Sunday, December 16, 2012

Desperate Danger

"There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow." 
-- J. R. R. TOLKIEN (The Fellowship of the Ring)

I originally posted this picture and quote on the Accidental Crossfitter as a response to the release of the movie The Hobbit, but with no commentary attached. I think the quote speaks for itself with regard to a host of situations. With regard to fitness and health, we wait for a crisis in our state of health to make radical changes, and with regard to our families, we wait for a crisis of behavior or some tragedy to spur us into heroic action. 

In the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary shootings there are a host of knee-jerk reactions taking place. People are suddenly calling for tighter gun control, others are calling for funding and research for the mentally ill, others are suggesting teachers be trained to carry guns, like teachers in Israel. I happen to think that the root problem lies far deeper than any of these "solutions" can even hope to help solve, but that is another blog post for another day.

What I want to say is that I grieve for the parents, teachers and families who have lost their precious children and loved-ones in this horrific event. When I see the list of the dead, most of them are the same age as my sweet daughter. I cannot imagine their pain.

The Columbine shootings had already occurred when I began considering  homeschooling. I am not going to deny that events like this factored into our thinking process when we made the decision to pursue this course. I wouldn't call it the reason to choose to home school, but it is a very good reason to be thankful that we do. There are no guarantees in life, I know this, but I have a charge to keep, and that is to protect my children and educate them the best I know how. I still believe that the choice to educate at home is the best for our children. I believe that it is a heroic action taken in world full of desperate danger, full of chaos, confusion, and lies.

III John 1:4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

When We Cover Reproduction...

This is how I am going to explain it, because it simply the nicest, most logical, most sensible way to explain it. I wish someone had explained it to me like this...

You're welcome. I know you were looking for an explanation, too.

Monday, December 03, 2012

On Discipline

Proverbs 12:1 says "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." (ESV)

But really--how many of us love discipline? How many of us in our standard American lifestyle truly love discipline? We surround ourselves with luxuries and pastimes, square screens and processed food. Work is not by the sweat of our brow, but mostly with our brains and fingers. We do not labor for our sustenance. The widening girth of our society is proof of all of this and it is called an epidemic, a disease.

Last week as we were away for the Thanksgiving holiday I spent a lot of time thinking, and discipline and leadership was one of the things that came to mind most frequently. I have struggled so often in our homeschooling journey, and even more in my physical fitness, to establish routines that will keep us accountable for the work that we need to accomplish. Getting up at an early hour, insisting that the whole family be in bed by a certain time, keeping a schedule of cleaning and housework (and maintaining the expectation that the kids will participate). I had a conversation with the family to this effect one evening. I pointed out to the kids that I could not have expectations of them that I myself am unwilling or unable to meet, and that from that point on I would not. From that point on, then, I was obligated to do what I said I would do, or not say it at all.

My father, who was not an exemplary man in the area of character modeling, used to tell us, "Do as I say, not as I do." Right! If we never spoke words of any kind to our children, they would still learn by following our actions, from brushing our teeth to helping the poor.

I have been watching my son in the last year change quickly from a child into an increasingly responsible young man. Admittedly, he is still a child, but he is taking on character qualities that so resemble his dad and me that it is both frightening and delightful. I find the following to be true of him: he is faithful to a task, he is responsible and caring for his little sister, he is a gentleman, he is thoughtful, he serves without complaining, he is affectionate, he has integrity and wisdom beyond his years. I won't list the negatives here, but he possesses qualities as well that shake me to my core, but these all reflect my flaws, so what can I say? Disciplining him for such flaws does no good at all if my actions are the same!

If I cannot spend serious, regular time in studying the Word of God, if I cannot find time to take care of my health and exercise regularly, I can hold no expectation that my children will see the need to do so in their lives as they grow. If I cannot control my tone of voice when I talk to them, I cannot rebuke them for their tone when they speak, without first repenting for setting that example. If I cannot take time to gently and lovingly hold affectionate conversation with them now when they are little, how can I expect them to want to do so with me when I am old? If I want my children to reach the highest goal I have for them, that of knowing God and pursuing a holy life, then I have to set the pace with them. I, as much as my son, need to heed the following:
Proverbs 3:11, 12
"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves as a father the son in whom he delights." 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Week 13: Thanksgiving and More

Week 13 was spotty, both literally and figuratively. Since our family traveled to Florida to visit family for Thanksgiving (which was wonderful!), I have not had the time to prepare the house for the holiday season as I normally would. The house is in a serious state of "spotty." Then, for two days this week Dad was home for a dental appointment and a normal day off, so the schedule was definitely "spotty."

