Friday, July 13, 2012

Gray Days

Why is it that when the sun is shadowed by unending gray, I can't move?
My morning stretches into afternoon, and little is accomplished.
And what is accomplished is done only through extreme will and extreme caffeine.

I often think I should live somewhere else, away from the rivers and the Bay of rural Maryland -
near another Bay on the opposite side of the country, near the mountains.
Where I'd fit in - better.  Where my lifestyle might not be viewed as as strange or otherworldly. But somewhat typical.
Where it's gray.

But then a gray day comes to visit and reminds me that I need the sun. Often.
That I am given exactly what I need. That I don't know better than Mother Earth.

Thank god for gray days.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Organizational help ... please!

In order to absorb the wisdom from other homeschoolers, I posted the question over at Secular Homeschool - but I also wanted to re-post here!

We had some construction at our house this year, and as such my very well-organized school room suffered a massive blow. It now looks like a crazy zone with stuff everywhere, piles, and haphazard bookcases. I lost valuable wall space as a double door was added in the back (in a room with many windows - lovely for light, but hard for storage) and had to swap out bookcases. This caused organizational death to all of my HS materials. I had had everything set up for the year, and after the construction I just threw things onto bookcases (and spent hours searching for stuff all spring). It's really bad.

I'm now looking to re-vamp the space before we start the next academic year. I'm wondering what are some favorite organizational tools, bookcases, storage units, etc., for fellow homeschoolers. Here's what I'm considering so far:
Here's what's not working:
  • regular bookcases for school work (not the ones I had before) - they aren't deep enough and stuff falls over
  • storage cabinets/bookcase combo (from Ikea) - things just get lost and I end up buying stuff I already have
I would love to hear how others organize - what are your best items? I do use shoe boxes a lot, but they are falling apart now.

Any ideas and/or photos and/or links are warmly welcomed!! =)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Math

When I was a kid, I hated math. I thought I was terrible at it and I dreaded doing math, math tests, real-world math problems, and as I got older I dreaded physics knowing it had lots of math.

I don't know why I felt this way. I realize now that I am not terrible at math by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn't a math major in college, but I did survive - and actually do well in - advanced calculus classes at UCLA. But even though I know this to be true, I still have math anxiety.  I believe it stems back to my father constantly telling me, "Girls aren't good at math."  I love my father. He is a good man. But this one sentence sticks out in my head far more than all of the good things he told me over the years.  I've asked him about this sentiment, and he stands by it today. We've argued and debated, but at this point I've given up on changing his mind.

As a homeschooler, I wanted to be sure that my kids love math. I have failed thus far. Only one of my girls loves math. Two are indifferent and one actually hates it more than I even did.  Lovely.  I'm not sure where I went wrong. For one of my girls, I know her dyslexia is part of the problem (people with dyslexia often have a hard time with math and math facts).  For my oldest, I believe she truly isn't a math person - she's not bad at math, it's just not her thing.

All of this leads me, every year, into looking for a math program that is a good fit - and fun.  After years of struggling to find something that works for us, over the past two years we have used a combination of Teaching Textbooks and Math Mammoth.  And we have had success with both.  I can recommend them each without hesitation.  However, I have made the mistake of talking to too many homeschoolers about math and hearing "We use the BEST program and are SO happy with X!" too many times to ignore the pull to investigate for myself... and as such, I've been looking at different programs for my oldest.

The difficulty lies in deciding what not to use.  As Teaching Textbooks has worked well for her, I'm inclined to use their Pre-Algebra series.  Math Mammoth must have come out with more levels in the last year or two, because when I bought it they only went through grade six - now I see grade 7/pre-algebra (and beyond) ... and logic dictates I should get that level and stick with what works.

BUT ... I just learned about Thinkwell and it looks amazing - and far too involved and thorough to be used as a supplement.  Additionally, the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op has a great deal on Thinkwell right now (click here to see the deal - and if you're not a member, this is a free resource and you can sign up here).  Plus my daughter is always asking to do some of her school work on the computer, and because math isn't her favorite subject, allowing her to use the computer for it is a good thing (ala Teaching Textbooks).

If you have any experience with Thinkwell, I'd love to hear it!!

Sigh. 

At least I'm never at a loss for things to think about!