Friday, September 30, 2011

Funny faces...

JP and I haven't had the best of weeks.  But, we did salvage one night with some hilarity.  We were both bored, and out of sorts when I picked up the camera and started taking random pictures of JP.  What ensued was an hour or so of nonstop laughter...we both laughed so hard we couldn't talk, and tears sprang from our eyes.  We haven't had that much fun in a while!

A few of my favorite shots:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blame Nick Hornby for this post...

I once told someone that my dream job would be to read all day long, every day.  The person replied with, "Then become a book editor."  Uh, no...not that kind of reader.  Book editors have to read what comes across their desk, and probably don't get to really spend a lot of time on any one book.  I want to read what I want to read, not whatever happens across my desk.  

Reading is my favorite activity.  I love it.  I want to marry reading.  I can't explain why I love it so much.  I can't explain why I'm rereading To Kill a Mockingbird for what is probably the 10th (or maybe even 20th) time.  I just love words.  I love letters. I love that they mix up to form all these different feelings, and sounds, and images, and ideas, and, and, much more!  I am a reader. 
This post is all Nick Hornby's fault, so if you don't like it, blame him, although I have to admit my introduction to him was through film, not books.  Have you seen About a Boy, Fever Pitch, or High Fidelity?  Those are all Nick Hornby.  But, he was a writer first, and a slim book of essays, written by him, are the inspiration for this post.  I am a sucker for books about books.  I don't mean literary criticism or anything like that...I mean books where a writer talks about the books they are currently reading, and especially if they sometimes include snarky comments about said books.  Hornby has just such a book:  The Polysyllabic Spree.  The book is a collection of essays written about the books he has bought each month (one essay per month), which ones he has read or not read, and comments on them.  I love it! This is my kind of book!

After reading the first few essays in Hornby's book, I looked around my apartment and noticed the piles of books everywhere, and the bags of books next to my bed...we have a lot of books.  And, these aren't even all of our books.  We left boxes and boxes of books at my mom's house when we moved cross-country...and that was after selling at least half of our books before the move.  I could be quite content to live in a very small room, with just a bathroom attached, a hotplate or microwave, and small fridge, a pile of blankets and pillows, and lots and lots of books.  I'm not sure how much my son would enjoy that arrangement, however...

I've always thought about cataloging what I read as I go along, but until now have never actually done more than think about it.  Reading Hornby's book of essays has pushed me over the edge...where I will land, I'm not entirely sure.  I am in book heaven right now, however, and perfectly happy to stay right there.  After looking around, I started to catalog the books on my current reading list.  37 books that I consider to be current reading.  Some are for business (books on motivating students - I'm a private tutor), some are on personal betterification (yes, I just made up that word because I am very tired but not ready to go to bed), some are for both pleasure and school (lots of poetry), and some are purely for pleasurable indulgence.  Some I've read several times before, and some I'll probably never read again.  A few, I probably won't even finish (shhhh! Don't tell anyone!).  

If you can handle it, here is my list...I hope to read all of these by December 1st.  Originally I thought I'd like to read them all by November 1st - just over a month away.  That seemed a bit much, even for someone that enjoys reading as much as I, December 1st is the goal!  

A little key:
F - fiction, NF - nonfiction, P - poetry
AS - Already started (before making the list)
S - Started the day I made the list
Line through the title - Finished!

R - Rereading

The books: (the groupings are for ease of reading the list...they are not grouped in any categories or anything else intentionally, although the poetry seemed to land all together)
Ian McEwan - black dogs (F, S) Abandoned on October 18...just droned on and on...sigh...
Nick Hornby - The Polysyllabic Spree (NF, S)Finished October 2; Juliet, Naked (F) Finished November 27; A Long Way Down (F)
Suzanne Collins - Catching Fire (F, AS) Finished October 1st
Magnus Mills - Explorers of the New Century (F); All Quiet on the Orient Express (F)
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird (F, R) Finished October 12th

Richard Lavoie - The Motivation Breakthrough (NF, AS)
Jill Somlinski - The Next Thing On My List (F, AS, R) Finished October 5
Debra Bell - The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens (NF)
Kari Chapin - The Handmade Marketplace (NF, AS)
Alice Schroeder - The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (NF, AS)

Peg Tyre - The Trouble with Boys (NF, AS)
Donald Sturrock - Storyteller (NF, AS - biography of Roald Dahl)
Jo-Ann Mapson - The Owl and Moon Cafe (F, R) Finished October 13 or 14th (forgot to log it)
Suze Orman - Suze Orman's Action Plan (NF, AS, R)
Madeline L'Engle - A House Like a Lotus (F, R)

Paul Arden - It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be (NF, AS, R) Finished November 29
Ted Hughes - Letters of Ted Hughes (NF, AS); River (P) Finished November 9
Randall Jarrell - A Sad Heart at the Supermarket (P); The Woman at the Washington Zoo (P)
Fred Marchant - Full Moon Boat (P, R)Finished October 6; The Looking House (P)
Kathleen Jamie - Mr. and Mrs. Scotland are Dead (P); Waterlight (P)

