Friday, August 31, 2007
When I went to the doctor for my headache on Tuesday, we noticed that I had a rash on my hip. It wasn't painful, though, so the NP and I really didn't think it was actually shingles - although it does not cross the midline of my back. Then, last night, I started having actual pain and a new crop of lesions (although they're not really blisters) developed in a lovely dermatomal line. I saw a different NP today and she agreed that it looks and acts like shingles, so I got Valtrex, Lyrica, and lidocaine patches. I have a patch on right now - it's not perfect, but it helps.
I had a wicked headache again yesterday so we did unschooling. Ga'Hoole Girl worked for several hours on her computer game that she's programming. Wild Man made a "Master Sandwich Shop" in which he serves meals and snacks. Payment is by rupees - an imaginary kind of money from the Zelda games. Wild Man, who doesn't typically enjoy writing, wrote up 5 or 6 signs to show what he was selling. We watched part of a movie about Ancient Greece while the kids painted. It was a highly educational day, despite the fact that I can't cross anything off my schedule!! I have been thinking about scheduling and how much structure the kids should have during the day. There is a thread on Sonlight Forums about unschooling, so I'm interested in seeing other people's ideas.
Well, the kids have dinner ready - pizza from the Master Sandwich Shop - so I'd better go sit down for dinner!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
This book is a sequel to The City of Ember which I previously reviewed. The premise is that the people from Ember have found their way out of their underground city and have come to the city called Sparks. While the people of Ember were living underground (for like 200 years), there were several disasters that ravaged the Earth and demolished the population. The book chronicles how the small village of Sparks (of 300 people) works to acommodate the 400 people from Ember. Suffice it to say that things don't always work out smoothly, but the ending is happy. I highly recommend this for family reading or for young adults.
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg
This story of Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the Core 6 readers, so I was prereading it. Eleanor is in Heaven waiting for her husband, Henry II of England, to come Up and join her after his time in Hell is finished. During the wait, she talks with several friends and family members who help tell the story of her life - her marriages to two kings and being mother to two other kings. Clearly, there are theology issues, but the Heaven/Hell thing provides a nice framework for the story. As far as I can tell, the history is accurate as well. It is a children's/young adult book, so it is a pretty easy read. Despite that, it was quite fun. It gives a nice glimpse into medieval court life, including the intrigue and danger. I highly recommend it.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I had read this back in college or high school. I don't recall that I read it for school - I think I read it out of interest. This is one of the big "anti-utopian" novels (another of which is 1984, which I have also read recently). In Huxley's "utopia", the state has ultimate authority and spends its time making people productive and happy. When someone is unhappy, they take "soma" or engage in some entertainment. Children are not "born" they are "decanted" from test tubes. Serious genetic engineering occurs to ensure that those who are intended for the upper classes get the best prenatal treatment and those destined for the lower classes get less treatment. The idea, though, is that everyone should be engineered to be happy in their place in life. Then, we are introduced to the Savage who was raised on a reservation - where life is still primitive, children are born, families exist. His discontent and his desire to be discontented are confusing to the rest of the people of the city. Well, suffice it to say that Huxley is clearly pointing out that removing all stress, unhappiness, etc. from our lives does not produce superior human beings on any level. This book is a classic and I think everyone should read it in high school or college.
1984 by George Orwell
Can you believe that I never read this book, even though I graduated high school in 1985? For some reason, the regular English classes read this book, but the Advanced class didn't. Did they assume that we'd already read it? Oh, well. This is another of the classic "anti-utopian" novels. But, this one is really quite different. In this case, the Party is the controller of all of life. The Party members are expected to conform radically to all of the Party's rules and regulations. Failure to do so ends up in torture, "re-education", and even death. In addition to the Party, though, are the "proles" which I assume means proletariat or working class. This class is provided plenty of entertainment to keep them from thinking too much. One of the Party's main functions is to control information. The job of the main character is to read news clippings and change past events to match the current events. In this book, state control of information is key. Not only are there news releases, but every Party member's house has a telescreen that monitors the person's every movement and word. In addition, turning people in to the Party for deviant behavior is encouraged. This is a provocative and important book. I think everyone over high school age should read it and take to heart the importance of free spread of information.
