Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cool technology, also the nature of revelation....

This article reports a computer program that can do a textual analysis and identify passages that were written by different authors (or different passages that were written by the same author). It has all kinds of fun potential applications--identifying who wrote disputed Shakespeare plays (or which sections of the collaborative plays the Bard actually wrote),  identifying "anonymous" writers, identifying is a work is collaborative or not.

And people are using it to identify which sections of the Bible were written by different people.

The concept of teasing out the authors of a scriptural selection are very cool. This could tell us, down to the verse, what sections of the Book of Mormon are quotes from even ancienter texts and what are comments by the editors--Mormon and Moroni. Provided it is accurate.

And provided the people who use it have a solid understanding of scripture, revelation, and the nature of writing.

Which the researchers in the above article apparently did not.

They have an underlying assumption that some passages were written by men and others dictated directly from God, using his words.

The underlying assumption way eye-opening for me. I often don't realize how much we know!

I hardly know where to start on this one!

For one thing, understanding the transmission of the Bible is important. We have no original copies of the Bible. In fact, the individual sections of the Bible were copied and passed along numerous times before the book was even collected into the form we now know as the Bible.  Any time a piece of writing is copied, there are transmission errors--even when the copying is done by careful, intelligent scribes.  Further, the copies we do have are translations--translations into modern languages, or modern forms of ancient languages. For this program to give you any kind of valid data, you'd have to feed in texts that were the oldest, most accurate you could find, and the program would have to be able to "understand" the ancient language forms. Further, you'd have to be aware of your own transmission errors as you fed the data in!

While we believe the Bible to be the word of God, we don't believe the translation inconsistencies, transmission errors, and excisions that muddy the doctrine to be the word of God.  There is also the possibility (in fact, probability) that the Bible was actually "edited" along the way--sometimes by institutions who needed the Bible to support their doctrines, sometimes by people who were trying to make it more accessible (but without a complete knowledge of the meaning of the scripture, this simplification unintentionally changes doctrine--that's why I don't read Bibles that were translated from older English into more modern English--especially when the work was done by religious do-gooders or scriptural scholars, who would impose their doctrinal understanding on the translation, instead of prophets or linguists).

Any change to the text can potentially affect the results the computer gets, of course. And, in a translation, the computer might actually be identifying the translators linguistic marks as well as the author's.

Separate from the transmission of texts, the creation of texts in general and religious text in specific has to be considered.

For one thing, authors do develop over time. If a prophet were writing revelations down over the course of 50 years, their writing style might change and develop. My writing style has changed over the last 7 years as I studied writing. I know lots of people who put on a different "voice" when they write different things (like religious stuff they write in an affected voice, while day-to-day activities they write in a very casual voice, and blog entries they use a more formal voice). My fiction certainly doesn't sound like my journal entries. And even within a journal entry, if I'm describing a dream I had, I write it differently than when I am recounting a conversation, or giving a rundown of my day. Before I could fully trust the computer, I'd like to see that it could properly identify an author even if he or she were using different "voices".

The nature of revelation changes this whole discussion, too. For example, we know that God speaks to each people in their own language and tongue. If the goal is for us to understand His instructions, he's not going to answer my prayers in Hindi, or a Russian woman's prayers in German. Furthermore, He's not going to answer a 4 year old's prayers in a way that only a college professor could understand, although He is masterful at putting so many layers of meaning into an answer that it can mean something now and something later--but always in keeping with our capacity to understand. Sometimes it does require pondering, looking up words, etc, but it's always still within our capacity to get meaning out. God is not trying to confuse us. He's not trying to show off. He is trying to teach us and guide us, and what good is a guide who you can't understand, even when you try?

So--the nature of revelation.  Even if you have a scripture that is dictated directly from God, He is going to use language that both the receiver of the revelation (the prophet) and the intended audience can understand. We might, for example, find Isaiah completely baffling. But, according to Nephi, Isaiah's early readers who were in the culture that produced Isaiah found his writing to be abundantly clear and easy to understand.

