Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour

The source: I got an email from my charming friend Caitlin.

The idea: Turn off your lights for one hour tonight during your local 8pm hour. Talk to your kid about conserving energy and make them more aware of wasting resources. Also talk to them about what people did before they had electricity to "enlighten" them.

The web site: The site may be down in parts -- Google blacked out and linked to them from the main Google page today so... they're getting a lot of traffic.

The sour taste in my mouth: Al Gore, Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton were here in town this week filming a commercial that's part of a new $300 million ad campaign where unlikely opposites are paired to promote environmental awareness. As in... even Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton can agree that whales are nice. To me, this is annoying. If I had given Al Gore $100, I would be annoyed that he spent it on paying famous people to stand on a beach and shake hands. I suppose it's all very fine but something about it irritated me.

Having said that: As a follow-up to our lesson about protesting, we will turn out our lights and talk about electricity tonight. It doesn't cost anything, it doesn't involve celebrities, and if it helps Benny remember to turn off his light before he goes to sleep, it'll be a plus for us. I'm also going to have Benny blog about things to do that don't involve electricity. Falling asleep with a book in your hand is a family ailment. I'm not sure Earth Hour can fix it. Did I say ailment? I meant legacy.

Disclaimer: I love electricity. I love our TV and our zillion computers. I love electric lights and the oven and blender and even the vacuum cleaner, or the fact that we have one. I especially love my new electronic recording equipment. But I will not be using it during Earth Hour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My American Idol Song

The purpose of the contest is to find a song for the winner to sing at the finale, so the theme is supposed to be... the journey, the arrival, the victory, the moment in time, the grand spotlight. Not my typical theme. My typical themes are mitosis, Charles Darwin, South American rodents, and the letter E.

My entry is here on my myspace music page:

Somehow in mixing it down and compressing it first to a .wma and then to a .mp3, I managed to get a whole bunch of crazy stuff in there by way of blips and squeeps. I'm not great at this home recording thing -- this is my first effort. You'll have to imagine it a little cleaner, a little less wobbly, and there you have it. The product of my labors from here at my bedroom vanity table (appropriate, no?) with my microphone, my guitaar, my keyboard, and my laptop. For better or for worse, it's done.

I'm going to try and clean it up a little maybe. Or maybe I'll just leave it strange and bleepy, like me.

The good news is that now that I've figured out my recording equipment (somewhat) I can really record all my science and history songs. Which was the point all along, right? Right? :)

For a list of all the entries, see my book blog. There's an adjacent post with all the entries from last year. At least all the ones that I could hunt down on the internet.

What I Have Been Doing

I haven't been commenting much on blogs, I haven't been answering much email, and I haven't been blogging much myself because...

Wait, before I reveal this, you should prepare yourself to judge me. Harshly. Especially those of you who find TV repulsive and reality TV violently nauseating.

I've been working on writing my song for the American Idol Songwriting Contest. I did it last year, and it was really fun. I don't know why it was fun -- I am being completely honest when I say that. I think it was fun for the same reason that writing that non-fiction book proposal was fun: it was finite, structured, and could be completed. Then it went on to being someone else's problem. So many of my tasks as a mom and a homeschooler are cyclical, and never finished. When I do one of these "extracurricular" projects, there's a satisfaction in completing it and sending it off and being finished with it.

Maybe that's why -- maybe not.

I hope to have my song done today. The deadline is Monday. I will post a link to it when it's finished.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reading Questions and Vocabulary for Boba Fett #2: Crossfire

Don't judge me. This isn't what it looks like! I have an eight-year-old son who has suddenly become deeply entranced with Star Wars. So, he is reading this Boba Fett series, alright? He doesn't like fiction as a category, and I just go with whatever captures his imagination. Right now he is building Lego Star Wars with great vigor and obsession, and he wants to read about Star Wars too. He loves this series, and I can't argue -- they are written by the Hugo and Nebula award-winning SF author Terry Bisson. So put down your eyebrows. I read them before he does, and they're good stories.

