Friday, August 31, 2007

Schooling (and Bragging)

I have read some of the first grade curriculum now, and my first thought was, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

Today's lessons:

Language Arts, their plan: fill out a worksheet called "autobiography" that is a "fill in the blank with one word then draw a picture" worksheet.
Language Arts, what we did: discuss the roots and definition of the word "autobiography." We're reading "Little House on the Prairie," which Caleb identified as an autobiography. Outline an autobiography with one "chapter" for each year of Caleb's life and write the first chapter. Then move on to other topics--edit a short story into a play.

Math, their plan: do online worksheets identifying numbers 1-6.
Math, our plan: introduce the concept and look of long division.

Science, their plan: What lives in the ocean?
Science, what we did: Experiment--which holds better, low temp hot glue or high temp hot glue?

Social Studies, their plan: What are some rules and why do we have them?
Social Studies, our plan: Discuss personal responsibility and talk about not doing things that hurt us when we're angry.

Arts, their plan: draw with crayons
Arts, what we did: Watch puppetry videos (hooray Maxed Out Puppetry!); discuss how different puppets are constructed and where people get puppets. Design your own puppet. Write instructions for how you think you could effectively turn a stuffed animal into a puppet. Discuss what is required to create a puppetry troupe (puppeteers, etc) and name the troupe (Timed Out Puppetry, since Caleb's middle name is Timothy, and Tim is short for that, and when you add an 'ed' that turns into Timed). Plan to build our own puppets and put on a show.

And I was worried that my haphazard, unplanned homeschool was inadequate! None of my lessons were planned. I just siezed the moment and the kids' interests and made sure to talk about them. We covered all the required subjects, and in much more depth, with hands-on activities, and on a much more advanced level.

Now what am I going to do about the "word wall" assignment? They want me to post words on the wall for Caleb to practice sight-reading and spelling. The words assigned this week include "little" and "a." Caleb should be learning words like "homosapien" and "technocrat," and even those he probably would pronounce right (or nearly right) the first try. Maybe we can make the first grade word wall for Anda. She's only 4, but it's really just on her level....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There and Back Again

We joined Tim on one of his whirlwind tour segments, and it was exhausting. Mostly because for 3 days I didn't sleep more than four hours a night, all the hours of sleep were interrupted by nightmaring children and fussy dogs, and then we ran ran ran all day. Tim did a morning show, opened for a concert, helped his college group learn to evaluate shows, went to a wedding with me, and drove something like 25 hours in 4 days. I visited family, went to a wedding and reception, got my hair shaped (my sisters insisted), and tried to see every member of my family. The kids played with cousins and played nintendo.

Funny thing that happened: we left the kids with Aunt Beth while we went to the wedding, and when Dan woke up and found her there, he actually thought it was me. Beth and I look something alike--except we have different hair, different skin coloring, different noses, different eye color, and she's 4 inches shorter and 50 lbs lighter than I am. Still, Dan was legitimately confused when I showed up on the porch. He looked back and forth at us and said, 'Mommy! Another one! This one. This one. This one. Another one!" Finally Beth showed him the family picture and told him who she was, and he got it. But not until he clung to her instead of me (as if I were the babysitter) and asked repeatedly, "Where's Dad?"

We had a nice trip. The wedding was nice. It's always amusing to watch musicians and their musician crowds networking ("schmoozing" Tim calls it). The music, as usual, was far too loud for the space (Look at what living with a sound guy has done to me!). The reception was in the McCune Mansion in SLC, a restored Victorian mansion. I could have spent all year exploring that place. It even had a turn of the last century luxury bathroom--it looked like a spa. Benjamin was so impressed that he threw up all over the floor.

