Jan 31, 2012

What WE are Reading - Music Kid and Fairie Mom - January

Since I just realized that neither of us had posted a reading suggestion for the month I am combining the posts!

Music Kid is reading -

Fairie Mom is reading - 

Jan 30, 2012

Jan 29, 2012

Journey North - Mystery Class starts tomorrow!!!

Not too late to register!!! 

Calendar 2012
Any timeFind out How to Participate
Sept. - Jan.In fall 2011, monthly "Countdown" Updates are posted to help you get ready for the global game of hide-and-seek.
Jan. 30 - Apr. 9On Mondays, record your local sunrise/sunset.
Feb. 3 - Apr. 13On Fridays, sunrise/sunset data are posted for the ten Mystery Sites.
March 16The "Longitude Clues" are posted.
Mar. 23, 30,
Apr. 6, 13
Interdisciplinary clues from the Mystery Sites are posted each week. The final week of clues will also provide Contest instructions. (Please Note--out of fairness to all participants, we will only post the clues on their scheduled dates.)
April 27Deadline for your Answers! By popular request, you have TWO weeks to prepare your answers. No lateContest entries will be accepted (out of fairness to all participants). No exceptions.
May 4Locations of the Mystery Sites revealed!
May 11Meet Your Mystery Friends! (Pictures, background information about the sites and greetings are posted.)

Jan 26, 2012

Weekly Update - Busy Busy

We had a busy one this week! I picked CJ and DN up on Sunday and we went full throttle from the get go! KM and I had started prepping her room for the big remodel to start on Monday and CJ took some time to prep the walls. He got both coats on the green walls completed and KM is super excited to get the purple walls done in a few weeks. Since CJ is only home two days each week he has to work in stages on this project and will be taking a week off in between so that we can do something else.

While CJ was painting on Monday KM, DN and I got down to work getting lessons done. For part of our history unit on colonial days we made bread and butter - both from scratch - and I didn't even let the kids use the KitchenAid - KM thought this was a bit drastic and DN was shocked that it took us nearly 5 hours to get a loaf of bread. KM brought up the fact that if we had been making it back then it would have taken even longer because the wheat would have had to been ground, the milk gathered and separated from the cows, etc. So even though we were doing it the "old fashioned" way we were still taking advantage of modern conveniences to do so - GREAT POINT!!! We finished prepping and getting ready for the Journey North Mystery Class which will begin next Monday and played Shopping Spree from the What's Your Angle Scholastic Math Games Resource. We also finished up a game of Trivial Pursuit Junior from the night before.

Tuesday the kids got some lessons done in the morning and then we headed to ice skating before we had to bring CJ back to work. I was really glad that we all had a chance to get back on the ice, especially with CJ with us. When we got back KM had just enough time to finish up her poetry for her skype class on Wed, before we had to get her to her friends for youth group. DN and I replaced a blown taillight on my car and had had a follow up conversation in regards to his interest in the armed forces, as he had not read either of the books that he had chosen from the library while he was at home. He disclosed that he feels as though the only reason he had any interest in the military was to impress his brothers and that it really isn't something he is interested in, so we are back at square one with no interest in anything. Not really sure where to go with this beyond keeping up with the core subjects to see if something inspires or intrigues him.

DN worked on some Manga High challenges, while KM finished some history Wednesday morning before her Poetry class and then we headed off to host a teen bowling event. The kids had a great time bowling and though it was a smaller group - 9 kids - it was totally worth it for me to set it up! After dinner I brought DN to swap back and ran some errands while KM finished up her lessons for the day.

KM and I went to see Joyful Noise Thursday. KM really enjoyed it and I was surprised at well it was done. There were a few bits that I just didn't get, but all and all it was worth the matinee. When we came home KM enjoyed her new walls while finishing up some biology.
Friday is going to be a nice quiet down day, exactly what I need to end this whirlwind of a week.

Disneynature Chimpanzee - Coming to theaters this April!

We have truly enjoyed going to see the Disneynature movies each year and are excited for the next installment - chimpanzee

As always there is a free education guide available for download - HERE - which has more to offer this year as it is a whopping 135 pages and includes powerpoint presentation with audio and video clips! 

