Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back to Business!

Well, after a whirlwind crazy month, it's time to get back to learning! We were gone to a funeral, then had a week of basically goofing off, then a week of vacation visiting relatives. So... three weeks later and the kids have gone completely feral. They spent two weeks running amock with all of their cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles, and now they just want me to amuse them!


Time for work, kids!

Oh, today was horrible. The two year old is SO two. So so so two. My son refused to have breakfast, because then I would make him sit down for school stuff! So we went to the library and they both ran all over and acted like crazy monkey people.


Tomorrow we're making pie with grandma!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Away For a Funeral

Sorry to not post for a week. Had a sudden funeral to attend. Anyway, I'll just take today to write a list of 10 happy things.

1) My kids and dh are still healthy.
2) We found incredibly cheap airplane tickets so we could all go to the funeral.
3) I'm learning to knit!
4) The kids adored seeing their cousins.
5) I have such a nice job that lets me work from across the country at night, or move my hours to different days.
6) My dh has been such a pillar of strength and helpfulness for the past couple weeks. I've been tired and listless (upset about things...) but he's taken up the slack, keeping track of the kids and things way more than usual.
7) My children haven't made my head explode yet. (They are seriously annoying lately. It's just one of those phases, I'm sure, but do they have to have them at the same time?!).
8) I love our park day groups. It's so nice to have so many people come to them!
9) Going on another trip soon to see their grandfather (my father-in-law).
10) And more cousins!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs #3: Routines

I signed up for the Homeschool Memoirs meme and then promptly did absolutely nothing with it. So, here I am, playing catch up.

The theme from week three was routines. We're not really that into schedules, but we do have plenty of routines.

The most important routine is that every night, I read to my son for about an hour at bedtime. Any book he wants. The favorites right now a Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Boxcar Children, Magic Treehouse, Timewarp Trio, A-Z Mysteries, Secret of Droon, Calvin and Hobbes, and Harry Potter. So yea, mysteries and fantasy for the most part. (With lots of historicalness.)

The week starts on Sunday. That's the day I plan the week out. I get out all the books and see which sections we'll do, make a list of any books we need form home or the library, get materials together, make any printouts we'll need, and write the plan down. In this time, I also follow up on any tiny bits of learning I meant to impart on the kids -- maybe a topic or concept that should have been covered in the week and wasn't, but isn't really a big enough chunk to bother focusing on for the next week.

On Monday, I go to work in the mornings while my husband works from home and watched the kids. Monday afternoon, we go to park day.

Tuesday is stay home day. I catch up on housework, rest a little, read the news, and we do a large portion of our school for the week! It's the day we read from Story of the World and First Language Lessons. It is sometimes the day we go to the library, too. Usually I'll read from the books while the kids color the activities or play with clay or something like that.

Wednesday is soccer and park day. Yes, it's a lot of park time. We go to the park at 11:30, bring a picnic, and stay until 4 or 5 pm! The night is usually mom-has-a-rest-time. (Good for reading!)

Thursday I go to work most of the day, and husband works from home. This is a pretty freeform day for hte kids, where they mostly play. At night we may go out to eat and then go to the grocery store. I usually read some books to them when I get home. Many of those books are for school, like a biography about a historical figure, something about a particular animal or plant, history mysteries, magic treehouse book, something from the Living Math cirriculum, and so on.

Friday is Fun Day. I catch up on cleaning in the morning, we do some more school things. Often this is the day we'll do a little art project, or science experiment, or finish some printouts. Then, if they haven't been actively fighting me all week, we go out! I often let them pick. Places we often go include: Chuck E Cheese (it's math! Really!), The Children's Discovery Museum, Ardenwood Farm, other museums, star parties (astronomy), etc.. Sometimes it ties into something we learned that week, but usually not. One week we went to Krispy Kreme. It actually tied in! That week my daughter was obsessed with industrial robots and machinery, so we watched the donut machines.

Saturday is karate for the son, and a visit to their grandparents' house.

We have lots of other routines (via FlyLady), but that's pretty much it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

One, Five and Ten Years Ago

A lot of magazines do a feature where they show you what was being published 50, 100, and 150 years ago. (Or any other range of dates). I really do love those sections, and find them interesting. So I think I'll make an attempt to do so here!

I don't have anything that old on this particular blog, but I can grab things from my other one. ;)

Four years ago, I was just beginning: Introduction

Three years ago, I was trying to get my house in order, but I think my most stirring post was about being a Working Mom. (And wow, three years ago I was thinking of moving away. I didn't realize I have been wanting out for that long.) And yes, that post is from August, but oh well. :)

Two years ago, I was enjoying Boneless Chicken Broth and Kitchen Science.

Last year, I was not enjoying my health: Under the Weather.

I hope you've enjoyed this. It was fun for me! Dear readers, what were you up to in the past few years?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Misandry and Society

I ran into this excellent article about men, boys, and misandry. I adore Dr. Helen.

Embracing Happiness

Right now, it's easy to find negativity. The elections, the mud slinging, the financial sector's problems, and so forth. The news and TV are full of it. And it tend to drag me down. So now I'm going to do something a friend of mine used to always encourage -- I'm going to list 10 happy things. Just ten things to be grateful for, and happy about and to embrace because life just isn't that bad at all!