The Summer We Got Saved by Pat Cunningham Devoto
I love novels about the South. I used to think that my family was quirky, but I have decided now that my family is just normal "Southern"! This novel is about Civil Rights, voting rights, friendship, and family. There are three storylines, which wouldn't be too bad except that one story line doesn't start till the middle of the book and another storyline stops for almost half the book. But, they all meet up at the very end. The story takes place in Alabama and Tennessee during the 1950s or early 1960s (whenever George Wallace was running for Governor in Alabama). Two of the major plot lines consider a white family in a small town in Alabama. The aunt from California (who is, of course, eccentric in the eyes of her family) takes the two girls from the family up to the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee (a retreat for Civil Rights activists). The family thinks they are going to visit friends and have no idea about the whole Civil Rights thing. Later in the book, the father of this family gets involved with a candidate for governor who favors integration - much to the distress of some of the rest of the family. The third storyline is about a black girl who has recovered from polio who comes to a tiny black church just outside the town where the other main characters live. She sets up a voting class that eventually has six members. Of course, they don't learn as much about voting as she would like, but she does teach them enough reading to vote, open a bank account, etc. I won't say how this whole book wraps up, but I will say that it is surprising but satisfying. When all is said and done, the main characters have all learned a lot about themselves, about people of other races, and about the world. This book is very good for older high school and adults.
This movie intertwines the stories of Virginia Woolf in the 1920s, a suburban housewife in the 1940s, and a city dweller in the 2000s. The film makers did a great job showing all three story lines without getting things confused or muddy. It was a sad movie - all three women are depressed and two characters commit suicide. But why? There is really no answer. The sadness of the movie is that there seems to be little hope. I enjoyed the movie, but it is clearly only for adults (there are several gay/lesbian characters). My overwhelming thought at the end of the movie was, "How different it could have all been if they had known God!"
The Royal Tenenbaums
What a strange movie!! The main idea is that the father of this family has deserted them and wants to come back into their lives. So, what would any logical person do? Fake a fatal illness. But, the family figures this out and kicks him out so he has to go get a real job. The characters are all very odd. Some are likeable - others are just too weird to be liked. In any case, the idea of restoring family relationships stays central to the movie. The characters do not act in any "normal" sort of way, but the family comes together at the end. This movie is rated R and I would agree that it is not for kids or teens. I'm not sure that I recommend this movie much at all. There are positive aspects to it, but it's not well-paced and the language/sexuality is a little much. So, I wouldn't waste my time with it if I had to do it over.
Well, more later. I'm currently working on The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner, Without God, Without Creed by James Turner, Mary, Bloody Mary (can't recall the author right now) and a book by Dallas Willard (although this one is for teens, so I may return it and get one of his other books).
Monday we were plagued by bad weather and bad attitudes. But, we got most of the work done without too much whining. Tuesday was the day of the bad headache. I called a Code H. This is based on the medical "Code Blue" for medical emergency. Code H is headache emergency. In this case, the kids are responsible for doing all the schoolwork they can do independently and then watch the educational DVDs (I have some planned for every week) or work further in a workbook or on Spanish or typing. They are also responsible for keeping the kitchen straight and getting dinner going. Well, Mr. Math Teacher was around for yesterday afternoon, so he took care of dinner. The kids didn't do as much work as I would have liked.
Today, though, was the real kicker. We got up early to take Grandma to the airport. We left at about 8:05 - right on time. We got Grandma to the airport successfully (despite the construction). No problem, right? Well, I was going to take the kids for breakfast at Wendy's, but they don't serve breakfast. So, I decided that we would do the Food Court at the Mall. This sounded like a great idea because they could get something from McDonalds (makes them happy) and we could get some schoolwork done before we did the rest of our errands (Sam's club doesn't open until 10, so we had time to kill). Ga'Hoole Girl was decidedly against this plan, but, I read history to them while they ate. When they were done eating, I pulled out some workbooks and had them working in the workbooks. Everything was going so well that I decided to go get me a little something to eat. The Food Court is nice and open, so the kids were always in my sight. When I got back to the table, the kids told me that some adults had apparently walked by and commented on how terrible it was that they were already starting schoolwork. They didn't stop to talk to the kids - good thing. I wish I had been there to run interference. The adults didn't stop, so the kids didn't say anything, but it seriously reinforced Ga'Hoole Girl's idea that doing schoolwork in the Food Court is a bad idea!
