehension questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.  I know it sounds like so much fun and you’re all terribly jealous.  So writing the questions may not be the highlight, but they’ll be real thinking questions- not “What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite color?”.  (Yeah, we’re reading Chamber of Secrets right now)  I am open to suggestions of great books.  Right now possibilities are Boxcar Children, Narnia, and A Little Princess.

Science- I have really been eyeballing REAL Science Odyssey Earth and Space.  This is one of those subjects I plan to have Lars tag along with and I’m not sure what format would be best.  There is a .pdf which would probably be best if I buy it myself.  However there may be another option for this.*

History- We will be using Story of the World 2 with the Activity Guide and I just haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet.  Possibly the same alternate option* as science.  Hmmm.

Well that covers all the basics and brings us to our big OPTION.  Columbia Virtual Academy.  We are currently in the process of enrolling Brooklyn for the rest of this school year, part-time to keep our homeschooler status.  Just to test it out 🙂  One of the things they can do for us is purchase curriculum materials, the catch being that we have to report in weekly and do a monthly progress summary for the subjects they provide.  So I have to decide if following their schedule, reporting in, and having to return materials at the end of the year is worth it.  Because I really kind of like being able to keep stuff and can get cranky about other people telling me when to do things.  Last year we started August 1st and that worked well for us.  We will most definitely sign up with them for 2 other major benefits though- fine arts/PE classes and end of the year testing.  I had been stressing a little over what we were going to do for end of the year testing when Brooklyn turns 8 and it is required.  Now we have an easy answer.  You might also remember that Brooklyn is taking a very fun swim/gym class for homeschoolers at the YMCA.  Unfortunately it sounds like that part of HCA is going to be discontinued 😦  We are hoping maybe they’ll still offer something she likes since she does enjoy the classes she takes on campus.  HCA also doesn’t offer to cover part of piano lessons anymore, and CVA will.  Bonus points to them.

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Paper, paper everywhere?

The time has come do decide how paperless our school should be.  Are .pdf files really going to last?  Am I going to be able to access them when I need to?  Am I just going to feel weird teaching without a paper book in hand?  I really don’t know.  It seems like it should save a lot of physical space and be a quite a bit cheaper.  Not only because downloads tend to be a few dollars less up front, but it would all be reusable for Lars in a couple years.  We have a desktop, a laptop and an iPad at our fingertips.  Still, it’s hard to make the jump.

Several of the curriculums I am looking at for next year are already available for download.  Story of the World and the Activity Guide can be bought in pdf.  SOTW is strictly a reading book so that’s pretty straight forward.  The Activity Guide is my resource for ordering library books, again just for reading, and we usually do the review questions orally, then the Student Pages can be easily printed from the desktop (unless of course someone decides to buy me a wireless printer, hint hint) in duplicate if needed.  I’m already eyeballing Intellego unit studies for science, and those are only available for download or cd.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like at this time I can open links from the iPad, but with a little creativity we can fill out the worksheets on it.  Though it looks like they can’t be done on a regular computer.   And one of the math programs I was looking at, Math Mammoth, is also available in a pdf version.  After doing a bit of research I’ve found that by using DropBox (which I already use) it’s easy to put the pdf’s on the iPad, and if by opening them in a program called Notability (99 cents from iTunes) it becomes a workbook on the iPad.  Yep, you can seriously just write in the answers on the screen.  I am still not 100% on Mammoth though.  The other option is Singapore which by contrast uses 6 paper books.  The spelling and language arts programs I am looking at are still paper only.  And handwriting will probably need to be done on actual paper as well.  There some nice tracing apps Lars uses, and Doodle Buddy for freehand, but I just don’t think even with the stylus we can get away from dead trees completely.

What to do?  What to do?

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This is Cleveland.  He’s a Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy we’ve been raising for the last month and he’s been keeping us quite busy!  I’d forgotten how much work and supervision ‘babies’ require.  Yawn.  I have to admit when he first came to us I was thinking ‘this is going to be easy’.  He curled up in the back of the van on the ride home and took a nap.  He didn’t pull on the leash and was generally a mellow guy.  Then he got comfortable with us, lol.  Or else Talgo is being a bad  influence on him.  He’s still much better behaved than the average teenage guy, but it’s hard to take the retriever instinct out of a Retriever.  See that giant duck by his feet?  Tonight he decided it would be awesome to be a bird dog, and this was the biggest bird he could find.  He also has a special love for Christmas tree ornaments.
Overall it’s been a good experience though, and I’ll be sad when he goes away to ‘college’ in the next month or so.  One of my favorite things is taking him out to the places dogs don’t normally get to go and watching how many people he gets to smile.  I have to plan on a little extra time though, since fairly often people ask about him and/or want to pet him.  Sometimes it’s hard to escape, lol.  Parents are the best at telling their kids ‘he’s working’ and letting us go on our way, it’s that usually lone adult who’s petting before asking or has a story to tell.  I usually don’t mind though.  And chances are once he’s back at school we’ll look into getting another one.  Maybe even a little one.
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Cookies, cookies, cookies