Further, while sometimes God does dictate revelation to prophets, sometimes he sends them visual dreams and visions that they then have to find a way to relate using the words they know, in their language. This doesn't make it any more or less from God, but it might change the linguistic tags. Sometimes prophets are given information and understanding, but left to teach it using the language and inspiration they get at the moment and someone else writes it down, adding another layer of complexity (did the student taking notes actually take dictation, or paraphrase?).  Sometimes they grasp a truth and then teach it repeatedly in different ways, adding clarifications and details and examples as they go--and this gets written down as prophetic speech.  Sometimes prophets are merely telling the story of their own life experiences (Elijah and the widow with her cruse of oil comes to mind, as does the Book of Nephi).  Sometimes they are relating a story told to them (Luke's versions of the Annunciation and the birth of Christ come to mind).  Also, prophets tend to quote and paraphrase one another frequently (1 Nephi comes to mind--he tells his father's vision in chapter one, and quotes Isaiah extensively later on). And sometimes prophets are quoting other prophets and then interject editorial comments in the middle of the quotes (like many many sections of Moroni). Commandments of God are recorded different than the text of ordinances (like the prayer said at baptism or over the sacrament) and different than a prophet's experience, and different than a vision, and different than a sermon given to a real live group of people, and different than someone else's recounting a sermon they heard. And all of those can be written down by the very same person--but it might affect their linguistic tags. All of these circumstances change the way we view revelation from being a static, scholarly thing to being a living, active, flexible things, without altering their status as the word of God. And that changes how you view the texts, and what our understand of "God's word" is.

It is not any less God's word for being among the "Priestly" (as the article refers to them) writings versus direct transcription from dictation from God. Nor do the dictated segments accurately identify God's linguistic "voice" because He would have been speaking in the "tongue" of the prophet taking the dictation (or taking the tablets that were written by God's hand).  It's much more complex than teasing apart who wrote which sections of a business manual written by a committee.

I can almost guarantee, though, that someone is going to say, "See, it says Isaiah was written by two people! Proof that the Bible isn't true." Or "Clearly different authors for the Bible means it's not the word of God, or it would all have the same author!" It shows an immense lack of understanding of the nature of transmission of ancient texts, of the nature of revelation, of the nature of God.

Take the example they cite of Isaiah. Apparently, according to the computer program, the Book of Isaiah was written by two different people, with the division occurring at chapter 33 (although content-wise the division is really at chapter 36). I can think of multiple reasons the program might identify this, none of which is faith-destroying:

1. Perhaps someone at some point smashed together the Book of Isaiah and one of the books that we identify as "lost scripture" (scripture that is quoted by other prophets but we don't have the book anymore). Perhaps half of Isaiah is actually the book of Zenock? or Zenos? Loose, unbound manuscript pages are easily lost or combined with other manuscripts. This may have been an accidental excision or an intentional editing decision. Both happen. (Personally, I don't think this is the case unless it happened right after Isaiah was around because Nephi quotes freely from both halves of the Book of Isaiah, identifying the sections as written by Isaiah as early as 600 BC.)

2. The Book of Isaiah was not written at one sitting. Perhaps one half was written so many years apart from the other that Isaiah's writing style evolved, developed, changed.

3. The content is different. The last half of Isaiah is stories of actual events and poetic, song-like verses about Jesus, and prophecies about the far-distant future of Israel, and advice for the future generations. The intended audience appears to be latter-day Israel rather than early-day Israel, which would change the way God would speak, and also the way Isaiah would speak (you write a letter to your mother different than to your as-yet unborn great grandchildren).  The first half of Isaiah is written more from a first-person "I saw this" kind of approach and contains more revelations that were given to specific people who were contemporaries of Isaiah. Where the last half actually feels like a handful of  long revelations, the first half is obviously a series of many short revelations given to specific people or groups at the time Isaiah was alive. Personally, I find the last half easier to understand--mostly because the content is more applicable to me, personally.