I really could not believe that this actually happened. I wish I knew what those people were thinking. Did they think that I'm a terrible homeschooling mom for starting the kids so early (the public schools here start on Tuesday - although in some states, kids have been in school for several weeks)? Did they think that I'm some psycho mom who makes her kids do schoolwork before school starts so they are "ahead of the game"? Who knows? But, it is really the first seriously negative comment that we've ever had about homeschooling.
Next, we went to Sam's Club. The kids were happy because I bought some school supplies - a small whiteboard for me with a package of all kinds of fun whiteboard markers. Math and memory work are going to be colorful now, if nothing else. I also got the kids spiral notebooks and clipboards. I only make them sit at the table or desk for handwriting. Now they can take their workbooks around the house without pulling all the big books off the shelf to use for writing on.
Then, I tried out a new yarn shop. The prices are reasonable, and the owner wound my hanks of yarn into balls. Actually, she got it set up and let the kids spin the little machine. The shop is right near Wild Man's reading lesson - probably dangerous! The reading lesson went quite well. Wild Man is really reading and using some expression in his reading. Totally cool.
But, we got home and my headache just exploded. The kids were being crabby (tired from getting up early) and I felt rotten. So, I put on a DVD (Walking the Bible) which ended up providing lots of fodder for good discussion. Anyway, I eventually went upstairs to take a nap. Things have been better since then, although my head still hurts.
So, my plan now is to lay off the academics for the next two days and organize the school room and finish my lesson plans. I'm sure the kids will be just thrilled to help me clean the school room!!! But, we'll restart Tuesday and finish this week's worth of work next week. I think we'll survive - but there are no guarantees!
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The Fair has also been a big deal here. Ga'Hoole Girl was in four different Fair events. In June, she won a first place in the Clothing Revue for her purchased outfit for the Consumer Savvy Project. Three weeks ago, she showed two of our cats at the Cat and Small Animal show. Both of them won seconds. Sophie might have gotten a first if she hadn't hissed at the judge!! Two weeks ago was Foods - I showed a picture of her cupcakes in one of my recent posts. Last week was The Fair. Since we don't have livestock (thankfully), Ga'Hoole Girl just entered some artwork. The only one I have a good picture of is her origami. That piece won a third place (although I thought it was amazing!). Her painting (sunset) and drawing (owl) both won seconds. The kids went on the Midway on Saturday afternoon. I'm glad I didn't go since my headache started Saturday evening (and it's still not gone - Yikes!).
One of the other exciting things about Fair Week is getting to see how well our friends do. My best friend and her girls spent Wednesday through Friday nights with us - generally from about 10:30pm to 6am. We live close to the Fairgrounds so it is easier for the girls to get up early and get to the Fairgrounds to do chores first thing in the morning. What is really cool is that their goats did very well and one of the girls who shows dairy cows also did quite well. Overall, it was a good week!
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I have two current knitting projects. I am working on another little rug - this one to go underneath my foot warmer which is in front of my rocking chair. This rug is made from strips of denim from some old jeans and an old shirt. This knitting is harder than T-shirt knitting, so I can only do a few rows before my hand starts hurting. I'll post a picture when I'm done, which should be soon.
I am also working on a pair of lace socks. The pattern is from the blog "Writing and Living". I am using leftover cotton yarn in both purple and teal. The toes, heels, and top band are teal, while the rest of the socks are purple. I really enjoy working on a lace pattern.
My next project is probably going to be a pair of felted. I have never felted before, so it will be interesting. The other thing I want to make is a lampshade. I found a lovely pattern that uses cabling and short-rowing. I have learned to do short-rowing from the socks I'm making, but I need to learn to make cables.
