AO Year 4, Term 3, Week 2 | AO Year 2, Term 3, Week 5

This past week was a rough week, in that we had a lot of people around here getting sick (including myself). I think we made it to Tuesday on the “regular” schedule and then switched to the “for emergency use only” schedule.

The Emergency Use Only schedule reflects what the emergency is. Since I was sick some of the time, the schedule was focused on 1) things the kids could independently do and 2) taking advantage of pockets of time. We grab readings as the time becomes available, we work through the entire week’s schedule, we stop abruptly, and we just keep chugging.

Some things are left undone and that’s just how life works sometimes. I’m not too concerned by that, as we’ve been progressing very well all year and I’m not going to lose sleep over something that in the long run is rather inconsequential.

This coming week should also be an interesting week. I have a doctor appointment (time to check on how my iron is doing – I have been tapering off thanks to appropriate levels; so maybe at this appointment I’ll be cleared to stop taking the iron supplements), we have a therapy appointment for my autistic kid, a playdate, choir rehearsal, the local Charlotte Mason group meets, and Greg’s parents come home after their time in a warmer climate. Plus it’s the Triduum, and Easter is right around the corner (thank God, because this Lent has been rough). We won’t need to break out the Emergency schedule but we’ll definitely need to make sure we are all staying focused. 🙂

What I’m Reading This Week

Happy Spring! There is still way too much snow on the ground, but happily it’s melting with our warmer, springier temperatures. This really has been a long winter, and I can’t wait to resume nature walks, wear short sleeves, and sleep with the windows open soon.

This week was a meh book week, in that the girls all had some random illness which spread to me. I haven’t really felt like reading just from being so sick. But I appear to be much healthier now, and only one kid has a random fever (but normal behavior, so I don’t even know what that’s about), so here’s to getting back into this stack of books.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams – I am entirely thrilled that book two of the five-book Hitchhiker’s ‘trilogy’ is exactly like book one. I really enjoyed book one (probably a little too much) and therefore was a little nervous about book two not being as good as the first. This book is definitely my “escape from reality” book, which is always appreciated at the end of a long day when I all I want to do is zone out.

Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney – I picked this book up after finishing the Einstein biography. I figured I would stay on the “scientists and inventors” rabbit hole and went with Tesla next.

Tesla is pretty much one of the most eccentric people I’ve learned about lately, and I’m entirely impressed by him. I’m finding him so different from Einstein, who wasn’t all into publicity and just wanted to work on his theories; whereas Tesla was definitely more comfortable with “being seen”. He also was devoted to research but he seemed to be more out and about than Einstein. Einstein married twice and had kids, Tesla never did (although he had plenty of ladies who wouldn’t have minded being Mrs. Tesla).

One thing about this biography that grinds my gears though is that the author weaves in strands of “woo” occasionally. Tesla had premonitions that the author hints at being ESP, there’s some acupuncture talk thrown in (trying to suggest that acupuncture works on electrical fields in the human body??) and I just can’t wrap my mind around that kind of stuff. In my opinion it doesn’t really add anything to Tesla’s life and could be removed without being detrimental. Additionally, the book doesn’t move chronologically through Tesla’s life but seems to be more focused on his discoveries and inventions, so sometimes we’re in 1897 and then in the next chapter we’re in 1893. Somewhat annoying.

The information about Tesla is interesting but overall the writing is pretty lackluster. There are some footnotes, although some things are left un-cited that I wish were cited (such as talking about how Edison had neighborhood pets stolen so he could electrocute them as a scare campaign against Tesla’s AC discovery). Overall, this biography is pretty “meh”. Don’t pick this biography if you’re just trying to get into biographies.

I do have a copy of Tesla’s autobiography, which is what I’ll be reading next (and honestly that’s where I should have started from).

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee – I started this book yesterday morning so I don’t have much to write about regarding it yet. One thing that struck me is that in addition to a standard table of contents; it has a narrative table of contents. Things are discussed and mentioned in such a poetic way that it makes me excited to read the entire set of books (my copy is all five books in one giant book, so this one will be sticking around for a while). It’s a geology book, written about American geology; so I’m really excited to get into it and see how it is.

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom – oh, this book. It still reigns as the undisputed “most complicated book of 2018” for me but is endlessly fascinating. I read a lot about AI when I was in college, so it’s fun to get back thinking about all that. I’m still clocking in at around half a chapter a week, including time to write things in my “things I’m learning” notebook, looking up things that are unclear and just generally thinking about what Bostrom is writing about.

