The Curriculum Gremlin and Saxon 76

Experts now believe that the Odd Sock Gremlin has a cousin, the Curriculum Gremlin, who lives on the bookshelves of unsuspecting homeschoolers.  The latest mystery occurred at the home of the Halls.  Sometime between when their oldest child used Saxon 76 two years ago and their 2nd child started Saxon 76 yesterday, the answers manual magically morphed.  It is now the answers manual to a different edition of Saxon 76 printed in a different year with a different set of tests. 

“We’re completely baffled,” said Inspector Hall, the chief detective in charge of Missing Homeschool Curriculum.  “We have no leads and no explanation.”

Mrs. Hall, whose sanity is now in doubt and the cause for further investigations, clearly remembers that answers manual matched the textbook when she last used it. 

“There’s simply no way I could’ve graded Cameron’s papers for an entire year without the proper manual,” she insisted firmly.  “Unless, of course, I dreamed the entire year and it never really happened.”

Reliable witnesses confirm that, indeed, the textbook and test forms are clearly labeled “Third Edition,” whereas the answer book does not and, in fact, carries a different printing date entirely.  How this manual was switched out with the Third Edition manual while being stored “safely” in a box and without contact with other Saxon books is not known.  Fowl play by gremlins is suspected.

If any homeschoolers have a third edition answers manual they are willing to part with, they are begged to contact the Halls as soon as possible.  Lives are at stake.  Mrs. Hall claims that if she has to work every test and problem set in Saxon 76 for an entire year, random children in her immediate vicinity will suffer from extreme grumpiness (her grumpiness, that is; the kids’ grumpiness is a separate consideration). 

If any homeschooler has need of the Saxon 76 answers manual copyright 1992, seventh printing May 200, no edition listed, they are welcome to it.  It’s only worth at this point is a symbol of mysteries that have no answers.

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Breaking boards

Jordi’s awesome front kick 

Four of us got belted yesterday.  In taekwondo, that’s a good thing.  🙂 My 3 kids and I have been studying taekwondo together this summer, a sweaty but satisfying way to get quality time together.  It’s so fun to watch them getting better, and I have to work harder knowing that the kids are watching me, too.  Last night we were awarded our new belts that we tested for a few weeks ago.  My favorite part of belt testing is breaking boards.  It’s so Hollywood. LOL When I think of martial arts, I see guys breaking boards with their bare hands (or feet or head).  So splintering that wood makes me feel official.   Check out the cool pictures of the kids getting tough.  No one was working the camera when I broke mine. Jordi (above) used a front kick to earn her gold tip, Cam (below top) smashed a elbow strike for his orange belt, and Sean (below bottom) used his hammer heel to earn his gold belt.

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And these are my adorable nieces after our instructors awarded their white tips.

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Homeschoolers from Mars and cheap hot dogs

Students Playing with Robot

It’s official.  Homeschoolers are from Mars. 

At least, ours are. That’s M.A.R.S. with capital letters and periods between, of course, indicating that these are actually Maniacs Attempting Robot Science. 

Robots!  How cool is that? (Stay tuned for news about how you can support science and score a cheap lunch at the same time.)

Home Educators Around Texoma excitedly, bravely, scientifically, robotically, and a little insanely, announces the formation of our first ever robot team – M.A.R.S.  18 eager middle school and high school students will venture to Sherman, TX on September 8 to accept a challenge to build a remote-controlled robot from a box of spare parts, returning 6 weeks later to compete against 20 other school teams for robotic supremacy.

The robot tournament is hosted by B.E.S.T. Robotics, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology through exciting, competitive tournaments provided free of charge to any public, private or homeschool group brave enough to dive in to a new adventure.  (Go ahead – ask me how your school can get involved – I’d love to tell you more!)  In addition to valuable science and engineering skills and knowledge about drawing, designing and working with tools, the kids learn teamwork, good sportsmanship (no flame throwers or buzz-saws on these robots), and creative problem-solving.  They’ll be designing a website, creating a power-point presentation, and interviewing with judges as they practice important skills across multiple areas. 