It was a very introspective trip for me. I learned that I did, indeed, lose my girlish figure, but what I gained (four children so far) was so so so much more valuable to me that I wouldn't go back, and will never mourn the loss of my figure. I realized that doing prominent things isn't the same as doing important things (a very nice article about Jane Clayson--she's LDS!--and why she quit her job to be a mom helped solidify this for me), and that I'd really rather be doing important things. I realized that when you are married to a musician, so many people are counting on them in a totally unique way that you really have to fight every step of the way to be a family--and it is worth it. I realized that the truly Christlike behaviors are not big--they are in completely tuning in to other people and doing the small things that make their lives easier and their memories more precious and happy. I learned that the General Authorities of the LDS church are not really Great Men in the world's sense, but they are most definitely great servants--humble people willing to do whatever the Lord wants--and that, given the choice, I'd willingly follow one of them over any of the Great Men the world has to offer. I'd much rather spend an hour with Elder Hales than an hour with the President. And I want to be like those great servants, even though it means I will never be a Great Woman according to the world.

It was a good trip.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Daniel's Collection

Tonight Caleb leapt onto the couch, and Daniel yelled from across the room, "NOOOOO!!!! Cawub! No!!!!" And started crying.

I reassured him that Caleb wasn't trying to hurt anything and it would all be okay. Then, when he was calm, I said, "What were you saving on the couch?"

"Boogers," Dan said.

I looked at him for a second and then said, "You were saving your boogers on the couch?"

"Yes," Dan said, nodding.

"Did you put them on the couch?" I asked.

"Yes. On tissue," Dan said.

Then he trotted over and retrieved a tissue Caleb had knocked off the arm of the couch and replaced it in exactly the same place it had been in before Caleb jumped.

How do I solve this one? I don't think I want a booger collection to live on the couch forever, but.....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


As noted in a previous post, I am really excited about the possibilities inherent in cyberschooling your children. It seems like a nice blend of public school and home school, especially since in Colorado, we have school choice, so we can choose any of a number of cyberschools (many of which are charter schools).

So I've been doing a lot of research. There are actually many cyberschools in Colorado. We think we've finally chosen CDELA. Here's a rundown of my reasons for choosing/not choosing some schools:

COVA--Colorado's biggest online school. They are actually just the K-12 School, a well-known homeschool curriculum, administered by the State Online. The reason I didn't choose this one: The online information is condescending in the same way public schools are ("WE know more than YOU about what's good for your child; you have to do it our way because we are RIGHT.") and it isn't really a "cyberschool" (one that takes advantage of the possibilities of technology), just a paper school administered online.

Branson School Online--Seemed like a good possibility. They never gave me a "yea" or "Nay" about Caleb's application, and when I emailed them, they said "Busy time of year" and then "Call the office"--but the office closes at 4:00 pm and isn't open on Friday, so I haven't managed to reach them.

Rocky Mountain ESchool--Uses the CompassLearning Odyssey curriculum, but all their email links are broken. They are administered out of VILAS, CO, which is essentially a ghost town, so they may be defunct. Who knows. They went through "host Schools" anyway, so I'm not sure what that's all about.

Connections Academy--a national "franchise" cyberschool. I was really excited about this school because they have gifted and talented programs for kids once they reach the third grade curriculum, and they can get there as fast as they want. So we applied. But then we got the course listing, and it turns out they are just an online-administered Calvert School (another well-known homeschool books-and-paper curriculum). They are also heavily involved in supervising how you supervise your child's education. Both they and Calvert Curriculum are for "box-checkers" and also seem to not "get" what technology and education should do for each other. It's a fairly traditional "read the book answer the questions" approach to schooling, and you don't spend much time on the computer, and they micromanage a little too much for me. Plus, when I read their print materials, I got the impression that, while they have a gifted program, the school is really geared toward remediation rather than acceleration (which may explain their micromanaging of kids and parents--they cater to people who haven't been succeeding). So I kept this as an option because Caleb was accepted, but it's not my first choice.