Anyway, internet, I have to tell you that instead of just letting my little boy joyfully read these books, I have written some reading comprehension questions for these Boba Fett novels. Yes, I just heard all my unschooling readers thump their heads in irritation! Benny actually asks me for questions because he's proud to be reading fiction on his own again, and it helps me know that he's following the story, not just enjoying the words "droid" and "blaster." Just in case anyone else happens to be in the same situation I'm in, and just in case anyone else needs to somehow label this as schoolwork or even just find out if the kid is really grasping what's going on as he whips through these books, I thought I'd share. Here is a question for every chapter:

1. Who taught Boba the lesson "First things first!"?
2. What are the count's two names?
3. What two things does Boba own?
4. What is special about the windows in the count's lair?
5. What is the count looking for at his archeological dig?
6. How did Boba get himself out of the mucky pond he was stuck in?
7. What happens to distract the count from questioning Boba?
8. How does Boba feel about the Jedi?
9. Why are the clone troopers so much like Janga Fett, Boba's father?
10. What is Candaserri?
11. What is a padawan learner?
12. What is special about Garr?
13. Where are Boba and Garr when they finally find the bridge?
14. After the alarm sounded, how long did Boba and Garr have to get back to the ship before the jump to hyperspace?
15. What did Boba use as a jet pack to push him back to the ship?
16. How did Boba know that the orange light was a ship and not a star?
17. Why is Aurra Sing following the Candaserri?
18. What did Glynn-Beti do on Bespin that made Boba nervous?
19. What does Aurra Sing offer Boba in Cloud city?
20. How long are the days on Bespin?
21. What does Aurra Sing think Boba did to betray her? Who really did it?
22. Who is driving the Slave I during this chapter?
23. Why does Boba need Aurra Sing to help him get Jango's treasure?

Vocabulary/spelling words: custodial, toxic, visage, provisional, salvage, noxious, revulsion, deterred, self-sufficiency, maneuver, temporary, chronos, facilities, prohibited, atmosphere, security, unbelayed, generators, industry, flotillas, solitary, identity, polyglot, muscular, scrim, exotic, amorphous, ambush, reinforcements, sentimental, unaltered.

Hey, here's a political blog you might like!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A New Homeschooling Carnival

Shez at Homeschooled Twins has launched a new carnival for homeschoolers, called the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. There are three things great about this carnival:

1. It's new. Therefore interesting. New things are interesting.
2. It's limited in size. Therefore, you can actually read all the content, if you want to.
3. It's edited. Not only is she choosing some posts and passing over others, but she's providing little commentaries and editorial remarks.

Love all of this. This carnial has a personality. Some will not like it. Some will be offended. You might be offended by the fact that it's not a big tent, by some opinion that Shez expresses, or by one of the posts that she finds provocative. You might, however, be intrigued by the unabashed editorial agenda, happy with the manageable size, and curious about what she'll attract or dig up next week. I know I am.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sadie and Benny Protest the War

Move On hosted almost 900 "New Priorities" anti-war demonstrations around the country today. One of them was right down the street from my house. As we were driving home from our science fair prep class and International Homeschool Fun Bee at Ben and Shira's house, we noticed this protest going on, with people holding up signs that proclaimed, "Honk if you love peace" and other more extreme sentiments.

Well of course I was joyfully honking away, and went around the block unnecessarily so the kids could get a good look. I was rattling off a bunch of stuff about how in this country we can disagree with the government, and we can express our thoughts publicly, and it is a good thing when you see people protesting peacefully. As I was driving away trying to fit in all my lessonating, I realized I could just park, unload the groceries and walk back. Let them get a good look at it and have their first experiences holding up signs.

So that's what we did.

Here's Benny with his sign:

And Sadie with hers:

Just warms the little red cockles of my heart. Heh heh. Here's a video I took with my phone. It's a bit blurry but you can see that Sadie is using her protest sign to demonstrate that M is W upside down. See, it was educational!

There were actually a lot of children participating, and we ran into some friends of course. Here's Benny with Nicholas:

With people shouting from all four corners of the intersection and lots of honks from cars going by, it was intense for the kids, and for the dog. :) We left after probably 30 minutes, and I was glad we had a good experience. It's not the safest thing to do, protesting the war in this military town. I have to admit it was a little nerve-wracking. A very different feeling from when I was in college, that's for sure. However, I think it was a good experience for the children, and as long as it was within walking distance from my house, how could I pass it up?

Other pictures on the mobile blog and one other video on the YouTube channel, if you just haven't had enough political action for one day.