Each year, the B.E.S.T. tournament features a new obstacle course and a new challenge for the robots.  This year’s theme for the competition is Mission to Mars.  Check out www.bestinc.org to see all the action.

Now…about that cheap lunch?  Here’s the scoop.  Although B.E.S.T. generously provides free tournaments and all the parts for the robots, and although we’ve recruited some amazing adults willing to volunteer their time to teach the kids how to use tools and build the robots, M.A.R.S. still needs funds to transport the team to and from the Dallas area three times (more if we win the tournament and advance to regionals).  That’s a lot of gas and fast food. 

On September 8 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. M.A.R.S. will be hosting a 10 cent hot dog sale at the Wichita Falls Atwoods on Loop 11.  You heard right – 10 cents per hot dog!  But wait, there’s more.  Chili, nachos, pizza, Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, chips, cookies, cakes…all available for your Labor Day lunch pleasure.  You know you’ll be out anyway, and you know you’ll be hungry.  Swing by, help out some kids who are excited about learning science (even if they do still want to attach a flame thrower to the front of the robot), and eat nachos.  C’mon! Nachos!

Years from now, when Dateline is doing an investigation into why so many famous scientists hail from Wichita Falls, you’ll be able to say you were part of it.

Besides, how often can you say you had lunch on M.A.R.S.?

Biking the lake…take 2

Cooler than normal temperatures tempted me again. Since my dh replaced the flat on my bike, I thought…yeah….I’m gonna go back to the lake and enjoy the bike ride I missed last week. I parked at one end of the trail took off with the greatest confidence, anticipating a long, energizing trek. I was admiring the water and the sunflowers and counting all the little jackrabbits zipping about in the morning breeze. I should’ve known that bike had other plans.When I got to the end point of the trail, I u-turned, checked my watch, and considered all the variables. I figured I was set to finish the 12 miles in right at an hour. Excellent! Deep breaths, set for the return trip…and then a funny flapping sound from behind and the bike went wobbly. Another flat!!!!It was the tire we’d just replaced! And I was 6 miles from my truck and the air pump.

My first impulse was to kick the bike and insult its intelligence. But you’d’ve been proud. I reminded myself that trials produce patience, and as trials go, this one was minor.

After all, the sun was still shining, the scenery was still peaceful, and walking is exercise, too. I just hadn’t planned to walk 6 miles pushing a wonky bike. Sigh.

I was trying to think of scripture to meditate on to keep my mood peaceful. A friend told me he likes to meditate on theIsaiah passage about soaring on wings like eagles and not getting tired, but I didn’t think I was really soaring. I finally settled on the 23rd Psalm, since I was uniquely positioned by green meadows and still waters at the time.  🙂  While I was looking around at the birds and trying to recite the psalm, I walked too close to the bike dug my calf into the teeth on the foot pedal. Ouch!! Now I had blood dripping down my leg and still 5 miles to walk. I tried singing, “Count Your Blessings” and “Sing and Be Happy.”  That worked for awhile.

But gals, those landmarks that had zipped by in one direction sure crawled tortorously slow coming home. And the cool morning wore off into sweat city. I finally managed to position the bike so I could jog at times. Was I ever happy to see my truck at the end of the road.

Lessons learned? 1.  Park in the middle of the trail instead of the end so you don’t have to walk as far. 2.  Get an air pump that attaches to the bike because it’s useless otherwise. 3.  Or maybe I should give dh back his bike and trade it for crochet hooks.

Tell me again why I love that lake?

Inner Peace through Exercise…or not

Lake Wichita is my favorite place in the world to exercise.  Since my friends introduced me to the 2.8 miles jogging loop there, the place calls to me whenever I have the opportunity to sneak out on my own for 30 lovely minutes of sweat-induced tranquility.  I wrote this a few weeks ago after one of my many misadventures in fitness.

My kids have all left for summer camp, so I awoke this morning to an empty house and endless possibilities. I dropped dh at work at 7 a.m. and thought this would be a fabulous day to take a long bike ride around the lake. I haven’t been out there since the floods a few weeks ago. After wrestling the back seats out of the suv and wrangling the bike in (definitely the hardest part of the workout!), I drove to the starting point and was greeted by perfect sunshine with the waves lapping high on the shore, almost to the trail. I wrestled the bike out of the truck, tried to air up a flat, and ended up destroying the inner tube. Aack! Back into the truck with the stupid useless equipment.

