Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Update on What I'm Reading: End of Summer Edition


The very last of the Beach Reads for this year: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.  Of course i had heard of this book and movie, but I hadn't read or watched it.  I'm quite glad that I finally checked out both the book and the movie.  The book was wry and dark and very entertaining, as I tried to follow along as Sam Spade unraveled the web that an alluring woman pulled him into when she walked into his office one day.  The movie, starring Humphrey Bogart, was charming.  Bogart did such a good job of walking the line between charming and horrible misogynist - it was a masterpiece. It was also a Triple Dipper on my 14 x 14 Reading Challenge, since it fit into three categories: My Favorite Detectives, LifeTime Reading Challenge, and Books Made Into Movies.

I need more double and triple dippers if I'm going to finish this challenge in time!

Other books I've finished:

  • The Artist's Way for Parents was one I read for work.  I was never a follower of the Artist's Way, but I know it has influenced and inspired many people.  So when I heard there was a new edition for Parents, I knew I should check it out and see if it was worth recommending to the parents in my congregation - and it is.  It's still not really for me, but I can see how it could be great for many folks.
  • How We Love Our Kids takes the notion of Love Styles/Languages and applies it to parenting.  I found many of the ideas really intriguing - heck, I'm already a fan of the whole Love Languages Idea - but I also noted that personally I had a hard time deciding which type I was based on these descriptions.  I felt a resonance with several of the Parenting Types, and that was somewhat contradictory.  None-the-less, this is a thought provoking book that challenges parents to move beyond the love style they inherit from their family of origin, work with the love style of their parenting partner, and try to honor the inherent love style of the child they are parenting.  Whew - that's a tall order but imagine the possibilities if we could all pull it off!
  • Hope on a Tightrope is an older book, but after the recent (Ferguson and after) conversation about race in america I found it once again poignant.  Dr. Cornel West is an amazing writer, and this book is the short and sweet version of his thoughts - full of bold inspirational quotes this is a very quick and easy (but not simple to mull over) read.  
  • Fed Up With Frenzy is another call for slower and simpler parenting, but this one has a serious flaw: after just a brief introduction it proceeds to a long list of things (slow things) to do with your kids.  As a Fast Parent, this could be read just as MORE to do!  Then in the back of the book there are chapters about EveryDay Slow and Slow Parenting - but by then it would be too late for most readers.
  • Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto was a pick for my "Around the World in Alphabetical Order" category.  It is a tense atmospheric drama set in an institutional hospital in Finland, but it suffers from a long build-up and weak ending.
  • The Collected Poems of May Sarton was my latest for the "Poetry" category of my reading challenge.  I hadn't ever read Sarton before, but she is a UU author and so I looked this up.  I loved her poems, with such imagery!
More reading adventures ahead: So many Books, So Little Time!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Is There an App for Life?


While I don't think there is an App that can live my life for me, I have found an app that is either A) Ruining my Life or B) Making Me Win at Life.

The argument for A) Ruining My Life:

  • I'm constantly aware of how far behind on my chores and To Do's I am, and feel a sense of panic if the OverDue section gets too large
  • I can't ever relax quite as well since I know I have a Lot to Do!
  • It adds to my phone addiction to also have my To Do List and Life Management Tools on the phone

The argument for B) Making Me Win at Life

  • If I've put the chore or the task in my app, I won't ever get too far behind on doing it - so those nagging nasty chores that are easy to ignore actually get done
  • My house is cleaner, my work is more organized
  • I can sleep better at night without having a mental To Do List - once it's in the phone I don't have to keep trying to remember it

It's a fine line between productivity and work-obsessed, a fine line between organized and fussy.  This app, for me, is right in that zone between those things - but so far it tips just to the good side of things. How do you manage your life's To Do's?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shifting from Summer to Fall

goodbye to summer

It is clearly turning to Autumn here, although we are still having a warmer and dryer than normal September here in the PNW.  But the trees are turning, the geese are flying overhead, and the school buses are once again driving down our rural road.  It's Fall.

