Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
I've never participated in the Frugal Fridays hosted by Life as a Mom. So this week, I'm jumping in with an unusual frugal tip.
- If you grew up on Skippy or Jif, for example, but are purchasing generic to save fifty cents a week, good for you. But if every time you pull the peanut butter out you are feeling sorry for yourself that you can't afford the "good stuff" then maybe you need to rethink things. If generic is making you feel deprived, maybe it isn't worth the $2/month in savings. Save money somewhere that makes you feel good about being such a thrifty person.
- Is there some treat that you know is an extravagance, that other frugally minded people always list as a way to save big bucks, but you just don't want to give it up? Then don't. You don't have to give up *everything* and you don't have to do it all at once. Years ago, my best friend and I would go garage saling on Saturdays and then go have an expensive cup of coffee at Pikes Perk. Everything either of us read about saving money and frugal living told us that spending $4 for a cup of coffee was a huge waste. Yes, if we cut that out every week (we didn't go every week though), we'd have $200 more at the end of a year. But $200 was a worthwhile investment in our friendship, and it made us both feel better about the things we were giving up. There is nothing wrong with deciding that there is some little luxury that you just don't want to go without. And then truly enjoy it, guilt free, and go back to washing out plastic bags with a revived spirit.
- If buying the less expensive soap means you have to use twice as much to get your clothes clean, or run the dishwasher twice... obviously, spending more up front makes far more sense. (And yeah, I know... hand washing is cheaper than the dishwasher, but the dishwasher is cheaper than disposable dishes... I do hand-wash quite a bit, but I run a load in the dishwasher nearly every day too.)
- If spending more on boneless meat means you are more likely to make dinner instead of ordering take-out, or if buying packages of pre-cut carrot sticks means you are less likely to stop and grab a snack on the way home, then by all means, splurge on the convenience. Once you are used to not ordering out or picking up expensive snacks, maybe you'll decide to do some extra prep work too. But you can take baby steps. You don't have to start by growing your own carrots. Start where you can.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
- Take a practice SAT for a baseline measurement
- Read through College Prep Genius a couple of times
- Learn the acronyms for each section
- Watch Master the SAT on DVD (or take the live class)
- and then it is a matter of practice and actual tests
- Taking a practice SAT, minus the essay, doing roughly an hour worth per day. (check!)
- Reading through College Prep Genius once (intro and Reading only). (barely started)
- Watching the DVD (overview and Reading only) and learning the acronyms as we work through that.
- Taking another practice SAT, only the Reading section.
- Repeat steps 2-4 for math, then for writing.
- Take a full practice SAT, more realistically this time.
- Analyzing what we have learned, and whether or not he is ready to take the test for real.
- Continuing to practice in one form or another... a combination of the book, the DVD, practice tests, and starting to work on the essays as well. How much practice will depend on when we want him to actually take the test.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
NO MAN STANDS SO TALL AS WHEN HE STOOPS TO HELP A BOY.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The website has some fantastic videos. On the homepage is one that is about 3 minutes, including some testimonials from kids and parents, a short demo and an explanation of some of the theory behind Quarter Mile Math. Go through the pages to find other videos. Probably my favorite is the key features one, here.
- Incredibly easy to install
- Can access from anywhere, since the score data is stored online. So, you can have more than one student using it at the same time if you install on multiple computers, and the student doesn't have to use the same computer each time. They actually encourage you to install it on multiple computers -- at Grandma's house even -- so that you can practice from anywhere.
- Can be used for everyone, for one price.
- Is basically straightforward math, with no flashy animations or smart-alecky virtual kids
- Has levels available for everyone. My 3 year old has topics that are easy enough for her; my K, 3rd and 5th graders have appropriate elementary topics; my algebra student has great options at the upper end; even I can find areas to drill.
- The new reporting options are fantastic, and help you to really see what your kids have been working on, and how they are doing (not applicable to the standard version)
- You aren't limited to working on any set schedule of topics. Have an 7th grader who isn't automatic with his times tables? It doesn't matter that the multiplication topics are considered to be 4th-6th grade level, he can still work those topics. But doing things "below grade level" doesn't stop him from being able to work on equations with integers, or other "level 3" topics.
