Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Semester Summary

In case you were wondering, yes, I did survive Christmas.

I definitely think I'll plan a more low-key holiday next year, as I was so spazzed out that I could barely enjoy myself.  Mom #2 really wanted lots of family around this Christmas, so I guess we'll have to manage a way to take turns so we can both enjoy our holidays.  I'm taking suggestions if anyone has a workable solution.  Maybe one of my New Year's Resolutions will be to be more laid-back in general  so that I don't obsess over house cleaning when people come to visit.  After all, it's mostly family and they all know and love us whether the house is spotless or not.

Of course, I've come to that conclusion only after putting Baby Boy and Mom #2 through high-holy-heck in the house cleaning department. Hindsight, you know. 

I hope everyone has and continues to have a wonderful holiday.  Ours was lovely and frankly, I'm glad it's over.  Kind of like a roller coaster ride . . . the anticipation is delicious, the experience is dramatic, and the after glow is oh-so-delightful.  *HAPPY * SIGH*

On the homeschool front, I guess it's time to wrap up the first semester and label our hits and misses . . . so without further ado . . .

  • Composition - We completed all the lessons in SWI-C.  I'm glad we finished it.  I did consider throwing it out a few times, but I'm also attempting to teach character here and we know that the entire world won't be structured to our liking once we hit the big time.  All in all, I think we learned a lot from it.  It really got us looking at writing from a different angle.  It certainly is a different style of writing.  Baby Boy and I had sort of fallen into the routine of simply writing book reports and lecture summaries, but this taught us to think outside the box a little bit and write from different angles and viewpoints.  My only concern is the extreme rigidity and formulaic approach.  Like any homeschool Mom, I tweaked it to fit our needs, but the setup can be a bit too structured for us loosey-goosey homeschooling types.  Another concern is that I personally think it's very expensive and I don't really know if I'd recommend it to a friend new, but I purchased it used at a substantial discount.  It's definitely worth it from that standpoint.  I think we'll label this one a moderate hit on sale and a miss at full price.     
  •  Vocabulary - We managed to get through the first half of Vocabulary Cartoons 2 book, approximately 150 words.  As a matter of fact, I gave Baby Boy a comprehensive quiz covering all of the words we've covered so far this year and he made a 100%!  What we really do is try to incorporate the words we learn into our every day speech, although you can't tell from the simpleton talk on this blog, LOL.  This helps to solidify what we've learned and take the knowledge from being only abstract in nature to more concrete.  We'd already had success with Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power last year, so this was a no brainer for us this year.  This is definitely a big hit. 
  • Literature -  We have thoroughly enjoyed our literature selections so far this year:  Frankenstein, The War of the Worlds, and our most recent The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.   After years of the obligatory American Lit and British Lit, it has been fun to branch out and do a little something free and fluid on our own.  I've never read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before myself, but had lots of ideas about how the book would actually be since it's such a classic story.  It was fun to read the actual text firsthand instead of relying on popular culture for the plot.  Baby Boy also enjoyed it too.  I think he may have enjoyed this book over Frankenstein, which was hard to beat.  Neither of us really enjoyed reading The War of the Worlds, but listening to the 1938 radio broadcast and watching two versions of the movie, I can say we definitely made the best of that one.  I think this idea of reading classic sci-fi and fantasy has been a great big hit.   
  • Pre-Calculus -  I heart Teaching Textbooks.  That's all I have to say.  I know there is talk amongst those on certain homeschool message boards that it is not as rigorous as other math texts.  I don't know about too many other texts as we began homeschooling Baby Boy his last year of elementary school, reviewed a little with workbooks during an abbreviated middle school and jumped right into high school math.  I guess he can be labeled a "mathy" kid.  Our first attempt at higher level mathematics was Saxon Math with DIVE cds, as it was recommended to me by everyone as the gold standard, but it simply wasn't a good fit for us.  We switched to Teaching Textbooks at pre-algebra and have never looked back.  Pre-calculus has been the most challenging subject we've had to tackle thus far, but having the detailed video explanations for each and every problem has really been beneficial.  Baby Boy has consistently placed better than grade-level on standardized testing and also tested solidly into collegiate level math on the COMPASS just a few weeks ago.  That's good enough proof for me and I've long since gotten over concerning myself with what others think anyway, so as you can imagine, another enthusiastic hit is among us.  
    • Chemistry -  As you know, we've outsourced this subject this year, but that hasn't stopped me from developing opinions on it, LOL, because that's just the kinda gal I am.  If you've been reading for a while, you know this is our second attempt at chemistry.  Last year was a big-ole-bust.  Historically we've used Apologia high school science courses because they are extremely user friendly and many online retailers have supply packs for them at reasonable costs.  We've had great success with biology, marine biology and advanced biology/human anatomy (Can you tell we like biology?), however the chemistry was a huge struggle for some reason.  Baby Boy and I both read the textbook and couldn't seem to make heads or tails of it and ended up ditching it about 1/4 way through the year anticipating he'd just eventually take it at community college.  Our new textbook, Chemistry Matters, from Singapore Math, has been a transformational improvement.  Even though I am not the primary instructor for this particular class, when I do have to assist either with Baby Boy's homework, lab presentation, or grading during co-op time, everything makes so much more sense to me.  Also, this may not matter to some people, but the text is lavishly illustrated with lots of color and holds the interest of even the most non-sciencey Mom (and student).  Baby Boy has also commented on how much better he likes it at well, so I'm going to rate this one another hit.  Additionally, adding in The Teaching Company's chemistry DVDs have been invaluable.  Mr. Cardulla is both entertaining and enthusiastic about chemistry, something I thought was virtually impossible.  These have been well-worth the expense and receive a whole-hearted thumbs up from both Baby Boy and myself.  Consider chemistry to be a double hit.   
    All of the extra-curricular activities are still big hits except for homeschool bowling.  That will have to be put on the back burner for now because the time won't work for us any longer.  It will directly conflict with Baby Boy's community college schedule beginning next month.  Teen participation has really been dwindling anyway, which makes me feel even more guilty about letting it go, but something really has to give.  We're going to attempt to keep everything else going.  More intensive black belt training (IS there such a thing?) will also begin next month, so the spring and summer should really be hopping around here.  

