Saturday, March 10, 2007

NOT "Just a Cold"!

So, after 36 hours of terrible throat pain, swollen lymph nodes, and ear pain, I decided to go see the PA in the clinic this morning. I mostly wanted help with all the inflammation in my throat - my uvula is swollen and I can really feel that sensation in my throat. I was thinking that a couple of days of a low-dose steroid might help things out. The PA (the wife of one of my former partners - they hired her after I left) took a good history and did a good exam and told me that it might be a virus, but my throat looked awful, and I didn't have a cough (something that usually comes with a virus and that both kids had), so she wanted to do a strep test. Indeed, it was positive - apparently, very strongly positive. So, now I'm on amoxicillin and we decided against trying any steroids. I'm using a steroid nose spray, so that may help some of the inflammation around the eustacian tubes. I was so convinced it was a virus, but the PA saw some signs that pointed to Strep. Not only that, she had an objective physical exam to help guide her, not just a list of symptoms. This is another example of how practicing medicine is an art and a science - practice by algorithm just won't work.

Movie Reviews:
Akeelah and the Bee - Wonderful movie! This movie is the story of a girl in a middle school in LA who is a good speller and loves words. She wins her school's first spelling bee and moves all the way up to the National Spelling Bee, where she ties for first place. There is very little negative about this movie. I believe it is rated PG because of some foul language by some minor characters. In addition, Akeelah's brother has friends in a gang, and her sister is an unwed mother. Akeelah deceives her mother about the spelling bee. She is allowed to continue in the spelling bee, but is punished for lying. The positives, though, far outweigh the negatives in this film. The wonder and power of words is displayed throughout the film. The spelling bee, and Akeelah's hard work in participating, brings together a community - her brother's friends who are probably gang members help her to practice her words, the family and community watches on TV, her teachers and a former university professor spend time with her to prepare her for the bee. At the end of the movie, Akeelah and another boy both demonstrate that they want to win the spelling bee honestly and not because their opponent has given less than their best effort. My final recommendation is that this is a great movie for the entire family, although kids probably need to be 7 or 8 to stay interested and follow the story.

The Magic Flute - Yes, this is the Mozart opera. The kids are doing the play "Of Mice and Mozart" this year for the homeschool play, so I had us watch Amadeus and I will have us do a little more research about Mozart and his music. After we watched Amadeus, L asked if we could watch The Magic Flute. She wanted to see it because it was written for the common people, not the nobility. Of course, it is sung in German, but we had subtitles. C was not terribly interested in the movie, so we only read the subtitles out loud when he asked. L and I really enjoyed the music. I have never thought of myself as an opera-lover, but I really liked listening to this music. It did help that the words were on the screen, so I didn't have to work to listen for them. The problem, though, was that the story got kind of convoluted, so we had trouble following at times. I think that Mozart composed this opera to a story that was known to the people of the day (if that is incorrect, please feel free to correct me, but it is the impression I got from Amadeus). It may have been easier for Mozart's contemporaries to understand, but we still had some trouble with it. In any case, the costumes and set were wonderful. The singing was amazing. Of course, the composition itself was magnificent. I can't imagine too many other 11 year olds wanting to see opera, but I would recommend The Magic Flute if they express an interest.

Amadeus - what can I say? The music of Mozart is simply amazing. The story of Salieri and Mozart is quite fictionalized, according to some other reading that we did later, but it provided an interesting framework for the movie. The kids didn't really like the movie, but they did learn a little about Mozart. I have ordered a documentary of Mozart's life from Netflix to compare with this movie.

Book Reviews:
Getting Things Done - by David Allen. I'm a sucker for books about organization. This one is really very good. His theme is that you need to get all the stuff you need to do out of your head and onto paper (or into the computer/PDA). Then, you need to manage your to-do lists and in-basket on a regular basis. This way, you don't have to worry about forgetting things or having stuff get lost in your to-do-lists.