- There is a new homeschoolers page, where you can print off a progress chart, read testimonials from other homeschoolers, etc. This page looks like it has serious potential to be a very valuable resource.
- Progress Chart - I printed one, handed it to my 7th grader, and gave him some ideas for how to use this. I told him that I do not want him doing things that are "Level 1" (K-3) except for the keyboarding topics. He can work on 4th-6th grade materials (improving automaticity on his basic facts sounds like a great plan). I love that I can print this over and over, for everyone, and I may keep these as part of our homeschooling records each semester.
- I can have my kids work mostly independently. I don't need to pull out flashcards, print off drill sheets, set the timer, check their work, etc. All of that is handled by the computer. This is the only drill (and we've tried LOTS) that my kids can actually continue to do when I'm busy with life. And they aren't bored to tears. (They don't LOVE it, but they do it without complaint)
- Will supplement any math curriculum. Whether you are doing a traditional scope and sequence, or using a non-standard one (Math-U-See, Right Start, Singapore), you can choose what to drill, so you don't have to have kids drill things they haven't covered.
- At $3 per month, this can be a great short-term option, for use during a maternity leave, over a "summer" break (we take off November and December instead of the summer), for use just to work on drill of a specific skill, or as a supplement when you are dealing with other life issues.
- Quarter Mile Math has been highly recommended as long as I've been part of the homeschooling community (a decade now), so it has a solid track record. And it is continuing to improve.
- Places outside the homeschooling community see value in the program as well, with it being used in Sylvan Learning Centers, for instance.
- Does not work on modern Macs, either the software version or the subscription (will run on OSX 10.4 with Classic, but nothing with an Intel processor)
- Needs internet access for the subscription, as scores are scored online (but the student is not "going online" to play)
- There really isn't any guidance about where to start, or where to go next, as far as the topics go. Nor is there anything explicitly pushing a student to move on to a more difficult topic.
- For kids who have done video or computer games, this definitely isn't going to be high on the fun factor.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
- Elementary levels -- I think in most cases, I wouldn't encourage people to get ALEKS long-term for elementary ages. If you have a strong reader, I could see this being an option for a couple months at a time (like maternity leave!) Or if you are at a point where you are considering hiring a math tutor, this would be a great alternative, particularly if you can be accessible to help to explain the provided explanations. For me, since I have to do the teaching either way, I will stick with far less expensive (and reusable) texts.
- Middle School -- in many cases, I can see ALEKS being a great option at this stage. The student should be able to be fairly independent here. The program will let the gifted math student cruise ahead, yet it will make them practice in those areas that need it. Or it will provide plenty of examples and practice for students who don't get math quite so easily. Being able to choose from a subset of topics gives students at either end of the spectrum some control over their learning, which is a good thing at this age.
- High School -- I think this is where ALEKS starts to shine. Being able to focus on the aspects of Algebra, Geometry, or more advanced math that you really need to work on, and to not have to spend time on the things that come easy to you... I love that. You can see in Connor's pie chart above that he has three area slices that are nearly filled. So he can work on exponents, polynomials, and proportions -- and not spend his time doing the arithmetic, geometry or linear equations.
- College -- okay, I haven't played here much yet (I'm having way too much fun reviewing geometry -- NOT -- but I do really and truly need this refresher) and I do plan to update my review to include more here. But the variety of courses available is fantastic. Basic Math through Precalculus, Statistics, plus prep courses for everything through Calculus. Plus a handful of accounting and other business courses. Plus chemistry. And nine of the courses can be done for college credit, not that I understand that system exactly.
- Parents -- now, this had NEVER occurred to me, but now that I have had the chance to do a trial month, this is something I would highly encourage. One concern I have had as a homeschool mom is that I never really understood geometry. And I have a son rapidly approaching that subject. There are things I've forgotten from algebra too (exponents of exponents, negative exponents, simplifying the square root of 54 without a calculator, etc.). I was able to complete Algebra I in a couple days, and after a couple weeks, finished Geometry. If I were doing this for myself, I would next move on to Algebra II, which I suspect I could finish before my month is up. Instead, for the sake of this review, I've done both high school Accounting courses, and I'll be poking around in some of the other courses -- statistics, business math, and probably some of the college level ones. Watch for an updated review :) I'm a huge proponent of "teacher training" for homeschoolers, and if you would be able to find a half hour a day for a month, you could really brush up on your math skills for $20. Very affordable continuing education, I think.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
I'll create an entry just to assure people that anyone really can homeschool.