The kids had a blast on their little vacation to Door County with Grandma. They took a few pictures, but lots of video. They both learned a lot about lighthouses since they toured almost all the Door County lighthouses. It sounds like one of the most memorable events was the ferry ride to Washington Island and the boat ride to Rock Island. I really missed them, and I'm glad they're home. Of course, things aren't nearly as quiet now!!
Ga'Hoole Girl did the 4H Foods project today. She only did one entry this year - decorated cupcakes. She was judged only on the decoration, so I made the cupcakes yesterday afternoon. Last night, she colored the frosting and decorated the cupcakes. She won a first place!! She wasn't the "first" first - the one who was eligible for Grand Champion. But, we are all thrilled for her. The rest of the Fair starts on Wednesday. Ga'Hoole Girl has two art entries.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Raising Helen - excellent movie. I highly recommend it. Basically, a young New York career girl gets left with her 3 nieces and nephews to raise after her sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident. It is rather formulaic, but not so much that it's obnoxious. The kids seem like real kids. Helen really changes for the better throughout the movie. And, of course, I have to like a movie that truly celebrates motherhood.
Flushed Away - I was pleasantly surprised by this. I thought that there would be more "bathroom humor", but it really was just a cute movie. The characters were believable and fun. There was a real support for family in this movie. I recommend it for kids on up.
The DaVinci Code - Yes, we watched it. Actually, Mr. Math Teacher and I both read the book a couple of years ago. Dan Brown is a very engaging storyteller. Unfortunately, he has represented some patently false information as true, and people have believed it. The movie was excellently done. I think it was faithful to the book, but I don't remember all the details of the book. The cast was amazing - Tom Hanks is truly an amazing actor. The character of Silas was truly creepy. And, I loved the settings. The downside is simply that they present an alternative history of the church as truth (or at least, plausible). In doing so, they seriously misrepresent the facts. In one place, Teabing says that the canon was set at the Council of Nicea, as was the divinity of Christ - WHAT? Take a look at the history of the Council of Nicea. Certainly, they opposed the Arian heresy (that Christ was not divine), but there was more to it than that, and the Arian heresy was not "widespread". In addition, Dan Brown (and, consequently, the movie) gives the impression that the Gnostic gospels are as factual as those included in the canon, but they were suppressed by the Church for political reasons. Again, the facts are far different. There has been a lot written out there about this stuff. Start with christianitytoday.com if you are interested. So, my final analysis is that this is a very well-done movie of a well-written book, but you need to watch it knowing that it is completely fiction, including the stuff about church history.
Beauty Shop - Actually, we have watched all but the last two scenes of this movie because the Netflix movie is scratched. So, we'll watch the end of it later. It is really funny! That being said, it is not remotely appropriate for children. There is a lot of sexual humor. In addition, there is a lot of racial humor and innuendo that kids won't get - and shouldn't get. Unfortunately, we don't life in a color-blind society, so there is fertile ground for misunderstanding among the races. This is a topic that should be explored with kids in a more appropriate manner than this kind of movie. But, there are some good things. Queen Latifah is a very good actress. She makes her character truly believable - and likable. Kevin Bacon is beyond hysterical!! The characters are fun but real. Very few are truly bad - most are a mixed bag - kind of like real life. So, I recommend the movie for adults when you just want to laugh.
Just Like Heaven - This is a cute movie about a woman who thinks she still lives in her apartment and the man who has rented the apartment. The plot revolves around figuring out if the woman is dead and then resolving things with the apartment. This was a movie that I could really relate to. The female lead (Reese Witherspoon - excellent as usual) was a medical resident who worked long hours and had no life outside of the hospital. I got married while in medical school, but I could definitely relate to the pressures to be "married to medicine" during med school and residency. The male lead (don't recall his name) was also a very good actor. There was a lot of comedy based on the fact that he could see and talk to her, but no one else could. So, it was a nice, light romantic comedy - classic "chick flick". I recommend it for adults, especially if you are looking for a little romance.