But the lake beckoned. So I ran. I took off at a slow trot so I could inspect the trail for damage. Sure enough, the flood tore up several spots pretty badly, but nothing I couldn’t get around.

The first section of the running trail parallels the road, with flat land on one side and neighborhoods on the other. Then you follow the curve into wilderness, totally cut off from view of any civilization. That curve sends a little thrill up my spine. It’s been so long since I ran there, I’d almost forgotten how bright the sun, how refreshing the shade of occasional trees, how unexpected the cool breeze, how intrigueing that next curve of trail into the unknown.I also realized that standing water crowded both sides of the trail where normally dry land stretches. 2 weeks ago I could’ve invited my virtual exercise buddy RJ to kayak that trail with me. 🙂 Nature loves the soaking, though. Everything green was growing abundantly; the sound of crickets was twice as loud as usual, and hordes of dragonflies darted in and out of the tall grasses around the swampy areas. Thinking about the enormous amount of water that had fallen, and being overshadowed as I was by rows of 8 foot tall sunflowers, I felt very small. I like small. Small is peaceful. Being tiny and insignificant makes the weight of responsibility off my shoulders. The hassles of life seem less urgent. I know I’m in the hands of One with infinitely more power and wisdom than myself, so minor annoyances like flat tires just aren’t that big of a deal.When I finished my 3 miles jog/walk, I stepped right to the edge of the lake to stretch. Closing my eyes and feeling the wet breeze and hearing the waves, I felt like I could’ve been on any beach in the world. I had a sudden urge to do yoga…you know how yoga videos always show the person isolated in the desert or on a beach striking graceful poses under a sunny sky? So I did.LOL Don’t know what the other bikers or walkers thought of me passing on the trail. But I did the few yoga poses that I know and don’t fall down attempting. 🙂

So I drive home sweaty and hot, but filled with inner peace and energy. While I put my bike in the garage, I thought, I’ll just be efficient and get out the lawn mower to cut the grass in the back yard. Duh! Not thinking! I opened the gate and all 3 dogs ran out in separate directions. Inner peace gone in the rush of paws. I grabbed the slow dog and pitched her back in, slammed the gate, and took off running after the girl puppy. The old dog followed along like he was escorting us. Finally caught her, carried her back, but lost the third dog. No worries, he’s been escaping for 10 years and always comes back.

Now I’m covered in sweat AND dog hair. Might as well mow. 30 minutes later, I was covered in sweat, dog hair, and cut grass.

I thought, the yard still looks bad because there’s a gallimaufrey of saplings sprouting all around the fence line.

I’m already filthy. Why not? Found the trimmers. Conquered that in 30 minutes.

I officially have no more energy. I’m used up. That’s all the physical activity I need for the day!! I think I’ll curl up with the remote control and watch cheesy sci-fi.

Have a blessed day. Go move and get sweaty!

Should we or shouldn’t we? Homeschool anxiety.

It’s crunch time for moms wrestling with that crucial decision that autumn and the new school year brings.  Every family must decide  whether homeschool, private school, or public school is the right route.  Following is a question from the loving heart of a mother that I know and the answer that I gave her.

Q. Back in the spring, my husband and I decided to seriously consider homeschooling for our 7 yr. old son starting this year.  I love everything homeschooling “stands for.”  I have approached most activities over the last couple of months on the premise that we would be homeschooling. I  have been getting my “ducks in a row” to homeschool for the coming year.

Well, so far so good… But now we are down to the wire, and I find myself at a cross-road. We have had a few more trials that we were not anticipating. As a result, I am not sure if this is the right avenue for us. I don’t know, I may just be second guessing myself, I may just be scared… I just do not want to make the wrong decision either way. We have lost a lot of the support system I felt we would have in place. Also, my son is not sure this is what he wants to do… He is even asking if we can do both, public school and home school. He wants to please me, but is a little frightened of the unknown.

I apologize for my rambling, but I suppose the bottom line is I am asking for some advice. How did you know this was the right decision for you and your family?  Would I be a horrible mom if I do change my mind?

