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It's in the Genes

I've been teaching an embroidery class for a couple weeks and today we worked on how to tie a knot. I was trying to describe the method of wrapping the end around your finger and rolling it with your thumb. My student, Shelby, wasn't quite grasping the method of rolling so I explained, "You roll the thread between your finger and thumb just like you're rolling a booger." (classy, right?)

Honor made a face and I told Shelby that Honor didn't approve of our conversation. Shelby didn't understand why and I told her that somehow (only the Lord knows how) Honor was born a little lady who preferred conversations that did not involve any form of bodily functions.

Shelby said, "She must have learned that from you, huh?"

Honor let out a most unlady-like guffaw, ending it with, "Uh, no."

I confessed, it did not come from me. Shelby sagely pronounced that it must have come from somewhere down the family line.

Honor, who just couldn't let it go, said, "Way, WAAAAAAAaaaaaaayyyyyy down the line."

Her grandmothers are all just fine in the lady department, but Honor wanted it understood that it was far from ME. And she's right. It apparently skipped me.

If you don't know Honor and her sweet, sweet heart...this conversation could make her sound like a brat. You have to understand that the girl would be torn up if she thought this might be hurtful. She's a loving little girl who undeservedly adores her Mama, but she did mysteriously join the family full of sensibilities the rest of us just don't have. She is patient with us. More patient than we are with her. It's hard not to purposefully say things to inspire that look of horror on her face occasionally. Homeschooling: Where bullying comes from your family. Bet you didn't know us homeschoolers have bullies, too.

Progeny Press - A Review

 photo 26018_10150154187290243_4120345_n_zpsd9393f12.jpgTeaching methods are varied and different styles ebb and flow in popularity. Most homeschooling methods tend to agree that good literature is integral to a quality education. My family began with a classical education as described in The Well-Trained Mind. Every year, I've embraced a little bit more of a Charlotte Mason education philosophy, but the two methods aren't really at odds with one another after students enter the logic stage. Both methods encourage narrating literature back to mom after it has been read. Discussion about literature helps flesh out themes and build reading comprehension skills. This is more fun,and much more helpful than filling out a worksheet at the end of each chapter. However, I can only help my students analyze literature at the level that I am able to analyze literature. Much as I love reading, I am not confident in my literary analysis skills. Because of this, I really appreciate guides to accompany our reading assignments. Progeny Press has created the best guides I have seen.

I'm in a Theme Song

 photo Promessi_sposi_4dff73068db85.jpgBefore reading this, you must understand that Ethan is my engineer...My little math and science geek grown up. He's been exploring colleges, focusing heavily on schools that specialize in engineering. Afraid we were narrowing the focus too much, I asked him if he was sure engineering was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He said, "Yes. Definitely. That, or Medieval Lit."

Because they are so similar?

I'm still trying to wrap my head around my math-boy embracing Promessi Sposi. With that in mind, proceed to the following conversation:

Me: Boys, we need to discuss your Language Arts options for next ye-
Ethan: POETRY! I want to do lots of poetry!
Me: Um, okay, we can do that or we-
Ethan: I'm a Poet-Ninja.
Me: Pardon?
Ethan: It's not a double occupation, just so you know. It's a degree of poet. I am a ninja at poetry.
Joel: Yeah, well I think I'm turning Japanese.

And on another note, I have always heard this song saying, "I think I'm turning Japanese. I'm in a theme song." But they are apparently saying, "I really THINK SO."

Not theme song.

Just so you know.

Knowledge Quest Timeline App - A Review

 photo 61867_10151551915578243_1408297526_n_zpsc18fa83b.png I had the opportunity to try out a fabulous new creation from Knowledge Quest, a company we have loved for quite a while now. Knowledge Quest now has an app calleTimelineBuilder iPad APP which allows you to create your own, personalized timelines.

Supercharged Science - A Review

We're a geeky family, with an inherent love for math and science. The kids are full of questions and we love finding the answers together. We especially love doing experiments so we can see WHY the answers work. Supercharged Science gave us a great opportunity to learn science in a unique way. This is Online E-Science Curriculum combines quality videos, experiments, and text for a fascinating science education for all ages.