(See also: Losing Sight of the American Dream)

10) I have my health. I'm really healthier than I have been in years. I've sufferend from sinus migrane headache things for a few years now, and after having my wisdom teeth out, going to 87 doctors to get allergy medications that work (among other suggestions), trying to cut out and add different foods, and so forth, I feel better on a regular daily basis than I have in years.

9) My husband has his health. He has also been trying for a few years now to get his things under control. He's been suffereing from daily horrible migranes for two years. He has had his sleep apnea treated, lost over 100 pounds, and had foot surgery. I think he feels better, for the most part, though the migranes are a constant battle still.

8) My son has his health. Okay, he's generally not one to have issues that are obvious. He is getting really good at getting to sleep and staying alseep. He's better about using the potty at night. He is getting more patience and self control. All good things.

7) My daughter has her health. Since moving and taking her out of daycare, her asthma has compltely gone away! It's absolutely wonderful. The eartubes were perfect -- her ears are gorgeous, and the ear tubes are now out. She regained her hearing and she now talks like crazy. :)

6) My job isn't so bad. Seriously, I really would prefer to not have to work, but if I do, this is a good job. I can do a lot of work from home, I can work at night. It's part time. I get a very nice wage. My boss is spectacular. I have an amazing amount of independence. Yay!

5) We have a wonderful homeschool group. My son has friends who love the things he does. He can play with kids his age, or kids twice his age or older! I think that's a heathy thing. And we don't have to deal with weird school rules that make no sense to any of us.

4) My son is, in fact, learning things. Yay! His path is certainly not a normal one, but hey, that's why we homeschool.

3) My daughter is just precious. She is learning too, but just 2 year old things. She loves zombies and aliens and cats and horses. She has such a weird, glorious little personality. And I will make sure she's allowed to be weird and not have to keep her real personality inside just to fit in.

2) The weather is lovely. I like this time of year, even if it virtually kills me through allergies. I don't like hot or cold, so fall suits me. :D We're really not doing a ton of homeschooling right now, since I love to be out in nice weather and sun. We'll get a lot more done in the winter when it's cold and rainy, just as we got a lot more done in the summer when it was too hot to go out. Not that we're doing nothing, it's just a bit... minimal.

1) I love my husband. I know it's been a hard time on both of us, trying ot figure out what we want to do and where we want to go, but he always stands by my side. No matter how crazy I am, he is always there for me. He will always support me and I don't think I could cope with life at all if he weren't there, contantly carrying me above it all. I hope I do the same for him, even if I do feel like I am dragging him down all the time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Playing School

I was catching up on my Carnival of Homeschooling reading today, and ran across a post about a homeschool family where the kids love playing school.

My son loves to do the same thing.

If you ask him about school or if he wants to go to school, he screams and bursts into tears and attempts to imbed himself into my internal organs. The last time this happened was at park day. I was talking with a new member about how we homeschool -- here in CA there are several ways to do it, and I said that we would be using the private school option, and my poor son looked at me in horror, like I'd stabbed him in the back. I had to quickly explain that it was our little tiny homeschool private school of two, and he still looked at me accusingly for a little while.

But he loves to play school.

Sometimes he's at a magic boarding school (yes he loves Harry Potter). Sometimes it's sword class, or magic class. Sometimes he pretends that he has to sneak out at night and go to school (I have no idea where that comes from). Sometimes he just sets two chairs side-by-side, inviting his sister to take the other, and sweetly demands that I hold "class". The last class was about snakes, the current household obsession.

It's weird. I would probably be concerned if it weren't for the fact that he flips out at the tiniest mention of school.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Science Teacher

I was reading A Homespun Cirriculum this evening, and thought I'd share with you this one thing:

Wow! Mr. Mac has been doing this a long time!

Friday, August 8, 2008

We win!

New Ruling in Homeschool Case

We're so lucky to have the resources we have, who pulled together and did such a spectacular job.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

So, How's He Doing?

I was just wandering around the internet, reading random things here and there. I do this a lot. I find that if I'm not reading something, I really don't know what to do with myself. My brain constantly wants words inputted into it -- it's really the only thing that makes me shut my mouth! I guess my brain either wants tons of information coming in, or tons of information coming out. (It's even full duplex -- meaning I can input and output at the same time. My mom, brother, and I can have a conversation where all three of us are talking at once and we all hear everything that's going on and may actually be having one, two, or three conversations simultaneously. And people wonder why I love IM and hate phones.)

Anyway, I was reading some of the articles online at the new Secular Homeschooling magazine and ran into the article So, How's He Doing?. Natually, as I'm reading, I start wondering how I would answer the question, and think about her answer and if I would say the same thing or something different.

At first, I thought to myself about the challenges we've had recently. He's five, and I'm trying to intice him into some more formal studies, like reading (we failed at 100 Easy Lessons, and after a few lessons of another program, he's not really interested), Story of the World, or Singapore Math. We just switched over to trying Math-U-See... and I'm trying not to be pushy. I'm really just so different from my son (he takes so strongly after his father) that I know I have to teach him in a way that is just quite unnatural for me. I read (and write) manuals. I read books cover to cover. I want to read everything in the "right" order and read it all. My mind is constantly stuffing more things into it, ruminating about it, spitting stuff out, having conversations about it, and just living every fact every second of my existance. My husband (and seemingly son) just pick a fact here or there, don't follow up on it, and don't talk about it much. But they will remember it for eternity, while I may read the same thing 20 times before it sticks in the web of my consciousness.