Jan 21, 2012

Professor Noggin's Card Games - Official Review

Our family has been using these games for years and they are a fun, entertaining and exciting way to learn a number of subjects in numerous categories from Science to History to Art to Geography. These fun games can take your family to the far corners of Outer Space and deep into the Ocean. You can find a complete list of titles - HERE

Each game comes with 30 cards and 1 three numbered dice - meaning a six sided die that has 1, 2, & 3 on two sides each. Each card has 6 questions - 3 easy and 3 hard - which makes it fantastic to play with the whole family regardless of the amount of knowledge individuals may have in each area. Questions come in the form of true or false, multiple choice or trivia. I truly can not say enough about these fantastic product!

Here are the titles we have on our bookshelf -


Jan 20, 2012

Weekly Update - Turned out quite pleasant

This week did not start out well at all as CJ, KM and I had a stomach bug that had us down for the count, but fortunately it passed quickly and we were able to get back on track. 

I had a talk with DN about trying to find something that interests him and he is willing to put some effort into learning about, as he has a tendency to say he wants to learn something - i.e. keyboarding, video game design, geology, and about 20 other things that he has mentioned - but then when it comes to doing the research or putting the time into practicing he is not willing to put the time in on it. After this discussion he has decided to learn about the branches of the military, as this is something that he has said several times he thinks he might like to do. While I am not a proponent of anyone going into the armed forces, I do feel it is really necessary for him to get as much information on something that interests him as possible and if this is the only area in which he wants to learn this is where we are going to have to start. I had a really hard time locating something at the library that included all the branches in one book even after help from the librarian so when ended up picking up The U.S. Air Force by Sandy Donovan and The U.S. Navy by Tom Streissguth. When I got home I did manage to locate a book that I think will work on Amazon - A Civilian's Guide to the U.S. Military - and then reserved it through my library network. Hopefully this will 

We also had a fabulous day with some friends at the Franklin Park Zoo - 

and we FINALLY had some REAL snow!!! 

Jan 18, 2012

Journey North - Getting Prepped and Ready - Latitude Practice

Since this will be the first time that DN will be participating in the Journey North Mystery Class, we spent some time working on the latitude practice packet today. He seemed to pick up on it rather quickly, so I am hoping that the longitude packet goes just as smoothly. 

If you haven't registered be sure to do so HERE!

Jan 12, 2012

Weekly update - A different week

Things felt a bit different this week. Nothing really changed, it is just that things felt different. I had a long conversation with DN about honesty and taking responsibility for his own education. He is very much a pleaser and will happily click through a site for hours never actually attaining any knowledge or information if he thinks that the person watching will be happy. He also is all about the "GET IT DONE" mentality - just wanted to get to the end without enjoying the process. I tried to explain to him that really this is doing NOTHING but wasting MY time - in the planning and previewing aspects - and HIS time in the learning and boredom factor. We discussed what he thought was working - Khan Academy, Mango, Usborne Science Encyclopedia along with the Van Cleave's experiments, You Wouldn't Want to Series, My America Series - and what he felt was not working - the websites from the Usborn Science, the history sites and Manga High. Then we spoke of what I was not willing to budge on - literature, Fallacy Detectives, and the general life skills - and what we can do to compromise and make it work.

This happened with KM in the beginning as well, but I am in a completely different place than I was then, as is he from where she was. I knew the base of information that she had as I had provided the majority of it with "after and summer schooling". It is very difficult at times for me to gauge what DN knows and what he doesn't. I often just assume that he was exposed to things or has an understand of things that he just doesn't. This can be very challenging and I try to be understanding and compassionate when we stumble across something that shocks me, but I know that I slip and need to be much more aware NOT to make a big deal about it. I can see that he is proud of himself when he has learned something or remembers something that he didn't think he would and that makes me smile. It is also difficult since his time is split between two homes, but this seems to be getting a bit easier.  