Nevertheless, we did get some good work on fundamentals done. We also had a wonderful opportunity to prepare our thoughts for our study on WWII which we will begin after Christmas. While we were in Florida, Matty spent a wonderful time with his granddad, interviewing him and asking him all about his life. We learned some wonderful history about our family, and captured it in a recording. Being Japanese and having experienced some very difficult circumstances during the war, they lived a life that is extremely difficult for the kids to imagine.

They also enjoyed doing some gardening with their grandparents. They have a wonderful variety of vegetables and things that came originally from Okinawa, so we got a bit of an education, there as well. They dug up purple potatoes and got very dirty.

Got one!
Purple sweet potatoes!
There were some lovely giant worms

Wow. Dirty fingernails.
We also got a bit of beach time in which is always good for the soul. I didn't take as many photos there as I normally do--I just thought a lot and looked for shells. The drive down and back were highlights for me. The kids had the iPad and their movies in the back of the car, and hubby and I had a total of 32 hours of conversation time (16 down, 16 back). We did not listen to books, music, sermons or podcasts very much at all. We mostly enjoyed each others company and talked. We had time to process through a whole lot of things we've been thinking, make some important family decisions, and dream a little. Out of those conversations a new blog was born, and I am enjoying that new pursuit. I mentioned it in a previous post, but The Accidental Crossfitter is up and going very well so far.

So that is my wrap-up of the past two weeks. I am not sure what we are going to do this week--I may need to take another week off in order to clean, decorate, bake and take the kids shopping. I would rather do it now than at Christmas "crunch time." We'll see what happens.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Accidental Homeschooler has a New Sister!

I have talked about my recent foray into fitness in the past few weeks. This foray is rapidly turning into a serious pursuit, and I don't want my beloved homeschool blog to become something different than what it has been, "encouragement for the homeschool life." So, I have launched The Accidental CrossFitter, encouragement for the crossfit life, not to be confused with Accidental CrossFitter who also writes about crossfitting but has more kids than I have and a different story to tell, I think. I will be following her blog, too.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Who's Counting Giveaway Winner!

It is time to announce the winner of the Who's Counting Math Game Giveaway!
I gave my children the job of choosing the winner, and I am happy to announce that CHARLENE is the lucky winner!

Thank you to everyone who left a comment. Charlene, if you will please send me an email through the blog link with your mailing address, I will get that in the mail to you next week!

Week 12: Just Keep Swimming

I always find the week before a big trip to be stressful. This week was no exception. Perhaps it would have been easier if I had not allowed my family and myself to utterly blow off the plan to spend Veterans Day cleaning and getting things done in order to go hiking. But no, we decided hiking would be more fun--and it was--but the car still needed servicing, the hvac guy still needed to come by for the fall inspection, the bathrooms were still dirty, the fish tanks still needed cleaning, the cat food supply was low. So today, the day before we leave we are running like chickens to get all of that stuff done. And what am I doing? Sitting here writing a blog post to memorialize it all.

Our goal was just to get the fundamentals done this week. We stayed the course on math, grammar, spelling, reading and the like. Not much else was accomplished academically, but we got in a lovely visit with "Auntie Kate" and my godson, had dinner at a friend's house, and worked out at CrossFit. It was, practically speaking, one of the weeks where living life takes a bit of priority of book-learnin' and that is just fine with me.

On a personal note, I got a bit of insight into the way this week was headed when I got up Tuesday morning. I had done a "Hero WOD" (an extremely hard workout named after a fallen soldier) on Veteran's Day, then proceeded to hike a couple of miles with my family. That night I slept more appreciatively than I have in years. Tuesday morning, I was truly looking forward to that first cup of coffee, so I poured my cup, went to the refrigerator, took out the carton of half-and-half, poured, and noticed orange liquid dumping into my coffee. Orange juice to be precise. I couldn't help but just laugh. It truly was hilarious. Thankfully there was more coffee in the pot so I didn't have to brew more.