A Charlotte Mason Education - by Catherine Levinson. I wanted to get a better idea about Charlotte Mason's ideas since they have become quite prevalent among homeschoolers. In addition, the curriculum we use, Sonlight, does use some Charlotte Mason ideas. Basically, though, the only idea that I find really useful from Charlotte Mason is narration. I agree that children should narrate back to us what we have read aloud to them or what they have read themselves. This is more effective than just asking questions, because it requires them to synthesize the information, not just parrot it back. So many of her other ideas, though, are very dated and/or should be used with just younger children. She recommends the use of nature notebooks for the majority of science education. The use of these notebooks is wonderful for biology and even some geology and other earth science things. However, there needs to be some systematic education in the other areas of science. Charlotte Mason also has very little to say about math except that concrete concepts should be taught before abstract concepts. Children should be able to see a reason for the math that they do. Overall, I have not found this to be a really helpful book. I was already doing narrations. Many of the other ideas and recommendations are either useful for children younger than mine or not adequate for a technological society like our own.

L did her first opinion paper this week. She wrote about why she likes cats. It is excellent for her age. She has a creative mind and uses words like a surgeon with her surgical instruments. Unfortunately, she doesn't like to write. We are going to do lots more writing with our notebooking that we start next week, and I hope that she can start to see how it really isn't all that hard! I'm also going to be better about letting her writing for history/geography/literature be graded on the content, not the mechanics. She will have plenty of opportunities to have the mechanics of her writing graded. I'm looking forward to our new "paradigm" of school. I know that my kids will do well with it - I just hope that they give it a chance early on so that we don't spend the first few weeks arguing over how to "do school".

I think I've written quite enough today. Now it's time for a nap, and then time for putting together next semester's notebooks. The nap sounds really good right now, though.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Just a Cold"

When I was in practice, I saw lots of people (especially in the winter) with viral upper respiratory infections - i.e. "colds". I tried really hard, though, not to use the term "just a cold" because I wanted to validate their symptoms and not act as if they weren't really sick. Unfortunately, a number of people believed that they needed an antibiotic if they were "really" sick. I had to do a lot of teaching to convince people that a virus can make you just as sick, if not more so, than a bacteria. I also had to work to help them understand that it is quite uncommon to have an upper respiratory infection that is caused primarily by bacteria - usually, the virus causes the first illness and the bacteria come in and cause a secondary infection.

For the last two days, I have been able to really sympathize with how sick one can be with "just a cold". I started out with a sore throat, but progressed yesterday to fever, chills, post-nasal drip, muscle pain, and overall "yuckiness". I started feeling some better yesterday after the fever broke. Right now, I have a terrible sore throat with bilateral ear pain and swollen and tender lymph nodes. This is more than you wanted to know, I'm sure. The point is that I was reminded in a big way yesterday just how sick one can get from a "cold". Unfortunately, when the kids had this, they were sick for two weeks. I'm praying for a shorter course.

One of the funniest things that happened when the kids were sick was when I was on the phone with the doctor's office. Both kids had started wheezing, so I called the doctor's office to see about getting an albuterol inhaler for them. While I was talking to the nurse, both kids started saying very loudly in the background that they needed to go see the doctor. I got them to be quiet until I was done on the phone, but then turned to them and said, "And what do you think I am?" Their answer was that they wanted to see a "real" doctor because they were still soooo sick. Well, they are better now - all without a visit to the "real" doctor!

This was supposed to be our last week on Africa, but we haven't gotten nearly as much done as I wanted with everyone being sick, etc. But, we are starting Core 6 on Monday. We need to move on! I am going to get the everything organized today and tomorrow. I'm hoping my throat will be better on Monday so I can read. We are using The Story of the World for our history "spine" and I got the book on CD (unabridged), so I can have us listen to that. In any case, I'm looking forward to the change. We can pick up modern history of Africa as we do current events this year - I'll just make sure to have them do some current events reading about some of the countries that are in crisis. We have been reading a good book about three ancient African kingdoms, but I see that those will be covered in Core 6 this year (Core 6 is World History).