Aurora Lipper created Supercharged Science after teaching students at Cal Poly State University and seeing the lack of enthusiasm her students brought with them to college. She spent years investigating how students learned before entering college and developing an exciting, hands-on approach to helping students truly learn science. The welcome letter I received from Aurora Lipper sums up her method very well:

"My kind of science starts with building something first to make it exciting, and to get kids invested in the process. Once they think it's cool, then we do the academic stuff – usually, THEY can't wait to learn it because they want to make their experiment or project work better."

Supercharged Science is a complete science program that covers every topic remotely related to science and can be used like a regular lesson plan, beginning with Lesson 1 and progressing through subsequent lessons. It can also be used as a virtual science library, choosing lessons that spark students' interest and flying with it. There is so much to choose from, it can almost be overwhelming. But Aurora walks you through everything step by step.

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I am very impressed with Aurora's ability to present such complex information in such an understandable way. Easy experiments flow right along with her explanations. Reading about her experience in scientific fields makes it even more impressive that she is able to convey things at a student-level. She was a rocket scientist! And though they are approachable for all ages, each lesson can be studied at each student's challenge level. For instance, when studying motion, there is a simple experiment using 2 cans of soup to illustrate the concept of inertia. High school students are ready to move beyond recognizing the concept and are taught how to mathematically calculate the inertia of both cans of soup.

We are nearly finished with our regular science programs this year, so we have opted to just hop around Supercharged Science topics for fun, supplementing the lessons we were already doing. We found a very handy feature that matches Supercharged Science lessons with corresponding lessons in just about any science program available. There is a conversion chart showing 23 popular science curricula and corresponding Supercharged Science lessons, but if you would like to use something not listed, you can request it as well. Supercharged Science is a complete science curriculum in itself, so honestly, pairing it with another program is overkill. Next year, we will use it as a stand-alone curriculum for my high school student's Physics class.

I volunteered to use the program with my high school students, but my younger daughters sat right in the middle of the lessons and they have loved it, too. We scrolled through available topics and found experiments and questions that sounded interesting. For instance, we cooked Ivory soap in a microwave to better understand how a microwave oven works. My boys said they had always wondered and now they know! We learned about light as we built a solar oven. They even built a hovercraft in a lesson about friction.  Nearly all of the experiments use household items, or items that can be purchased inexpensively. We also took advantage of an online seminar, which was fun. I intended this program to be supplemental, but we're hooked now!

Our soap experiment, before and after. 
To use as a full curriculum, you can choose the subject you want to study and then work through the lessons step-by-step. There is a PDF lesson plan ebook for each Unit. These are approximately 30 pages long and include an overview of the lesson, vocabulary terms, experiment shopping lists, questions, and answers. Students begin by reading text about the topic they are studying. This text is informative and interesting, with an option to download a high school level textbook excerpt so that your student can study it at an even deeper level. The available reading is very involved, and averages 25-50 pages per lesson. Each lesson also includes around 5-10 experiments and exercises. These can be used to beautifully illustrate the principles being taught or as teasers to introduce topics and spark interest. Honestly, even if you ONLY did the experiments and ignored all of the reading portions, your students would still learn SO MUCH, it's incredible!
Our hovercraft! And it really worked!
A feature that I really appreciate is a "comment" section with each lesson and experiment. Families can ask questions as they go and Aurora is very good about answering these questions. She really has a passion for inspiring a love of science in families.

This is going to sound a little stalker-ish, but I love Aurora's voice. I am very picky about voices when we do anything video-based. Aurora's voice is fabulous. I could sit and listen to her read the phone book. And I'm pretty sure she'd find a way to make it interesting, too.
The boys, building their solar oven.
Aurora has generously offered to give my readers a chance to try out some activities to see if they are a good fit for your kids. Check out Science Activity Video Series for free! Once hooked, you can subscribe to Supercharged Science for $37/month for the K-8 levels and $57/month for high school levels. While this is more than we have ever paid for a curriculum before, it is very comparable to other online science classes we have considered. I'm a penny-pincher and I don't say this very often, but it's worth the money. Be sure to check out the free access option. You'll be impressed!

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A Last First

For the last time, we have a first-time bike-rider.

The boys took Sarah Grace out for lessons this weekend. She picked it right up, but is still a bit nervous about trying it on the road.

Not a last first, but still part of a great weekend: The boys had a soccer game Saturday. 