AO Year 4, Term 3, Week 1 | AO Year 2, Term 3, Week 4

Peanut was back to school this week, after a very good break and exams week. One thing I learned that I needed to focus more on with Peanut was ensuring that she is filling out her timeline and plotting things out on maps. I made sure to print off plenty of blank maps for the geographic areas we’re reading about and constantly remind her to use them.

I’ve also been working on honing my discussion questions for after narrations. These questions aren’t the standard ones you’d get in a brick and mortar school (no questions like “when was Paul Revere’s ride?”) but more open-ended, thinking questions. Some questions I asked Peanut was about why women being educated was considered “unladylike” during Abigail Adams’ time and how did Abigail become so passionate about women’s education? What was John Adams’ reaction to his wife’s concerns? Anything to draw her into a conversation that involves her thinking – really thinking – about what she’s reading and not just dumping information.

In the biography of Albert Einstein that I’m reading, I came across a quote that I want to put on my wall. It sums up practically every reason why I’m homeschooling in the first place. The context is that the news media was trying to give Einstein “the Edison questionnaire” and one reporter asked him what the speed of sound was. He reported that he didn’t keep information like that in his head. He then criticized Edison’s educational views with this quote:

“The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.”

I don’t think that training a mind to think is reserved solely for the college years. In this day and age where we have a plethora of information available to us in our phones and other devices, training minds to think is of a much higher importance than memorizing facts and events. One needs some level of familiarity, of course; but the standard view of “drill and kill” just doesn’t work.

For Moose, I decided to remove the biography of St. Ignatius and move it into the free reads pile. Having the biography of St. Joan of Arc and Robin Hood going – both books are very much “stretching” books for Moose – I felt that having the St. Ignatius biography was just overloading us all. I think this coming week will be much less intense for Moose and will be at a pace that he can handle without feeling like nothing is making sense to him.

We continued to make good progress in math this week, which is wonderful. I’m noticing less of a need for IXL supplementation, so we’ll probably drop that entirely in the next few weeks. It was great that it gave him a much needed confidence boost.

Both kids also were assessed for reading, both kids are comprehending well beyond their grades. Moose is reading at a 4th grade level, Peanut a 6th grade level.

This term seems to be flying by; with a couple weeks before Moose goes on break week again. Hopefully it’ll stop snowing at some point and they can have a proper vacation before we move on to the next school year!

What I’m Reading This Week

Look at all that glorious sunlight! It’s been absolutely wonderful lately, with lots of snowmelt and playing outside. Naturally it’s supposed to rain/snow/sleet/have freezing rain tomorrow so we’ll have to last through another bout of dreariness.

I’ve been working through the books above this week, none of them are really ones that you could fly through in a short amount of time. But they’re all wonderfully thought-provoking and my brain is quite thrilled.

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom: When I originally commented about this book, I lamented about the jargon that was completely foreign to me. I had anticipated that it would take a year to read, which I was content with. While I’m not even close to finishing; it did get suddenly easier to read and understand. I find it harder for me to find time to read this book because I prefer not to be interrupted a million times. Naturally interruptions are a dime a dozen around here so if it does take me a year to read; it’ll probably be due to that.

Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend: recommended by a friend, highly enjoying it. It reads just like the original Boundaries book, except the focus is for parents and their kids. Cloud and Townsend are working on the assumption that kids are taught poor boundaries (or at the very least have them demonstrated). The goal of this book is to have good boundaries with your kids but also to help them have good boundaries so they can be constructive adults.

Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey: Slightly eye-rolly title, but absolutely jam-packed with every possible thing you’d ever want to know about personalities. This works off of Myers-Briggs 16 personality types and unpacks each one in gory detail. I had my personality typed in college and came back INFP. Greg (who was professionally typed at work) informed me that when one does that personality typing you have to answer it honestly, almost off of a gut reaction (as opposed to what one thinks the answer “should” be, which is exactly what I did in college). So, I retyped recently and it came back INTJ and I swear my entire life now makes more sense. Ever since I was a young kid, I always felt like the square peg in a round hole and now I have a better understanding why I felt that way. Even Greg is shocked by how much more “sunny” I am simply by discovering that little bit of information. I’ve been on a giant personality typing/learning kick since and have probably upped the page views significantly at Mystie’s blog on all of her personality typing posts.

(Greg’s an ENFP, if you’re curious.)

Einstein by Walter Isaacson: appropriate reading today, as not only is it Pi Day and Greg’s birthday but Einstein’s as well. I grossly underestimated how giant this book was until it came in the mail and I was honestly a little shocked. But I’m halfway through it and it’s absolutely fascinating. I have been narrating to Greg what I read and we’re learning all sorts of things about Einstein. I’m already looking for my next biography to read so biographies is definitely a genre I can get into.