The kids aren't up yet. L asked me to get The Magic Flute from Netflix after we watched Amadeus. We started watching it, but only got through about 30 minutes (and I was working in the kitchen, so I couldn't see the subtitles). I think we're going to watch that today and I'll have the kids play some educational games. I also got Cry Freedom, but I don't think I'll try to get the kids to watch it today. It might hold L's attention, but I'm pretty sure that C will get bored. I'd like to get more information about apartheid "under our belts" before we try a movie like that otherwise, we'd never get to watch the movie - I'd just be answering background questions for them.

I'm knitting a little jacket and socks for our neighbor's new baby. I'm having a great time with it, and it is moving along quickly. It's very good for days like today when I'll be mostly sitting around.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Random musings at 1 am

So, why am I awake at 1am? Because I can't sleep. I took a nap today because I was so tired and felt so rotten, so now I can't sleep (but the headache seems a little better). I'm afraid I'm getting the kids' cold because I have developed a sore throat today. Talk about great timing.

During my insomnia I watched a show about North Korea while I was knitting. The show was on National Geographic if you want to see if you can catch it another time. I was very interested because they had a doctor (not sure what nationality, but looked Asian and spoke excellent English) who went there to do cataract surgery. The team had to take all their own equipment and a generator (because North Korean cities have frequent blackouts). In 10 days time, the surgeon did cataract surgery on 1000 people. What I thought was most interesting, though, was how the people reacted after the bandages were removed and they could see again. They didn't thank the doctor or the team that came to help. They bowed before pictures of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sun (I think I have the names right - they are the current and previous dictators of North Korea) and thanked "The Great Leader" for their recoveries. How crazy!! If they lived in a developed country, like South Korea, They would have doctors and facilities in the country for this kind of work. The surgeries weren't fancy - it was basic cataract surgery.

Watching something like this is exactly what is needed to help us remember the freedom that we have in our country, not to mention our incredible standard of living. (North Korea lost about 3 million people due to famine in the 1990s - despite lots of outside aid.) It is also a stark reminder to pray for Christians in North Korea. This show did not discuss persecution of Christians, but it was very clear that the population is expected to worship the "Great Leader". That can't bode well for Christians. So, I will intensify my prayers for the unreached peoples of the world.

On a similar note, my sister in law gave me an excellent book called, "Voices of the Faithful" by Beth Moore. It is organized into daily stories from missionaries around the world. Some are amazing stories of miracles to protect the missionaries. Others show how God uses seemingly bad circumstances for our good. Others show the Gospel at work in transforming people's lives. I highly recommend this.

We have started doing evening Bible reading in addition to our morning Bible study. We started it because I have been doing things like The Case for Faith for kids and Money Matters for Teens along with Bible reading. Now, at night, we read The Daily Bible for Kids which has a portion of Scripture along with some questions for discussion (which we may or may not use). Next week, when we start Core 6, we will start their Bible curriculum, which looks to be excellent. It is a 36 week survey of the Bible. The first couple of chapters are about the canon and the organization of the Bible. Then, after that, they go through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I think it is going to be great. We also work on C's Awana during the day. We have started doing it together which gives L another chance to review those verses (since she's too old for Awana).

What occurred to me today was the verse Deuteronomy 6:4-8 4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." I realized that we are now reading Scripture and talking about God's commands and plan for our lives "when we lie down and when we get up". The two verses that follow this talk about binding them to our foreheads and tying them on our hands - where the Orthodox Jews take the command for making phylacteries. In any case, this Scripture in Deuteronomy is so important in reminding us to teach our children about the Lord. It says to "impress" these commandments on our children. Taking them to Sunday School isn't enough. We are commanded to make sure our kids are exposed to Scripture. What they do with it is between them and God, but as long as they live with us, we are required to continue to study Scripture with our families.

Well, I think I'm finally tired enough to sleep. More later.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I Love Homeschooling

The week has been a mix of good and bad in the schooling department. The kids have taken a while to get back into the swing of doing schoolwork every day. I've been trying the "less is more" approach to school - spending less time on assignments, but doing things to get more out of the time we have. By the end of the week, though, things were going much better. For one thing, I have changed the rule that the kids each get one hour of "media" per day. I have made it so that they have to earn any media they get. I have also gotten much more firm about presenting a good attitude about school and chores.