After our lengthy talk we decided that we would scrap the science and history websites along with Manga High and focus more on hands on projects in his core subjects and life skills. I decided that he needs to take initiative in the area in which he showed his own interest so I let him take Spanish Conversation Demystified with him to work on when he is not at our house. We will see how this works.

KM has had a really good week. She took initiative to work on her poetry for her class she is taking utilizing Skype and seemed to really enjoy it. She is hoping that she will get a bit more comfortable with the kids, but as another mom in the group pointed out, the kids are scattered all over the country and beyond - there is a girl from England and one from Canada - so even if they embarrass themselves, they have no worries about running into each other. She also took it upon herself to begin reading her assigned historical fiction without prompting, so I think her overhearing the conversation I had with DN was a very good thing - if she keeps it up!

We started the DuneCraft Science Fair Kit this week to go along with their biology units Although I was a bit frustrated with the directions for the peat brick stating that it would rapidly expand when in fact I had to scratch and tear at it to get it to absorb the water and break apart; all and all the directions seem to be fairly straight forward and we are now just waiting for something to sprout so that we can move on to the more advanced experiments.

CJ took the kids to see Sherlock Holmes and had rave reviews of it! They all thought it was better than the first. When they got home we attempted to make "churned" butter, using a mason jar and marbles which was an activity from Colonial Days: Discover the Past with Fun Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes (American Kids in History Series), but I think that I didn't let the cream get fully to room temperature so it came out more like thick cool whip, than butter. We will try this one again next week.

As for me I finished a Randy Hat for KM and she was quite ecstatic - finding every excuse she could to wear it - including matching her outfit to it for her Skype class. I have been forcing myself to workout everyday - even when I don't feel like it because I stacked far more wood than I should have by myself. I know that I feel better when I exercise my body and my mind so it is also to be noted that I managed to get a good way into Don Quixote and am enjoying it.

We had a visit from the Littles and the Itty Bitties, who we hadn't seen since Christmas and will be heading to visit my great aunt tomorrow and heading to a teen get together in the evening. So family and friends were abound as well.

OH I NEARLY FORGOT today is CJ's 37th birthday!!!! Since he is on the road, as is the life of a truck driver, we celebrated on Monday when we were altogether. He has been very happily using his birthday present I got him; a RoadPro Smart Car Pot. This makes me feel comfortable knowing even if he gets stuck in a snow storm or can't make it to a full truck stop he can make a warm bowl of oatmeal or cup of noodles, rather than being stuck just eating the crackers or chips he has with him.

And before I get questions about the picture within the picture -

Jan 11, 2012

Janice VanCleave’s Presents Science Projects that Really WORK!!! – Official UM Review

Janice VanCleave’s Presents Science Projects that Really WORK!!! – Official UM Review

Science was always my worry area. I didn't enjoy it in school and feared havingto take the responsibility of ensuring that my VERY science minded daughter was going to get all that she wanted out of our science education at home. I bought all sorts of kits and checked out every project book I could find at the library until I came across Janice VanCleave. If you have never heard of her, then you have never read some of the most concisely written science experiment books I have ever encountered and you and your kids are truly missing out!

Although I have enjoyed each of her books that I have read The Science For Every Kid series is a favorite in our household. In this series she covers everything fromChemistry to Food and Nutrition to Geometry, cohesively covering topics so that the kids can clearly grasp the material. This series could easily be used as a spine to jump off from, as a full science curriculum or a supplement for labs and projects. For example in Food and Nutrition for Every Kid VanCleave has each chapter set up as follows:
  • What You Need to Know - here terms are explained and background information is given
  • Exercises - the learner is presented with questions to be answered or situations that need to be resolved utilizing the information they read in the previous section.
  • Activity - a project to allow the application of the skills in a real world situation.
  • Solutions to Exercises - she not only gives the answers but lays out step-by-step instructions for solving each exercise.

With over 50 best-selling science experiment books that span an audience from toddler to mature adolescents, this is one author you will want to remember. Not only have I never had a single failed experiment from her books, she gives explanations that make sense. Though we have come across a few materials that we had to do a bit of digging around for the majority of materials you will need can be found in your home or in a quick trip to the local grocery or hardware store, making it convenient on a rainy day or spur of the moment. I can't say enough about these fabulous resources.