4. Perhaps the two halves, as we have them, were translated and copied by two different people. Notice the division occurs exactly half-way through the book--even half-way through a specific revelation, which seems to span chapters 32-35. That is absolutely the logic of two people assigned to copy pages who simply divided the work--and not the logic of someone adding on to the text or smashing two different texts together and calling it one. The possible translators/copyists left their linguistic tags on their different sections, and the computer picked up on that.

5. Perhaps the first half was written down by Isaiah himself and the second half is actually transcripts of lectures or sermons he gave. We speak very differently than we write, using different tags and markers.

6. Perhaps the computer isn't as refined as it thinks it is.

As always, a computer here is a useful tool, but it is no replacement for a brain.

Ultimately, the truth of the Bible cannot be determined by scholarly research anyway. It can only be determined by going to the source (whether He was the author of the exact words or not) and asking Him if it is true. That is one of the greatest legacies of Joseph Smith--the knowledge that we can ask God ourselves, and He will answer us.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Benji and Nathanael say:

Benji: "I want more of that chocolate bread!"
Me: "It was pumpkin bread."
Nathanael: "There are no chocolate pumpkins!"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Couple of things I feel strongly about:

So this couple went on Seinfeld's TV show, "Marriage Ref," and the lady got the idea that her greatest happiness would come from "following her dreams" and "Becoming famous." So she deserted her family and bailed.

Most of you don't know that this show contacted us and tried to convince Tim that his kazooing (for his Kazoo Man video) must be driving his wife crazy and we should come be on their show. No thanks, Tim said, "My wife actually likes my kazooing." (I do. I think it's funny. And I love it when people say, "What does your husband do for a living?" and I can answer, "He's a YouTube viral video star and professional kazooist.")

So here's the thing this article made me realize: chasing your dreams is not in any of the instructions God has given us anywhere. Using our talents is, but chasing dreams? Becoming famous? Never. And we know that God wants us to be happy, and that the commandments and instructions He gives are to make us happy. Therefore, if He didn't ever say, "Also, pursue your dreams at all costs," but He did say to put family first (and then gave--and continues to give--us LOTS of instruction on how to do that), then, despite what pop culture tells you, chasing your dreams is probably not as likely to make you happy as forgoing your dreams to develop a stable, happy family.

Just something to ponder next time you start thinking fame and fortune are where it's at.

Second article and idea:

I don't see what's wrong with being different and going from there. I don't think gender bias is a good thing when it makes boys not allowed to play in the kitchen or girls ostracized from legos. I think paying people less because of their gender is wrong. But I don't think it's wrong for women to be allowed to be womanly, and to be given the support to develop womanly characteristics when they're young (and men, likewise, masculine characteristics).  Because let's face it: Men and Women are DIFFERENT. And while my heart goes out to transgender kids, I don't think it's okay to slight 99% of the kids so that the 1% doesn't have to struggle. Why? Because it will make it so 100% of the kids have to struggle instead of just 1%.

And for all the attempts to make gender roles "evil," biology cannot be denied--and men can't bear or nurse babies, and women can't father them.

So instead of promoting false gender stereotypes (like boys have no feelings and girls have no brains), we're swinging far far out the other way (boys and girls are not just equal, but the same and gender is culturally defined, not biologically defined unless you're gay, and then it's all biology and none culture).

I think all children would benefit from being raised in a culture where it's okay to be a feminine girl, and it's okay to be a masculine boy, where it's okay for women to have estrogen and men to have testosterone.  And where it's okay for both to want children, and to want to raise the girls to be good mothers and the boys to be good fathers.

Any thing else, no matter how good-intentioned, is the death of culture and society because solid families are the foundation. And going genderless promotes gender confusion, not healthy gender identity. Personally, I think it's empowering to children to be allowed to accept who they are and not be taught that it's not inherently okay to be what biology and their genetics made them.

I think genderless society is short-sighted, sterile, and created by the same fantasy-loving paradigm that tells women to leave their families to follow their dreams.

Neither is going to lead to happiness, stability, or good.

Did I just read that?

"Monday, Carson — with his blue mohawk, white T-shirt, brown shorts and green hospital socks — left the hospital and walked to his parents' car on his own power. "I'm very glad to be alive," Carson said. 
Carson looked like any typical 9-year-old boy..... "

Because all 9 year old boys have blue mohawks.....