The result has been that the end of the week was really pretty good as far as school goes. On Friday, I was having trouble getting our reading (Bible, history, and geography) done because the kids kept asking questions and getting off on "rabbit trails". They were showing significant ability to synthesize information by bringing their own experiences to bear on the conversation. So, I didn't mind that it took a little longer. P sold me (in "eduspeak") that I was teaching the children instead of teaching the subject. In addition, L finished writing the main part of her first opinion paper - without fussing about it.

One of the most interesting things that happened yesterday occurred when P was reading to us out of a "fun book" - that is, a book unrelated to school. We have been reading The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series because L has really gotten into them. They are about owls, and L has learned quite a bit about owls from doing lots of internet searches. She did her science fair project on owls, but really didn't need to do much more research because she had been reading so much about owls. In any case, there is a situation in the book we were reading where one of the bad owls tried to pose as the mother (believed to be dead) of one of the good owls. The story gets a little complex from there. This led us, though, to a discussion of recognizing falsehood from truth. The good owl eventually did recognize that the bad owl was not her mother because of subtle differences. We talked about being able tell truth from falsehood theologically by knowing the Bible and having a real relationship with Jesus. P gave a good example of how the Jehovah's Witness mistranslate John 1:1. Their translation states: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was a god and the word was with God." The actual translation is "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God." L recognized the difference and had some understanding of how dramatically that changes one's understanding of the nature of God. After another chapter, P brought up to the kids how it becomes easier to sin, the more that you do it. P taught them the phrase "the searing of the conscience" and reminded them about the importance of a relationship with God and consistent obedience.

Don't get me wrong - these were not all lectures from the parents to the kids. We would ask some leading questions and the kids kept the conversation going. This is the part of homeschooling that I love. It is also the most important part of homeschooling. No matter what educational option we choose, P and I are responsible for making sure that our children are well-trained in spiritual matters. While the other stuff has it's place, P and I want our children to know Jesus and learn to obey him as early as possible in their lives.

We have survived the two winter storms we have had this week. Overall, we got a foot of snow. The temperatures have moderated some, though, so we aren't freezing. Thursday, though, we were supposed to get a lot of ice, so P and I made sure we knew where the candles, flashlights, and kerosene heater were. I've never been without power when it's really cold. When I was growing up in Florida, we would lose power in a storm, but we could open up the doors and windows after the storm had passed. Up here, it would get pretty chilly if the heater wasn't working. That being said, we have a kerosene heater for emergencies, and several of our neighbors have fireplaces.

P piled up a bunch of snow in the back yard that the kids have used for sledding and snowboarding. The hill is only about 4 feet high, not like our big, long hill at our previous house. But, it gives them something to do in the snow.

L and I made creamy garlic and onion soup yesterday. It is just delicious!! The kids change every month from helping me with kitchen work or laundry. L is now helping in the kitchen, while C is helping with laundry. They both prefer kitchen work over laundry. I make them set the table and put away dishes and other unpleasant duties, but they get to cook, which they both love. L is ready to learn menu planning as well. I suppose I should actually do some menu planning ;-) I found a chart on the internet giving laundry instructions. They had it in a form that I could modify, so I changed it up to fit our situation and taped it up in the basement to help the kids remember how to do the settings for the different loads.

C is at the AWANA games today. L and I were supposed to go, but I woke up with a raging migraine this am. I had one earlier this week, but it wasn't real bad. This one, though, has been pretty unpleasant, so P took C to the games and got another parent to agree to bring him home. P has a meeting at church this afternooon. It was supposed to be Thursday night, but the storm cancelled pretty much everything.

Well, next week is our last week on Africa. We are working on African history. I want them to have some understanding of European colonization and the process of decolonization. But, we are pretty ready for Core 6. We are going to be starting notebooking then. We will also be using The Story of the World on CD, so I will have a little break from reading. I have also decided that we are going to do composer pages to go with the songs they are learning in piano lessons.

I have been prolific today, but now I'm pretty wiped out. I'm off to take a nap or do some scrapbooking. Let's see how much energy I have.