Drew Milne - Mars Disarmed (P, S) Abandoned November 11
Pablo Neruda (William O'Daly translations) - The Sea and the Bell (P); The Hands of Day (P)
Seamus Heaney - Human Chain (P, AS) Finished November 13
Jack Kerouac - The Scripture of the Golden Eternity (P, R, AS); Pomes All Size (P)Finished November 3; Heaven and Other Poems (P) Finished October 2; Scattered Poems (P, R, AS); Trip Trap (P) Finished November 24
Sylvia Plath - Ariel (P, R)

Amended to add:
Jeanne Birdsall - The Penderwicks (F)  Finished October 27
Joan Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking (NF, R) Finished October 30
Elizabeth Berg - The Year of Pleasures (F, R) Finished November 19
Abigail Thomas Three Dog Life (NF) Finished November 24
Donald Platt Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns (P) Finished November 24
Ayn Rand Anthem (F) Finished November 25
William Golding Lord of the Flies (F)
I would love to know what YOU are reading...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't squeeze the egg!

For this school year, JP wants to do both chemistry and geology for science.  We have several resources for both, but nothing that seemed ideal.  And, because we've started our school year slowly, I decided to start JP out with several small unit studies.  The first is on acids and bases, and also included diffusion and osmosis.  First, we started with some readings and question-and-answer review.  Then, we began a seven day experiment to learn more about these topics.

The seven day experiment involved observing an egg in vinegar over the course of a week.  Above is JP with his egg.  At the time that this picture was taken, our egg had been in a sealed jar with plain white vinegar for four days.  Day four called for removing the egg and measuring it, among other things.
Another shot of the egg...  JP was fascinated with the rubbery texture, and by the fact that the egg had gotten larger, and that the shell had disintegrated. 

Then, the boy got the bright idea to draw a face on the egg...  I suggested that he use a soft/felt tip marker since he wouldn't want to puncture the surface membrane.  He agreed, and was being quite careful.  I went back to washing dishes, and the next thing I knew, JP was saying, "Aw, crap!"  I looked over to find him with a lap full of raw egg.  The final results, once he stood up:
We have yet to decide if we will start the experiment over since we technically had three days the meantime, remember not to squeeze your eggs! The egg didn't burst from JP's pen puncturing the surface.  It burst because he made the mistake of squeezing it while drawing the face on it! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tutorial: Creating tables in Word

Not too long ago, I promised a tutorial on how to create tables using Microsoft Word.  I use Word to make our weekly homeschool lesson plans.  An example of our weekly lesson plan:

Monday   10/3

Evaluating Algebraic Expressions

Basic Algebra #1 – 15 problems
Basic Algebra #1 – 12 problems
Basic Algebra #3 – 15 problems

Language Arts

The Wind in the Willows Ch 1 and 2

Grammar pg 98-104
Think and Write

Megawords #2-10

The Wind in the Willows Ch 3 and 4

Grammar 105-111
Think and Write

Megawords #2-10
The Wind in the Willows Ch 5 and 6

Grammar 112-117
Think and Write

Megawords #2-10
The Wind in the Willows Ch 7 and 8

Grammar 118-121
Think and Write

Megawords #2-10
The Wind in the Willows Ch 9 and 10

Revise Think and Write

Dragons of Eden pg 55 to 69

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Humans and The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Dragons of Eden pg 69 to 79

Light Meets Atoms

Exp: Don’t Paint Your Lunchbox Black
Dragons of Eden pg 83 to 92

Rainbow Refraction

Dragons of Eden pg 92 to 104

Sunset Scattering

Exp: Bowl of Sky
Social Studies

Landforms Notebook
Landforms Notebook
Landforms Notebook
Landforms Notebook


Outing/Field Trip

To make a table using Microsoft Word, once you have Word open, first use your mouse to click on "Insert" and locate the tab for "Table":
Click on Table, and a graphic should open up with rows and columns of boxes.  You need to know how many rows and columns you need in your grid.  Use your mouse to highlight the proper number of rows and columns. The grid will appear as you mouse over the boxes in the Table menu.  When you have selected the right number, just click on the last box highlighted.
Now, you are ready to fill in your grid! Just click in any box, and fill in the contents! 
I filled in just the days of the weeks and subjects.  I saved my grid as a template so that I could change the contents as needed.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Excited and Thankful

If you are a follower of my blog, you may have seen my post inspired by my good friend, Sheri.  If you didn't see that post, I listed five things I'm thankful for, and five things I'm excited about.  Here's a new list...


  • Planning to spend every Friday morning and early afternoon in Manhattan
  • Planning to spend a Saturday or two every month going on a hike or an outing away from the city
  • Helping a tutoring student with her college search and applications
  • How curious my son is about language and vocabulary
  • Israeli Couscous, 1 lb.Noodles and Pasta)
     The texture is so good!  It is more like pasta than a grain. YUMMY!

Reading The Zombie Survival Guide in Manhattan.
The Upper West Side in Manhattan.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Homeschooling - First day of the new year...and modeling a positive life outlook...surviving...