We have a fairly small living room (14'x16' roughly) where we do the majority of our schoolwork and the majority of our awake life. We also do have a dining room table that is used for some seat work. The dining room contains plastic milk crate type boxes (2 stacks that are 3 high) where our current schoolwork is kept (meaning books we own that we are using NOW, and library books we might be starting next week). There are bookshelves in the rest of the house that store the not so current books.
The living room adjoins the kitchen. Starting at one end of the entrance to the kitchen is a chair where my oldest usually sits. Under that chair are some plastic boxes that contain colored pencils, notebooks, pens, etc. -- one box per child. Next to the chair is a rowing machine, then the freezer (no room for it in the kitchen. The freezer is where we tend to stack the schoolwork we plan to accomplish during the day, moving it back to the dining room milk crates as we get through it.
Up against the freezer is a couch and an end table. That would be where I would sit to have a child read to me, otherwise two-three kids occupy it. There is a bookshelf in the corner that houses DVDs, and another chair (the regular spot for son #2). Then comes BOB's place of honor, and a rocking chair which is usually occupied by son #3. There is a shelf in the other corner that houses printers and IGs, right next to my itty bitty computer desk. I have a fairly comfy office chair where I generally sit. Next is the television, which doesn't get any signal anymore, except through the VCR or DVD player. The white board leans up against the tv stand. It currently has the story of The Fall stick figured on it :)
Next to that is a small stand with a portable stereo. It's connected up so that we can use it to listen to anything we have in iTunes. Next to that is the CD rack, which sits next to the milk crates in the dining room, basically.
I know, pictures would help. A lot.
The dining room space is about 12'x8'. Basically, enough room for a dining room table. We do spelling there, and handwriting. And when we need to split the kids up a bit, we can usually get one or two people at the table working at the same time.
I’m going to edit this as we go, but here is a more or less complete listing of the movies we are watching alongside our Core 5 year. I post this knowing that people are going to be upset that we allow our children to view some of these.
First - a couple of series:
Pilot Guide, or GlobeTrekker, travel videos for many of the locations. These are targeted towards adults, so be sure to be with your kids, and have the remote handy. We have watched every one our library has, and a few others. The most objectionable content is usually in Western hemisphere ones -- and if you read the description, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to whether or not you are likely to have problems.
Hello from Around the World - we get these from the library.
Schlessinger Media has a couple series that tell about children in different countries, and about various hyphenated Americans. These are about 20 minutes, and quite informative, if not a little silly.
On to the movie list:
Ghost and the Darkness - probably not appropriate for younger viewers. There are a couple really scary moments involving lions eating people. My older boys really like this movie. Based on a true story.
Sahara - a family favorite. Rated PG13, mostly for violence. We always stop the movie before the beach make-out scene at the end. There are some great marketplace scenes, prayer calls, discussion of some of the tribal wars, and a trip to Gao.
Shackleton - starring Kenneth Brannagh - very, very long, and there are scenes where he is spending time with his mistress - nothing graphic, just clearly implied. The Antarctic stuff though is incredible. And the special features are fantastic as well.
Quigley Down Under - not a very accurate picture of Australian life, but gives a bit of the story of Aboriginal life, and the attitudes of some ‘whitefellas’ (to quote Red Sand, Blue Sky). Also gives a good feel for the immenseness, and harshness, of the Australian interior.
Rabbit Proof Fence - I don’t know about this one. It was nice to get a bit more of the Aboriginal point of view, but this just felt like a very long movie. The first part is almost all in an Aboriginal language, with subtitles, but it does switch almost completely to English after the first 10 minutes or so.
Big Bird in China/Big Bird in Japan/Aleph-bet Telethon - the two Big Bird movies are cute, and my preschoolers loved them. Great scenery, plenty of silly antics, and loads of very, very cute kids. My older kids did watch too, rolling their eyes when Big Bird said he couldn’t walk on ‘the wall’ because he’d get the wallpaper dirty. If you have younger kids, these are worthwhile. I wouldn’t go out of my way at all if you are doing the Core with just older kids. Aleph-bet Telethon, however, when you do Israel -- oh, DO get this one. Some great guests, and working through the Hebrew ABC’s is great. Unless you have children who truly hate Sesame Street (mine have never seen enough to have a strong opinion), this one is worthwhile.
