Long Summer

May 30, 2016

Transition back to school

Filed under: Uncategorized — by dbmamaz @ 2:01 pm

I homeschooled my boys for a total of 6 years.  About 2 years ago I graduated my older son, and this past school year, I returned my youngest child to school, in 7th grade.  It really went much better than we’d expected, and I thought some people might like to hear our story.

Why did I start homeschooling?

I was what is often called an ‘accidental’ homeschooler.  I had learned about homeschooling before having kids, but after much debate decided I was not patient or organized enough.  Plus, my mother and both my first and second husband were against the idea.

My daughter hated high school, but I managed to work with the school district to create a customized program where she took most of her credits for the last two years at community college, where she was much happier.  But meanwhile, my boys were completely miserable – the 7th grader ending up in detentions and suspensions because the school ignored his IEP, and the kindergartner crying every day begging not to go back.

My husband finally admitted that school was failing my boys and I couldn’t possibly do worse.  He was sure I’d have a nervous breakdown and put them back in school.  But even he was impressed by how well it was going by the end of the first year, so we continued.

What was my homeschool style?

After a while, I ended up calling my style ‘relaxed eclectic’.  I was not an unschooler, because we had daily routines and required work.  But I had the kids help choose what the work would be, and gave them a lot of flexibility inside the routine.  I don’t feel like we did very much work, really.

Here is an old post giving you an idea of just how relaxed 1st grade was.

I also have a post where I followed our homeschool for 1 day, and another one 2 years later detailing our homeschooling for a week.  You can see completely out-of-control it seemed at the moment.  I even have another post detailing how much I worried about how we were doing.

All this is to say, if you think you haven’t done enough so that your kids will be ready to transition to school, I probably felt the same way!

But then it was time to change.

Hubby and I had negotiated that I would homeschool until Orion finished high school, but then I requested one more year to help Orion’s transition after ‘graduation’.  During that year, Raven was showing a lot of maturation.  He would take his checklist, get the work done on his own time, call me when he needed me, and hardly fuss at all.  He even took a few online classes, and he took full responsibility for meeting requirements and deadlines, and emailing them for help as needed.  So I knew he was ready for school.

Still, Raven and I were starting to really dread this change.  But we agreed to take a tour of the school first, before we dug in our heels and refused.

Dealing with the school:

Before we could have a tour, we had to register for school.  I called Pocahontas and spoke to someone who gave me the list of items I would need to bring in to register, including his grades.  I explained that we don’t have grades, we homeschool.  She insisted that they have LOTS of homeschoolers come here, mostly from kids whose parents were on missionary trips, and they ALL have grades.  Well, I explained, we DON’T have grades.  “Then how will you know what classes to put him in?”

Luckily, the day we went in to register, we got to speak with the 7th grade counselor, and she was AMAZING!  She gave us the tour, and we were very impressed – the school was fairly small and well laid out.

The counselor was great with Raven.  She asked him some questions and found out he was nervous about handwriting. She explained that, since most work is done on the laptops, he wont need to write much by hand at all!  She discussed the class options with us, and basically let us decide what levels we thought he should be in.  Regular English and History, advanced science (with a promise to cover life science over the summer) and . . . well, I wanted him in Algebra, because we’d already started Algebra.  She insisted he had to be tested.  Fine.

Unfortunately, the test was the final exam for pre-algebra.  Their pre-algebra covered very different materials than ours had.  So despite his already enjoying the first several chapters of Life of Fred Algebra, he was put in pre-algebra.  I decided to hope for the best, but once school started, math became his most hated class.  They were covering stuff he’d known how to do 4 years ago.

I emailed his teacher, but she said she’d given him a pretest, too, and he didn’t know the material, so he had to stay where he was.  But . . . then they gave him the algebra readiness test.  The purpose of the test is to establish a baseline at the beginning of the year, and then when they compare that to the score at the end of the year, they decide if you go to algebra, or pre-algebra 2.  But his score was so high, they put him right in to algebra.  4 weeks in to the term!  Still, he caught up on the work and did well in the class, so he WAS finally in the right place.


Raven is not a social creature.  He is happiest not spending time with other kids at all.  So school was rather exhausting.  He quickly noticed the kids in the advanced class were nicer and better behaved, but he also commented that ‘all the nice kids already HAVE friends.’  Coming in in 7th grade is tough!  However, he has learned the names of 5 friends  – which is really huge for him!


Raven has been on A/B honor roll all year.  And he was even recommended for advanced English next year!  This was the kid who was running 2 years behind grade level in elementary English material.

Now, mind you, I’m not saying that my eclectic methods created an advanced student.  While Raven has never been tested, every other family member has been identified as gifted.  But I don’t think my eclectic methods held him back.


Raven, of course, would still love to come back home.  But now that I’m working on my own degree, I really am not interested in taking on full time homeschooling again.  Its hard enough to get my own stuff done, and I do hope to be back to work when I finish . . . hopefully in less than 2 years!  And hopefully he will get in to the Center for Information Technology specialty center for high school.   If not, we will re-examine our options.

All in all, a very easy and successful transition.

May 28, 2016

Biscuits – gluten and dairy free

Filed under: Food — by dbmamaz @ 3:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

I love my biscuits and so does my family.  They are tender and tasty!  Ok, I admit that there are random times when the dough is too soft and I have to make them as drop biscuits, and other times the dough comes out so dry that I have to add water.  But i have to assume those moments are ‘user error’ . . . sometimes I rush.

