Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Parental Rights Amendment

If you follow any national news these days you are aware that people are literally dying in the streets fighting to have a voice against oppressive governments.  That thought was not lost on me as I peacefully drove two miles to attend a "town hall" meeting organized by our local Tea Party.  In attendance were three state representatives and one state senator.  They each gave brief introductions covering where their districts were and on which committees they sit.  The majority of the time was spent listening to their constituents and answering their questions.

The people raised several concerns--not accepting the dangling carrot of federal dollars (and the jumping through hoops that follow), a proposed bill requiring a prescription to obtain the pills used to make meth, unemployment, and so on.  Since I had recently seen the documentary "The Child,"  I was interested in Parental Rights.  No one on the panel was aware of the proposed Parental Rights Amendment.  I briefly explained the dangers of the United States ratifying the Treaty on the Rights of the Child and asked if anyone would sponsor a resolution in favor of the PRA.   The senator and one representative was extremely interested.  I followed up with an email linking them to

I was surprised how good it felt knowing I was heard by those elected to represent me.  I saw them writing notes as I spoke.  I received an email from my state senator this morning thanking me for my attendance and follow up message.  We'll see where this leads.  I'm just glad I overcame my fear of public speaking and let my voice be heard.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Homeschool Sick Days

My Schnickelfritz is not feeling well.  I'm still trying to determine if this is a cold or the start of spring allergies or the fact that the temperature has be swinging back and forth between balmy and freezing the last couple of daze.  Anyway, it's brought me to another reason why I love homeschooling--no sick days.  I don't mean that we keep our normal schedule on a day when the student (or teacher for that matter) is feeling under the weather.  I am pointing out that it is possible to log some hours despite feeling puny.  This is important as we need to log 1000 hours to meet Missouri law.


When Fritz doesn't feel well the first things he wants to drop our his least favorite subjects--writing and reading.  Okay, I can live with that.  That doesn't mean I can't read to him.  We usually have a read aloud book going and on sick days I just don't stop at the end of the chapter.  We'll read as long as he wants.  Currently we are reading The Wheel on the School,  a charming story about a group of Dutch children trying to bring a pair of nesting storks back to their village.   (The bird theme ties into our Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day curriculum).  I will also indulge his love of Hank the Cowdog although I confess I can't make up character voices the way the author  John Erickson does.  There are so many possibilities for books  and I can't begin to know your kids interests that I won't list any here.


 A second option (and this one may apply more when the teacher is under the weather) is to watch videos.  I've been purposefully collecting dvds that fall into the edutainment category.  Here are just a few:


A More Perfect Union --  a dramatization of the Constitutional Convention.  Bonus features include a lesson plan when we get more serious about American History.  I bought this from my local Tea Party for $7.

Johnny Tremain --  This is a movie version of two Wonderful World of Disney episodes.  It's not a replacement for reading the book, but it does a nice job.

Apollo 13--  Our dvd set comes with an Omnimax release that is shorter than the original.  Most of what what cut out is before the mission including the one astronaut's promiscuous lifestyle.  The special features includes a documentary on the real mission or you can listen to the commentary track by Jim Lovell to learn what artistic licenses the filmmakers took.

Benedict Arnold -- a made for TV movie about the events that led up to his treason. 

The Crossing -- another made for TV movie about Washington's crossing the Delaware.

 Sergent York -- There aren't as many films about World War I.  This is my favorites.  The backwoodsman discovers God's love and struggles with whether or not a Christian should kill. 

 Midway --This film uses real aerial footage from the war in the Pacific.  It avoids a lot of the gore and bloodshed found in modern war pictures.



Walt Disney's Legacy Collection --  There are four volumes that cover all of the Nature films released by the company.  Some won the Oscar for best short feature or best documentary.  Titles include Seal Island, Jungle Cat,  White Wilderness, The Living Desert.  Even the bonus features are great--showing how they captured video of ants in Nature's Half Acre for example.  There's actually very little mentioned about evolution.

Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution--Three volumes that alternate between footage of the animals and Dr. Jobe Martin's commentary on the remarkable features God gave them.  Have you every thought about how large the heart of a giraffe must be to pump blood up that long neck.  And why doesn't that same blood pressure explode  its head when it bends over to get a drink.   This isn't something that could have evolved over long periods of time because it would have killed the poor animal the first time and dead things don't evolve.

Answers in Genesis dvds--there are so many here.  Any done by Buddy Davis are geared towards kids.  The Riddle of the Dinosaurs with Mike Riddle is one of Fritz's favorites.


Depending on the sick person's level of energy and ability to concentrate (hard to do if your symptoms include a headache), you may want to play some quiet board games.  Fritz enjoys several logic based games like Mastermind, Guess Who and Secret Square.  We also have Old Fashioned Product's math based games--Jelly Beans, Knockout, Muggins and Opps (these are pricey but a great investment).  There are other games like Made for Trade and The Scrambled States of America that I can log as history and geography time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where are you when we need you Amy Dacyczyn?