To see some more of our successful science experiments from Biology for Every Kid check out my blogposts - HERE and HERE.

You can learn more about Janice VanCleave as well as take a look through the plethora of tips, ideas and projects at her site - JVC's Science Fair Projects.

Jan 9, 2012

You Tube Monday - The Magic of Pronouns: Tips For Aspiring Politicians/Criminals (...and R...

I just discovered that the School Sucks Project has been posting videos as well as podcasts.
The excerpt in this one is from one of my favorite podcasts, really the one that got me hooked - 

If you haven't heard of, listened to or viewed anything from Brett Veinotte he has co-hosted with Laurette a few times on Unplugged Mom Radio - HERE - can be found on Podomatic - HERE - and many other locations which all can be found through his site - The School Sucks Project Education Evolution,

~~~ This is not a political advertisement by me in anyway! I am a proponent of the full message that is being said.

Jan 7, 2012

Back to lessons - Winter Session has begun and LOTS OF COLORS!!!

This week has felt really good, as we have gotten back into a flow and routine after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I think we are past the deschooling with DN and are in more of a see how it keeps going point. He is no where near independent, but is open to try anything I put in front of him and eager to learn. I think he has come to the realization that this could actually work.

DN was here at the beginning of the week and managed to get nearly all of his weekly work completed in just a day, which was rather impressive especially considering CJ was here. When we reviewed the History flash cards that they are both memorizing there was such pride in his eyes when he realized that although he hadn't touched them in a week, he remembered 10 out of the 11 cards almost verbatim!
KM has been wanting to spread out her lessons a bit more, so has been doing some in the evening and working on her drawings in the afternoon. KM is excited to be doing a poetry class utilizing Skype this session, she has taken online classes before, but this will be the first fully interactive one that she will be doing. We received the syllabus and I was impressed to see that she jumped right into it.

I have been doing a lot of reading the last few weeks and after finishing The Well Educated Mind decided to try out Susan Wise Bauer's process. I picked up Don Quixote from the library and was surprised to see KM flipping through it this morning. After some discussion about it and the intensity of it she said she thought it sounded interesting and would like to read it with me - I was SHOCKED, but very happy at the same time. I think we will enjoy reading this together and I think she appreciates that I am always continuing my education. I KNOW that we can learn a lot from each other.

As for the colors that were mentioned in the title...KM dyed her hair -

We also tried out the first tube from Test Tube Wonders and it was rather interesting. Here is the video that we made -

Oh and my cat thought she would try to take over the world -

Jan 6, 2012

Is the trivium schooled out of us? - My Own Education Story

Here is my latest article posted to Unplugged Mom - HERE

As I learn more about the trivium by listening to various podcasts, reading articles and suggestions of how to implement the practices, I have come to the realization that this is how I have always learned. It is was never taught to me though, so I have to wonder if this "process" is innately coded within us and schooling has replaced it with the various drills, routines and other artificial crowd controlling methods used within the systems.

While I was reading The Well-Educated Mind - which you can find my review of HERE - I began to really understand that this SIMPLY MAKES SENSE. You have to have a base of information, which is gathered during the grammar stage, that you begin to process and review determining whether the information is valid, true, logical, incorrect, misleading or otherwise false, during the logic stage and then as your mind and opinions truly begin to develop you are able to challenge, question or carry on a discourse with someone.

I only fully attended school through 7th grade. Starting in 8th I went when I felt like it, but the school kept passing me on to the next grade. I could miss school for two or three weeks at a time go back for a day or two and then be gone again, with no repercussions other than some finger waving from my mother. I dropped out 3 weeks into the 11th grade when I turned 16 and completed my GED two months later with a near perfect score.

I always read ferociously and retained ridiculous amounts of information from documentaries, books, and conversations. While I was waiting to start college - at that time I couldn't get financial aid, scholarships or grants unless "my class" had already graduated - I tutored at a local GED program and area high schools in Math - yup the guidance counselors recommended the dropout for tutoring - how is that for irony! When I finally started college I tested out of nearly all my prerequisite classes and finished my associates degree in three semesters (would have been two if I hadn't taken medical leave partway through the second to have my daughter, but the morning sickness was killing me). 