So while I was reading this article and thinking about my trials and tribulations in trying to figure out what to do with my son, he approached me. He was holding one of those little paper umbrella toothpicks that you often get in tropical drinks. His cousin gave it to him last night after dinner when she was finished with her coconut juice which came in a real coconut. So he had the toothpick, and he looked at it a moment, then held it up in the air, and declared, "This is my jelly fish!" and then proceeded to move it exactly the way a jellyfish moves. He closed the umbrella top slightly as it zipped up through the air, then opened the top fully whle his jellyfish slowly drifted downward. Then it zipped up again, and drifted. His face was filled with happiness as he watched his jellyfish moving through the air, and turned his twinkly eyes toward me to make sure I was watching.

Then I remembered the night before. He had the same umbrella in the car, but this time he was inserting the bottom toothpick end in a little hole in the seat in front of him (the little hole where a post for the headrest would normally be, but we temporarily removed the headrest while the seat holds the baby's seat -- it makes it way easier to LATCH and de-LATCH it.) I was watching him put the umbrella there, the little pink paper top of the umbrella sitting flush on the seat back. He then picked up the umbrella and closed it, and slowly "walked" it over to the other post hole and opened the top part of it again. "Blackhawk of the Lakota picked up his tent and moved east," he narrarated. The story unfolded silently in his head while he was looking at his teepee. A few moments later he piked up the toothpick again and moved it back to where it had been before, in the other post hole, "Then Blackhawk moves back west, where the buffalo are."

Yeah, I like our life, too. He's doing just fine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Homeschooling Questions Answered

Another blogger had homeschool questions on her blog, so I am posting here to answer them. I figure there are as many different ideas about homeschooling as there are snowflakes, and we may have a weird twist on it all. Who knows! At least it's something to blog about. ;)

So, here are my answers for I'm Just Sayin'.

1. What was your motivation for homeschooling? Was it based on religious reasons? Was is it based on curriculum - did you want more freedom in choosing what your children were being taught? Was it based on socializing - wanting to have more control in the people with whom your children came into contact with? Was it based on logistics - the nearest school being 20 miles away? What made you finally decide to go this route?

It's so so so so many reasons. I picked it for *so* many reasons, and I love it for completely different ones! I guess I'll have to just hit the high points. I'm the youngest of four, and none of us had an easy time at school. My brother ended up dropping out, all due to the administrators acting shamefully towards his health problems and accusing him of lying about them. I, personally, didn't enjoy school -- I'm shy and usually hang out with people older than me with shared interests. That didn't usually happen at school. As a parent, I see a lot of wasted time at school. I'd rather let my kids spend that time playing or daydreaming, or building something. Or teaching themselves something. Further, I want to have freedom. Freedom to travel in November. Freedom to drop everything and go to a museum. Freedom to do school in bed because we're a little bit sick. Freedom to have a hot lunch together in the kitchen.

For me, it's just (to use a loaded phrase), a alternate lifestyle. We're not doing school at home -- we're doing learning as life. It's not something that happens somewhere else. It happens all the time where we are, and lets go out and have a great time doing it. And lets do it together! Or not! Whatever works best!

2. Don't hate me for asking this. How to you handle socialization? What steps do you take to make sure your children are around other children and adults? Are you active in a home school group? Do you spend a lot of time at church activities? Maybe you utilize the local Y for activities and they meet friends there?

We go to park day twice a week, for 3-4 hours those days. My son has done some fun summer camps (science and theater) and might do those weekly after summer. He's acout to join cub scouts. He meets kids spontaneously at the park all the time. :D Oh! And he's in karate.

As for adults, they are with me at the grocery store, restaurants, etc.. They have come to work with us from time to time when appropriate. They see grandparents, and parents of their friends multiple times a week.

3. Do you use the public school system for any part of your child's routine? Some children here come to the school for band or chorus, or maybe for science class. Do you send your child to the public school to take advantage of any of their programs?

Well, my son's only 5, so no. :D I don't know if I will. I can see the value in having more kids for a good sized band... but I'm not sure it would mesh well with our lifestyle. ;)

4. Do your children begin and end school at the same time each day? Do they have a strict schedule, at least as far as waking up and reporting to the school area of your home? If not, when/how will you transition your children into following a more rigid schedule - awaking at the same time each day so that they can follow a routine outside of the home like for college and work?

Gosh no. Nononono. Aiie. :D Wouldn't work. Some people do. We.. don't. One of the joys of homeschooling (for us) is that we can do math for 4 hours if we want to. Or skip it on a day that your math brain just isn't in there. He has plenty of time to figure out how to get up in the morning.

To turn the question around... My husband is a Systems Administrator. He has to go into work at night or on weekends often. He has to carry a pager and drop everything when there's something that needs to be done. What are you doing to prepare your kids to stay up until 3 am to reconfigure an important server? Or to drop everything they're doing and drive 30 miles away to the data center? Of course you aren't doing anything. That would be silly. ;) If they end up with a nighttime job, they'll figure it out when they get there.