Earlier this week we had our massive cookie baking day at my mom’s.  For the first time ever I don’t think we intentionally tried anything new.  How weird.  Chocolate-cherry cookies, Christmas tree and poinsettia Spritz, marshmallow log, shortbread, ans swirls all in one afternoon!  Brooklyn and Nana did the snowballs and thumbprints while we were in Vegas, and Nana did lemon candy, fudge, and sugar cookies all on her own.

Did you notice I said “intentionally” earlier?  Oops.  The swirl dough was actually the candy cane recipe from the previous page, but it only very minor differences so we went ahead and made them anyway.  I actually liked the results, a little sweeter and thicker and chewier.  But consensus of everyone else was go back the the right recipe next year.   It was a good year for chocolate-cherries as well.  Sometimes they get kind of melty and fall apart when you try to pick them up.  Perfect this year though!  Which makes up for the fudge- which is more than a little melty.  It’ll make great ice cream topping since it can only be eaten with a spoon.  Somehow the fudge must have gotten confused as to what year it was because it’s usually fail fudge when Kirsten and I attempt to make it.  The snowballs were much better with crushed candy cane to replace the nuts (which my kids are allergic to).  Never, ever try to replace nuts in a recipe with GrapeNuts.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.  Sugar cookies, spritz, lemon candy, shortbread and thumbprints usually seem to cooperate pretty well and this year was no exception.  That leaves the big news for this year- Marshmallow Log!  MY Nana used to make it, and we had a recipe without any instructions.  My mom has made several rather unsuccessful attempts with no clue as to what was wrong (Snickerdoodles anyone?  LOL).  With the help of the internet she found a similar recipe with instructions.  Apparently the egg goes in after the butter and chocolate chips have been melted and cooled.  Who knew?  So happy it worked since it’s one of my favorites 🙂  Still requires a little tweaking, but at least it holds together and looks right.

You’d think that would be enough cookies to last us for a couple months right?  Nope.  Our project for today was Gingerbread men.  And I’m happy to report that they were successful.  Thanks Linda for the tip about putting them in the freezer before baking.  Lars helped me make the dough and cut out most of the men himself, and Brooklyn cut out a few gingerbread women and did most of the decorating.

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My First Internet Date

Third, and probably final, in the My First… series.

LOL, not that kind of date- and Aaron went with me.  I have my real-life friends and my on-line friends, but until this weekend they were totally separate circles.  When I first told Aaron I was going to meet up with another homeschooling mom in Vegas he was skeptical for about 2 seconds, until he realized that he was essentially taking me down there to meet a bunch of his friends who started out pretty much the same way.   Surprised maybe because I am usually pretty shy.  We finally ended up meeting for lunch on the last day of our trip at a nice little Irish pub in the New York-New York.  And I’m so glad I did!  Tiffany- you are awesome and I had a great time chatting.  🙂  Sorry if your kids didn’t get any school work done because I kept you out all afternoon.

p.s.  The sharks were cool.  Lars would have loved them!

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My First Photowalk

This is the second of a short series of My First… posts inspired by our trip to Las Vegas for WordCamp.

I’ve been on a couple of railfan trips and photo outings with Aaron, however this is the first one I’d describe as an actual photowalk.  Maybe it’s because it was more about walking around and finding pictures rather than going somewhere and waiting for the pictures (um, trains) to come to us?  Maybe it’s because he was actually teaching me how to change settings on the camera to get what I wanted?  Maybe it’s because there were no kids with us?  I’m kinda leaning towards that last one.

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My First WordCamp

Aaron and I just got back from WordCamp Las Vegas.  Which means I will recommence writing for approximately 2 months if history is any indicator. 🙂  WordCamp was an incredible learning experience.  Not necessarily so much in learning how to use Word Press since most of it was waaaay over my head (though I did pick up a few things from the beginner session), but for the insight into the blogging community.   As soon as we walked up to the registration area Aaron started getting hugs.  From both guys and girls.  Huh?  I though these were a bunch of geeks (read: anti-social) who spent more time on their smart phones than interacting with actual people.  Then *I* started getting hugs.  Um, okay.  I’m not one to argue getting a hug.  As it turns out everyone was actually very friendly and there seems to be a crowd of them who see each other regularly as they travel to the different camps and are almost like an extended family.  They welcomed me with open arms, literally.

