Monthly Archives: February 2012

Lapbook on Black Holes

George has been complaining that he’s bored at school. (This is usually followed by a ‘can I PLEEEEEEZE homeschool?’ to which I reply, ‘You think school is tough now, it’s NOTHING compared to what it would be like to homeschool with  me, dude.’)

So, I have embarked on a project; every other month he chooses a science or history subject he’d like to do research on, and on opposing months he does a book report (his choice). The first subject he chose was black holes. And here’s a video I took back in November of the lapbook I created for him.

The materials I used were all from the juvenile science section of the local library. The one book that was most helpful was Eyes on the Sky: Black Holes by Don Nardo (ISBN 0737713666). It’s written for ages 8 and up, and the index and glossary were simple enough for George to navigate.

As my first lapbook attempt, I can say this: Thank God I have a Xyron sticker maker. It made the process so much faster.

He did a great job; in fact, he took it to school to show his teacher, who in turn sent it to the principal, who wrote him a nice note about what a great job he did. (He was very proud).

I’m hoping he picks a reasonable book for his next report.

Homeschooling Public Schoolers

Two of our three children are in public school, and the youngest is homeschooling for preschool. We agonized about the education decision; public vs private, homeschool vs traditional schooling. The main reason why we elected to send our kids to public school is (a) cost and (b) the fact that I’m going back to school for my degree so that I can carry benefits once George retires. If I planned on staying home, or returning to work part-time only, I’d be homeschooling. Simple as that.

This year, both boys have fantastic teachers; Ethan’s Kinder teacher is smart, kind, and loves her kids. That’s something that can’t be faked. (George’s Kinder teacher was… well, let’s just say we requested that E NOT have the same teacher. It was bad; very, very bad.) George’s second-grade teacher this year is excellent, and both teachers communicate exceptionally well.

Here’s the thing; I still consider myself a homeschooler. Yes, I send my children to public school, but ultimately, I’m the one responsible for their education. I review the work sent home, maintain an open line of communication with the professional educators, see if there are projects we can do where the kids need reinforcement in certain areas, or ‘rewards’ in others. For example; George loves creative writing. In fact, when he’s working on a ‘non-fiction’ writing project at school, he has a tough time not embellishing or adding anecdotal information. So, when he is successful with his non-fiction writing, I reward him with a creative writing project. A few months ago, when he told me he was ‘bored’ at school, I had him choose a subject to for a lapbook report. He chose black holes (not much information on this subject at the 2nd-grade level, but we managed) and did an excellent lapbook report; one that got a note from his principal saying how impressed she was. (I did a video showing the different parts; maybe one day I’ll actually get around to posting it.)

Ethan seems to have some issues with differentiating between b and d and p, g and q. He also prefers to guess at words instead of sounding them out. So, I made a flip book of sight words, which he goes through at least 4-5 times a week. We also use Funny Words (from Confessions of a Homeschooler‘s K4 Curriculum), where he flips the C-V-C letters, sounds them out and writes down whatever words he makes up. His Kinder teacher gave us a new game called Valentine’s Monster Mash, which is a similar concept but requires him to sound out all of the letters in the nonsense C-V-C ‘words’ in order to keep the card. It’s great practice for him.

It comes down to choice; how involved are you in your child’s education? There are parents who choose traditional schooling who are very involved, review homework, plan their own educational field trips, talk to their child’s teacher regularly to make sure both are on the same page. There are homeschoolers who rely completely on a software program and their child’s autonomy for his or her education. And there are the rest of us, who fall somewhere in between in terms of involvement and impetus. I think I’ll always consider myself a homeschooler, regardless of where my child officially attends school. Because I alone am responsible for educating my children; the public schools and all they offer are merely tools to that end.

REPOST: Boycotting Valentine’s Day

Here’s my post from Valentine’s Day last year. We had an interesting discussion on Ravelry about both the pros and cons of V-Day; some couples celebrate it come hell or high water, some focus on the religious traditions of the feast day, some use it as an opportunity to be goofy with each other. (Considering that one year, I hot-glued a match to a handmade card that said ‘You still start my fire’ with a heart drawn around it, I think George & I fall into this latter category.)

But when you get past the goofiness, at its core… I hate Valentine’s Day. More than just solidarity with my single girlfriends (and my married girlfriends with unromantic husbands), it’s about as far away from true romance as you could possibly get.