List of Science Fair Links

Project ideas:

Using the Scientific Method:

Making Your Display:

General Help:

Science Sites:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Google Doodle: A Great Contest for Homeschoolers Too

Both of my kids are entering the Google Doodle contest! Google Doodles are the drawings that modify the logo on special days like, for example St. Patrick's Day which is tomorrow, or more obscure dates like the 50th Anniversary of the discovery of DNA. Google is having a contest for kids to design their own doodles. Go to the Doodle for Google contest page to find out about it. This is right up Benny's alley, as he enjoys making fonts. Here are a few of his potential entries:

The theme was "What if...". Each entry needs an accompanying statement of 50 words that describes the doodle as it pertains to the theme. Here's Benny's for the doodle above:

What if a kid did a man's job one day? The kid would have to do all the business. This would be called "Extructive Working." Extructive means taking over for somebody. "Extructive Playing" wouldn't be so good. That would be when a man was playing like a kid.

Here's Sadie's doodle and her statement:

What if a kid visits the dinosaurs? "What would happen?" said the big dinosaur. And then the little dinosaur said, "The little boy is hungry." Then he got more hungrier. Then he got big, and and bigger. The rain just stopped. And then the little boy was drinking the rain.

Benny did several others. He can only enter one, and he had a lot of trouble choosing between them all.

This is the one he finally decided to go with:

What if we had a holiday when a lady gives birth to a baby. We would call it Baby Day. Baby Day is different from birthdays. We're celebrating the lady giving birth. We're congratulating her so she will feel happy on her first day with her new child. That's Baby Day!

I liked the "Extructive Working" one myself, but it came down to those two and I let him pick, obviously.

If you are Shez or Veronica: I registered "Little Blue School" as a school, and they gave me six ID numbers, so I printed out entry forms and consent forms for your kids, and templates and lesson plans etc. for you too so when I see you we'll chat about whether you want to do it or not, since clearly I've decided you do! Heh.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Vagina Monologues: Not Your Typical Homeschooling Outing

Okay, we didn't take the children to see The Vagina Monologues. And we didn't wear our denim jumpers. We considered, but none of us had any denim jumpers to wear. It would have been funny, as we were sitting in the front row:

We did snicker at a lot of language that would have been inappropriate for our children:

But we did not purchase or ingest any chocolage vagina pops.

It was interesting watching the people who were watching the show. There were men there, middle aged men, silver of hair, forced of smile, indulgent. There were lesbians, hetero couples, young men wearing kind of flamboyant scarves. We were sitting, as I said, right in the front row. When the actress came around pointing in people's faces and encouraging the audience to join her in reclaiming a synonym for vagina that you will not find in a medical textbook, she was pointing at us. The first time, we sat primly. The second time around, she went behind us to the second row, having marked us up as hopeless. Then at the last minute, she came back to the front row, BAM.

There was a woman in the row behind us who was just screeching, screaming with laughter, practically turning inside out during the monologue about the girl who goes to the "vagina workshop." This was one of the best moments in the show, very self-aware, smart, and making affectionate fun of exactly the kind of thing that I was worried the show would be full of. So, this woman behind us was dying with laughter over that piece. Then the next time that actress had a monologue, it was about a rape victim in Bosnia, raped for 7 days by six soldiers. During this scene, someone in the back row had a cell phone that was beeping or something. As if he was texting. This woman turned around and growled at him to turn the phone off, turn the phone off NOW. She really meant it.

Here's our HOAMSKUL CRUE with one of the actresses, nay, one of the vagina warriors who performed tonight. That's me, Lydia, and then Shez, and Danielle, and Colyn. The actress is in the middle front row. She was the one that made me laugh until I cried. It was a very, very funny show. Some serious moments, some quiet times, but lots of explosive laughing. I think we all enjoyed it very much.

So it was an interesting evening. I'm glad I have friends I could go see this with. And I'm glad these people came here to Norfolk to put on this production at the YWCA. Everything about it exceeded my expectations.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Homeschooling is Another Culture?

Celeste at Life Without School has an interesting take on why homeschooled kids who transition back into public school have a hard time with teachers who expect them to be more like transfer students, when in fact she postulates they're more like foreign exchange students.