Several times, I’ve had people ask for my biscuit recipe, so here it is.  Also, I have had people ask what they can substitute – definitely corn or arrowroot starch can be substituted with tapioca – i’m allergic to tapioca.  Not sure about the other flours, though.  Oh, and they are good with cinnamon . . .


These quantities are for 6 biscuits.  Pictures are of a triple recipe.


  •  1/2 c corn starch
  •  1/2 c potato starch
  •  1/4 c arrowroot starch
  •  1/4 mixed bean and coconut flour (garfava or soy)
  •  1/2 tsp guar gum (or xanthan)
  •  2 tsp BP
  •  pinch BS
  •  1/2 tsp salt
  •  1/4 c shortening (i use part margarine and part shortening)
  •  3/4 c sour milk (1 tsp of lemon juice per cup of milk – i prefer soy or hemp)

Cinnamon Swirl filling: this is for a single recipe of biscuits

  • 2tb brown
  • 2 tb white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon!
  • optional butter – you may wish to brush melted butter on the dough before putting on the final cinnamon sugar.

Ham filling:

  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I use this recipe)
  • optional, a half cup of tiny broccoli florets, nuked until soft




Measure dry ingredients in to a large bowl.




Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter until well mixed.  Then stir in soured milk.  You may want to add the milk slowly to make sure its not too much, or may need to add a little milk (or water) if the dough is too dry.





For plain biscuits, oil your hands (I use spray coconut oil in the summer, and melted coconut oil in the winter) and form by hand.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 435 for 12 minutes.  I usually turn / change sheet position once during baking.  This dough is drier and firmer than usual.


For cinnamon biscuits – lay some waxed paper on the counter.  Sprinkle with some of the cinnamon sugar mix, and lay the dough on top.  Again, this dough is drier and firmer than usual.  Pat down a bit, then sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar and pat in to a rough rectangle.  Maybe add a little more sugar mix.




Cover with another layer of waxed paper and roll out with a rolling pin.  Try to keep the dough in a rectangle shape.  I dont measure the rectangle, but try to make it reasonably thin . . .but dont push it too much or it just gets really hard to work with.





Remove top layer of paper.  Grab one of the wide ends and carefully start to roll the dough.  Try to keep the dough tight against itself.  Often the dough will stick to the paper and rip, but just be patient.  It will taste just as good either way.


Carefully slice the dough in to ‘circles’ about 1-2 inches thick.  Ok, it’ll be more like an oval, but do your best.  and thslice.jpgplaceen lay on to the cookie sheet.






Raw biscuits


cooked biscuits

For Ham biscuits, I use spray oil on the wax paper instead of cinnamon sugar.  I fold the rectangle in half instead of rolling, and cut slices of biscuit about 2-3 inches wide to place on the cookie sheet.  Cook ham biscuits a little longer.

February 27, 2016

An old geek girl watches Star Trek . . .

Filed under: Media and culture — by dbmamaz @ 11:49 am
Tags: , ,

My first memory of Star Trek, I was probably 5 or 6 years old, and I joined my father at the television.  But the silicone rock creature traumatized me, and it was probably another 5 years before I became a fan.


Recently I started a re-watch of ALL Star Trek, in “star date” order (starting with Enterprise, the prequel).  About halfway through my watch of The Original Series, I started reading various online reviews of the episodes.


The reviews generally increased my enjoyment of the episodes.  They might observe issues or angles I hadn’t noticed, or explain interesting trivia.  But I often found myself at odds with the evaluations, or even baffled by what was praised and what was criticized.  While we all have different tastes and opinions, I began to wonder if gender played a role in many of these discrepancies.


Most of the reviews I read were written by men.  And television in that era was mostly created by men.  While some of the scripts of TOS were written by women, their works were often heavily edited by the men of the production team (which apparently included a number of ex-military men.)


Now, I never really cared for Star Trek’s original leading man.  After watching Enterprise, I did gain new appreciation for how likeable and expressive Shatner is as Kirk, at least compared to Scott Bakula’s Archer in the prequel.  But Kirk was famous for having a woman in every port, and I never understood why women would fall for Kirk.  He’s short, his face is unremarkable, and he has no presence.  Furthermore, when he kissed women, he always grabbed them roughly by the upper arm – OUCH!  I would feel afraid if someone manhandled me like that.  I found very few of Kirk’s romantic scenes at all romantic.


I read that the studio was surprised that Spock was attracting a lot of female fans.  But I was definitely one of them.  Spock was taller, had more striking features, was soft-spoken and intelligent, and none of this baby-bare chest – a real man has body hair, dammit!  Spock, in his romantic scenes, was restrained, expressing his interest with subtler signs, never physically hurting a woman he was interested in.  Definitely more my type.


But Kirk was a man’s man.  I had a bit of a revelation about this after watching the Cloud Minders episode.  The reviewers generally hated the skinny girl, Droxine, who was interested in Spock.  I, on the other hand, had been very drawn to her character when I was younger – probably because I could see myself AS her.  I suspect this is how many men saw Kirk.  They wanted to be the average-looking guy who can make any woman fall for him.  He can just reach out and grab the ‘prize’ (ie, the pretty woman).  He puts duty ahead of all soft things, his peers are all men, he’s doing a man’s job like a man.  And (almost) always gets the girl.  And it was still a man’s world in the 60s.