Boycotting Valentine’s Day
I hate Valentine’s Day. HATE IT. To me, it’s the most offensive holiday ever invented. Men are bombarded by advertisements for everything from jewelry stores to flower delivery to stuffed animals and crappy pajamas, all in an effort to say “You aren’t capable enough to be romantic on your own, so we’re going to stick a date on the calendar in order to force you into it.”

Valentine’s Day is the equivalent of telling your husband or boyfriend, ‘You know, it would be nice if you brought me flowers’ and having him come home from work with them that very day. That’s not romance; that’s coercion.

Valentine’s Day is about guys making Grand Gestures and overspending for things that we really don’t need. Teddy bears? Heart-shaped filigree pendants? Ugly pajamas?

And the worst part is that women buy into it! We have expectations for receiving presents from our significant others just because American Greetings and Hallmark like to pepper the airwaves with vignettes suggesting that men can’t possibly think of their wives and girlfriends on their own.

Now I’m not suggesting that people who celebrate Valentine’s Day are automatically unromantic. I’m simply stating that romance is about more than picking one arbitrary day and placing importance on something that should be part of your relationship year round.

You know what’s romantic? My husband makes sure that I have money in my wallet, gas in the tank of the van, and windshield wiper fluid. He scrapes the snow off my van and asks if I need anything from the outside refrigerator. He shovels the sidewalk and puts down salt to make sure that I don’t fall. He brings me a beer and builds a fire so that we can sit and talk about our day while I knit. He tells me my hair is pretty (when it isn’t) and that he likes my face when I’m not wearing a stitch of makeup. He offers constructive criticism on my meals and calls to thank me for packing his breakfast and lunch every day.

That, my friends, is romance. It cannot be shouted from the radio or played out in a sappy television commercial. Real romance is the bond that makes you want to do for your spouse, to give to them, to make their needs and wants important to you. Romance is in the small details of daily life, not just in the grand gestures of holidays.


I learned something today, courtesy my 8 year old son.

We’ve had the same morning routine since late August. Each child has his/her own laminated routine, with pictures (for the non-readers). They’re expected to do the same thing every school day. For over 100 days now; dress, brush teeth, oatmeal bowls into the dishwasher, backpacks/jackets by the back door.

I tend to be a stickler for routine, since it helps me to maintain our home. Routine is comfort in knowing what comes next. And since change is difficult for me (we’re talking quantum physics difficult), I struggle with the flexibility required when there are interruptions in that routine.

Today, while waiting to drop George off, I asked the boys if they’d remembered their tennis shoes. (Six inches of snow on the ground here in NE Ohio over the weekend.) Both boys gasped; “Aw, Mom, we forgot our shoes!” Ethan got angry (his typical response) because today is gym day and if he doesn’t have tennis shoes, he can’t participate.

George, however, started to cry.

My sweet, caring, control freak of an 8-year-old (he comes by it honestly, as you can imagine) was terribly upset. He asked if we could go back home to get them; I told him no, that if we did that, both boys would be late for school. This set off a fresh wave of tears, and we had to sit for several minutes for him to settle down enough to get out of the van.

Something went off in my brain. A synapse fired that told me Something Isn’t Right. I didn’t know exactly what, but I made a split-second decision.

I turned around and went home.

After grabbing the boys’ shoes and dropping Ethan off (last car, but in time nonetheless!), I swung by George’s school and had the secretary call him to come get his shoes.

My child walked into the office, red-eyed and in his stockinged feet, with a smile that hasn’t been seen since he opened his newest LEGO set on his birthday. I realized immediately why he’d been so upset; he would have spent the entire day walking around in his socks. Which, to an eight-year-old who doesn’t like to stand out from his peers (really, what child does at this age?), would have been tantamount to being clad only in his underwear.

I can’t tell you why I chose to listen to that little voice. Not the one saying, “This is going to upset your entire morning,” but the one that said “This is going to hurt him.” I am a firm believer in choices and consequences and letting my kids suffer a little when they make the wrong choice. But sometimes, though we don’t deserve it, we receive compassion. And sometimes it’s more important to model compassion than it is to model correctness.

Instead of holding fast to the routine, I decided to hold fast to my child. I’m glad I did, because I think it taught us both a very important lesson.