    Baby Boy will be taking Freshman Composition and math at community college and will continue with his chemistry co-op next semester, so the frequency and depth of our weekly monthly wrap-ups may diminish, but I'm going to try to find a way to keep them up.  I like putting our work down in a tangible way so I'm going to have to get creative about how to keep the rhythm flowing.  I'll figure something out.  I'm not sure what yet, but something.

    This has been a loooooonnnnnnggggg post.  If you read it all, thanks.  If not, I completely understand, it's just something that simply had to be done for my sanity's sake.

    We'll return to our regularly scheduled silliness . . . soon . . . you know . . . when I get around to it.  ;-)  

        Until next time . . .

        Thursday, December 24, 2009

        Holiday Honey-Do

        Here's a list of things that need to get done before we can consider this a successful Christmas.

        This is a list for everyone in the house to work from, not just me, although I think we can all agree that I'm the most psychotic and anal retentive serious about making sure it all gets done.

        During Holiday season, I generally do the majority of the cleaning and Mom #2 does the majority of the cooking. I have no patience for meals that take more than an hour or so . . . so everyone lives to die another day benefits from me not being in the kitchen during this time of year.

        Oh, and if you're wondering why some or all of this wasn't done in advance instead of being saved for the last minute, the answer's simple:

        I. Have. A. Problem.

        Housework must be done directly before guests walk into the house. Clean has a special feel and aroma. It cannot be imitated, duplicated or preserved. A house that is clean and sits is not as delicious or impressive as a freshly cleaned house. I know, sad, but true. Many prayers for my family. They have to live with it all. year. long.

        Wish us luck!