Now, many of these reviewers did speak out against the sexism they noticed in shows.  But most of it struck me as the “You aren’t allowed to say that anymore!” kind of sexism.  Here is an article pointing out sexist moments from Star Trek – these are the kinds of things the reviewers generally mentioned.


Sexist dialogue and images were common on television when I was growing up.  But I loved Star Trek for being more progressive in the bigger ideas.  So when I noticed it missing the mark on the bigger picture, that bothered me much more.


In “Requiem for Methuselah,” an ancient man, Flint, had created an android, Rayna, who was so perfect that Kirk fell madly in love with her.  Reviewers mentioned how unrealistic various aspects of the plot were, and pointed out that the main character recognized that he had gone too far.  But no one spoke about the sexism inherent in a man creating a ‘perfect’ woman.  Talk about objectifying women – the ideal woman is a manufactured object!


This android was perfectly beautiful, smart and helpless . . . every man’s dream?  In the end, she could not survive; she died of strong emotion, as if this is what defines a real woman.  Flint did not try to make another one.  But when Rayna died, distraught Kirk could not get over her at all – Spock had to mind-wipe him so he could function.  No woman had ever affected him like that.
This android is the only ‘woman’ that ever broke Kirk’s heart and she’s not a real woman.  Real women aren’t good enough?  I found it completely dehumanizing.  But no one else seemed to notice how offensive the entire concept is.


But it was Turnabout Intruder, the very last episode, which inspired me to write this post.  In it, Kirk is body-swapped with a crazy, murderous ex, Dr Lester.  There were two gender-related issues in this episode which I felt all the reviewers got wrong.


Before the swap, Lester tells Kirk “Your world of starship captains doesn’t admit women.”  This line has generated much discussion in the trekkie community.  Many point out that there was supposed to be a female captain in the first episode, but the studio nixed it.  Furthermore, Enterprise showed a female captain (set 100 years earlier than the original series).  Therefore, they argue, it was untrue that Starfleet did not allow women to be captains. Many have reinterpreted this comment to mean that there was no room in Kirk’s life for a woman.


They are missing the very real point of how few rights women had in the 60s!!  My mom went to college in the 50s, but the school she most wanted to go to did not accept women.  She had to lie about the date of her pregnancy in 1965 because pregnant women were not allowed to work past a certain point in the pregnancy.  Remember, the pill was not legally available for unmarried women until 1972!  The unfair limits society imposed on women when this show was made were very, very real.


I would believe that the intention of the episode was to state that the Federation did NOT accept woman as captains.  It may have even been added as a jab at the studio which would not allow a female captain for the pilot episode.  The point wasn’t about ‘star trek cannon’ (which obviously didn’t really exist yet).  This was a social statement about the limits placed on women at that time.


Somewhere in the episode, Kirk mentioned that this woman hated her own gender, and several of the reviewers ran with that.  But they’ve got it all wrong – in that day and age, being a woman meant you had SIGNIFICANTLY fewer rights and freedoms than men did.  Women who had ambition were blocked at every turn.  Women didn’t hate being biologically female. They hated living within the narrow social construct of womanhood in this country in the 60s.


I think most of the articles about the sexism of star trek are judging a 50-year-old show by today’s cultural standards.  But they don’t seem to have a very clear idea of what was considered to be feminist 50 years ago.  Here is a great article discussing the ways that Star Trek was extremely forward-thinking on issues of gender at that time.


So that is the impression that this (older) women got re-watching a favorite show from her childhood.


Apparently there is going to be a new Star Trek coming out this year or next.  I wonder how gender will be handled in that one?  And I wonder how it will look 50 years later?

January 2, 2014

2013 Year in Review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 10:53 am

This year started off with a bang – the kind of bang which leaves you picking up the pieces and wondering what to do next.  

The first week of January, my (adult) daughter had a bit of a breakdown and it was NOT pretty.  The final outcome was that my mom and I drove to a midway point between our houses (about 2.5 hours of driving for each of us) and I handed my daughter off to my mom.

Since then, my daughter and I have had light communication, but my mom keeps me informed of the general happenings in her life.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than living in a war zone, and she seems to be doing well.  So, over time, I’ve come to see it as all good.

So, you might recall that Feb of 2012, I had an injury to my knee.  I worked my way through 2 doctors, 4 images, a physical therapist and an acupuncturist, who finally recommended a third doctor, a surgeon.  He agreed to cut me open Feb of 2013 (almost exactly a year after the injury.)

The good news is that the surgeon was able to fix two problems.  First of all, he kept telling me, you know how when you drop an apple, it gets all brown and mushy?  And if you don’t want that to spread,  you need to scrape it out?  Well, that was my kneecap.  Ewww.  So he scraped it out.  But while he was in there, he also discovered that the synova was stuck up in the knee where it didn’t belong, and was getting pinched when I moved my knee.   So he also did  a partial synovectomy.

Recovery took much, MUCH longer than we had anticipated.  I managed to bruise my rib on one side and sprain my wrist on the other, leaving me unable to use crutches while still unable to walk.  My husband worked from home and drove the kids to their classes and did all the grocery shopping for three months?