AO Year 2, Term 3, Week 3

This week was quite a fun week! The weather is finally taking a turn towards SPRING and therefore everyone is getting excited.

Peanut was on break/exams week, of which she did quite well. I made some notes on my exam questions list of what to focus on for term 3, so when we get going on Monday I will be well-prepared to make some adjustments.

Moose had a hard week, which was probably due to Peanut being on break week. We ended up scrapping Wednesday and will finish up everything that we missed tomorrow. Sometimes it’s better to take a break and regroup ourselves than force getting something done so we can stay “on schedule”.

We tried an audiobook of Robin Hood but Moose didn’t like it, and wanted me to read it. So we’re just going reallllly slow and taking as much time as we need.

His narrations for other books are on the upswing, especially the books I mentioned last week. He is getting quite good at discussing the virtues and vices of the people we read about. I’m quite happy with that, although he still tries to have me do a Q&A session (as in “what year did the Battle of Agincourt take place?”). When that happens I’ll give him a narration, or try and give him some prompts so he feels less overwhelmed (“Did we read about King Tut? Moses? Henry V?”). He’s the kind of kid where too much open-endedness can really disorient him, so I try to give him some extra scaffolding.

He is coming along really well in copywork, and in math. Science is a favorite, and he especially likes hearing all the calls and screams on Youtube of the Big Cats that we are reading about. I think we’re getting into a new Term 3 rhythm, which means we should do pretty well for the remainder of the term (and the school year!).

“What I’m Reading” Wednesday

I am noticing that my books this year are really becoming quite different from what I have been reading over the last few years. I spent entirely too long in nonfiction land, save the occasional kidlit book (and of course, excluding all the books I read for the kids’ school). It’s kind of funny that I’m getting back into fiction but also exploring sci-fi, a genre that I had convinced myself I was fatally allergic to.

I decided I would give this extremely well-known book a go, and figured if it wasn’t all that up my alley it wouldn’t be a big deal. I found it absolutely hilarious and flew through it in a weekend. It’s the perfect mix of lunacy and sci-fi. Poor Greg (who, for someone who says they’re into sci-fi hasn’t read this book) was constantly asking me “what? WHAT?” during my multiple breakouts of laughter while reading. Absolutely fabulous book and I’m ashamed it took me this long to read it.

I mentioned this book on my Erin Condren giveaway post, and it’s probably one of the most complicated books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s about artificial intelligence – can we design something that would become smarter than us? What would happen if we did design something smarter than us (or became smarter than us)? It has a lot of terms I’m unfamiliar with, and I spend a lot of time looking things up (backpropagation algorithms, for starters). So far I’m halfway through chapter one. Go me! It’ll probably take me a year to read this book through.

In my mailbox
My birthday last week resulted in a lot of books coming this week. I’m still waiting for a couple but here they all are:

Book 2 of the Hitchhiker series. I had no idea there was even a series, but if the rest of them are as good as the first, I’ll be in for a good time. If 2018 is the year I apparently go beyond my regular genre of book reading, let it also be the year I try my hand at biographies. One part experimentation (do I even like biographies?) and one part reading to possibly include for the kids’ highschool years.
Some PKD. I’ve read The Man in the High Castle and I’m upset at Amazon for not releasing Season 3 of their (amazing) show based on the book. I’m not entirely sure where I sit regarding PKD (I thought the book of High Castle was enjoyable, if a little messy, especially at the end) but I’ll probably have a good idea once I finish this book.

Something I should have read during my undergrad years but had never even heard of, much less read. This book is about 700 pages, so it too will fall into the “long read” category. It’s a lovely book about North American geology, and I’m really excited by it.

This one isn’t a birthday gift book, but one recommended by a friend. I’ve read the one relating to boundaries with other adults and it was incredible; so I have high hopes for this one.

That Time I Won An Erin Condren Giveaway

Once upon a February, I won an Erin Condren gift card giveaway on Instagram hosted by Jen Mackintosh. I do have a thing for planners, and I had been living vicariously through Jen’s EC posts on her blog for a while. I was rather shocked but quite excited that I had won (I tend to never win, haha).

I browsed the Erin Condren site for an entire week, overthinking what exactly I wanted and how I was going to use it. I had a very nice discussion with a customer service rep on Facebook to have some of my questions answered, and finally settled on what I was going to purchase with my gift card.