        • Get up EARLY CHECK!
        • Wash dishes (For the first time in GENERATIONS we manged to get to bed last night without a clean kitchen. My whole face is twitching which is why I'm up at such an ungodly hour writing this.)
        • Wash dog
        • Trim dog's toenails
        • Sweep floors
        • Mop floors
        • Vacuum carpet
        • Clean guest bathroom (to MY standards, not general purpose cleaning)
        • Dust EVERYTHING
        • Wrap gifts for Mom #2's grandchildren (because I'm too young and fresh-faced to be a grandma), daughter and guest (LOL), who will be coming over for Christmas Eve Dinner
        • Prepare big enchilada dinner
        • Be gracious hostess for above mentioned dinner which should last just long enough, but not too long as many chores still need to be done once they leave
        • Wash dishes, again
        • Revisit sweeping, mopping and vacuuming but hopefully not as aggressively as before
        • Pick up Christmas gifts from their secret sneaky-teenage-son-proof-location
        • Wrap above mentioned gifts and also wrap the gift for my Baby Niece (I hate wrapping gifts and prefer to leave it until the last possible moment. This strategy has obviously not served me well this year.)
        • Write my Mom a Christmas gift letter congratulating her on all the hard emotional work she's done this year with her mental illness because, even though my entire family agreed months ago that we'd only purchase gifts for the children this year, her quack of a therapist thinks we're gypping her out of her apparent birthright to have a present. *SIGH* This bullet could be parlayed into an entire blog post all on it's own . . . but I'll just let it sit at that for now. Maybe we can discuss it in detail after the New Year. I'll bring the couch. I'm sure I'll need to lie down (or is it lay down . . . no time for a grammar lesson today).
        • Get to bed early enough so that Santa Clause doesn't pass our house up
        • Get up EARLY Christmas Morning and hope Santa did indeed make it by
        • Have a short but sweet intimate 3-people-and-a-dog Christmas Morning
        • Put Christmas turkey in the roaster
        • Go to Mom #2's parents' house to have a delicious Christmas Morning Breakfast
        • Come home and prepare big Christmas Dinner
        • Yet again, be the Hostess with the Mostess as my Sister, Niece, Mom and Dad are coming over for Christmas Dinner
        • Wash dishes, again
        • Go to bed . . . and sleep-sleep-sleep . . . until it all feels like a god forsaken nightmare dream

        Everyone please have a lovely and safe Holiday. Be well and laugh loudly as often as possible. Spend it with someone you love and who loves you right back.

        Until next time . . .

        Tuesday, December 22, 2009

        Big Kids at the Festival of Lights

        Yesterday Baby Boy and I drove into town, which I rarely do, and ended up spending the entire day out and about.

        We started out with our homeschool group Game Day. Let me tell you, there is nothing more heartwarming than listening to 10 to 15 teenagers playing board games and drinking hot chocolate making so much noise that the Moms almost have to leave the room. They played Apples to Apples, I Doubt That, and some other made up games that only they know the rules to. We Moms had fun too sitting and chatting and not worrying about where our children were or what they were doing, because we could see them right there.

        After Game Day, we went out to lunch and had some delicious Mexican food. More teenage noise. We Moms wanted to relax and enjoy our lunches, but the kids forced us to hurry it up because they wanted to walk over to the park (which is really just a field) so they could toss the Ultimate disc around a little bit. Once again, we Moms were regulated to a park bench to sit and watch the whole shebang. Baby Boy has a little bit of a chest cough, so somehow he managed to convince the entire group that standing still and playing catch would be way more fun than a full out game of Ultimate Frisbee. Luckily for him because, I told him that if he started running, diving and jumping . . . he would be homeward bound. I don't want him getting a full-on chest cold the week of Christmas.

        Finally, we took another walk to the holiday Festival of Lights. It was so beautiful and such a fantastic time. We parked about a mile away so that we could 1) have free parking, 2) not get gridlocked by all of the traffic, and 3) leave whenever we wanted to. It was a stroke of genius, if we do say so ourselves. It was a lovely brisk night, perfect for a nighttime stroll to the park. We all had a great time looking at the lights and listening to the various holiday music. There were local bands around every corner performing their various interpretations of the holidays. Long live diversity!