6 months after surgery, in August, I could finally walk up AND down stairs, and take long walks to the park, and had only minimal pain.  After 18 months of limited mobility I was ECSTATIC . . . until the dumb dog ran straight in to my knee at close range, all 74 overweight pounds of him.  That put my recovery back about 3 months.

All of this put a big dent in school.  We did not accomplish much in the winter at all, and with the limited mobility, I had become quite the hermit.  We stayed home and focused hard on academics all spring.  I intended to start going to the river every day over the summer, and inviting all the homeschoolers we know  . . . but the river stayed at flood level all summer!  Instead, I introduced the boys to Doctor Who, with great success!  Raven even asked for his 10th birthday party to be doctor who themed.

We also tried to do a chemistry kit over the summer, but no one much liked it.  I had also put up chemistry posters, and found Raven making up stories about the periodic table poster.  I managed to explain the periodic table to Raven by also using the Bohr Model poster of the atom – he suddenly yelled “Why cant the chemistry experiments be this interesting?!”  Definitely a theoretical, not an experimental scientist.

So, this fall, things have been going well!  Woot!  No new crises, and everything has been smooth!  I always love that.  Hubby still hates his job, and is slowly looking for a new one.  And these last 2 weeks, hubby had off of work so we even got a few projects moving along!  All in all, a good upswing in the second half of the year and lets hope for a great 2014!

Academics summary and plan:

Both boys have continued in martial arts, despite me no longer participating.  Dh actually started attending the same school this fall, when the location moved closer to us.

Orion:  Last year’s chemistry program turned out to be a dud.  We made it most of the way through it, threw in some physics resources, and cut our losses by calling it ‘physical science’.   English, history and math all stayed steady as expected.


  • History is continuing as previously, he reads/writes essay about Zinn after we read similar timeframe in Hakim.  Zinn is a lot more dense in modern times, so that’s been keeping him busy.  When he’s done with that, we’ll either do politics (most likely) or more world religion
  • Math: He’s taking a self-paced MOOC aimed at helping kids pass the community college math entrance exams.  It is mostly review, but a review he really needed.  I’m hoping a very solid understanding of algebra will help him succeed in pre-calc at community college next year
  • English: He started off with a MOOC about LOTR, a great follow-up to last year’s English.  He is now working through the second half of Bravewriter Help for High School, which is about essays, and then will do a science research paper in the spring.  He’s also doing assigned fiction reading.
  • Science is primarily watching videos on advanced topics of biology and taking notes, with the intention to find a subject to do a research project on in the fall. He did take a MOOC on genetics, which was interesting and challenging.
  • Drivers Ed: he’s also taking a drivers ed online portion.  (My new years resolution is to get him in the car!)
  • We will be visiting local community colleges soon.  He has been doing his own assignments organization for the MOOCs, which I find very encouraging.  We are still not entirely sure what he’ll major in.


  • English: Raven’s spelling program, Logic of English, was AWESOME.  I am officially in love with a spelling curriculum!  Raven still frequently  throws on-the-floor crying tantrums over it, but in the end he will do the work and he is learning a lot.  Its even improved his reading. This is all we’ve been doing for English for a full calendar year, and we are almost done.  We will probably do some combination of Bravewriter, other lit studies, and maybe some Igniting your Writing
  • Science: Raven has continued with free reading science, but we may move on to LOF prealgebra/science combo books.
  • Math: Raven finished up the online math, some more murderous maths, and LOF decimals, but  Zaccaro scared Raven by introducing 2-variable algebra too quickly.  We ended up doing a review with Spectrum 6th Grade, which Raven is doing mostly independently.  We will move on to LOF prealgebra/science combos.  (and maybe the econ, I’m not sure)
  • History:  Almost done with Hakim, finally.  We watched several documentaries this fall – he didn’t like many of them.  Will move on to either Canadian history or world religion.
  • Programming: I bought a years access to a programming course to teach kids how to make minecraft mods.  We will probably start this when math and science combine in LOF

February 13, 2013

A week in the life of our homeschool

Filed under: Home School — by dbmamaz @ 1:57 pm

Recently I saw a call for a day-in-the-life post, but I did one of those 2 years ago.  Then a friend of mine wrote a week-in-the-life post.  Hers was pretty cool, because her days are all different.  I thought I should give it a try.  I kept notes for a whole week . . and came to the conclusion that our homeschool is pretty boring.  OK, this was one of the more ‘ordinary’ weeks . . no special projects, no doctors appointments.  But still . . . ugg.

Honestly, I wish you luck getting through it . . but here goes.


The day started like most Mondays.  At 10:00 I told the boys it was time to start school and Raven started screaming and whining and moaning, saying he hated school.

After letting him sputter for a minute or two, I told him I’d make his breakfast while he got dressed, and soon enough we were all sitting on the sofa.  I read the preface and first chapter of a book about the Battle of Antietam.  Several times, Raven jumped up to pet an animal and I had to call him back to the sofa.  I asked Raven who Jefferson Davis was and he had no idea, despite the poster behind his head.  At least Orion correctly identified the president of the confederacy.

The boys wrestled for a few minutes and then I got Orion started on his English paper.  I told him to write the intro paragraph and he wrote a sentence.  I gave him some more ideas and he wrote a paragraph.  By now Raven was complaining of a headache. I gave him a snack and some ibuprofen.  They walked the dog.  Orion ate a first lunch.  Growing teen, hobbit, whatever, he eats several times a day.  It was time to go to home school martial art.