Did I just read that?

"Time-Traveling Sex Partners May Be Bad for Your Health, Scientists Say"
Read more:

Well, then, since that is a real threat around here......

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The quest for cooling continues

I have this new theory. One contributing factor to the nation's obesity problems is climate control. Especially in the summer. When the weather is cold, mammals tend to put on fat to keep warm. They then use up the fat when the weather gets warm, right? So...we're mammals. And we are never triggering our bodies to shed the fat because we keep ourselves so climate controlled all the time--never get to the hot part. 

At least, I noticed that, since it's been 85 degrees in the house for 2 weeks, none of us has eaten very much, and eating meat seems absolutely disgusting (the Word of Wisdom's advice to eat meat sparingly and especially in times of winter, cold, or famine makes a lot more sense when your body is allowed to deal with heat!). So the heat very clearly puts our bodies in a completely different mode--a burn up the fat, load on the vitamins and liquids (fruit, which is in season--there's that Word of Wisdom popping up again) mode. Just being hot and dealing with that, I lost 5 lbs this week, not even trying anything special.

But the 85 in the house has been our reality for about 2 weeks now, and I can't function and would rather find other ways to lose weight. I can't cook. Can't clean. Can't get the kids to do school. Can't think. It's not fun. When I mentioned it to my parents, they said, 'Oh, we'll give you a little money to get the A/C fixed.'  Hooray! Happy birthday to us! Last time we got it charged, wired, and serviced was in 2007, and it cost about $85.  I figured, even with the pipes that were cut when the furnace was installed, it would cost at most double that.

So we got a guy to come give us an estimate. He was excellent. And they don't produce the kind of freon our central air uses anymore, so scarcity has driven up the price. $350 JUST for the freon, plus a couple hundred more for the repairs to the pipes, tightening everything down, checking for leaks....$600 total.


Right after he left, I did a little research--we need either a 5000-6000 cfm swamp cooler or an 18,000-23,000 btu air conditioner for this house. Both are usually WAY over our budget, even used. Even with the gift from my parents.

Still, desperate for something to get us cool, I checked craigslist. Literally 4 minutes before I turned it on, someone had posted an 18,000 btu air conditioner for $100! The catch? It had a 230 v plug (like a dryer, or a stove).

But we had an unused 230 v outlet in the garage....

Tim went and bought it.

Because of the way the garage and bedroom are set up, with the top 8 inches of the garage wall being back-to-back with the bottom of the bedroom wall, I figured it would be a simple thing to move the 230 v outlet into the house.

It's never as simple as you think. It was a two-trips-to-the-store job. If you've ever DIY home repairs, you know what I mean. But it wasn't terrible. Not by a long shot. Especially after I got a spade drill bit to drill the hole between the bedroom and the garage for the wire to go through. (Before that, we owned exactly one drill bit, and it wasn't long enough to go all the way through into the garage.)

So today (and a little yesterday), Tim held the baby, handed out popsicles, handed me tools, and starched his show clothes (good thing he could do that himself--I have ZERO idea how to starch anything). And I used the tape measure and stud finder to locate the best spot for an outlet in the baby's room, cut a hole in the wall with a steak knife (and I eyeballed it exactly the right size and shape--I was pretty pleased with myself!), drilled a hole into the garage. I shut off the power in the house to move the outlet only to discover the power in the garage is on a different circuit on a completely different circuit breaker--outside. I didn't even know our house had two circuit breaker boxes, so it's a good thing I tested the outlet before I started taking it apart! Then I installed the new outlet in the baby's room, ran 20 feet of wire through the garage, spliced the wires, and covered the box where I'd spliced them so no little fingers try to copy me. I have now successfully moved an outlet from one spot to another, and it's not hard. (Maybe next I can move the light switch for the master bathroom INTO the bathroom so it doesn't wake anyone up to use that bathroom at night).

And then, while the power was still off, I changed out the broken light in Tim's office that's been broken since 2005 and put in one he bought a year ago that we had not gotten around to installing. It's a really nice one, too. Tim has excellent taste.