A. Most of us have been exactly where you are, sometimes more than once.  I had a season of serious second-guessing back in the spring, thinking about my oldest starting high school.  I even visited a public school and took a tour.  After careful consideration, research, and talking to parents (public and home school moms), we’ve decided we’re in this Homeschool journey all the way through.

What turned me onto homeschooling in the first place was meeting a bright, happy little kindergartener who was being taught at home.  Taught by my sister actually.  I was blown away by what she was doing and by how much she loved
learning.  I knew my sister to be a real person…not supernaturally organized; smart, but not “trained” in education; a loving mom, but distracted by twin toddlers.  I thought well if she can do it, I can, too.

What sold me on homeschooling was the scientific research.  I read study after study after study.  I am a research-a-holic.  The evidence was overwhelming, and the benefits were abundant in every area of life.academic, spiritual, character, family life, citizenship, leadership…the list goes on.  (If you’re a researcher/studier like me, I’ll be happy to mail you some studies that I have on hand.  They’re very revealing.)  I knew there were no guarantees, but I also knew that statistically I was giving my children the very best opportunity by keeping them together as a family.  Although I’ve had bad days and self-doubts, I’ve never really regretted my decision.  The older they get, the more I can see differences in them and most of their public school peers.  Not to put those kids down, but there is a difference.  If there weren’t, I’d be wasting my time.  I see my kids so much more inclined to pursue interests on their own, to know themselves and their talents and to be willing/able to put their best efforts into those inclinations, to hold high standards.  They have unique ambitions and unusual opportunities. I see tenderness in them, a softness untouched by years of institutionalized living and the rush to be older and cooler.  I have the highest hopes that they’ll be competent, loving, happy adults with solid family relationships.

For 8 years, we homeschooled successfuly, and mostly on our own.  This month, I celebrate exactly one year of stepping outside my comfort zone and joining the homeschooling support group here in my city. Now I’m blessed watching my children (and myself, too) blossom in new ways and exhibit social skills and even leadership that I did not have at their ages.  The community here is not perfect, but it is kind and it is active.  I know that I have like-minded friends to turn to.

I’ve heard the decision of how to school your child compared to the story of Moses’ mother putting him in his little ark as a child.  She was looking for something better for her child who she loved so dearly.  She must’ve worked hard building the ark, making sure it was water-proof, instructing her older daughter how to watch out for him. But there came a moment for her when she had to put her son in the water and let him go.  What must’ve gone through her mind? What unknowns was she committing herself to?  What guarantees did she have that this was the right choice?  What if she’d made a horrible mistake, and her son had to pay for it by drowning or being eaten by wild animals? 

The unknown is so unnerving.

Every loving mother wants what is best for her children.  When it comes time put the ark in the water, our stomachs clinch in anxiety for them.  Is this the right choice?  Unlike Moses’ mother, this is not a “no turning back” situation.  You can switch plans midstream. By deciding to homeschool your 7 yo (or to put him in public school), you are not making a commitment to stay with this plan through 12th grade.

Whichever you decide, you will still have moments when you wonder if it was the right choice.  Whichever way you go, your child will have some frustrations and you will have some bad days.  It is my opinion that the homeschooling route holds much more joy and rewards, but I recognize that the majority does not agree with me, even among my friends.  I’m sorry about the new challenges that you’re facing in your life.  Best wishes for peace as you and your husband make this decision.

Diving In

I seldom have a plan.

 Oh, sure, a grand scheme, big picture, overiding values kind of plan…but never a work out the details, day to day, how do I get from here to there plan.

 And now I’m blogging without a plan.  Just wanted to see if I could do it.  Maybe share some photos with friends.  Maybe share some of my eclectic passions (I crochet and practice tae kwon do, I quilt and I lift weights, I study my Bible and I rollerblade with my kids and watch cheesy sci fi movies with my hubby…does that count as eclectic?).

 I do plan to cheat on this blog.  To get me going, I’m going to post pieces I’ve already written.  My greatest hits from some of the email loops that I’m on (mostly homeschool mom groups). 

 Basically, I’m making this up as I go along.