When we arrived, Raven was crying, saying he felt too sick to participate. But the instructor, my personal hero, got Raven to participate the whole hour.  I was trying to do some chemistry lesson planning, but occasionally noticed Orion pushing Raven off of him or trying to correct his behavior . ..which he’s not very good at.  Poor teacher – she had 10 kids at 6 different levels, all on her own, and I think 4 of them are what I would call easy kids.  After all, this IS the homeschool class.

We get home and ate leftovers.  I ran out to grab gluten free pretzels at the supermarket and a book we had reserved at the library.

When I got back, Raven is off petting the cats and Orion can’t do the single problem assigned for chemistry.  I made him re-read the samples, but he’s got nothing.  Together,  we get through how to calculate the weight of a molecule, the relationship between the relative molecular weight and the weight of a mole, and the ratio of a solution, how to convert from cubic decimeters to cubic centimeters . .. and by the time we have arrived at and checked the correct answer, Raven comes in with a pillow over his head, declaring the pillow is his eye.  Wrestling ensues.  Its 3 in the afternoon. And we still have a lot to do

Raven and I did a Logic of English lesson without him crying.  That is noteworthy.  Now he is reading his science.  Orion did two of the three math problems I assigned.  The second one I helped some and it’s still wrong.  I tell him to do chores and review his English paper and be done.  Raven still has to do his math, but its computer based and he usually only does about 10 minutes a day.

I’m fried.  The day is cold and cloudy.  It 4 and I get a 90 minute break before I make dinner.


I swore I would start on time Tuesday, but I have hard time without the Martial Arts class deadline.  I slept in and updated some curriculum plans and let the boys have a lot of time on their beloved electronics and we finally started at 11.

We cleaned the table, got Raven breakfast and Orion an orange, and I read 2 chapters from the book about Antietem.  Raven said several times that if he was a rebel soldier standing behind the Union general, he’d shoot him . . .and then just a few minutes later was asking “Who is McLellan?”  He did seem interested in understanding the ways McLellan was a good and a bad general, but I’m not convinced he’ll remember much.

It was a warmer day and the boys played with the dog in the front yard before walking him.  Then lunch, then some chemistry on khan academy for Orion, to reinforce what we did yesterday, and Raven decided to explore as much free content as he could find on Brainpop.

Orion couldn’t focus so he took a jog around the block.  Next he made chocolate flourless cookies, which I put on his checklist last week, somewhat jokingly.  Raven is STILL on brain pop.  I’ve been trying to get us registered for the World Education Games with no luck.  Its 2.

Its 3. the cookies are yummy!  I read a few pages about Australia to Raven and had to sit next to him without commenting as he did the associated puzzles.  Orion is trying to get out of working any more on his paper because he wrote 2 sentences already.  Nope.

Did I mention how yummy the cookies are?  Orion finished a rough draft and hid in the bathroom for a while.  Raven and I finished up three logic puzzles and started on spelling, as Orion came in and started on math.

Raven is highly motivated by humor.  “Clock.  I want to clock you in the head with the clock” got a lot of laughter out of both boys.  I did have to remind Orion that a2 – b2 = (a + b) (a – b).  And that must have distracted me.  I started to ask Raven how many syllables in ship, just as Raven announced he was petting Charlie . . and I ended up asking how many Charlies are in ship.  The boys stared at me as it sunk in, and we all laughed until we were in physical pain!  Finally we finished spelling and Raven moved on to his math as Orion finished up his.

4:30 . . . Orion has been done for about 10 minutes.  Raven just finished his math and argued over the laundry/dishwasher chores.  I finally told him to just do the dishwasher.  He’ll do laundry later.  I finally got the registration working, with help from one of my online homeschooling boards . . see, they AREN’T a waste of time!  Need to start working on dinner in 30 minutes . ..


Wednesday is our light day.  Yes, I know,  you thought the first two sounded light.  We started fairly promptly at 10:05, cleaned the table, fed Raven, read a chapter of history.  Then I got the boys to log in to World Education Games to set up their avatar and play some practice rounds – they loved it!  Then walk the dog, a 20 minute break until martial arts.

So, Mondays’ martial arts class went relatively smoothly.  Not this one.  As soon as we arrived, Raven announced that he felt sick.  I pushed him to go in and change.  Orion came out promptly, in his dobak, and announced that his legs ached.  I pushed him to go for at least the warm-up exercises. Raven had not gotten dressed yet, and eventually he came out, still saying he was sick.  I told him to TRY . . . but about that time, Orion said he needed to sit down.  Soon he said he was having a panic attack due to the noise, and went to a quieter space.  Raven did make it through the whole class (minus the first 10 minutes) but his behavior was terrible . . . wriggling around, playing with younger kids instead of paying attention, etc.  Orion never came back in. By the end of it, both boys and mom ALL had headaches.

Fish sticks and apples and leftover cookies for lunch.  No more complaints of headaches . .. so off to the park – its sunny and 50 in January!  Park day went well – everyone found someone to play or talk with, including me.

We passed a school on the way home and Raven talked about how it would be nice to ride the bus home with your friends after school.  Hmm. I really want him in public school for high school, but I’m not as sure about middle school . . . we’ll see.