Chariots of Fire - the movie is a little slow, and not completely accurate, but I think it is a must-view after reading the story of Eric Liddell (we watched it after finishing the Olympics chapter). My kids all like it, and there is nothing really objectionable in the movie. I’ve read that the actor did a very good job of imitating Liddell’s running style, and based on photos, it seems that way to me. If you don’t want your kids to have a spoiler, you might want to stop the movie before the ending, where text on the screen tells you that Liddell died in a prison camp in China in WWII.
Eric Liddell - Torchlighters - this is an animated version of Liddell’s life, which was enjoyable. It covered a couple events from his childhood, a few events from his running career, and a few events from his post-Olympic life. It does not really deal with his time in the prison camp, at least not in the animated part. The animation is not terribly good. My youngest children enjoyed this, but the older ones were a bit disappointed. However, the material on the bonus features was fantastic. The story of Liddell’s life is told through interviews with a number of people, including an Eric Liddell biographer, his oldest daughter, a Scottish pastor who worked on Chariots of Fire, and a LOT of people from the prison camp. There is footage from the Olympic win included. Everyone in the household over 7 was glued to the television for the documentary. I highly recommend this, and have holds on others in the Torchlighter series.
Gladys Aylward, from the Torchlighter’s series. We liked the animation better than in the Liddell one, and the documentary was fantastic too. Fascinating to actually hear her speak. I just wish there were more of these available (the other titles aren’t Eastern Hemisphere related - John Bunyan, William Tyndale, Jim Elliot, Richard Wurmbrand -- we may do his while doing Central Asia, aka former USSR countries, although he is from a European Soviet Block country, not Asia.)
Inn of the Sixth Happiness - Dale wanted us to watch this again -- he & I had watched it years ago and enjoyed it -- but it was really tough to watch (at least the second half) this time. The whole romance thing, and some of her ‘inclusive’ comments about religion, and them singing “This Old Man” as they marched through the mountains, and no prayer that a way could be found across the river, and... the kids basically said, “That was more fiction than fact.”
The Keys of the Kingdom - I wish we had waited and watched this alongside our reading of Mission of Cathay, which we started the day after the movie. The movie is based on an apparently fictional Roman Catholic priest (Gregory Peck) who serves as a missionary in China. I was really impressed with how the Chinese people were treated as actual characters (the movie is from 1944) and the protestant missionaries who move into town are also nice people -- and the Catholics and Methodists do get along.
Gandhi -- great movie to watch after reading the book. Gets into a lot more about his time in South Africa than the book does, and doesn't really deal with his life before that point. Some violence (his assassination, the massacre at, umm, wherever that was. Note to self, post stuff like that when you are *awake*). The movie is long and not exactly action-packed. My preschoolers could not care less... but the oldest two watched it fairly seriously. The 8 year old was absolutely appalled at how Gandhi was treated on the train, so I know he was watching. At least part of it.
Rikki Tikki Tavi -- we watched this after reading Just So Stories and The Jungle Books (we added this to the core). It was fun, and my younger ones especially loved it. It did follow the story very closely. I'm glad we added it.
Mother Teresa -- 2003 made for TV movie starring Olivia Hussey. This was good, although not completely accurate in details, assuming the SL biography is accurate. One thing that bothered us was that she was being called "Mother" when she was still just a Sister. This was well worth watching.
Big Bird in Japan - see Big Bird in China
The Last Samurai - there is a fair amount of violence, and Tom Cruise’s character is a drunken has-been soldier at the beginning. I would advise watching this one yourself to decide about whether it is appropriate for your kids. The highlight for us was the main samurai who was a good example of the whole artist warrior thing. Honestly, this is not a movie *I* would choose to let the kids watch.