Can I just say that I've recently discovered Google Reader and I can't believe how marvelously easy it was to set up and how convenient and perfect it is to use? Now, instead of missing out on my friends' blog posts, or falling behind on blogs I like to read, I can see exactly what's been updated and it comes right to my reader immediately. I resisted using a reader because I was all, "Oh, I like to see the blog posts in their context, not in some inbox." In reality, though, that meant that I was missing out on a lot of posts, or spending a lto of time travelling around to blogs that hadn't been updated, using my bookmarks or blogroll. Google Reader lets me divide all the blogs into categories, so I can click on "Book Blogs" and see every post that's been updated in that set, or I can click on an individual blog and see all the most recent posts. The coolest thing is that it tells me how many new posts are in each category with a (1) or (48) or whatever, so I can see where the activity is. It's like an aerial view of my personal blogosphere. And I can click on any post I want to comment on, and open it in a new tab, no problem -- then there's the context I was talking about. So, GET GOOGLE READER! You don't have to know the RSS or XML address -- I just put the regular blog URLs in the "New Subscription" field and it located the feed for me. It's a no brainer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Edeline: A Story by Sadie

One day there was a boy named Crash Bandicoot. He was looking for his sister and they were bunnies. And then he was telling them to go to bed because it was night time. He was so sad because he thought they were at Connecticut. But they were not! THey were just on the sofa! Then they were sleeping on the sofa, but they thought they would just take a bath in their bed! But they just kept sleeping in the sofa. But Crash pulled them off and put them to bed. And he sleeped next to them, and he was all covered up, and the bunnies didn't want to be covered up, but that wasn't a good idea. Then he woke up, and then felt something difficult and it's a BALLERINA. And every ballerina just woke him up! Then he felt girlish. Then he was so angry. Crunch Bandicoot was so angry that he could only make somebody die. Then Crash Bandicoot said, "WHOA" Because the bunnies would not wake up. Then he have that thing on, then something happened. There was a war! Then a spaceship went up and just landed right on Crash Bandicoot! Then he said, "WHOA!" Then Benny just beat the ship up, because the ship just beat him. Then he just said, "WHOA!" Then the bunnies just came jumping up on his nose. Then he was sleeping, then he snored. The End.

[Note from typist mom: I asked her to name the story, and she named it Edeline, which is what she names everything, from bug stickers to dolls to apparently works of fiction. Mysterious.]

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Friday, March 07, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg and Home Educator Week

You can't pass up Williamburg at $5 per ticket. We went last fall, and we will be going every time they offer this fantastic program. This time, the children were both dressed in colonial attire, provided by Ahno and her mad sewing skillz.

Here they are hanging out at the well like a bunch of colonial gossipers:

I have a bazillion more pictures, including a group that Sadie took herself, in my Flickr gallery, in the Colonial Williamsburg set.

For other colonial good times, check out Benny's Colonial Williamsburg Pictorial Tour Guide on his blog. Here's a sample:

Yes, he did move on from discussing the horse poop. But, it was a significant influence on his narrative.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

McGovern's Organics

My homeschooleriffic friend Meagan, who used to live here in Virginia and now lives in Austin, was on TV on her local news station tonight! She is reacting to the recent court case linking autism to mercury-based vaccines. Here's the video of Meagan McGovern talking about her son Sander, his reaction to the vaccine, and how she changed his diet to improve his health.

Speaking of Meagan and health and removing wheat and dairy, Meagan also owns a business called McGovern's Organics, and they make wheat free and casein free meals and baked goods. They deliver within a 20 mile radius of Austin, TX. Here's a link to Meagan's story about going gluten free, from her web site.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Egg Drop Contest at the Virginia Air and Space Center 2008

Great day. Good times. Lots of homeschoolers rocking the museum with awesome engineering. Here are some pictures and videos:

Benny and Sadie after their drops. Benny won second place in the two-egg parachute category at 114 grams with both eggs surviving the fall. He also won the prize for the most creative entry in that category:

Here's Sadie with her contraption, which failed to protect its egg. Video of her drop is below:

You can here somebody speculating that she's 18 months old. She was dressed up as a fairy and her egg was pink and sparkly and frilly, but darnit she's in PRESCHOOL! :)

My entry was "Egg Drop Soup" and it did not protect its egg and did not win anything.

I didn't get any pictures or video of Benny, partly because I pushed the wrong button during his drop and ended up filming my collarbone for like 5 minutes. So ironically the one in the family who built a successful contraption and won prizes did not get documented!

However, I do have video of our friends Zoe and Ben. Zoe won in her category for the lightest successful contraption! Very cool.

Here's Zoe's drop:

And Ben's drop:

So I did get *some* good video! Just not of my own children! :) :) I was proud of all the kids in our little group: Josh, Austin, Zoe, Phillip, Ben, Shira, Benny, and Sadie. We were all very good sports, supporting each other, cheering and hollering, and celebrating physics. It's such an awesome event, because little brainy smart kids get to receive hoots, cheers, and yodels just like the football players. I deeply enjoy myself every year at the Egg Drop contest. It is a great experience for the children and the adults alike.