I SWORE I would be quick this morning, and grade all of Orion’s papers, and start us by 10:30.  It’s now 11:15 and I’m just making the assignment checklists.

We read a chapter of Antietam, which I’m enjoying even if they aren’t   The boys walked the dog and we all had lunch.  Orion has moved on to doing work – studied his driver’s license material for about 3 minutes (!) and now is watching the religions videos I assigned.  I’ve got a load of laundry in and plan on making the pie crust for dinner shortly.

Its 1:30.  Orion finished his videos and is eating fruit.  Raven is back on Brain Pop.  I am making crust, second load in the wash, and promising Raven we’ll start geography and English soon.  Orion said he was tired, so I sent him up to his room to lay in bed while reading his chapter of LOTR.

Raven and I got through the Australia adventure pretty easily, but he balked at the idea of writing plurals in his language arts.  He laid around moaning for a while, and got back on brain pop.  I called Orion downstairs from his room.  He finished up the LOTR worksheets, but started to lose it over chemistry.  I helped him work through the first problem, and he was able to work through the second problem with an example from the book.

I did more prep for the pot pie, and got Raven back to the table where he’s still crying over his LOE lesson.  Orion tried to get out of math and I told him to finish 2 complex word problems as it’s already past 4.  We still need to clean the house for the junior Lego team, and Raven has yet to do math or science.

Orion spent 10 or 15 minutes on his first problem and got it wrong.  I looked over his work and could not find the error.  I told him to just do his chores and stop.  Raven finally did his English without too much drama, read 10 minutes of science instead of 15 (because its late and he probably did some science on brainpop) and yes, you have to do math, because this is a 90 day subscription program and I want you to finish it before it runs out and we already took off 3 weeks over xmas . . don’t ask.

Its 4:55.  ugg.  I just put the pot pie in the oven and the junior Lego team gets here at 6:30.  Raven is just finishing up.


I wanted to start promptly this morning because we are supposed to have a ‘play date’ with two girls around my boys ages, who love video games.  Well, 10:25 is less than half an hour late, right?!  I read another chapter of Antietam – the troops are now lined up for the big battle – but my boys can’t seem to take any more of this book, so we’ll move on next week.

Since the dog was restless and the boys were fidgety, I told them to go ahead and walk the dog, but Raven got distracted by a cat while getting socks out of his room.  We only have 3 hours until we need to go . .. and a lot to do.  Harrumph.

The dog was walked, the lunch was eaten.  I graded several of Orion’s papers while they were walking and sent him feedback.  Orion watched his religion videos, then went upstairs to lay down . . . uh .. with his hand held.  Oops.  Raven was willing to do geography right away when Orion went upstairs, and we finally finished Australia.  He wanted to look a tiny bit at Peru . .. which he thought was Perry, and then par – roo . .. PUR like a cat . . .PUR ROO.

Raven started on free write (of course, about another video game he wants to make) and I called Orion down.  Orion read his LOTR and did about half of his chemistry end-of-chapter test, which was all I was demanding, as it was getting late.  He played some World Education Games and did a few math problems.  Raven did not want to do math or World Education games, but in the end, he did both – and we were OUT of here by 2:15 to go to our play date

We had a great time!  They had moved from . .. Wyoming?  Montana?  I can’t remember . . about 3 mo ago.  The older daughter is 3 years younger than my older son and the younger daughter is 1 year younger than my younger son, and they are all really in to video games and web culture – they had a blast ! the mom and I also really hit it off, talking about all sort of things under the sun.  What a great end to the week!


January 1, 2013

Year in Review: 2012

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 1:14 pm

Well, 2011 was celebrated as the year without crisis.  And celebrated with good reason, as that is certainly not my norm.  This year we are back to crisis mode.

First crisis happened in February.  The boys and I were testing for our blue belts (having already earned yellow, green and purple).  I slipped while attempting (for the 4th time) to break my board, and couldn’t get up.  At first the injury seemed relatively mild – no damage to muscles or tendons.  The tests were all clear: x-ray, MRI, bone scan and CT scan.  But 10 months out, I still can’t use my knee.

Well, the months of Feb and March went by in a haze of pain.  Come spring, I decided I needed to start getting up my walking stamina so I could do some field trips when I visited my mom in the summer.  Since we had been studying the revolutionary war, we wanted to take advantage of the historical sites near her home outside of Philadelphia.

First we visited the National Constitution Center.  There were reenactors, a play about the revolution, all sorts of displays, and statues of the signers standing around a recreation of the meeting room where they signed the constitution.  Unfortunately, the play was too loud, and Raven was begging to leave the whole time.  The only thing he liked was the plaque which showed how many US troops died in each war we’ve been in.  Little statistician.

Then we visited the Philadelphia science museum.  Sure, it has nothing to do with history, but it’s a HUGE hit with my kids!  Well, until Raven stuck his hand in the elevator door.  They were really sweet with him, though, at one point giving him a plastic glove full of ice!

Finally we visited Valley Forge.  Luckily you can drive around most of it, because it was in the upper 90s that day . . . still, it was a big hit.  There were historical story tellers who gave out stamps to put on a map – they were very funny, too!

Unfortunately, I developed tendonitis, from limping around so much.  The doc sent me to more PT for pain relief, but the PT still insisted he can’t help unless the damage is fixed first.  After my doc thanked me for ‘the intellectual challenge of trying to care for your knee’ I switched to a knee surgeon for another opinion.