Here’s all that came in my box of goodies:

Erin Condren Teacher Planner
I have wanted this planner for a very long time, and it was the one non-negotiable item in my cart. Every time I took different things in and out, the ECTP stayed in. I’m using a different planner for this current school year, and next school year I’ll be busting out the ECTP. I’ll need to do some modifying of a few of the pages, as the planner was designed for a non-homeschooling teacher.

The Latin says per aspera ad astra – through hardships, to the stars. And my name, which is being covered up by a coil clip. I really like that saying, and it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to a “life motto” or anything like that.
The lesson planning section of the ECTP – I can’t wait for the next school year!
Each planner comes with a carry-all pouch as well. I added the snap-in dashboard – this one is the to-do variety. The coil clip above will be used to put the pouch into the planner.
Some stickers that came with the ECTP
And they’re metallic!

Erin Condren LifePlanner
This planner is a simple calendar year planner that doesn’t have any specific purpose for it. It runs the calendar year, and my plan is to use date dots to modify it for 2018-2019, although I’m not sure if I will start it when the next school year begins or not. I’ve also been wanting to try one of these LifePlanners for a while and I’m thrilled I can do so (without having to choose between this one and the teacher planner).

I couldn’t choose between “floating florals” and this design – “mid-century circles” so I had one design for each planner. I also kept the same Latin phrase and my name.
I went with the colorful horizontal layout.
Stickers at the back of the ECLP. Again, they’re metallic (and awesome). Both the LifePlanner and the Teacher Planner have several pages of stickers; not just the ones in the pictures!

Dot Grid Hardbound Notebook
I read an article discussing physicist Richard Feynman’s “notebook method”. I thought that was a brilliant idea and decided to get a dot grid notebook as a notebook of “things I don’t know”. I’m currently reading a rather hard book for me (Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom) and have been using the notebook to make notes to myself, look things up, and whatnot.

The bookmark on the top of the page is a magnetic bookmark I ordered to match the journal. It comes with a ribbon bookmark. I also plan on being in two different sections of the notebook so two bookmarks should be quite handy.

PetitePlanner Gratitude Journal
Peanut really wanted an EC academic planner, but after looking through the images online decided it wouldn’t quite work out for her. She did decide that a gratitude journal would be more her speed though.

Peanut was very excited to see that the gratitude journal came with stickers, as well! She added the pen(cil) loop.

Floating Florals Carry-all Clutch
I also wanted a little tote to keep one of the planners in and decided that I would get one to fit the LifePlanner.

Nice and cozy!

Lots of Dots
I purchased some stickers to use for modifying the planners – the date dots to get the LifePlanner on the calendar I need, and colorful dots for highlighting important dates in them. I have an embarrassingly large sticker stash already, but I lacked functional ones. These ones fit the bill!
Designer and Date Dots | Colorful Circles

The stickers on the far right side were included because this order was my first order with EC.

Writing Utensils
The wet erase markers will work well on the covers – the insides of the covers have little areas to record notes, thoughts, reminders, events, etc. They’ll also be great for the snap-in dashboards. The pencils and pens are just simply fun.
Wet Erase Markers | Dual-tip markers | Pencils

One of the pencils is being used for Peanut’s gratitude journal – you can see the pencil in the loop in the picture of the journal.

Bookmarks and pen holders
I selected a magnetic bookmark for the dot grid notebook, and a set of three clip in bookmarks for the teacher planner. The binder I set up for myself for this school year has me working in about 3 different sections at once and so those clip-in bookmarks will be perfect. I split the pack of three pen holders with Peanut – one for her gratitude journal, and one for each of my planners; you can see them in the pictures above.
Magnetic Bookmark | Snap-in Bookmarks | Pen holders

Snap-in to-do list dashboards
I have one for the teacher planner and one for the LifePlanner.

Extra cover for the teacher planner 
I decided to get an extra cover (front and back) for the teacher planner so I can mix it up as I feel like it. You can see it in the first picture of the post, behind the ECTP. I put some public domain images of space on the extra covers that go with the whole “through hardships, to the stars” train of thought.

Should anyone want to get on board the EC train, I have a link for $10 off your first order as well as coupons for 20% off that were sent to me in my goodie box available for sharing. I’d put the link for the $10 off here except it has my last name in it and I’m not too comfortable having that directly available on my blog like that. 🙂

Thank you again, Jen and Erin Condren! I can’t wait to use these great planners!

AO Year 4, Term 2, Week 12 | AO Year 2, Term 3, Week 2

We reached the end of Peanut’s term 2 last week! Hooray! This week means BREAK WEEK and exams for Peanut.