I spent part of my day shadowing Aaron in sessions he was interested in.  Like a good student I tried to pay attention at first.  Then I got distracted by people watching.  It seemed odd to me that the speakers didn’t seem to mind, or even try to recall back the attention of the good 90% of the audience that had a screen open in front of them.  As it turns out they were quoting and re-tweeting amusing parts of the presentations.  That explains why my nametag said @talgotail on it.  At least no one was phased when I was catching up on Words With Friends.  And when neither of the sessions peaked one of our interests we just hung out in the hallways and socialized.  It was kind of reminiscent of high school, complete with a fast food lunch (I’d never been to In-N-Out before) and talking about science class (though it was us choosing curriculum for our homeschooled kids this time).  Not bad for a geek conference.  I’d probably even go to another one.

One more thing about WordCamps.  After-parties are apparently a regular thing.  This one was sponsored and everyone got 4, yes four, free drink tickets.  No, I didn’t use all mine.  However I did find some beers I liked, and if you know me that’s a rather rare occurrence.  This one was at the Freakin’ Frog– hats off to them for an enormous selection of beer and also for the call I got today that they found and are mailing back to me my lost iPod.

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Memorizing Math

We’re working on basic addition and subtraction facts, and it’s just a bit frustrating. I am taking a week or more (as needed) off from our regular curriculum just to get these down with a bit more speed, accuracy and confidence. Here’s at least a partial list of strategies/games I’ve collected from various sources. Some of them we’ve tried, and others I haven’t had a chance to do yet.  Thanks to my friends at the homeschooling board for many of these ideas.
Dice- regular and/or 10-sided: simply roll them and add ’em up. Play with a friend and whoever has the highest sum wins.
Uno cards- Pull out all non-number cards. Draw 5 or so cards, flip one over from the deck. From the cards in your hand try to match, find a sum or a difference. If none draw a card (can either draw one, or til you can play- house rules). Whoever clears their hand first wins. Each time flip the new answer from the deck.
War- one regular set of cards per person, pull out J,Q,K’s. Each person flips over 2 cards at a time and adds (or subtracts) them. Player with higher answer wins all the cards on the table. Play thru deck at least once, player with most or all (depending on how long you want to play) cards wins.
13 Pyramid. Lay out cards in a pyramid, on at top, 2 below it, etc til whole deck is laid out. As you lay out cards going down overlap corners of ones above. Choose an answer and try to clear the deck by making pairs that add up to that answer. Traditionally done with 13s using J,Q,K. Can choose any number and use only A-10 if you like.
Shut the box game- played with either the real game box, or a number line, and 2 dice. Roll dice and use either addition or subtraction to try and be the first to cross off each number (1-12 if using 6-sided die).  is a very simple site that asks one equation at a time. Also has a how-to video which Brooklyn seemed to think made it fun. Offers subtraction as well.
This is just kind of cool. Fill in the numbers to get to the top and unlock the pyramid.
Cuisenaire rod trains- Choose a rod and see how many trains of equal length you can make. Randomly draw 2 rods from a grab bag and find the sum.

Juice on the wall- to the tune of 100 bottles of beer on the wall 🙂  10 bottles of juice on the wall, take 3 down and pass them around 7 bottles of juice on the wall.  Pick whatever numbers work for you.  Count down, then add up if you like.  Go to the store and buy 3 more for example.  This one I know I got from a carschooling site.

What other ideas do you have for me?

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That’s how much of a year we’ve completed if you figure we only do the minimum of 180 days. And already thinking about next year. Or maybe next semester. Who knows? lol
So what have we been doing so far? I’ve learned tons about Mesopotamia- a place I’d never even heard of before. We’ve made cave paintings, a pyramid, cuniform clay tablets and garlic dinner rolls following an ancient recipe. Spelling is another subject I’m learning right along with Brooklyn in. You can count syllables by putting your hand under your jaw. C says /s/ following e, i or y. “O” makes 4 different sounds.
Science is kind of boring me with just reading, reading, reading about different animals. Trying to find a way to spice that up. I am considering switching to unit studies for that, but it seems they are all pretty light on the history and you have to keep math and LA programs, so it’s really just switching science curriculum’s. Do I even want to keep going with SOTW and obscure history? I mean it’s kinda cool at first, but again tons and tons of reading. And I feel like I’m lacking by not doing local or US history. How do you do all of it? Feeling kind of lost again.

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