But the reality of that kind of tired is also my greatest accomplishment at the moment. For so many years I have struggled with feeling lethargic, overweight, tired and achy. I knew that the fault lay only with myself, but there is at times for us moms a huge gulf between us and all our "reasons" and fitness. I am not sure how I came to the decision, but somewhere deep down I just decided--I'm going to do something radical, and now I have completed two weeks at CrossFit Woodbridge. It's hard, painful and at times humiliating (like today when I was so tired of jumping and kept getting all tangled up in my jump rope,) but I have not felt so good since before Molly was born. I could not be more thankful.

So that was our week. Next week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with family, and I will not post, so Happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading, and may you be blessed richly this season with remembrances of all that you have been given by God's hand.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who's Counting Giveaway!

Today I'm giving away a fantastic find that recently came my way--a math game called "Who's Counting?" I was immediately intrigued because one of the areas that I fall short in my homeschooling is making math fun. I can make grammar and spelling fun, but math is an area where I lack creativity, so I have to rely on things other people have come up with to make it really have that "spark" factor. After playing the game with my husband and kids, we all declared the game a winner, and Matty, the winner of the game! We will definitely be incorporating this into our school activities, but it was an excellent way to spend family game time! What a great find!

In the box: a thick deck of cards, score pad, and directions
The game is a card game that could best be compared to UNO in its concept--there are cards that can be played for points and cards that other players can play against you to thwart your progress. Once the rules are mastered, it can be as fast-paced as the ability of the players will allow. At first glance the game looks promising--we're thinking this looks fun and engaging, and the premise is appealing to kids--math-loving Whozits in the land of Wherezit are threatened by a green goo. The players stop the green goo by using their best math strategies.

The directions are simple enough that my 11-year-old son was able to explain them to us. In brief, each player is dealt 7 cards that include green number, white operation, blue "power-up" and red "who's counting?" cards. Players attempt to use the cards in their hand to build an equation (whole numbers only) that will add up to the most possible points. They may also play a blue "power-up" card that may double their points, provide them with a wild card option, or stop another player from playing a "who's counting?" red card. The object of the game is to reach the highest number of points in 20 minutes or 500 points, whichever comes first.

The game is for 2-6 players and the recommended ages were from 8 to adult. My 7 year old daughter played on a team with Dad, which was a great approach because she cannot multiply and divide yet. She thoroughly enjoyed the game and used her addition, subtraction and skip-counting skills to their maximum (She can skip count numbers through 12, and is starting to understand how this leads to multiplication). My 11 year old son had no problems at all, and kept exclaiming, "This is really fun!" We decided to ditch the 20-minute rule because we forgot to set a timer, but we were also having so much fun that we wanted to get to 500.

There are several reasons this game was a huge hit. First, the concept was simple--build good equations, try to have as many operations as possible for bonus points, and get the highest score possible. Second, the game had variables in it to keep it interesting. The blue cards were fun because we could double our score or help ourselves with a "choice" card which could be any number or operation. The presence of red cards kept us biting our nails to see if we would be thwarted when we asked, "Who's Counting?" Finally, as we played the game we began to see strategies that would really help in scoring higher points, even when we had only subtraction or division cards in hand. Math skills, logic, and strategy? Bonus!

My husband, who is not a game person at all was skeptical at first, but found himself thoroughly enjoying the game and time with the family. The kids wanted to play another round, but it was getting past bedtime, so we'll be playing again very soon!

A few more points...This is an award-winning game by Teacher's Professional Resource, LLC, that does what it says it does--builds math skills. If you are interested in CCS (Common Core Standards) the game aligns with CCS to build mental math skills, collaborative problem solving, construction of viable arguments, mathematical decision making and estimation, attention to precision, and abstract and quantitative reasoning. Even if you are not interested in CCS, the game still does all that! 