My son does have a few things he needs to go to on a regular basis with a schedule. He knows when park day is, that's for sure! He gets up for karate. This summer he's had two camps, which had a schedule. He knows the library isn't open at 2 am. ;)

5. How many spelling bees has your child won? Oh, I'm kidding. We all know most of the recent national spelling bee winners have been home schooled children. I just wanted to throw a little funny in there?

LOL! Considering my family, this is not likely. ;)

6. Do you have a sense of humor? It's probably a little late for me to ask that but...

Well, I like to think I do...? :)

7. Where do you find your curriculum? Do you shop for it and order it? Do you create your own?

Sure! Both! ;D Some things he goes to classes for (like karate and a little science camp he went to). I bought a few Math cirricula, and we're trying those out. For some things, I just make it up as I go -- my degree is in molecular biology, so we just grab things in the kitchen and mix them together. My Intro to Proteins involves jello and a pineapple. ;) We also just go to the library and pick out anything interesting. He's learned more about history and geography from the Magic Treehouse books then I thought possible.

8. Do you have any worries at all about teaching your teenagers the higher level math and sciences? I, for one, could not teach chemistry to my children but I could probably teach them calculus. Is this a concern for you?

Not me personally, though I know a lot of people worry about it. Like I said, my degree is in molecular biology, so the science and math are covered. ;) But the thing is, there are so many cirricula out there for math and science, and online classes, co-op classes, community college classes and so forth, that I don't think anyone should be worried. If you need something, there is someone to fill that need. Even if it's sending them to grandma for math class, or trading with a friend or whatever.

(When I told my mom we were homeschooling her biggest fear was that I would try to teach creative writing. Apparently she doesn't like my stories! ;) My husband, however, wants to be a sci-fi writer when he grows up. And I know about half a dozen cirricula, online classes, etc..)

9. What bothers you the most about the reputation home schoolers have? What things do you hate to hear people say about you for your choice? I really hope you don't say that it's my previous post.

LOL! No, not your post. Though I do disagree with it. ;)

I'd say the thing that bothers me most is when people imply (or say outright!) that I don't care if my children learn anything or that I'm abusing them or something. And really the only reason I mind that is because it invites legislation that would annoy me.

I don't care what people think of me, and I don't care to judge other people. :D So have a big giant happy fun time in public school! Whatever works! (That's my motto)

10. Be honest, do you, at least in your mind sometimes, judge those of us who choose public school? Do you ever think we are making a bad choice for our children? Are you vocal about that disapproval?

No, I really don't care. :D I figure people do what they think is best. I try to think all people are capable human beings who love their kids. Everyone has different wants and needs and situations! I think more people might choose homeschooling if they knew more about it, but that's just my own opinion. I'll tell people about it if they ask me, but i don't cram it on people who don't want to hear it. (You asked!! :D)

11. Is "home school" one word or two? I've seen it both ways. With spellcheck, it shows it as ONE word when used as a verb, but two words when used otherwise. Please enlighten me.

Oooh! Oooh! Pick me! Pick me!!

I'm a writer, by trade. (Yes, I know I said my degree is in biology. Biology doesn't pay well, and doesn't invite telecommuting...) Some words start out as two-word phrases and slowly meld together as they become more common. One spectular example is "email". Not that long ago it was "electronic mail". Then "e mail". Then, it gets a little closer, with a hyphen "e-mail". Finally, people just shove it together, "email".

In my profession, we have "on-line help", which is slowly becoming "online help". (Or OLH).

So it was home school, and will eventually be a unanimous "homeschool". I usually use one word. But maybe we should call it "hschool". I would love to watch people try to pronounce that. ;)

Still other people call it "home education". Or the people who unschool might just call it "unschooling" in order to seperate themselves from other homeschoolers. (Oh, if you think that homeschoolers are an all-inclusive club of public-school hating, you've never seen the "you chose the wrong kind of homeschooling" fights! I think people will find any way to seperate themselves from others to feel high and mighty. Um, not to say that unschoolers are evil. Note: we lean towards that way. Sort of. I dunno. Maybe?)

Ok, I hope this makes sense. I wrote it quickly while the kids were eating lunch.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling, v. 133

The 133rd Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Red Sea School.

My favorite entries are:

Nature in Your Own Backyard -- because we have an iguana for a pet (she's a little old lady, at 15 years of age now) and we love to see pictures of iguanas. (Note: Iguanas are not great pets. I love our dear old girl, but I will probably never have another one, especially with kids around.)

The Dark Side -- because it *isn't* us vs. them, and we should stop turning every decisions into us vs. them. I'm a big fan of personal resposibility and not putting your nose into other people's business. Let's just figure people know what they're doing and that all humans aren't idiots.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Homeschooled: The Movie?

It looks like DreamWorks picked up a script for a movie called "Homeschooled" by Chris Poole and Mike Arnold, to be produced by Scot Armstrong.

The synopsis of the plot is "a 30 year old man who was homeschooled heads off for college".

I really can't see this (considering the people involved) ending up being anything more than a horrible farce full of the worst stereotypes possible. Yay.