At this point it looks like I dislocated the knee cap, bruised the bone of the knee cap and the top of the tibia.  And, the gift that keeps giving, damaged the ‘white’ cartilage that lines the inside of the kneecap – NOT the meniscus, but the lining of the kneecap itself.  The doc says if that IS the problem, he has a 75% chance of being able to fix it.  However, while there is swelling under the kneecap, he has a 10%  chance of making me worse without fixing anything.  So I’ve been resting to try to get the swelling down, but its not working.  I started acupuncture, but if 4 sessions don’t take down the swelling, I’m back at square one – my knee does not function.  I can stand, I can limp around, but I cannot bend the knee while putting any pressure on it.

For homeschool, over the summer we focused heavily on science.  We worked through a lab kit about light, did some Lego kits about pulleys and gears, hatched butterflies and learned a bit about insects, and did a study on the human body ending with the body exhibit at the science museum.  I was pleased how well it went, as it felt like we had been a bit too light on science.  Orion also continued with math and did Scratch programming, and Raven did a typing tutor.

As summer drew to a close, I approached homeschooling with the confidence of a veteran.  Even my husband commented that I finally seem to be on top of everything.

Orion’s Junior year:

  • English: literary lessons from Lord of the Rings, a full year study – very easy for me as its all planned out!
  • History: continue w US history as before, plus some Intelligo World Religions
  • Math: review algebra with LOF and then continue with Singapore, switching to Discovering Math level 3 (since our previous series had been discontinued) – both went very well!
  • Science: Chemistry Matters – ok, this is a bit of a PITA – I have to figure out daily lessons, find supplemental videos since we cant do the experiments, and still I make him look stuff up on google if there are things he doesn’t know – because some material is apparently only covered in the experiment book (which I actually bought . . and lost . . .)
  • Robotics – this was through First Lego League, and took up a lot more time and stress than expected.  Orion still does not like robotics, but he did pick up the programming very easily.
  • And some French which is going very badly

Raven (4th grade):

  • English: some Bravewriter-inspired freewriting, copy work, poetry and random supplemental books about language.  Spelling Power did not go so well, and we’ll be trying LoE in January.
  • History: continue w US History
  • Math: We started with Murderous Maths measurements, did a bit of long division and multi-digit multiplication review, plus some facts reviews, did a bit more of LoF decimals, and got side-tracked with Elements of Mathematics.
  • Science:  for now, Raven is just reading science books and doing a sentence of copy work each day – but he hates the copy work and I will drop that when we start LoE.
  • Legos: Raven is also doing FLL, coached by his dad.  It is . . . well, we’re not entirely sure its worth the trouble.  But we’ll follow through with the commitment.

This fall I went back to church choir.  At first, I even managed to drag Orion along with me, but he kept falling asleep!  So I ended up bringing the boys to the kids  . .well, I thought it was choir, but it was a mixed performance – some bells, some signing, and a little singing the first go-round.

Heron seemed to be doing well this year as well.  She finished up strong at the local Community College, and was accepted as a transfer in to VCU.  She also FINALLY got a job – in the copy center at the local Staples.  This was a good fit for her background in graphics, and also a reasonable place for her to find contacts for advertising, which was her chosen field.  Unfortunately they would not cut her hours below 30/week when school started.  She had a fibromyalgia flare and had to quit the job.

She was feeling sick all fall, and her mood started deteriorating too.  Then she went on a trip with some friends to NYC to go to a conference, but they drove overnight and went to the conference with no sleep, so she got REALLY sick.  About 2 weeks later, she ended up in the hospital in crisis.  She was kept 3 nights and let out with no plan.  She seems convinced living in my house is root of her problems.  She was threatening to quit school until my mom offered to pay her rent so she can move in to town.  She is barely speaking to me so I have no idea what is going on.  Except that my house is super tense.

Oh, and last but not least, the husband hates his job.  No, that’s not news, it’s almost always been the case since I’ve known him.  But he’s job hunting again, which always brings a bit of hope.

Lets hope for a calmer, happier, healthier year in 2013.

December 8, 2012

What is the inspiration I need?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by dbmamaz @ 2:11 pm

What is the inspiration I need?

 I need to know that this season of parenthood is not finite

 I need to know that its ok that I don’t feel joy in my work as a parent

 I need to know that I AM a good enough parent, even if my children are nothing like other kids

 I need to know that I AM a good enough parent, even if my children are mentally ill

 I need to know that I can still travel back to those quiet woods, cold waters, streaming sunlight that made me feel so free and happy in my youth . . even if only in my mind . . and it WILL be enough

 I need to know that there is still time to fulfill me

 I need to trust that I am doing my best to balance the needs of my kids and my own needs, even if the needs of my kids seem to outweigh mine . . . sometimes they really do. 

 I need to trust myself without judgment.  It is only in accepting the world as it is, including myself as I am, that I am free to move and change

March 1, 2012

Declaration of Independence from Public School

As a wrap-up for our study of the Declaration of Independence, I decided we should write our own declaration.  I used this website for some questions to ask the boys.   The three of us brainstormed the list of complaints together, and Orion and I did most of the ‘what are you going to do about it’ questions.

