Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Egypt, King Tut, and I LOVE THE WEB

Today we went to see the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It's a bit of drive from here to there, especially since, after an exceptionally mild winter, this morning we woke to a blowing snow storm. We had already bought our nonrefundable tickets, so off we went, despite the weather. It was a long trip, especially for my husband who drove (thanks honey!), but it went by fast for us.

On the way we listened to Peeps at Many Lands: Egypt, by R. Talbot Kelly. I found it at My Audio School, and down loaded it at LibriVox. When we got to the exhibit, my kids had already had a taste of what Ancient Egyptian life was like. The whole exhibit was so much more enjoyable because of this knowledge.

It's an older book (~1910, which is why it's in the public domain) and so it was written before King Tut's tomb was found. It was also written from an Anglican British perspective for British school children. This let us talk about bias in books, both because of cultural bias and the limits of existing knowledge. I was glad to have the chance to explain again why we should always examine our sources.

We finished the book on the drive today, and after we got home tonight I thought I'd see what else I could find. Just at LibriVox I found these that look like they might be good for kids studying Egypt:

The Cat of Bubastes
Egyptian Tales, Translated from the Papyri

Sometimes people ask me "What curriculum should I use?" or "How much does it cost to homeschool?"

It doesn't cost more than a library card, internet access (free at the library!) and some foot work. I don't buy a boxed curriculum. I save my money for an audio player and tickets to the museum. :-)

Where do you turn to for good free homeschooling resources?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We're all new here

Having an exchange student has been a learning experience for me. I've had to think about how we do things and why. It has been helpful to me as a parent to realize that all our children deserve to be treated as if they are exchange students.

With an exchange student I have to assume that when he does something "wrong" that it's not because of ill intent, but because he doesn't know better, and that it's my job to explain to him how we do it here. There are so many things I just assumed that he'd know, but he didn't. I've also had to decide what issues are worth the effort and which aren't. So while I will always explain to him my expectations, and the reason for them, if he then doesn't choose to comply I have a decision to make. Is this important enough to work on together or is it something we can live with as is? The factors that play into it have to do with who it affects, how many people it affects, what the cultural expectation are outside of our home (and how the world will deal with him if he violates those expectations), health, safety, etc... Then we talk again about all those issues and move on as best we can.

As a minority, RBers are kind of like exchange students. In fact, all our children are new here. They don't automatically know what to expect and what to do. What a freeing way to think about teaching these things to our kids! It really helps clarify what is important and why.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Books on death and dying

The week before Thanksgiving we euthanized our dear Cherokee dog. She was more than 16 yo, lame, and very sick, but it was still a terribly difficult decision and a hard day.

Yesterday, my two youngest came with me as I took my 90 yo FIL to the doctor and then the hospital. Thankfully he's going home today and will be as well as a feisty 90 can be (pretty dang good, but rather stubborn!). We were reminded that every moment with him is time we should be grateful for.

We've mourned the death of relatives, friends, and pets. Each death is a loss, each death reminds us how precious and brief our own time together in this place is. We need to talk to our kids about death, the same way we teach them about life.

I think our culture avoids and fears death in a way that is very unhealthy. The thing is - we're all going to die. You, me, our children, everything we know and love will someday not exist. We don't do ourselves any favors by pretending it's not going to happen. Far better to accept it and talk about it with our kids. Share your values and beliefs. Talk about people and pets who have died. What do you remember about that person/pet? Remember the negative and goofy things as well as the good things. Read books about death. Show your child through your actions that the dead are with us in spirit, that love doesn't die.

All this made me realize that maybe other people would like to know some books we have found useful.

So here are a few I found on my shelves. As always, pre-read any books for appropriateness before sharing with your child.

What's Heaven?
The Fall of Freddy the Leaf
The Saddest Time
Gentle Willow

Sad Isn't Bad
I Wish I Could Hold Your Hand
A Bunch of Balloons
35 Ways to Help a Grieving Child

The tenth good thing about Barney
Forever Buster
I'll Always Love you

Loss of baby, sibling, pregnancy:
Molly's Rosebush
No New Baby
Thumpy's Story

Dukkha is the Buddhist concept that suffering is caused by not accepting the world as it. We will rarely welcome death, but perhaps we can come to accept it.

Emotional Content of Learning

Since I first started homeschooling, no, since I was a child, I've learned there's an emotional content to learning. If you're enjoying yourself when you're learning the content is not only more likely to stick with you, it's more likely that you'll seek out similar learning opportunities. If you're worried, uncomfortable, stressed, upset, etc., then what you'll remember is the feelings you had, very little of the content, and you'll be less likely to seek out similar situations.

Well, duh! Of course, you say? But traditional education hasn't taken notice, until now! Yea. Maybe there's hope for schooled kids of a classroom that pays as much attention to the emotional content as to the academic content.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Math doodles

Fellow math geeks, I have a new find!

How cool is this?

Math Doodles!

Can't wait to show the kids!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Fail?

If we go by word count (or lack there of) National Novel Writing Month was a complete bust for me. I was going strong and making my word count for 3 whole days straight. Then the sleep deprivation caught up with me. So I started taking my writing time out of the day time, which means time away from the kids when we were home. That didn't work so well either.

Does that mean NoNoWriMo was a failure? Well, yes. And no. I didn't succeed in making my word count but I learned a lot, on many fronts.

Good stuff:
I learned that I can write like a demon (which is to say a lot, if not necessarily good stuff) but that I need at least 2 unbroken hours to do it, and the first 20 minutes will be spent pencil sharpening.

I learned that I don't need to wait for inspiration to strike to write. I can write just as good (or bad!) stuff when I'm feeling uninspired. I need to remember that, like love, writing is a verb. Sometimes you just need to do it uninspired.

I actually made progress on my story, made a character that had flaws, AND worked up the nerve to mistreat her a little.

I did fall behind in many chores and activities that we usually do. I had that constant nagging feeling that I wasn't doing enough that comes with a deadline and conflicting pressures. I missed the feeling of playfulness I usually have with my kids.

I learned that the choices I made when I first chose to have children, and then to homeschool the children, are still choices I have to make today, and everyday. My time is the most valuable currency I have, and where I spend it indicates where my values are. As the children get older and need me less, I have reallocated some of my time, but most of it is still for them. If I want to write, something else has to give, and I need to decide thoughtfully what that is.

October/November's books