On the one hand, hey it means people know enough about us to ridicule us! On the other hand, I'm sure the homeschooling community will get all up in arms like they did over the Subway contest, and that will only give us more bad PR.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Latest News in the CA Homeschooling Case

Just got this in email:

A joint brief filed by California's three statewide homeschool
organizations has been accepted for consideration by the California
Court of Appeal in the case known as In re Rachel L. The court's
original decision specified, among other things, that parents need a
teaching credential to homeschool. The decision was criticized by
homeschoolers, teachers and government officials. Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack
O'Connell both issued press releases in support of homeschooling,
and Assemblyman Joel Anderson introduced a resolution supporting
homeschooling to the California Assembly in response to the case.
The court granted rehearing and vacated its original decision in
March 2008.

California's three statewide homeschool membership organizations --
California Homeschool Network, Christian Home Educators Association
of California and Homeschool Association of California -- have been
working together for several months in a united effort to preserve
independent homeschooling in California. These three organizations
represent homeschoolers across the state. Their amicus brief was a
cooperative undertaking of the law firms Baker & McKenzie LLP,
representing CHN, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP,representing CHEA, and
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, representing HSC.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who Is This Kid?

Okay, who stole my son and replaced him with a weird doppelganger? I have told everyone who will stand still long enough to listen that my son isn't interested in workbooks at all. He barely draws or colors, doesn't want to write (except occasionally) and balks at the idea of reading.

Lately, I have bribed him to do some dot to dots and a lesson of Singapore math, just to attempt to slowly build up his motor skills.

Anyway, one day this week, totally out of the blue, he did lessons 2-11 in Singapore Math 1a. Yes, 2-11. He did a little over half the book, which is supposed to last half a year. In fact, he cried when I said we should probably stop after he "did" a page by not following the directions at all. I didn't want him to keep going and ruin the pages without learning, or get used to not doing what was expected on the page. It seemed reasonable to me! But he cried. Apparently he was intending to finish the book!

Now, granted, some exercises he chose to do his own way. The directions might say circle, and he made an X. Or he was supposed to fill a while block and he just make a scribble. In fact, quite a few of the drawings are now scribbled purple and have been involved in stories involving zombies. On another page, he did the first exercise right. Then the second right. Then on the third he did it right, until his answer started looking sort of like a bow, so he filled in two extra boxes ("Mom, that doesn't count, it's just a line!") so he could have a bow and arrow there. Unless you were there watching him do the exercises, and obviously understood what he was doing, you'd think some toddler had just decided to scribble purple all over the book.

Now, first of all, this all shocks me. Sort of. I mean, I sort of put him in the "doesn't do workbooks" box in my mind. But he obviously doesn't hate them. Or at least, he doesn't hate them every day. In other ways, I'm not shocked. I loved little books like that. I know why he's driven to finish the whole book in one sitting. Heck, dh and I would do that on things we don't even like! It's a compulsion.

And I learned three important things:

The first is that I should never label my son and expect to predict his behavior. He's not going to be the same every day. No one is! But he's less predictable than average. So I should always be prepared (mentally, and with books and activities!) for him to want to do things I don't expect.

The second is that I really need to keep an eye on his perfectionist, completionist tendencies, and make sure whatever I pick isn't going to frustrate him. I can imagine what would have happened if the Singapore folks decided to make a book covering a whole year. Or even two years! He'd still probably try to complete it. I mean, I even told him he could skip some specific pages that I thought he didn't need to do, because it was so redundant (under my authority as the teacher), but he rebelled, and did them all, no skipping. So I'd better make sure to get thin books, I suppose!

The last is that I know this would be a problem in school. How many stories have I heard about boys who hated school because their teacher didn't understand that they knew the concept, and after demonstrating it twice, decided to draw a picture instead? Or wants to discuss how all his people (and fruit) turned into zombies? I don't think that would go over so well at school. So it's just another way I'm glad I decided to homeschool.

All in all, the whole thing made me slightly humbled, but very proud of my son, and very satisfied with my choices. It's been a golden week, even with the bronchitis and sinus problems.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pseudo-Science, Quackery, and Snake Oil

I'm a scientist. My degree is in Molecular Biology. Those two things are somewhat related, but there's nothing that says I could have a degree, but not the heart of a scientis... and no reason that non-degreed folks can't understand, follow and practice science. I was a scientist before I ever had my degree. (I'm rather anti-credential, as I find most of them are about as valuable as your standard high school diploma.) I'm also a skeptic.

I adore the Junk Food Science blog, and today there's an amazing (caution: long!) post today outlining some of the history of "alternative medicine" and it's current growth and how some of us feel about it.

On Copywork

Today. Sometimes I'm Actually Coherant has an excellent post on, of all things, copy work! Now I wasn't sure I was going to include this in our lessons, because my son hates writing. He wants nothing to do with it right now. I thought copy work seemed a little old fashioned, and I wasn't sure what it was really good for. I supposed that it was nice to be able to practice writing without also having to compose a sentence, but he has no trouble thinking up thoughts to write!

Anyway, maybe copy work isn't such a bad idea. Gorgeous poem at the end.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling 121st Edition is Up

Well, I Had a great post with it about me and my bags, but blogger ate it.

Hmm. I've already come clean to my family about my homeschooling (well, at least the grandparents). I'm thinking of actually moving everything to my blog under my "real" name. Is that crazy?