Then I sent all our notes and a link to the original text to Orion . ..and he put together the first paragraph and the list and sent it back to me!  I did cut the list slightly  (to make it fit on a page!) and I wrote the last paragraph.

We think it came out pretty well!  Click on the image to see it full size.

(image has been updated to remove 4 typos, 3/4/12)

January 10, 2012

2011 Year In Review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 2:13 pm
Tags: ,

2011 – WOW!  This has been the calmest year I’ve had in a LONG time! We did have some transitions, but I think this is the first year in over a decade with not a single real crisis.  It’s really weird.  But in a good way!

In January, hoping for some calm sailing, I put together a regular schedule for our homeschooling.  It takes some planning work, but results in more accomplished, less stress, and less chaos.

The biggest family transition was really my husbands.  By the end of January, we agreed that he would quit his hated job.  The second week of February he was ecstatic, but then he buckled down to the hard work.  While it was nice having an extra set of hands for homeschool help, we were all happy to have him employed again in May.

The next transition was my daughter’s.   After spending 7 mo living with her bf’s family in CA, she decided to move back home. We are getting along better than ever before.   Work was as hard to find here as it had been in CA, tho, and in the fall she returned full-time to the community college.  She was inducted in to the honor society, and is now in process applying to VCU for fall of 2012.

This year brought a few good field trips.  In the spring hubby was able to come with us to the National Museum of Natural History, a good followup to our fall evolution unit. In the summer, the kids and I visited my mom, including a wonderful trip to the Franklin Institute. In the fall the four of us visited the historical recreation of the original town of Henricus, which was how our county, Henrico, began 400 years ago.  This coordinated with our study of Jamestown.

The fall brought even more structure to our homeschool, with more outside activities than ever before. Orion, who had taken sax lessons over the summer, joined newly formed homeschool band and choir classes. I joined with 2 other families to create a grade school science coop. We continued with martial arts and the home school video game club, and added an ongoing D&D group.  Raven is reading more and more on his own, choosing to read to himself at bedtime instead of having dad read to him. Orion’s patience for board games has been a big growth. Hubby has renewed his interest in board games, which makes it good timing.

With the busier schedule, I’ve had to get much more organized with my cooking and menu planning. I’m in love with Paprika, a recipe app for my iPad  (a birthday present from my mother!).

Yes, this has been, for me, an amazing year. No crisis, no horrible news, no big adjustments. Just steady improvements! I hope this becomes the new normal around here!

October 16, 2011

Fall of 2011, home school status report!

Filed under: Curriculum,Home School — by dbmamaz @ 9:52 pm

 This fall’s curriculum is going very well!

The only adjustment I’ve had to make so far was for Raven’s writing curriculum. Our schedule is VERY busy. Here, let me explain. 

Things we do outside of the house:

  • Monday: martial arts (including me!) from 12-1
  • Tuesday: Parent-taught science coop from 9:30 – 11:30; Orion choir from 3-4
  • Wednesday: martial arts 12-1, park day 3-4:30-ish
  • Thursday: Orion band from 11-12
  • Friday: every other week, home school video game club from 3:30-5:30

Subjects we are studying:

  • Joint History: We are reading about 2 chapters of Joy Hakim’s History of US, together, on the sofa. This is a 10 book series, and I hope to finish it in 2 years! This is supplemented with appropriate selections from Chester Comix, and occasionally other books or videos. We generally have the map of the US, a World History Atlas, or a blow-up globe with us (the dog is TERRIFIED of the globe). Oh, and I sometimes pull up Google earth on my iPad, too!
  • Orion:
  • Raven:
    • English: We are now using Language Smarts from the Critical Thinking Co. It’s a great fit because it is more like logic work based on language. The last thing we tried was Spectrum Writing workbook, which was a total failure. Before that we tried having him write to pen pals. Yeah, like pulling teeth. He is willing to do this one (so far, 2 weeks in), and I know he’s learning something. He is also reading for fun, finally! Mostly Garfield books, and some Stink books. Dad also continues to read to him at bedtime – this month its books in the Time Warp Trio series.
    • Math: We were lucky enough to get chosen to review a chapter from an upcoming math series. Raven LOVED the textbook, which is comic book style. He resisted the exercises at first, but was able to see for himself that doing the easier problems first helps him to do the harder problem. This was a major breakthrough for him! Now that we’ve completed the chapter, we are back to what we were doing over the summer. We are reading Murderous Maths books, and doing problems from Zaccarro’s Primary Challenge Math. When we first started this combo, he would only do the level 1 and 2 problems in the Challenge Math book, but now he’s doing level 3 and ‘Einstein level’ problems, mostly in his head, with only the occasional hint from me. We may continue on to the next level of Challenge Math, or we might try out Problemoids – in fact, the owner of a math website is trying to get us a free copy of that to evaluate as well!
    • Science: in the coop, we are using Real Science Odyssey Chemistry. Raven seems to think its ok, and I only have to teach every third week. He’s also reading a lot about the planets, which is still his biggest area of interest.

This schedule is exhausting for me, but the boys really like getting out of the house so much. The academics may be slightly on the light side, but my philosophy is to meet them where they are. I don’t want so much work that they get panicky or scream and cry or learn to hate school. I try to come up something they are interested in with just enough challenge, and a format that works for us all.

Year three of homeschooling feels good (most of the time!!)

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