Gas prices have gone up 50 cents per gallon in a month, Walmart has raised the price on apple juice by the same amount, and last week I saw a head of lettuce the size of a softball selling for $2 at my local grocery.  I knew it was time to whip out my copies of the Tightwad Gazette.  It's funny to see how many articles are obsolete these days--no one worries about writing a letter vs making a long distance call anymore.  Now we have email or free long distance calling plans on cell phones.  I am putting more effort into creating a price book, that is keeping track of sales prices and frequencies of items I tend to purchase.  I'm using an excel spreadsheet I found free online.  I can type in items straight from the register tape or the sales flyer and then sort by item and price to see who has the best deal on juice for example.  Since meat is probably the most expensive category, I'm focusing on that now, but adding pantry staples as I have the chance to browse aisles.  No one has ever stopped me to ask what I'm doing with pen and paper in hand, I guess they assume I'm crossing off a grocery list.  I'll be adding prices from the farmer's markets as they start up this spring.

A second area I chose to focus on from The Tightwad Gazette was learning new money-saving skills.  Last Sunday my husband, The Toolman, had a hankerin' for some KFC.  Since we had been running errands in the town where that was located, we stopped through the drive-thru for an 8 piece meal deal.  Up till now, I've always considerred this a reasonable deal because our family of three can make it last for at least two meals.  This time as I looked at the $21 receipt, I thought about what made up the price.  Looking in my price book I know I could buy:

2 Cans of green beans --- $1.18

10 pounds Potatoes ---  $2.99  (the 2 or 3 potatoes to equal what I received were probably worth 40 cents)

1 Roasting Chicken ---$7.99 

That's $9.57 for an equivelnt amount of food.   That means I'm paying someone else  over 10 dollars for their knowledge of how to fry chicken.  And I keep repaying them every time we stop there.  True,  they use a pressure fryer which I don't have but I think I can make up for that by not having my food sit under a heat lamp until it's sold.  So my first goal is to learn how to make a good fried chicken.  Anyone with a good recipe?  Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lewis & Clark Days in Hermann

I was removing files from my camera's disk and realized I hadn't shared our field trip to Hermann with everyone.  This is our second year to brave the cold for a chance to learn from the St. Charles reenactors  of the Corps  of  Discovery.  This year I invited our homeschool co-op to join us.  It was practically a holiday-they cancelled violin lessons so that everyone could attend.  I've always said the best teachers are the enthusiastic ones and you can't get more enthusiastic than men and women willing to stand outside in the winter weather to teach kids about Lewis and Clark.

The day began with a flag ceremony.  You can't tell from this angle but the flag has fifteen stars AND fifteen stripes for the number of states in the union when the expedition started.  They also sang a song other than the national anthem we know, since it wasn't written until the War of 1812.

Schnickelfritz gets to examine the keel-boat used by the reenactors during their bicentennial journey to trace the route of Lewis and Clark.  (Don't tell anyone but their is a motor hidden in the boxlike structure on the deck).

An addition to this year's demonstration was a regiment of His Majesty's first artillery.  Gun control proponents would be appalled to learn the kids got to help light the cannon (not Fritz, he needed both hands to cover his ears).  It's a good thing the event is done in the winter or the repeated cannon blasts would have shaken the grapes off the arbors across the creek.

Captain Lewis and President Jefferson explain the mission of the corps and how they gathered and recorded information.  It was a very cold day and the president borrowed a coat from one of the corpsmen.

The most popular outdoor activity was learning how to start a fire with flint and steel (it may have had something to do with the proximity to the cooking fire).  They had just put the leg of lamb on the spit when Schnickelfritz blurted out "Hey, that meat is shaped like South America."  He's such a geography nut.

Finally an indoor workshop.  This man either loves to interact with kids or he's really excited about frontier medicine.  Here he is preparing to pull one of Fritz's teeth.

Here he demonstrating removing a bullet from an arm.  Unfortunately gangrene set in and he's going to have to amputate (does the boy in green look like he's getting queasy?)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Using IEW with other subjects

From listening to Mr. Pudewa's lectures and workshops, it is clear he identifies himself with the Classical method of teaching.  I can't say I understand it completely but I've heard the buzz words like "rhetoric" and "trivium."   He does make a point in one of his workshops about the difficulty of fitting in teaching writing on top of all the other things we try to get through in a school day and that is would be better to incorporate writing with another subject like science or history.  Sounds like a unit study to me!  

Now that Fritz is very familiar with the process of key word outlines and reworking a paragraph based on that outline it is very easy to fit writing into our science studies.  We are currently studying Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  The optional workbook has plenty of spaces for writing paragraphs about what we've learned.  In the past I would have just picked a sentence or two from our reading and treated the exercise more like copywork.  Now I can select a paragraph and have him create the outline.  We can work on our rewritten paragraph on a separate sheet of paper and add the dress ups.  Then he can write the final draft in his workbook. 

Now we've covered our writing assignment without making it a separate lesson.  I also think the note-taking exercise is helping him retain the science facts.
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