I mention this because my blog under my real name is WordPress, on a box in my living room. So I wouldn't have to worry about the internet eating my posts. Foolish me. I knew I should have composed in Notepad and copied and pasted...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Work at Home and Homeschooling?

I know there are people who can do it all. They stay home and take care of the family. They homeschool. And they have a business or a part time job or contracts. How do they do it??? I need to make some extra money, at the very least until our lease is up and we can move some place cheaper.

We picked this house with this ridiculous rent because we were desperate. The baby had serious asthma and I wanted hardwood floors so, well, she could breathe! I wanted somewhere closer to their grandparents, for emergencies (ours OR theirs -- my dad's diabetic and has a bad back), and because I want my kids to know them. We lived right down the street from a recycling plant, and I don't think that black dust that kept getting stuck to everything was healthy for anyone. The house was not well-maintained, and my infant was starting to eat everything. We knew the house had lead paint, but I didn't trust the owners enough to think they had taken care of it. And my son was going to be Kindergarten aged soon, so we needed to be in the right neighborhood with the right school before registration time.

Well, things have changed. Thanks to leaving the old place and pulling them out of daycare, the baby's health is perfect now, even if she is super cranky with teething (she getting her four canines and four molars all at once! Oh the joy we have here, folks). The neighborhood is gorgeous. We can walk to two parks, the library, a few restaurants, a sewing store, Michaels', and the grandparent's house! We have a small yard, big enough that we can get some energy out without having to leave home. But one tiny thing is wrong -- the rent is so high, my husband's paycheck barely covers it, and there's still the rising costs of gas, food, and electricity to think about!

We knew we were going to be losing money (even with my paycheck too) for a few months, until our son was out of daycare and in Kindergarten. I figured it was okay, our savings were good, and it was more important to get a good school. There are no "medium" schools. Around here, it's basically a very good school or a school where most of the classes are ESL because the majority of the kids do not speak english well. It's not hyperbole, either, you can see it all on

Anyway, I've told my story already of deciding to homeschool, quitting my job, pulling them from daycare and so forth. But the one problem is, I never had a plan for how to pay for it. Now, in a combination of luck and quite honestly my abilitty to save money away in places where we forget it is so we don't spend it, plus all my stock options from eight years in Silicon Valley, all my vacation time I never could take because work was too busy (I think I had six weeks?!) plus our savings, and various other things, we've been able to hold out for eight months already! But I think the magic money I pull out of nowhere is going to end soon, and I need a plan. Plus it would be nice to eventually buy a house, and all the money we've been living on was being saved for a down payment. Oh well, I guess some things are more important than a house. But I do understand it's going to make our future all that much harder.

I don't know where to find the time. I have a very hyper five year old who is very social and needs to talk and move non-stop. My daughter is one, and I don't think you can do much with a one year old around. After they are asleep at night, I'm exhausted. I've been working through my own health issues that I ignored for so long because there wasn't time for me -- it's actually another reason I gave up and quit. I didn't think I could last much longer. I've had my wisdom teeth out, at 31, and finally I feel some relief there. But it's been six more months of horrible, draining (figuratively, and unfortunately not literally!) sinus pain, and migranes. I think they may finally be worked out! I'm feeling better!

But I still have no time.

Also, I feel like I'm out of touch already. Now, my job wasn't that glamorous, but in a lot of ways my skills were, for the job, pretty cutting edge. And that edge dies quickly if you don't do the constant work to sharpen them. But I don't have time to keep them up! I don't even have time to use the skills I have much less get new ones! So it has me paniced. What if I need to get a job and I have nothing to offer anyone? I actually gave up an amazing job offer that came looking for me, once people heard I'd left my old job. But I love my family more.

Sorry I'm rambling. I guess I have a lot to let out. I think I'm partly feeling the same sadness I felt leaving grad school. I did that for my family too. But it's hard not to just feel like a failure. I feel like grad school, and work, just asked for too much of me. They wanted me to sacrifice everything for them. Even if it meant being in the lab all night, or leaving my kids in daycare all day. And I'm not willing to do it! But a little part of me has died each time. Leaving grad school, even though it was nine years ago, it still hurts. I still have trouble reading about science, because I feel the pain of a lost love. A lost passion. And now I feel the same way about writing, about coding.

I would never choose anything over my family, though. I won't be a scientist if it means losing my husband. (And no, he made no demands of me, it was my own choice, because of the conflict in me). And I will not neglect my kids to make some stupid thing for a corporation that doesn't even know who I am. But they are still parts of me, and I've had to cast them off.

I just wish I could find a tiny, tiny, tiny job to make the money we need to get by, to keep my skills at least somewhat up to date, and to make me feel like those little tiny parts of me are kindled like tiny pilot lights, waiting for the chance to burst out again, even if they have to wait another 9 years.

But I don't have the time, or the energy. And I will not sacrifice my family.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spending Tax Money to Beg for More Money

Why Homeschool has an excellent post pointing out a story right here in California.

Apparently a school was going to send 12 busloads of students off to Sacremento just to protest some budget cuts. For those of you outside CA, half of the state budget goes to schools. Yes, half the budget, which is bigger than the budget of most other countries.