The Terminal - I had seen this several years ago, but we watched it again with Grandma. Tom Hanks is an amazing actor. He completely makes you believe that he is Victor Novorsky (just like I believed that he was Robert Langdon in The DaVinci Code). There are definite serious themes in this movie, but there isn't anything inappropriate for the kids. The premise is that Victor flies into the airport in New York and, while he's been in the air, there was a coup in his country, so he can't go back, but he can't go into the US. So, he is stuck in the airport. This is a great story about how this man makes do for nine months in the airport and how and why he finally gets into New York. It is a touching, sweet movie. I highly recommend it for adults and teens. Kids can watch it, but they'll probably be kind of bored.
Man of the Year - Robin Williams plays a television political comedian who decides to actually run for president. And, he actually gets elected! But, should he have? That's the story of this movie. It was really something of a surprise. I thought it was going to just be a funny movie about a funny guy who becomes president, but it is far more intricate. And, in the end, the main character has to make a critical choice which demonstrates his own character (or lack thereof). This is really a funny movie. Robin Williams is funny, as always, but not as "out there" as he sometimes is. The serious issues that this movie addresses really add depth to the whole experience. I very highly recommend it for adults. There is inappropriate humor for kids.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau - We got this book from the library to read as a family after Mr. Math Teacher read about it on a website. The city of Ember is running out of things - food, clothing, etc. - and the generator (which makes electricity from the river) is breaking, but no one seems to know why or how to fix it. The people of Ember know about nothing but their own city - no one has ever been outside of Ember. But, two kids are about to change that. They make some important discoveries and have to make a final choice that will affect themselves and the city. Everyone in our family loved this book. It is a real page-turner. We were up till 10pm the night that we finished it. We just got the sequel from the library today - and, there's a prequel that we're going to read, too. This is highly recommended for about ages 8 on up.
Truth War by John MacArthur - You may recall that I recently reviewed Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the Emerging Church movement. I'm still not. But, I feel quite sure that MacArthur's reaction is extreme, to say the least. MacArthur uses the book of Jude as his basis for discussing apostasy and heresy. He considers the Emerging Church leaders as apostates and their teaching as heresy. Not only do I disagree with his assessment, but I find that his book is extremely uncharitable to the point of being nasty. It was a difficult book for me to finish because his attitude was so unloving and unbecoming of a Christian. I have done more research on Emerging Church theology. There is some stuff with which I do not agree, but I cannot find that they are teaching a "false gospel". MacArthur comes down on Ron Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, so I went to the church's website. They don't have a statement of faith like I'm used to with different points laid out in order. Instead, they have a narrative. But, it is completely orthodox. There is nothing heretical about it. I understand MacArthur's being uncomfortable with how the Emerging Church expresses itself - I tend to be a little more linear and "modern" myself. But, that discomfort does not mean that the Emerging Movement has gone across to heresy. That is a serious charge to make and it is completely unfair. I may disagree with the Movement in some important ways, but there is no evidence that the entire Movement is heretical. So, I don't really recommend this book. Read what the Emerging Church has to say about itself and compare that to Scripture.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I finished the rug! It took lots of T-shirts, though, so I won't be able to make another one for awhile. I think that I have enough old jeans to cut up, though, to make a small rug to go under my footwarmer that sits in front of my rocking chair.
The kids have been spending lots of time with Grandma this week. Grandma got an apartment a few blocks from here, so she'll be spending some of the year here and some of the year down South, and the rest of the time travelling the globe! Anyway, the kids have both been able to sleep over. Grandma has also let each of them edit some video to make a movie. Wild Man edited some footage that Grandma took at one of his baseball games. Ga'Hoole Girl edited footage that Grandma took of her bathing the cats. Yes, Ga'Hoole Girl bathed the cats. The 4-H cat and dog showing is in two days. Sassy did OK with her bath; she just cried a little near the end. Sassy has long hair and really needed the bath. She could have stood some conditioner, but Ga'Hoole Girl decided that would be pushing her luck. Sophie was a whole different story! She put up quite the fight during her bath. But, she is soooo nice and soft now that she's clean.