CDELA--Colorado Distance and Electronic Learning Academy. This is also a branch of a national "franchise" kind of cyberschool, but it is only in Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania so far. It is also the CompassLearning Odyssey curriculum. But they had links to the curriculum on their website, and I liked it. It is actually an online curriculum, mostly animated, and fun. Caleb even re-did the "dry" lessons over and over, loved taking the tests, incorporated the jokes into his daily idiom, and (most importantly) remembered every fact and detail he heard on it. The school mandates "class attendance"--once or twice a week, each class meets with their teacher online, and participate in a lesson together through cameras, microphones, and the internet--the kids even have to raise their hands to answer questions, which is one of the three things Caleb cited as his reasons for wanting to attend a "big building" school. They do their informational sessions for the parents online, too. They do send book and paper kind of materials, but that isn't the whole curriculum. Also, they don't micromanage parents--you are required to take attendance hours, keep track of lessons, etc, and report in once a week (instead of once or twice a day). And the class size is small (6 first graders), so the teacher can pay attention to Caleb and talk to him on the phone when he struggles, etc. They seem to cater to the "advanced" students and responsible, college-educated parents. We'll see what happens next--if Caleb can get in, what curriculum actually gets assigned, etc.

I've decided that the trouble with educators is they are a self-feeding system: people who did well at school the way it is now are the ones who go into education, and because they did well, they see no reason to change things up. Consequently, even when they "embrace online education", they do just the same thing they've always done. Very few people (if any) have actually sat down and said, "What can technology really do for education" and made a school out of THAT.

We'll see what happens--I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 10, 2007


So I've had the same hairstyle for the last 26 years. Not an exaggeration. But knee-length hair is more than a pain, so I got 36" cut off. Also not an exaggeration. This is the new me, blow-dried and styled by the lady who cut my hair.

Today, I just washed it and let it dry, and I had something of a shock. Apparently my hair was being pulled straight by the weight. It's actually QUITE wavy. Who knew? And it naturally flips out. This was not what I had planned for. So now I look a lot like the lady on this logo. (I had copied the image here, but I want Caleb to go to that school, and one of their policies is that you can't use the school logo on a private web location....)

There are some things you shorthairs know that I'm learning. For example, drying off with a towel is all different now. When I move my head, my hair moves. This is a strange sensation for me. When I want to look over my shoulder in the car, I don't have to lean forward first (to release my hair). My hair "swishes", as Dan says. How do you brush short hair? It dries really fast (why would anyone need a blow dryer, anyway--it dries by itself in a few minutes!). It's thicker than I thought, and blonder (who knew?).

The most bizarre things: someone gave me a new shadow; and Tim looks at me different now, like it takes a second for him to realize who I am (I've looked the same the whole 15 years we've known each other, so no wonder....).

I like the new do. It feels like I'm wearing my hair up all the time, but without the headache the clips gave me sometimes. It'll take a while to get used to, though.

I'm trying to finalize the deal for the $2000 the ponytail is supposed to bring in, and then, after I receive the payment, I'll ship my hair.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

quick non-yucky lasagne

Mary gave me Desperation Dinners, a cookbook of 20-minute dinners for families. I took their lasagne recipe, modified it to make it cheap and even easier, and it came out tasting just like the real thing, but without heating up the house and without the hour of baking time wait because you don't bake it. And my way you can feed a family of 4-6 for about $6 if you add a can of fruit and a fresh veggie on the side

So, here it is:

1 lb hamburger
10 lasagne noodles, broken into 1-2" 'squares' (if you buy the 8 oz box, you can just bang the box on the counter until they're shattered)
1-2 c grated cheese
1 can or jar spaghetti sauce
garden veggies (opt)
cottage cheese (opt)
whatever else you like in lasagne (opt)

Boil the noodles until tender (8-10 minutes at this altitude) (I know, you don't have to do this when you bake it.....). While the noodles boil, defrost the burger in the microwave and then brown it with whatever veggies you are using (onion flakes? green pepper? zucchini? carrots?) in a large skillet with a lid. Drain the grease out. Stir in the spaghetti sauce. When the noodles are done, drain them. Take most of the meat sauce out of the skillet, leaving just a little so the noodles don't burn. Layer everything in the skillet: noodles, cheeses, meat, noodles, cheeses, meat. Top with one last layer of shredded cheese. Put the lid on, put it on low heat, and let the cheese melt.


And good.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oh, this week!