Over the years I accumulated stacks and stacks of journals and binders that I kept while taking notes as I read or watched documentaries. My friends used to say "Why on earth do you do that? You are just going to remember it anyway!" never realizing that that was why I remembered it... the writing was a sort of rhetoric. When the notebooks got out of control, I began to use index cards as I read and then would rewrite the key notes and important info on loose leaf paper that I could put in binders and swap around when needed, this has proven to be a much more efficient system. I also have my blog which has become the place that I most often turn to when I need to express my points on a topic or look back to refresh my memory. Although I am not as eloquent as many that I read, I feel I have a pretty decent ability to get my thoughts across and I am improving with practice.

One of the things that always pleasantly surprises me when I speak with teens who don't go to school - whether they are unschooled, homeschooled or whatever other term they feel comfortable using -  is that they are at ease and feel comfortable speaking with anyone on a topic that they are interested in. They don't hesitate in calling someone out that they disagree with and will steadfast in their opinion while taking into consideration others feelings on the matter as well. 

This need to discuss, question and learn from one another just seems to be so alive and present in those who don't go to school. It is also exactly these things that are not allowed in school as the student must not question the teacher, must only learn what is presented to him/her in the order in which it is given and can't possibly learn from peers! It is my assertion that spending 13+ years in a situation where you are oppressed and treated as an inferior has caused those who succumb to its hold to lose their love of learning, ability to gain more obscure concepts and quest for intelligent dialect. 

Jan 5, 2012

Pre-registration is open for The World Education Games

Pre-registration is now open!!! Get ready to challenge yourself and others around the world!

Here are the dates -
World Spelling Day - 6 March 2012
World Maths Day - 7 March 2012
World Science Day - 8 March 2012

Practice begins Feb 1 so be sure to register to get as much warm up time in as possible!

Jan 4, 2012

The Well-Educated Mind ~ A Road Map to Learning Enlightenment – Offical UM Review

The Well-Educated Mind ~ A Road Map to Learning Enlightenment – Offical UM Review
Here is my official review of The Well-Educated Mind as posted on the Unplugged Mom site - ENJOY!

For years we have used and loved The Story of the World series andThe Well-Trained Mind was one of the first books on classical education that I read, but it was Laurette's interview with Susan Wise Bauer that led me to my library to reserve a copy of The Well-Educated Mind and I am so very glad that I did.

I have always felt that reading is the key to being educated and loving to learn. I have found that often those who feel they "can't read" or "don't like to read" see themselves as stupid and inferior to others. This is not a new phenomenon and in the first chapter Wise Bauer shares historical points of view that agree with this assumption as well as some interesting points as to how self-educated people through history built their educations by reading.
"Reading alone allows us to reach out beyond the restrictions of time and space, to take part in what Mortimer Adler has called "The Great Conversation" of ideas that began in ancient times and has continued unbroken to the present." p. 16
Within the initial chapter Wise Bauer also goes over a brief outline of the trivium using a fabulous quote from Francis Bacon; "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." to give a great outline to the levels of the classical three part process - "First, taste: Gain basic knowledge of your subject. Second, swallow: Take the knowledge into your own understanding by evaluating it. Is it valid? Is it true? Why? Third, digest: Fold the subject into your own understanding.  Let it change the way you think --- or reject it as unworthy. Taste, swallow, digest: find out the facts, evaluate them, form your own opinion." I have been reading, watching and listening to a great deal about the trivium lately and I have to say that this description is the one that has sealed the deal for me, as it has solidified the ideas of the stages for me and the importance of each step in the process of learning. Wise Bauer also shares some great insight into how our modern society reflects historical periods in a manner that reminds me of ebbs and flows of educational interests.

In Chapter 2 the theme moves on to the skill of reading, as Wise Bauer distinguishes between the gathering of data and the act of reading - "When you gather data, you become informed. When youread,  you develop wisdom - or, in Mortimer Adler's words, "become enlightened."p. 24 She then continues on to explain how different outlets of media allow us to gather data in different ways for different purposes and though this is ideal in some situations, it is detrimental to others. Wise Bauer also presents some great tools to determine if the reader should work on some remedial skills - reading fluency, speed and vocabulary - before moving on to the great works she has outlined in the book. These are the skills that make people feel inferior and intimidated by reading. Her examples and methods for this are clearly laid out and she suggestes resources that could help as well.