Then we carried the new air conditioner up the stairs (at about 150 lbs, that was no minor task) and installed it in the window, and plugged it in, and...the moment of truth....

It worked!

And Tim's newly starched collars looked fantastic, too. Good thing he did that part--I would have ruined them.

So then we switched roles back and I rocked the baby and nursed him while Tim took the kids out front to tidy up the front yard so he could mow, since I don't know how to do that, either.

And did I mention I did all of this in a skirt?

Yeah, sometimes, I'm cool. 

And now our house is getting cool, too, and it's SUCH a relief. And also a blessing.

Did I just read that?

"Feds Look Into Truck Driver Killed in Fiery Amtrak Crash
Published June 25, 2011|"

Read more:


Friday, June 24, 2011

Did I just see that?

A screenshot snip from the Salt Lake Tribune's online edition:

Really? arts? Forget ballet, classical music, and fine masterworks sculpture. We want happy metal pigs with springy legs!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Did I just read that?

"She was arrested three months after her otherwise healthy 6-week-old daughter, Mirabelle Thao-Lo, was found dead in the family home on March 17."

Otherwise healthy...except she's dead. 

I guess dead _might_ be considered a state of health. Somewhere.

Weatherization done!

Furnace?  Thanks!

Fridge? Thanks!

Storm windows? Thanks!

New insulation? Thanks!

Shower head? Put in the wrong shower, but I fixed that easily enough, so Thanks!

Weather stripping on doors? They did the wrong one. Waste of resources and now I have to move it to the right door, but that shouldn't be too hard, so Thanks!

Visit from social services regarding our children?  NO THANKS!

And, quite frankly, I'd have gone without all the others if I had known they'd turn us in to social services to for allowing our children to sleep during they day when they don't sleep during the night.

Fortunately, the social worker could see that the charges against us were completely unfounded. But STILL!

Did I just read that?

"Duchesne man upset over broken window charged with murder"

I'd be upset if my window were charged with murder, too. Windows are one of the LAST things I'd want to become sentient. Windows and toilets.....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How I make a curriculum:

I'm working on a preschool music curriculum right now to post on Learning Lynx Classroom, and I thought I'd make a few notes about how I do it so other people can DIY schooling, too.

First, I always answer the question: What does learning this subject, in general and on all levels, encompass? Learning music encompasses learning how to produce music, the technology of music (both instruments and computers/recording), the theory behind how the sounds are strung together, and music in our culture (both folk and formal).

Then, considering my own child's ability level, I ask myself, "What do I want this child to ultimately be able to do/know in this subject?" Ultimately, I want Nathanael and Benji (my current preschoolers) to be comfortable with music in general; I want them to be able to make music somehow (instrument, voice, whatever), I want them to have a solid foundation in "music you should know" (folk and formal), and I want them to know enough to be able to connect with their dad on his career. If my answer to this question was, "I want them to become concert pianists, and they have the aptitude," then that would obviously direct my efforts. Since the answer is, "I want them to have broad exposure to music and know enough to know if they want to pursue it further themselves," then a broad music education is what I'm after.