Usually, I lead a fairly charmed life. Now, you're looking at past posts and saying, but you had that computer virus fiasco, and the medicaid stuff, ADD, insomnia, childbirth, husband unemployed, etc. I know. I still feel like I have a charmed life (think how much worse it could be!). I used to say that life isn't fair--and I got the long end of the stick.

That said, I think this week was designed to even things out.

Sunday, despite our best efforts, we were ten minutes late to church. By the time we got there, every person in the family had either cried or shouted or both, so nobody was happy. And ten minutes was apparently too much too late, so we didn't get to bless our baby, even though it was on the schedule. They said, "Get here sooner next time." Um, we can't. We really did do our very very best (after only 4 hours of sleep). I cried for hours, but eventually felt better after praying a lot.

Then, after all the work I did rewiring the swamp cooler, Sunday Night it developed a short and I couldn't find the broken spot. So Monday I went up on the roof (while the kids were sleeping and Tim was gone to Utah) to fix it, and the ladder slipped. I managed to jump to the roof and grab the ladder, but then it took me 20 minutes on a 180 degreee roof to find a stable spot to put the ladder down--it only worked after I prayed that I could get down.

My fix only worked for about 20 minutes, and then the whole thing shorted again, so I unwired it from the wall. It was only keeping the house 81 degrees cool anyway....

So I turned on the window-mount air conditioner I had already dragged up from the garage and installed in Ben's window. Then I went down to figure out if the central air was fixable. I read the instructions and cleaned it, reset it, and turned it on. Nothing. So, at Dad's suggestion, I followed the wires into the house and discovered....they'd been cut. I finally figured out where they belonged, but I needed the thermostat installation instructions to fix it--and I'd told Tim to throw them away Sunday night, and my computer wouldn't open the pdfs to read the online ones (way to go adobe update!).

So on Tuesday Tim was home and I spent all day in the heat cleaning the house and folding laundry because one of the moosebutter guys and his girlfriend were going to spend the night here before they all left for the next tour block. Good news, though: I found a product that we could paint onto our flat black roof that would reflect up to 90% of the heat that the roof is currently absorbing and putting into the house, plus it would seal the leaks we've developed after the blizzard last winter, and it has a 7-year guarantee (and lasts up to indefinitely). And we could do the whole roof and garage for $150. For a whole new, energy-star rated, efficient roof. Not bad. The bad news: no way to get it here, and nobody to watch the kids while I put it on because....

Wednesday morning early Tim left again, not to return until Sunday night.

So we're sitting in the heat, with no car, and me alone with four kids, and so what happens? I get sick, naturally. As sick as I've been since I had that horrid sinus infection when I was 7 weeks pregnant with Daniel. I caught the intestinal flu that Anda had, except (mercifully) I haven't been throwing up--yet. But literally every time I stand up I have to run to the bathroom, and nothing is really staying in my system long enough to give me an nutrition. Plus everything aches. It's bad enough that Caleb noticed and got worried about me.

Of course, after 12 hours of this (it lasts a week) I became concerned about my milk supply. So I prayed that I would have enough milk.

It worked.

Now, to add to my discomfort everywhere else, I am thoroughly engorged with milk--as bad as when Ben was a newborn.

Fortunately, my earnest prayers that the house stay cool enough to live have been answered with massive rainstorms and nice cool breezes every afternoon this week.

Caleb got accepted to one of the online schools I applied for, but now he doesn't want to do ANY school, which I wouldn't mind except that I think he'll actually like the online school (has anyone heard of Calvert Math? Is it any good?). The one I really want him to go to hasn't gotten back to me yet--it was the more flexible, less-required-of-the-parent option. The one he's accepted to requires me to schedule our lives, and I'm not good at that. I can enforce 5 hours of school a day, and help with lessons, but I'm not good at saying the lessons have to be in the same order and start at the same time each day...).

So I'm counting the days until Sunday. I should feel better by then. Tim will be home. My milk supply will have settled back into a pattern. Monday morning, Tim said he'd go get the roofing stuff at Home Depot and paint it on, and with another adult in the house to watch the kids, I should be able to find the short in the swamp cooler and rewire the air conditioner back to the thermostat (if I can access that one pdf.....).