Letting go of Summer is bittersweet, as always.  I always find myself regretting that I didn't do more during Summer, and not because I am a slacker and don't take advantage of the season.  The problem is that Summer just seems like such a season of Vast Possibilities.  I expect that I will Camp, Hike, Garden, Read a Whole Stack of Books, Travel, Do Home Improvement ... all while Living Slow With My Feet Up.  Clearly summer (which realistically is only 2 1/2 months long) cannot live up to these contradictory expectations.

Then there is Fall.  Even when the weather is still nice, there gets to a smell in the air.  This smell is the smell of Better Get Busy.  In contrast to Summer which seems endless while you are in it, Autumn comes with a ticking clock and is clearly an end-between time.  It is a time of preparations.  Preparations for the coming Winter, of course.  If that home improvement project didn't get done during the summer, now there is a rush to finish it before the Winter comes.  And if you want to camp or hike this year, better do it Now before the snows in the mountains.

The sense of Time Slipping By, of Opportunity that must be Grasped Now, is actually more comfortable for me than the seemingly endless Forever of summer.  In this season, I am not tempted to put my feet up but am instead filled with crisp industry.  Now I know that the winter is coming, and that will be a time of enforced quiet and rest.  Before that happens I just need to get stuff done!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why Blog?


I haven't been blogging as much lately, and part of that is that I just haven't found myself with the time on my hands that blogging requires.  I blog because I have more to say than I have people sitting around wanting to hear.  In other words, it is an impulse born of both idle time to think and a certain amount of loneliness.

Both of those things have been lacking in my life of late.  I'm booked up, my plate is full, my calendar is full, my To Do list is long, and I'm hardly ever alone.

And, then, like many bloggers who have focused on their parenting or their homeschooling I see it changes as the kids get older.  Privacy of course, but also the stuff we are doing is just less cute and photogenic.  I still want to blog, but the blog is about me.

Me?  What me?  Where is the me in the center of juggling work and homeschooling, chores and errands, hobbies and learning and the slim chance of a small social life or a bit of alone time with my husband.

Maybe that's the best reason to keep trying to blog.  Maybe it can hold me accountable to myself; maybe it can keep me paying attention to myself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I've Been Reading: Some Nice British Ladies and a rugged Wyoming Sheriff


I've been enjoying more good books in the last two weeks!

First, I read a book that was assigned for a Retreat I attended: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer.  I love the way Palmer writes, and his whole message of living an authentic life resonated as well.  This is a short and highly accessible book of wisdom on that age old questions: how to live a life worth living?

Then I finally got a copy of one of the first Longmire Mystery: The Cold Dish.  I have really enjoyed watching Longmire on Netflix, so I wanted to read one of the books for my reading challenge category of "My Favorite Detectives".  But my local library system does not carry any of the Longmire books - a strange hole in their collection.  So I had to bite the bullet and buy the book.  But then it sat there and sat there, because I frequently have a book that is almost overdue from the library and then that gets the priority for my reading time ... and a book that I own can be read "anytime" so it falls to the bottom of the priority list.  Once again, I had to just choose to set other things aside and give this book my time, and I was so glad I did!  Although it is slow paced, and the ending did feel a bit anticlimactic, the charming character of Walt Longmire is just as human and lovable in the written version and the Wyoming setting is also a real character in the story, telling it's own tale as the action unfolds.

And then I fell in love with some very nice British ladies in Cranford.  I had never heard of this book, or its author Elizabeth Gaskell, but I found a reference to it in 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  To be honest, I'm feeling the pressure at this point with my 14 x 14 in 2014 Reading Challenge, so I was perusing the 1001 Books looking for women authors so that a book could count as a "double dipper" between my "Books to Read Before You Die" and "Women's Studies" categories, and then I realized that this book could be a Triple Dipper.  It also served as my book for "E" in my "Around the World in Alphabetical Order" category.  The value of the book was not just in its versatility for my challenge, however - it's a genuinely charming and lovely book.  The genteel society of Cranford are almost all ladies - the book states at the beginning that men are all absent or dead - and the ladies like it that way.  They live quiet lives of poverty, glossed over by nice manners and a genteel refusal to acknowledge their own monetary state, liberally sprinkled with eccentricity, foolishness, and social niceties taken to their ridiculous conclusion.  Gaskell paints the characters with a mix of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and deep love, which makes for a charming blend.  There is evidently a miniseries that I will have to watch now.