Sayonara - if you choose to watch the entire movie, you may want to have a remote handy. Not that there was much that was inappropriate. Honestly, I was making dinner while dh was watching with the kids, so I don’t know the specifics. What is worthwhile, though, is to find the puppet show towards the end and watch that part. This goes along with The Master Puppeteer really well. We had to rewind and watch the puppet show part a few times (yes, I left the kitchen at that point!). The first time, we were focused on the storyline of the movie, so backing up and watching the puppet show itself without thinking about the movie characters was good. We backed it up and watched it a third time, focusing on the puppeteers. Worth renting, just for that scene.
The Way Home - this one is in Korean, with English subtitles. The kid swears a fair amount, which is off-putting. The basic plot is a mother leaves her totally undisciplined son with his grandmother for a period of time. The kid is a total brat, and grandma isn’t really in a position to discipline him. He eventually actually does do a couple of unselfish things. The grandma is mute, so there isn’t actually a lot of dialogue, and we did enjoy it.
Aleph-bet Telethon -- see Big Bird entry in China. Well worth watching.
Secondhand Lions - this movie is a family favorite. A fun combination of coming-of-age, fantasy, and adventure. Has very little actually to do with Africa or the Middle East, but fun anyway.
The Story of the Weeping Camel - in Mongolian, and everyone groaned about another subtitled movie. But seeing them in the yurts, and seeing the sand storm blow up, and hearing the music, and seeing the satellite dishes outside some of the yurts... well, it gave a nice feel for some of the hardships they suffer, some of their traditions, and some of the clash of modern culture.
Finding Nemo - the kids got a kick out of seeing things like the fish forming the Sydney Opera House. I put this in mostly to reinforce some of the reef life aspects of Australia, especially for my younger ones.
Island of the Blue Dolphins - the movie was roughly based on the book. Roughly. Nobody here particularly enjoyed it, and I certainly wouldn’t spend money to add it. If your library has a copy, it might be worth checking out. Some of the loneliness came through, but very little of the hard work and determination of Karina. The best thing I can say about the movie is that we had a great MST3K style hack-job going between us all. If only we could have projected our shadows onto the TV.
Molokai: the Story of Father Damien - this takes place in the Pacific Islands, and deals with a leper colony. May not be suitable for younger viewers or the squeamish, but we were all glad we watched it.
Anastasia (the animated one): This was fun. And we had some great discussions about it, and pulled up info in World Book to discuss reality. I had checked out the "classic" version of the story too, but I just didn't want to watch them both, so that was returned, unwatched.
Fiddler on the Roof: coming right after a discussion for the Showman activity badge about the difference between operas, operettas, and musicals -- this was great. I've always really enjoyed this movie, and the "Sunrise, Sunset" song is more of a tearjerker with each passing year.
The King and I: Okay, well, it was fun to watch. And we pulled up some websites to discuss the historical accuracies (or lack thereof), which made it a bit more educational. Of course, my kids are wandering the house, waving one hand in the air, saying, "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!"
Around the World in 80 Days -- we watched a number of things. I'll make separate items.
1) Disney version starring Jackie Chan as Passepartout. It was fun, I guess, as long as you go into the movie knowing that it is VERY loosely based on the book. As in, the names are similar, it takes place in about the same time period, and it does involve Fogg going around the world on a bet. Besides that, well, not much is similar. It did give us a bit to talk about though, and some scenes did give us a sense of the countries covered. I wouldn't pay to see this.
2) The 1956 one, starring David Niven, and winner of the Oscar for Best Picture. This followed the plot of the book slightly more than Disney did. It could have been a lot shorter had they cut all the scenes like Passepartout and the bullfight, and other similar scenes. Fogg was not played in the stiff upper lip manner we expected from the book.
3) The TV show from the BBC starring Michael Palin. This one was a winner. They weren't trying to "do" the book, the premise is that Palin is sent to see if he can get around the world in 80 days without the use of airplanes. This was fun. No rescuing Indian princesses or anything, but as they travel, the do spend some time in the various locations, and they do reference the book some. There were two scenes we fast forwarded... one in Tokyo, as he is going to bed in a "capsule hotel" where they show him watching 'adult programming' (nothing graphic is shown). The other scene was on the train from Chicago to New York, where he gets into a conversation about male strippers with some fellow passengers. Everyone in the house really, really enjoyed this, and I highly recommend it. We were able to get it from the library, and I know Netflix has it too.