I'm posting about this, instead of just leaving a comment, because this issues is what finally gave me the last push to decide to homeschool. I was on the fence in March, and I was planning on going to Kindergarten orientation and so forth as the local school in order to make up my mind. I joined some local mailing lists to find other parents of five year old who were setting up park dates to meet each other before school started.

And then it happened.

The highly political pleas and demands for help fighting the education budget cut started. And it make me irritated, angry, and upset. I realized that if we embarked on school, we'd be tied up in that world of PTA meetings and constant fights, and beurocracy, and all the things my poor sainted mom had to deal with just to get her kids a decent shake.

And that did it. I don't want to be associated with any of that. So I gave up on even going to the meeting, and I finally told my mom (when she asked about kindergarten registration in passing) that I wasn't sending him in the fall. And that's when I mentioned homeschooling, and she grinned and teased me about the crazy teacher's certification stuff that came up in the recent court case.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm FLYing!

At least I guess I am. I have routines in place, and they get done on a semi-regular basis. I'm not perfect, but in general the house goes from pretty darn clean to just somewhat messy over the week. Sometimes it gets worse than I can stand, and honestly we did about 4 hours of work this weekend to clean it up, but that involved a lot of re-arranging furniture to make the house for people-friendly.

Anyway, I think having more time helps, as does the lack of killer sinus headaches all the time. But really, you know what helped the most? Finally ditching all of my cool Web 2.0 ideas for tracking my to do list. I've tried Outlook's to do list, various calandars and to do list applications and web sites... and finally I just got a notebook and some clear folder and a dry erase marker. And you know what? It works best. It's simple and you don't have to do a lot of work if you've missed things. I always spent so much time trying to get my online to do lsits caught up with where I really was, or I'd forget to check things off, or whatever. I was so sure I'd like to have a graph to display and show myself improving, but you know what? I never had enough data or accurate data to ever do that.

But I do have a clean house and just a small notebook of tasks.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Test of the mail posting

This is only a test

Little Miss Muffet

So, here I am, minding my own business, working on tonight's dinner. I had the pan on the stove, heating some oil and getting ready to brown some meat for my famous crockpot chili. I turn around to dice some veggies, and when I turn back this pale little spider is dangling right above my pot! I turned around again to grab a cup so I could escort him outside... and suddenly hear a hissing sound.

You guessed it. And the poor spider lost a leg and started climbing up as fast as he could. I managed to rescue him at that point and take him outside. Then I scrubbed the pot in hot, hot water until my hands hurt. Ick!

But that's far preferable to the time that I made pancakes with old mix and ended up with a bowl full of pancake batter and some weevils floating on top. Ick!

Ever had anything weird wander into your cooking?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Stunned By the CA Homeschooling Decision

For those of you who haven't heard yet (or aren't obsessed with homeschooling news), on February 28th, a court made a very sweeping decision about a case involving homeschooling. The family wasn't a member of HSLDA, so pretty much no one had heard of this case until it was decided.

I wasn't concerned at first.... until I read the details of the decision, which pretty much interpreted the laws to basically make homeschooling illegal in CA.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. If I'm not compltely satisfied with any new decision made on this, I'm moving from this insane place, for certain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Understanding Darwin

Well, I haven't angered anyone yet, so let's get controvercial.

I'm a biologist. Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" is an excellently written book, and his theory of evolution is wonderful. However, very few people in the world actually understand it. Part of it is bad teachers. Part of it is that no one actually reads the source -- Darwin lays out his argument very well, slowly progressing from the obvious to the less obvious, taking the reader on a slow journey that maximizes understanding. But most people remember the short, sweet, and unintentionally misleading phrase "survival of the fittest".

The word 'fittest' (and fitness) as Darwin uses it does not mean what instantly jumps to most people's mind. It specifically does not mean strong, buff, fast, etc.. Well, it can, but it doesn't have to. Fittest has to do with fitting in. That's it. Which ever animal fits it's environment -- the entire environment -- and manages to make more babies will pass on more geentic material to the next generation.

Some animals use strength, Some use speed. Others are more devious -- like apes that wait until the strong apes are out hunting, or fighting each other, then quietly sneaks into their mates homes and makes a few babies for the nice strong men to raise as their own. Cuckolds, as they are called, are quite frequent in nature. It's a great strategy for the weak one -- not only do you get to make babies you don't need to invest any time or energy in raising, you get the strongest guy in the tribe to raise him for you! What a deal!

I was reading a refutation of Ben Stein's recent atrocity (and I really like Ben Stein, so it was a dismal, sad day I watched it) at The Corner:

Stein wrote:
But it fell to a true Imperialist, from a wealthy British family on both sides, married to a wealthy British woman, writing at the height of Imperialism in the UK, when a huge hunk of Africa and Asia was "owned" (literally, owned, by Great Britain) to create a scientific theory that rationalized Imperialism.

Stein's entire argument makes no sense, if you read it with any understanding of the Theory of Evolution at all.