The "D" book for the "Around the World in Alphabetical Order" was also read this week: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  I'm basing that category on the Nancy Pearl book: Book Lust To Go, but for "D" she only lists books about Detroit.  I wasn't all that interested, so it was lucky that my mother came to my rescue and suggested Number the Stars for "Denmark". I hadn't ever read it before, and what a sweet and hopeful story it is!  Lowry looked for a story of the good and the bravery that humans are capable of, and tells a positive story of the Nazi Holocaust, with a happy ending!  Very nice.  I've had a run of holocaust books, lately, and this one struck nice harmonies with The Book Thief.  

I also listened to two more books of the Ranger's Apprentice series with my kids in the car.  Audiobooks in the car are still a wonderful thing for us, even though the kids are starting to want to listen to the pop music station more as they get older.  There's only so much pop music you can listen to on a long drive - but a good story will keep your attention and help cover those miles.

And that's what I've been reading!  My 14 x 14 in 2014 Reading Challenge can be viewed here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not Back to School Blog Hop: School Rooms


Where my kids learn: all over the house (and out in the world too).

The theme of this week's blog hop is "School Room Week".  Ha!  We don't have a "school room" anymore, so I should be disqualified from this one, eh?

When we first moved into this house in 2011, the fact that it had an "extra" room meant we could finally have a school room.  Our school year started off in that room that year.  But then it became clear to me pretty fast that we didn't really like to be constrained to just one room, and that the kids distracted each other a lot when they had to work too close together.  Then I couldn't really multi-task my housework, either, when we were in that one room.  Oh, and the lighting wasn't great either.

So we started to drift out of the room.  Into the dining room.  Into the kitchen.  Into the living room.  Into the "music room".  We would set up a card table for art wherever the light was best for that time of the day.

It's not as picture-worthy or aesthetically pleasing but here's the truth of how we live as homeschoolers:

The "school room" is renamed "the den" and my husband and I are trying to find the perfect way to set that room up as our offices and my craft room.  It's also still great storage for all the stuff and books that just keeps accumulating.  But the stuff we are currently using has moved out of that room.


Milk crates for each child keep their books accessible and portable.  The crates live in the dining room, but get carried all over the place depending on where we feel like working.


Shelves in the living room house the library books (mine have overflowed onto the floor because I have too many!).


Clipboards for each child keep them organized with their daily assignments.


A file of photocopied worksheets also goes on that clipboard.

And that lets us stay organized and drag stuff all over the house at the same time.  It is a bit messy, but it works for us.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Curriculum for 2014-2015

2014-2015 Curriculum

This week has just plowed me down and under!  It's been good stuff, but it's still ... a lot.

So I wanted to take part in the 6th Annual "Not" Back-To-School Blog Hop, with the theme this week of "Curriculum Week".  I even found the time to drag all the books out and take a picture of them.  I even started this post a couple times, but then would be interrupted by a call from my Mom, or by an animal emergency on my homestead.

But now I have a bit of time, so better late then never.

For the 3rd Grader:

For Language Arts we will continue with Explode the Code and Language Lessons for Little Ones, as well as just reading lots of books from the library.

For Math she is doing both Dreambox Math and Math U See (Beta level).

For Science we are doing REAL Science Odyssey: Chemistry

For the 6th Grader:

In Language Arts he is doing Language Lessons for the Very Young, Word Roots, Easy Grammar Plus, and The Reader's Odyssey is the method we are using to go through recommended reading lists for literature.

For Math he is using Math U See (Delta Level) 

For Science he is also doing Chemistry, but for him it's Real Science 4 Kids

For the Combined 3rd and 6th Grades:

They are both using Story of the World for World History (although they are off from each other by about 25 chapters).

For other History we are also all reading aloud The History of US and The Story of Science.  

For foreign language we are finishing up Puertas Abiertas and then we will have to find another program since this one still hasn't come out with a Level 2.

We are drawing using Mark Kistler's Imagination Station.   

And for writing we are using Don't Forget to Write as well as just writing lots of essays, reports, lab reports, and book summaries, etc.

Add in music lessons, family PE class, field trips, and horse riding lessons and we are pretty much good to go!