I decided that the best approach for my kids is to engage them in noticing sounds, playing with "music" online, give them a brief introduction to instruments, and get them singing. Since I want my kids to learn the foundational music "literature" that will make them culturally integrated, I decided to focus the first year of preschool on nursery rhymes and the second year of preschool on children's folk songs. To be culturally literature, you really need to be familiar with the words and tunes of nursery rhymes and certain well-known folk songs. Plus, nursery rhymes and folk songs have words and melodies that are easy to remember and fun to sing--they are both catchy and "sticky," so it would be an easy way to get my own kids singing. On top of that, folk songs don't need to be sung with fancy soundtracks, syncopated drum sounds, or jazzy dance moves. (Ever try to sing one of those el. ed. music "pop songs" they teach kids in school? The melodies are "simplified" and usually both ugly and forgettable, the words are either propagandist, sterilized, or dull, and the songs sound terrible without their "rock star" synthesized tracks. That makes them useless to me.) Songs that are "designed" to teach a certain concept are not nearly as effective at getting music into kids' souls as folk songs. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The final step, then is to find materials that are age-appropriate, educationally sound, and engaging. The ideal is to have the lesson be so interesting that the child does further exploration on their own. Because I am homeschooling six kids, I really don't want to spend all day sitting with each child one-on-one teaching them their lessons. I want the computer to do that, with me there as the tutor and learning coach. So the rule for materials is I have to have a distinct URL to the individual activities (so 100% Flash-based sites like Melody Street are useless to me, despite the fact that they are engaging, colorful, musically and educationally sound), and the activities have to be child-ready (not, therefore, lesson plans). They can be interactives, videos, e-books, printables, websites to explore, etc. But they have to be child-navigable and child-ready. Unlike some educational materials libraries, I don't exclude pages with ads on them, or pages that require a log in. But I do insist that all materials are 100% free, and I have had to teach my kids NOT to click on ads.  Also, the pages have to load quickly, or the preschoolers click on to something else and miss the activity. 1 year olds aren't known for their patience! Finally, the activities have to be an appropriate length. While a 4th grader can handle a half-hour activity, preschoolers really do better with things that take 2-10 minutes--usually closer to 2.

A quick google search of "children's folk songs" gives you TONS of lyrics, and some bad midi tracks, but nothing terribly interesting--well, very little that is useful to kids "out of the box" (like this: . Great site, useless to set my preschooler free on). And most online music activities are too advanced for preschool age, so I decided to go with videos.

My first awkward steps into finding materials had me using the search box on YouTube for the words "nursery rhymes." No good. If you understand how search engines work and you understand the basics of cloud mentality, you realize people don't name their songs "nursery rhyme: Jack and Jill." Nor do they usually use the phrase "nursery rhymes" in the notes on videos.

I have since learned to do a google search for a list of songs, and then search YouTube for the individual song titles. Then I watch video after video, searching for the one that I think will be most effective at teaching my kids the songs.

If I already know the song, I am looking for the version I know or learned as a child (because I don't want to hear, "Mom! You're singing it wrong!" when I try to pass my own folk culture on to my kids). I am also looking for a good performance (nothing spoils a song faster than a bad performance) and a good recording of it (cell phone videos of live concerts don't cut it). Generally speaking, I prefer a video that is engaging visually, too: a cartoon, a puppet performance, a live performance that is filmed well and child-friendly, or even a slide show if necessary. Some of the best performances on YouTube are accompanied by a single static shot of a record cover. Not interesting to preschoolers!

Then, before I copy the link, I check the recommended videos on the side to make sure it's okay if the kids click on those videos (since they tend to while I'm in the bathroom or changing a diaper). Just today I had to eliminate most of the version of "Oh Susanna" I found because the recommended videos on the side bar included a hip-hop version with scantily clad European girls dancing and  a video whose image was of six nude women in the '40s. I didn't even click on that one, so I have no idea what it actually was, but I certainly don't want Benji to find out for me while I'm answering the phone or helping someone with long division!

Then I copy the URL into my spreadsheet. I actually used Google Docs Forms to make an online worksheet I fill out (it speeds things up) that lets me copy the url in, type a quick description (this is useful while I'm sorting the materials and also if I find one of the links is dead later on--I can go find a different video with the same content), and then click boxes for subject area, grade level (because I often find something that is great for my 2nd grader, or fits perfectly with what the Kindie will be learning), and the type of material it is (interactive, video, e-book, etc.)--this helps me get a variety of materials, and also helps me when I'm sorting the links later.

Once I've collected all the materials I want to include for the year, I open the spreadsheet that the form has been saving everything onto for me. I sort first by grade and copy the non-preschool materials onto other, grade-level-specific spreadsheets to deal with later. Then I sort by subject area (to eliminate things I found that belong in, say, science or art). Then I copy the music activities to a different spreadsheet to make it easier to sort and re-sort without mixing in the art or science activities.