So...Here's the deal. This game is for sale on Amazon for $24.99. I have a brand-new game in the shrink-wrap to give away for free. If you would like to receive this free game, leave me a comment with the ages of your kids and what subject you enjoy teaching the most. A winner will be picked this Friday, November 16th, so enter, and pass it along! Good luck!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Week 11: In Which We Learn Nutrition and Fitness

This week took on a health and fitness theme, as the kids and I explored the subject of nutrition in science, and since they were back to good health and recovered from their colds, they tried out CrossFitkids. We also did the basics and history, waited in a very long line (1.5 hours) to vote, watched the election coverage, pulled teeth from both kids' mouths as we watched the votes come in... You know--the usual stuff.

On Friday after science we had our literature group in which we discussed Animal Farm. It was incredible to see the insights the kids had into that book. Some had a better grasp of the facts of Stalin's rise to power than others, but all of them, when briefed on the situation grasped it completely, and were even able to apply aspects of the book to our modern political situation! With worried expressions they stated the obvious parallels and asked, "Why can't they see what's happening?" Unfortunately, these were questions I could not answer.

These were the highlights of the week, but we did the usual things as well--math, writing, spelling, reading, but the timing of our nutrition chapter and our recent interest in CrossFit could not have been better. The timing of the election and Animal Farm was excellent as well. When I reflect on it, it was a very rich week, full of real-life learning, enhanced by the academic side of things. These are the reasons we homeschool!

Matty helps Molly fill in her Paleo / Primal food pyramid, based on our personal eating habits, which are not strictly Paleo, but we seem to be trending in that direction. Our personal pyramids do include a few grains and some dairy, though we have definitely curtailed consumption of both.

Discussing the glycemic index of foods and testing for starch.

At Crossfit, Molly crushed the bear crawl. She would call it a "Cheetah run" and she's been practicing it for years, seeing as how she believes herself to be part cat.
Samson lunges take a lot of concentration.
Medicine ball work...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Week 10: The Accidental Power Lifter...What?

So this was one straaaange week. Last weekend was taken up with preparations for Sandy, which was destined to be the storm of the century. Sadly, in places in NJ and NY, it was. Here in northern Virginia we fared pretty well. My neighbor lost a tree, and plenty of folks lost power. We did not. It was a very dreary few days and we did not leave the house--kind of like the beginning of the Cat in the Hat, but the Cat did not show up (thankfully!) I actually was grateful for the inevitable change of subject that Sandy brought. I can totally relate to this little girl who says she is tired of "Bronco Bama" and Mitt Romney. Me too, girl--I hear ya!

As of last Saturday evening it was pretty clear that a cold was prevailing upon certain members of the family and as I sit here writing, one full week later, we are still in various stages of snottiness, coughing and general crud-management. We spent Sandy parked in front of the Weather Channel under blankets with boxes of Kleenex and medicine cup-cocktails.

We managed to tackle some schoolwork, though, in all our time indoors. Between blowing our noses we continued working on scripture memorization for AWANA, read more of the biography of Eric Liddell, covered history reading on the roaring 20's and the Jazz age, completed week 5 of Writing with Skill (with almost no help from Mom!), took a grammar, spelling and math test and passed all with good scores. Molly and I read Marven of the Great North Woods which was a story about a Jewish boy who was sent away to avoid the flu pandemic which followed WWI.

My favorite discussion this week was in science. We began covering the lesson on nutrition and the glycemic index (GI) of foods was introduced. The kids were very engaged in the reading, and we pulled out a book I have on healthy eating and began to look at various foods and talk about what GI is, but also what glycemic load is, and why a white potato is not as good a choice as another food, for instance a carrot. We picked out foods that we typically eat and looked up their GI, after trying to guess whether it would be a "high" or a "low" food. All-in-all, it was a very fun discussion.

Wednesday evening the kids enjoyed passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. We do not observe Halloween ourselves, but the kids love passing out the candy.

By Thursday I was climbing the walls and starting to feel a little better, so I decided to step out and brave the gym. It would be my first workout as a member of the CrossFit box I have joined. After the warm-up, we were told to grab a barbell, and the coach proceeded to give a detailed description of how to do a "clean and jerk" lift. What!? I'm still laughing to myself! I have done little to no lifting of any kind of weights, and here I am lifting more weight than I ever have over my little head and then dropping them with a shocking racket onto the floor mats. Hooah! I think I laughed all the way home. What have I signed up for? Wait for good-eating journey is well underway. Now begins my fitness journey, which I'm sure will be a much steeper climb, but I have a goal, and mean to see it through.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lookie Here! Outdoor Gear!