Derbyshire does a good job refuting it even though he doesn't even bother to point out the real meaning of survival of the fittest:

If that's what "Darwinism" (he means: modern biology) is, how does it happen that there are any meek, un-hardy creatures in the world? Yet in fact "hardy" … "stronger" … "dominant" describe only a tiny proportion of species. How is it that all those wimp species are still around after three billion years? Wouldn't the "dominant" ones have eaten them all? Oh, but wait a minute … then the dominants would have eliminated their own food supply … um …

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hair Distraction

From Why Homeschool comes a story of a girl who was told that her hairstyle was not allowed in school:

A Louisville mother is making claims of discrimination after she says her daughter's hair color got her kicked out of a school. Fatimah Osborne got her hair braided and colored over winter break. The hairstyle cost her $300. However, the principal at Carrithers Middle School said the student had a non-traditional color and that's against their rules. Administrators from Carrithers middle school told Fatimah to change her hair or she'd have to leave the school, permanently.

This doesn't surprise me one bit. When I went to high school, there was a kid in class who was a bit of a class clown and did occasionally get into trouble. One day he came in with his hair in a million little braids held at the ends by rubber bands with happy face beads on them. Was it distracting? Sure, a little bit. Everyone wanted to talk about it and it was pretty interesting-looking. The principal told him to take it out, or stay home until he did.

Want to guess which was more distracting, the hair, or the principal's decree? We wanted to chat about his hair for a few minutes before class. I'm sure it would have been old news after about 5 minutes. The idea you could be expelled for hair? That distracted us for quite a long time after that! And this kid now was on a quest to find out exactly what he could get away with and what he couldn't, to test his boundaries. Which led to one distracting weird thing after another, culminating in his bizarre run for class president.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Where Did I Think I was Going? -- Introduction

It's always nice to get to know about a person you read, so I'd like to post a brief introduction about myself.

I've lived a few different places. I was born on the East Coast, moved to Texas, spent a little time in Russia, and now I've ended up in California. My college degree is in Biology, with a near minor in Russian. I went to grad school for a year (before leaving, it just wasn't the right place or time) in biophysics, then became a technical writer. I ended up as my group's technical expert and moved to a full-time programming position to assemble a new writing system for the huge group of writers. After having my two kids, I realized that I wasn't happy, so I quit to stay home and homeschool my little kids.

Oh, and I'm only 31. I guess I like change a lot, even if it does cause me undue stress.

I was reading posts from the Unschooling Voices once-a-month blog post compendium, and came across this post, titled How Did We Get Here:

It compelled me to slam hard on the brakes, step out of the car, slam my head several times on the nearest guardrail, and ask, "Now where in the h*ll did I think I was going?"

I had to go. Something had turned on inside of me. Some place deep inside had gotten a taste and I craved more. I had always lived in my head, often analyzing and weighing and considering things far beyond what was necessary, to the point of obsession on certain occasions, but for once I felt I'd gotten an answer to a longing. A longing I knew I had, but didn't understand.

That's exactly what happened to me too. It took a while to realize, and for a year my husband was actually the stay-at-home guy, while I was pregnant with our second. But I realized that the crazy life of a two-income family was just too rushed, too crazy, too full of fast food and quick moments and no time to savor anything, or cook, or learn who my kids are.

I never pictured myself as a stay at home mom. But now I love it. I love being the boss of the house. I love baking bread and freezing crockpot dinners. I love being there when my kids learn things, and being the person they spend time with. I love not having to wonder if my kids are okay, or what their teachers might be teaching them. I know, because I'm her. I don't need to help them decompress after a long day away. We enjoy our house. We're exploring our neighborhood. We're not stressed out all the time. We have time to see the doctor and get our problems treated!

I just hope that we'll be able to pull through and keep it this way. It's expensive out here, and we chose the house we rent based on the school district, not based on affordability for a one income family! But it is a walk from the library, the grandparents and two parks. I hope we can find a way to stay nearby.

We've already met several wonderful homeschooling groups, and I've started to find my niche with our homeschooling philosophy.... but like everything, I know that my son is, in some ways, my opposte, so the ideas I have might not work for him and I'm ready to be flexible. Free inquiry. Reason. At home. It's going to be an amazing journey!

Free Inquiry.... at home!

"Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error." -Thomas Jefferson

Welcome to Free Inquiry @ Home. I'm a scientist, writer, software engineer, mother, and wife. I write under the pseudonym "Silver Mine" (or silvermine) in blog comments and on my other blog, Franklin's Virtues. (From a quote, "Genius without education is like silver in the mine" -- yes I was already thinking of homeschooling back then and yes, I seem to have a little crush on each of our founding fathers.)

Franklin's Virtues is aimed at self-improvement, using Benjamin Franklin's autobiography as a method. It never really felt like a place to talk about other things. Since I started it, I and my life have changed considerably. So when I was wandering around looking for a name for my non-pseudonym blog to share my family with my extended family, I ran along the quote above and loved it! The only problem is, I'm not ready to tell my family that I'm homeschooling, and that title makes me think of homeschooling -- inquiry into everything free of charge and free of contraints. So I've decided to let Franklin's Virtues rest a little (like I ever blog there anyway) and start up something new.

This blog will likely include a lot of homeschooling commentary, about what we're doing and what others are doing. Politics and science are sure to spring up too. I do welcome feedback on what people like and don't like hearing about -- after all, the goal is to invite and retain readers! However, as the editor and host, I might not always pick what you like. It doesn't mean I don't like you. Just feel free to pass that article and move on to the next. I recommend a nice RSS reader like google reader.