We fell behind in reading Kidnapped, which means it’s been moved to audiobook status. I think I may need to just put all the literature selections on audiobook status, as I remember having the same thing happen to us when we were reading Robinson Crusoe.  Or I may reduce how many chapters we read each week and carry it on into the summer.

Peanut is definitely getting more and more independent, and while I still read a couple of her books for her; the rest she reads on her own. She also holds her narrations if I’m working with Moose (or kid-wrangling) and gives them to me when I’m actually ready to hear them. I am very much impressed with her and she should have an easy transition to reading all of her books at some point in the future.

I’ve decided not to do written narrations with her until next school year, just because we have a good rhythm going on right now and I’d hate to upset the apple cart. I’ve told her they’re coming down the pipes, so it won’t be a massive shock when it shows up on her schedule.

We’re having some adjustments with Moose and his Term 3 books. Robin Hood, which he so desperately wanted to start has been the hardest book for both him and I to read of the whole school year. He was up to the point of being able to listen to an entire page of reading before narrating; but with Robin Hood we’re stopping at almost every paragraph. I’ve noticed a slight drop in his quality and length of his narrations in other books, which I think is due to some level of nervousness about “getting it right”. He really wants me to just ask him questions, which misses the point of narration. We’ve done things like use dinosaurs to act out the easier books, and sometimes we read Robin Hood and I give a narration to him. He does follow the story and enjoys it but it’s quite a ride.

Two books I’m subbing in are also proving to be challenging – the Vision books of St. Joan of Arc and St. Ignatius of Loyola. The book about St. Ignatius mentioned the Saint breaking his leg and that really upset Moose, as it reminded him of when he broke his leg. LOTS of treading lightly in that chapter and extra time to decompress. He’s capable of narrating quite well on them, but the “Robin Hood effect” as mentioned above is impacting him in these books as well.

I need to focus this term on making sure that we really hit “the riches” on a regular basis. The artist is Michelangelo and the composer is Beethoven; I have prints of the artwork and Spotify playlist of Beethoven; so there’s no reason for missing it (except that I forget to put it in the schedules). The kids are feeling rather blah thanks to the endless snow we’ve had (and of course, it’s snowing right now as I type this), and I’m sure that putting in more of the riches would help their spirits.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Let’s catch up what I’ve been reading lately! Watching things hasn’t really happened, which may or may not be a good thing.
The Fault in Our Stars: I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this book, I have heard people who have read it either love it or hate it. I checked out the book from the library, read it, and returned it in about 3 days. I wouldn’t say that I loved the book but I really, really enjoyed it (although I could live without the sexual situations, in my opinion it didn’t really add anything to the whole plot). The characters were deep and multi-faceted, it talked about subjects worth talking about (human suffering, terminally ill people, idolizing people, love and pain, etc). I found myself crying at the end and actually quite mad with how the book ended. Great story, but I wouldn’t let me kids as teens read it (which is unfortunate because the overall story is really good).
Know and Tell: This book is the answer to almost every narration question I’ve ever had. Why do it? How does it transition to written narration? How does narration replace an entire writing sequence all together? What about kids with special needs? Late to narration narrators? I wish this book had come out when Peanut was just learning narration, as it would have saved me a lot of mental heartburn; but better late than never. It will definitely help me with my up-and-coming narrators.
The Long Winter: read this in one weekend in order to feel less bad about constant snowfall we’ve had lately. We haven’t had as much snow or as cold of temperatures that Laura and her family dealt with; but we have had the incessant snowing and the inability to go outside and do things. And of course, we completely lack that whole starvation aspect. Walking With God: if you’ve ever wondered how the Bible fits together, or why the Old Testament God seems so different from the New Testament God (even though they’re the same God), this book is for you. Absolutely incredible and does a wonderful job explaining the overall story of salvation, important cultural notes that explain a lot of things and clarify a lot.
The Living Page: I’ve had this book on my bookcase for an embarrassingly long time and finally have decided to read it. This book is to keeping notebooks (not the current “notebooking” style that is common in some homeschools) that Karen Glass’ book is to narration. The Living Page has really done a wonderful job (complete with actual PNEU notebooks!) to show which were notebooks were kept, how they were kept, why they were kept, and so on. I’ve found the “general Charlotte Mason lesson plan” schematic in the back super helpful; and have implemented it with much success with both Peanut and Moose. A must have (along with Know and Tell) for any Charlotte Mason homeschooler (or anyone who has an interest in narration or simply wants to know more!).

I have several more books in the ‘currently reading’ section of my life, and hopefully it won’t take me a month to post about them. 🙂