I got an email yesterday from the fine folks at Outdoor, letting me know that we had been featured in one of their posts on Weekend Warrior Wednesday. (I guess that is kind of like our Wordless Wednesdays, except not wordless and about Weekend Warriors. People like alliteration on Wednesdays.) I was flattered to say the least and thought I'd check out their website and company. Being the fan of small businesses that I am, I would like to give a shout out to this company who is obviously making an effort to promote quality outdoor gear and supply it to folks like us who, er, like outdoor gear. Hiking shoes and poles, backpacks and sleeping bags are all things I'd really like to hear more about from people who have used them. They feature interviews and reviews from people actually on the trail using stuff, (as in they go up to people and say, "Uh, hi! How ya like them boots you're tromping around in?") and the people tell them. So, check them out, and definitely have a look at the blog post and see my cutie pies being featured by someone other than me!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The GI Tract Revealed to Middle Grade Students

We are currently studying Apologia: Anatomy and Physiology. This week's topic was the digestive and renal systems. We did not have an experiment in the book that was ideal for a group of kids so we went online to look for something that would illuminate the process of digestion a little better. We did find an interesting demonstration here, and it goes something like this--each part of the demonstration is supposed to simulate what is going on in the digestive process. This is what it looked like. The photos speak for themselves.

Food enters the mouth (a mixing bowl)
adding saliva
the bolus moves into the stomach through the esophagus
food is mashed up in the stomach with...
bile to break down fats
and stomach acid
at this point, it's getting a little stinky
Okay, here we go...
into the small intestines

eww...this is kinda' gross...
Oh, gross!
Girls, wait! Don't you want to see nutrients be absorbed?
So the boys are left to handle the absorption of nutrients.
Grossed out, but still having fun with it...
Look out, guys! We have a gag-er!
I present your lower intestines!
and the final product...

If you would like to do this experiment, you can find it here on squidoo. It was extremely gross, but we laughed so much it was well worth it! I don't think the kids will soon forget the experience.

Week 9: Enjoying Fall's Last Beauty

This week my husband took Monday off to extend our weekend and take us all hiking in Shenandoah National Park. We didn't want to miss the color that is always so spectacular in October, so we drove out in the morning, hiked, drove some of the skyline drive, took in a sunset, and came home, exhausted! It was a gorgeous "October Skies" kind of day, though the leaves were perhaps a tad past peak color, and definitely past at the higher elevations, but it was still gorgeous. Molly hung in there for the whole 5 miles. I won't say that she didn't complain at a few points, but she was a trooper, and I'm pretty sure that more family hikes like this are in our future.

The sky really was this blue and the leaves this yellow--no Photoshop!
Dad and his hikers
A rare instance of me in front of, not behind, the camera
Explorer extraordinaire
This is my Father's World

The rest of the school week was fun. In science we talked about digestion and all its implications, which of course the kids find both humorous and gross. We finished our studies of WWI and will pick up with prohibition and the roaring twenties next week.

Matty and I took a bold new step and went to visit  a Cross Fit class with a friend. Holy Moly! I have never been so sore after a workout of any kind, but in this bizarre kind of way I am enjoying the feeling. Matty absolutely loved the Cross Fit Kids class and is dying to go back. He is also very sore. I went back today for another "beat down" (as my bff calls it) and, being the glutton for punishment that I am, signed us up for a year. I won't deny it--I really hate exercising, but I hate feeling fat and lazy even more. I figure if I am going to be miserable, let me be miserable for a short time, get the job done, and pass the extra time enjoying the results.

I am posting our science experiment photos in a separate blog post. They're just too gross--funny, but gross--so if you are not into the gastrointestinal tract and all its amazing features you I will not subject you to looking at the experiment and it's lovely results. If you love seeing kids have a great time doing science, then pop over to that post. I know for sure it is an experiment the kids will not soon forget.

Well, happy weekend. Time to batten down for hurricane Sandy.