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Short, but necessary:

Vinegar as a conditioner is a bad idea. Many sites I researched when looking for natural hair products recommended using ACV to soften and detangle hair. I really can't tell you if it softens or not, but I can tell you that having soft hair is pointless if you smell like a pickle.

Everything I read swore the scent rinsed out. I tried it several times. Once I had rinsed, rinsed, and triple rinsed I didn't smell a thing. But people randomly started sniffing the air when they walked into the same room with me, their brows knit in confusion.

I didn't tell anyone what I was doing, but my husband leaned over to kiss me and asked, "Why do you smell like pickles?"

Don't do it. Just don't.

No Poo

Have you heard of the "No Poo" experiment? It's supposed to be a fun way of saying "I stopped using shampoo", but it just sounds painful to me.

On Monday, I used shampoo for the first time since Christmas. Over 4 full months of no shampoo. The benefits touted are numerous. If you have curly hair, the results are generally phenomenal. I don't have curly hair. I have thin, fine, flat hair.   For all hair types, it is supposed to stimulate hair growth. It is supposed to add body. Oil production is supposed to slow so that you can wash your hair less often. I have extremely oily hair, so the idea of not washing my hair every day sounded impossibly wonderful. So I tried it.

The method requires not washing your hair for at least a week, which is just disgusting. I have church twice a week. I started on a Monday and wore a gross ponytail on Wednesday. By the next Sunday, I used the "No Poo Shampoo", which is just baking soda dissolved in water, applied to the scalp only. After a week of an itchy, greasy, smelly felt wonderful.

The next morning, I didn't need to wash my hair! I was able to skip a day! But by the next morning, it needed washed again. I hunted for solutions and read that it won't mess up the process to use cornstarch. So I turned my hair grey. The next day, I washed my hair with more baking soda water. The next day? It needed washed already. I tried cocoa instead of cornstarch. That actually worked quite well.

Through it all, I never could go more than one day without washing and it always needed something to  absorb the excess oil. When possible, I skipped several days, but it was gross and it never balanced out. Still, it was nice not using the chemicals of shampoo in my hair and I plugged on, committed to the full 2 months everyone said it really takes to make it work.

At 2 months, I evaluated the progress. Not balanced in any way. No new hair growth that I could see. However, there was a good dose of dandruff. Maybe there was more body? But the texture was turning straw-like, so I suspected any "body" was from my first experience with frizz. However, I was still happy to not be using chemicals and hoping that maybe I could find a way to make it work. I checked around and some people had different experiences with different amounts of baking soda. I experimented from 1 Tb of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water to 1/4 tsp of baking soda in water. No real change, so I stuck with a teaspoon of it.

Since I knew the oil balance wasn't going to get any better, I tried adding in conditioner once a week, just to the ends of my hair. It helped with the frizz some.

Fast forward through the last 2 months. I get my hair colored every spring to match my roots. It's a peroxide-free coloring that evens up the color that has faded toward the ends of my hair and adds a gloss to the dry effects of winter. I asked my hairdresser if she saw any changes in my hair since the last time she saw me 4 months ago. Nope. Well, there was some dandruff. But that was all.

And that's when my experiment ended. I didn't want to use abrasive baking soda on colored hair and it wasn't really helping anyway. So now I am on the hunt for a gentle cleanser that is sulfate-free and silicone free. If you know of anything, I'd love to hear about it!

April Fools

I had a little fun while the kids were sleeping this morning....

Joel calmly greeted the fridge with a, "Well, hello there."

Ethan opened the fridge and shrieked like a girl, stumbling backwards in fear and then collapsing in laughter.

It was great.

I attempted to draw eyeliner moustaches on the girls while they slept. Honor slept with her face covered and Sarah wiped her face with her hands every time I attempted to draw anything. 

When Joel saw Sarah's face, he immediately looked at his watch to check the date and then ran to the bathroom mirror to see if he'd been pranked. Sarah went through the morning routine, not knowing she had anything on her face. She saw the half-moustache I'd drawn on Honor and said, "Hey, Honor, you have a little something on your lip right there."  We all laughed, realizing she still had no idea.

I am notoriously bad at cooking eggs. When I fry eggs, they are either grossly over-cooked or grossly under-cooked, so the kids weren't too surprised to see under-cooked eggs on their plates this morning. 

It was actually yogurt with peaches.

I have a few more things on today's list, but this has been a great start to the day.
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