I kept saying and writing that Tuesday would be our first official day of homeschooling.  But, on paper, I planned our year to start today, Monday!  Oops...but, that's such a relatively minor mixup that I'm not stressing about it.  And, we start our school year super slow anyhow, so it won't really make any difference whether we start today or tomorrow.

As I've posted before, I plan our homeschool lessons several weeks at a time using Microsoft Word.  For a while I used Excel, but once I learned how to create tables in Word, I was in love and have never looked back (tutorial to come later this week)!  Our first two weeks will be focused on reading and science - two of my son's favorite school-related activities.  In week three, we will add creative writing, with my son working on a story he started over summer.  Week four will see the addition of math, grammar, daily journaling, and geography.  By week five, I hope to have recieved our requested materials from The Book Samaritan, and will revise everything on our lesson plans from that point forward.  Also, depending on what is in the box, I may order Teaching Textbooks and some curriculum from Sonlight which covers World History, and literature.  As the fall progresses, I also have a number of unit studies planned for science, literature, and writing.  I'm so excited to still be homeschooling!  Every year we love it a bit more...homeschooling certainly isn't for everyone, but for us it really works!

Here's a sneak peek at our first week - as I stated, we start slow, so this chart looks pretty empty! 

Monday  9/5

Language Arts

The Castle in the Attic Ch 1 to 3
The Castle in the Attic Ch 4 to 5
The Castle in the Attic Ch 6 to 7

The Castle in the Attic Ch 8 to 9

pH Scale

A Brief History of Time – Acknow. to pg 13

Acids and Bases

A Brief History of Time – Ch 2
Turmeric Base

A Brief History of Time – Ch 3

Amazing Egg Day 1 (Sat/Sun – 3 and 4)

A Brief History of Time – Ch 4
Social Studies


Homeschool Group Picnic

Golf Program Parent Meeting

Everything we need for the first several weeks fits in this neat and tidy little pile:
In the middle of our homeschooling, we are still experiencing problems with our plumbing, and I am hoping the repair guys come back Tuesday.  They seemed unsure if they would be here Tuesday or Wednesday as they also have a job to do on another floor of our building.  Meanwhile, we have lost all water pressure in the kitchen sink, and the toilet has decided to go from a continuous flushing cycle, back to normal, to now only sort of half-flushing...yikes and gross!  I also have a freelance design project to work on, my homeschool research project, my grad school classes starting back up, and tutoring starting again.  It will be a busy, busy week!

This morning, I also came upon a post called "Complaining or Glorifying" on the M.O.B. (Mothers of Boys) Society blog. The post asks us, as parents, to consider how we model behavior for our children.  Do they see us complaining when things don't go our way?  Do we fall apart and cry or get angry?  Do our children model this behavior back to us as they go about their daily lives?  How can we change our own behavior to have a positive impact on the behavior of our children?  By no means am I perfect, but I feel that now I am a much better emotional role model for my son than I have ever been before.  I changed my attitude dramatically when my son was about three years old.

I was not in a good state emotionally, and was in a relationship with JP's dad which was emotionally, mentally, and verbally abusive for both myself, and my son.  It was easy to complain, be angry, be depressed, and so on.  I was exhausted all the time.  I was ashamed that I had let myself fall into such a situation.  I was embarrassed.  My son saw me cry, not just a little, not just in the worst of times, but pretty much every day for his first three years of life.  He saw his dad and I engaged in an emotional battle, with his father winning through means of humiliation and manipulation every time.  Then, when my son was three, two things happened.

First, while seeing my primary care doctor for a routine visit, he suggested that I see the new therapist that had just joined the medical practice...I resisted for a few months, but finally broke down and made an appointment.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  When you are hurting so much, you need help.  For some it is embarrassing, and shameful to seek out or accept outside help, but the situation I was in was so much more embarrassing that I needed to seek outside help.  When you need help, push aside your pride, find some humility and strength, and seek out whatever help you the end, it is an act of strength and courage, and may save your life, or the life of your children, especially if you are in an abusive relationship.  With the help of my therapist, I was able to put into place a plan to finish my undegraduate course work and obtain my Bachelor's Degree.  I was able to develop emotional and verbal defenses to my ex's abuse, and I planned an escape for my son and I.  We managed to finally leave a year later, and began rebuilding our lives.  (More in this post.)

Second, I was browsing in a bookstore and came upon a book that reinforced what I already believed as a parent, and encouraged me to grow in my role as a mother and mentor to my son.  The book is The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children: Parenting from the Heart  by Steven Vannoy, and I can honestly say it transformed my daily interactions with my son.  I encourage every parent to read it, and have faith in it.  You can build a strong, healthy, positive relationship with your child.  You can reinforce the strong, healthy, positive relationship you already have with your child.  But, it does take practice.  Changing your relationships, and your own outlook on life is not an easy task.  It takes time.  Be patient with yourself.  Keep trying.  You are worth it, and so are those you love.

Thank you those that read my blog, comment, and follow.  I hope you found something of support or encouragement in what I've written today, whether it be related to homeschooling, surviving domestic abuse, or relating better to your children.  I thank you for stopping by.