        After we had looked at all the lights, the kids actually took over the play scape including the swings, slides, castle and moat. It's a good thing that it was dark outside or I'm sure we would have encountered dirty looks from the preschool Moms. I guess something about it being dark made everything more exciting and "teenagery" because they all let loose and had a great time. It was so funny to watch, because, as the Moms of teenagers know very well, they spend so much time acting too cool to move or speak that it's rare to see them run, jump, play and just let loose. It did all of our hearts a lot of good and we ended up spending an extra hour or so there after we had finished with the festival just watching our teen group play freeze tag, king of the castle and other childlike games. Hilarious!

        We came home and had a delicious barbecue chicken dinner prepared by our very own Mom #2. I'm so sorry she missed the good time, but I am glad she had that hot delicious dinner waiting. After all of that fun, we were ravenous for a good meal.

        We had such a fabulous day! With Baby Boy growing up so fast and many of the students in our homeschool group making college plans (although we Moms are seriously planning on holding things together as a homeschool alumni group since most of our teens will be doing time at the community college before actually going away to school), I get a little nostalgic as I know days like this will be fewer and farther in between.

        Don't get me started on Christmas just yet. Apparently our Thanksgiving dinner was such a roaring success that we are recreating the event two more times, once for a Christmas Eve dinner and another big gathering on Christmas Day. I really need a nice, low key, immediate family only day to get me ready to deal with the hustle and bustle of gift wrapping, cooking, cleaning and . . . more cleaning. I guess today will have to be that day . . . all the rest starts tomorrow.

        Happy Holidays to all of you!

        Until next time . . .

        Thursday, December 17, 2009

        Walking in a Winter Wonderland . . .

        Since we never get snow in this part of Texas, we like to make a little Winter Wonderland of our own around the Holiday Season.

        Since you've already dropped in, why not dust off your feet and take a tour?

        Go ahead and hum Winter Wonderland to yourself while you enjoy the attractions. It'll seem more real, if you do. I don't like blogs with music, so be sure to hum nice and loudly.

        We really enjoyed having you. Thanks so much for dropping by!

        Until next time . . .

        Tuesday, December 15, 2009


        Today I was doing a little lesson planning and entering some grades into Homeschool Tracker Plus and realized that this just may very well be the last week I'll homeschool.

        We'll be taking off the next two weeks to get ready for Christmas and just enjoy our normal winter break.

        The first couple of weeks of January is full of dental checkups, physicals, new student orientation, book buying and perhaps a trial run drive-by at the community college.

        January 19th is the first day of classes.

        Of course we'll continue to read good books. Good books are always on the menu around here.

        Our outsourced Chemistry class will continue, but not until January 6th as they're off for winter break for the next three weeks.

        But I'm not sure how much at home learning we'll be doing. Actually I am, because with two college courses for a student who hasn't been near a classroom in 7 years and the Chemistry class, I'm sure Baby Boy's plate will be full to the brim. I'm not looking to overload him.

        So . . . am I still a homeschooling Mom? Do I still maintain a homeschooling blog? Do I still have anything relevant to add to the homeschooling community? When you've dedicated your life to home educating your child, and that adventure (and it truly is an adventure) starts to draw to a close, do you resign yourself to a life of intense housecleaning?

        Do I become a trophy wife? I do have a dazzling smile. ;-)

        Inquiring minds want to know.

        Anyone been there done that? Anyone thinking about being there doing that?

        Until next time . . .

        Tuesday, December 8, 2009

        Transformation . . .

        You won't like them when they're angry.
        (Click for a full sized view.)

        Until next time . . .

        Wednesday, December 2, 2009

        Baby, It's Cold Outside!

        It's cold today and will be colder tonight. 44 degrees as we speak. Freezing cold!

        It took until the first of December, but Winter has indeed made it's way to Texas.


        Virtual hot chocolates and hot apple turnovers all around!

        Well, virtual for y'all. Real for me. Yummy!

        Until next time . . .

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