When I type the description of each link, I try to use Tags (like "Folk song: Handclapping chant: Miss Mary Mack" or "Folk Song: Oh Susanna".  That way, when I go to sort the links into the order I want the kids to learn them, it's a lot easier. First I sort (using the spreadsheet program's sort function) by the description column. That puts all the activities with the same tags in blocks. Then I add numbers to the description box, before the tags if I want the activities scattered throughout the curriculum or after the tags if I want all activities with similar tags taught in a cluster. For example, if I want my child to do all five activities on the violin five days in a row, I would number them to show up in a cluster (either by giving them the same number before the tag or by numbering them in the order I want them done after the tag). If I want them to do one activity on the violin, then one on the cello, then one on the bass drum, etc. and then come back to the violin after they've covered all the other instruments, I would number the violin activities 1-5 before the tag, and number all the other instrument activities in the same way. Then I use the sort function.

I keep sorting, re-labeling, sorting, and fine-tuning (sometimes by copy-and-paste) until I am satisfied that every single activity is in the place in the curriculum where it will have the greatest educational impact. With music this is really easy because it doesn't really  matter what order they hear the folk songs, so it goes really fast. Science activities are painstakingly slow, as are history and math (and most subjects, actually, except art and music) because every single activity is best done in a certain single spot in the curriculum, and I have to dig through everything and make sure it's just right to maximize the learning and minimize the stress on the kids. Concepts should flow, one to the next, building upon each other with little strain on the child's brain, so that learning is natural, fun, and easy.

When I am satisfied that the lessons are in order, I copy the data from the "work" spreadsheet onto a permanent, in-order grade level spreadsheet.

Then I copy JUST the links to a google doc, keeping them in order. This makes it easier for me to cut-and-paste them into the website I've created as an interface for my kids. You could just have your kids work from a list. Or you could enter the links into "The Head of the Class" using their customize curriculum option, and then they keep records for you and also have a fantastic interface for the kids to access the lessons with no confusion--it automatically moves the kid to the next lesson on the list. The other advantage of The Head of the Class is they will distribute the topics for you, eliminating the need for the next step.

Using the spreadsheet, I then find out how many activity links I have. I have my kids on a 180-day school year, and I want the links spread evenly throughout the year.

Then I have to do the math. Since math is not a native skill for me, I just muddle through. I can't explain exactly how I do it. It has something to do with the fact that it doesn't matter if you divide the number of days by the number of activities or the other way around, as long as you look at it right, and also with discovering how many are left over and how often you need an extra day (like we have music alternating every 3rd and 4th days, or we have math every day with two activities on every sixth day). If you really need to know, I'm sure I could figure out some instructions. The easy way, though, is to use "distribute topics" under "Customize curriculum" on The Head of the Class website.

So once I figure out how often I need a particular subject, I plug the icons into the website (or delete extras from the template I made--whatever works), assign the links to the icons, and we're good to go.

It's a lot of work, actually.

Good thing I enjoy it.

Note on the math:
I ended up with 145 music activities. That means I have to skip 35 days, evenly spread over the whole year, but otherwise have music every day.  To evenly distribute the missed days, first I divided 145/180. That equaled .80, which is the same as 8/10, which is the same as 4/5. That means I put music activities on 4 of every 5 days, or, in other words, I skip every fifth day.

To check my math, I divided 35/180, which equals .19. This is almost .20, which is the same as 1/5, or one out of every five. .20 plus .80 equals 1.00, or 100%, so that means I did the numbers right. I'm never sure, though until I start plugging it all in. So far, it's worked every time!

I've worked out some hints for myself, so I don't have to muddle through every time:

36 items means 1 every 5th day; 45 items means 1 every 4th day; 60 items is one every 3rd day; 90 is one every other day; 145 is four of every five days; 260 items means one every day plus alternating 2nd and 3rd days get 2 (which also means that 72 means alternating 2nd and 3rd days get one--I figured this out by dividing 72/180, which equals .4; a little messing around and I figured out that 2/5 is also .4, but I could have reduced the fraction if I'd thought of that! 2/5 means 2 of every five days has an activity, and that is easily divided into alternating second and third days).