My camera died this week. It's five years old, so I guess it was time. It would give me a great excuse for a new camera except that the money isn't in the budget for it! In any case, the kids decided to learn about the inner workings of a camera. Wild Man (and Mr. Math Teacher) took it apart and Mr. Math Teacher showed Wild Man the different circuits, chips, etc. Then, Ga'Hoole Girl scavenged some wires and a switch to make a circuit with a little light bulb. Here's what the camera looks like now:
A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit - Wendy Shalit addresses the current state of modesty in our culture. She makes a compelling argument that the sexual revolution has sold our daughters a bill of goods. Sexual freedom was supposed to make us all so much happier, but, instead, we have a society of girls who are anorexic, bulimic, self-mutilating, and profoundly depressed. Shalit argues that returning to modesty allows our young women to regain the self-respect that they have lost during the "revolution". As a Christian, this makes a lot of sense. We have abandoned God's plan for sex, and our society (particularly our girls) are paying the consequences. The chapter that affected me the most was Chapter 11 "Pining for Interference". She argues in this chapter that young women really do want (and need) adults to care about them in their dating and courting. So many adults use the phrase "as long as you're happy" without thinking about whether what the child is doing is good for them. Throughout the book, Shalit makes the point that the lack of modesty has had negative consequences throughout society: our young men treat women as chattel, relationships though all society are seen as temporary, children have lost the security of two loving parents, and girls are left wondering if anyone really loves them. I highly recommend this book for anyone with daughters. Shalit has another book coming out that I also plan to read: Girls Gone Mild.
A New Kind of Christian by Brian D. McLaren - This is my first foray into the Emerging Church culture and theology. McLaren writes in the form of a dialogue between two friends. He starts with the supposition that my generation is caught between modernism and post-modernism. History has been largely made of modern thinkers from about 1500. Modern thinking is generally linear, rational, and scientific. For a modern thinker, there is only one Truth. If what I believe about God is true, then what you believe about Him must not be true if it is different from what I believe. Post-modern thinking, though, has come about since about 2000, although you can see traces of it before that. Post-modern thinkers are perfectly capable of holding two opposing ideas in their minds - and don't see a problem with it. Post-modern thinkers have less faith in science. They tend to think in narrative and not linearly. McLaren is trying to present how we can be Christians in this post-modern world. He is trying to develop a picture of how we can love Jesus in this post-modern world. Unfortunately, everything gets pretty fuzzy - which, I think, is part of the whole post-modern thing. McLaren talks a lot about post-modern thinking and how to be a Christian, but talks very little about Scripture. Certainly, God reveals Himself through nature and the Church as well as Scripture, but I would have preferred a more thorough grounding of his ideas in Scripture. That being said, I didn't find anything really objectionable in the book. I do recommend that people read something by McLaren or by Rob Bell because the Emerging Church is affecting Christianity and we need to know what it's all about. Unfortunately, I don't really "get" it from this book. I'm going to read some of Rob Bell's stuff and see if that clears it up any. I'm also in the process of reading MacArthur's Truth War, which is basically a polemic against the whole post-modern movement. More on that in a few days when I finish it. So, my conclusion on McLaren is this: the jury is still out. I'm gathering more information before I make any conclusions.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Knitting news: I am almost finished with my knitted throw rug. It took a lot of T-shirts, though, so I can only make this one rug right now. I still have to weave in ends - using a crochet hook because I don't have any needle type of thing to use. I'll post photos when it's done.
I've been doing lots of reading, but I've had lots of bad headaches the last week or so, so I'll post reviews later in the week.
Other interesting things: Ga'Hoole Girl has been asking questions about college. She's quite young to consider specifics, but I hope that she at least will have some more motivation for schoolwork. She also says that she wants to be a video game developer, so I got her a book on game programming for teens. So far, she has written three or four programs!
Wild Man and I have started doing some TOPS experiments with electricity. So far, we have made some simple circuits. Our next experiment is to learn about conductors and insulators. Otherwise, he's just being "Wild Man"!
I am working on lesson planning the rest of the schoolyear. I use Homeschool Tracker Plus so I can put in lesson plans without committing to dates. The problem right now is that it is taking a long time. I want to add in music and art history, so that takes time to find the websites and resources that I want to use. In any case, it's a good use of my time right now and will, hopefully, make life easier when we start "real school" the end of August.