After reading this chapter, the multitude of aha moments rang through my head for the remainder of the day. This is what I have been trying to get across to my daughter for years. This is what they are forgetting in many schools. The mass information being pumped in by edutainment resources are not allowing children to make connections on their own or form their own opinions due to the overwhelming amount of details that are shoveled in through multiple senses. When you read a story you put the pieces together using prior information in your brain, you create the visuals in your mind and it is developed slowly with your own understanding as the base. When you watch a newscast, sit through a multimedia presentation or watch a documentary, you are passively fed the information with the bias of the presenter rather than your own mindset. Even when given both sides or an unbiased opinion, it is still not your own visions created within your head, it is those that are chosen by someone else. This makes it harder for your brain to categorize the new input and therefore it will often be lost as quickly as it came in.

As I read through Chapter 3 I had a very difficult time following because Wise Bauer was describing the very actions I was doing - note taking, summarizing and quoting as I went along. It is a rather bizarre thing to be reading directions for something that I have always just naturally done - imagine picking up a book that describes how to walk, explaining each muscle movement in detail. I realize that not everyone does this sort of journaling, but was glad to see that she pointed out the transition of society through the years to have taken something that was traditionally an external note taking to the current intrinsic usage - "Present-day use of the word journal tends to imply that you're creating a subjective, intensively inward-focused collection of thoughts and musings...But the journal of self-education has a more outward focus."p. 35 This should be the self-educated persons production of rhetoric, she states - "the journal is the place where the reader takes external information and records it (through the use of quotes, as in the commonplace book); appropriates it through a summary, written in the reader's own words; and then evaluates it through reflection and personal thought." p. 36 Wise Bauer then goes on to give a description of how to effectively take notes and suggests using the next chapter to try it out.

Chapter 4 is more than adequately titled - "Starting to Read: Final Preparations" as this is where Wise Bauer covers the general principles for reading, analyzing and evaluating literature - both fiction and non-fiction. She covers this with great tips and suggestions such as not to choose "scholarly editions, packed with critical footnotes that stop you dead every time you hit a little super script number."p.42, while giving explicit instruction on how to tackle each stage. The grammar steps she describes hold true for all genre and level, but she gives a brief description of the general steps for logic in this area as she covers them indepth for the specific categories in Part 2 of the book. For the rhetoric stage she recommends that you find a partner to tackle the great works with as this will help with accountability as well as fully engaging in the art of rhetoric which she aptly describes as "clear, persuasive communication, and persuasion always involves two people." p.46

In Part II of the book each chapter covers a genre giving history or insight about the area and then a path to understanding each including pointers, tips and questions specific to that area. Lists of titles include suggested versions and brief description, along with explanations as to why Wise Bauer choose the titles. She expresses clearly "The purpose of answering questions isn't to provide the "right answer" as you would in a fill-in-the-blank test. You answer them as part of your effort to think about books." p. 48 She also clearly states the emphasis on chronological is an important key to understanding the great works - "Writers build on the work of those who have gone before them, and chronological reading provides you with a continous story." p.50

Susan Wise Bauer has managed to create a relaxed conversation between writer and reader that is informative in a way that I have not found in other self-education books. She reiterates time and time again that if you have confidence in yourself and are steadfast in your ambitions you can become classical educated regardless of your previous schooling, education, or interest in learning. Throughout each chapter she slips in more explanations of the trivium stages in a way that is seamless and easily comprehended, even for those who have no experience with the concepts. This book would be a great addition to anyone's library and would be my top pick for teens, young adults and really anyone who feels they need to take charge of their education.