Posts Tagged ‘Math’


I can’t believe summer is almost over already. And what have we done with our time?

Aengus and his cousin, protecting the campsite.


Aengus experimented with Mentos and Diet Coke; played Portal 2, Geometry Wars, Minecraft, GMod, and the new Nazi Zombies map; and got into watching Dr. Who, My Wife and Kids, George Lopez, Top Shot, and the BBC’s Sherlock. He got a few swimming lessons from his dad, had many sleepovers, jumped on our new (to us) trampoline, and put some time in on the treadmill. He went camping with his dad, his uncle, and his cousin. He helped Jason fix our lawnmower and build the playing field for his Lego team’s robot. Oh yeah, and he joined a FIRST Lego League team.

Mark (sound engineer), Garrett, Grant, and Noah intently listening to their recording.

Noah spent some time with his friends on the XBox with Portal 2, Catherine, and several other games. He also got in on the lawnmower lesson, which morphed into a car maintenance lesson. He and I continued working on learning Japanese, plus he started reviewing pre-algebra concepts and US history in the run-up to this fall’s studies. But much of his summer was spent at his friends’ house, practicing for several gigs . . . including the local Battle of the Bands, which they won! The hands-down highlight of his summer was their prize: six solid hours in a REALLY nice recording studio with a professional sound engineer. He was positively beaming the whole time. ❤

Shelby and Noah gettin’ their Amish on at Roots.

Together, we visited my family in Pennsylvania, which we always love. Shelby came with us again, and we always love that, too. We went to Roots, a big-ass farmers market, went swimming at their enormous community center, walked their gigantic mall, and checked out That Fish Place, a huge pet store.

Why is everything in PA so big?!?

The highlight of the week (for Noah and Shelby, and I think for Aengus, but definitely for me) was seeing the final Harry Potter movie. We were able to see it in the theater where Noah and I watched the very first movie on opening night. This time, though, they sold butterbeer slushies. With alcohol.

Shelby, Noah, Aengus, and myself at the Ephrata Main Theater for Harry Potter.
Jason and Aengus at the handgun range.

We recently went shooting in West Virginia, which was beautiful but WAY the fuck out there. I would die of isolation in West Virginia, but it might be nice to stay for a few days in a cabin in the woods.

Noah being goofy, as usual.

Going forward, I’m making a concerted effort to blog with real regularity. I HAVE to, for my own sake (I forget everything!) as much as for the boys (who might need such records one day) and their grandparents (who miss the closeness they had with the boys when we lived nearby).

We’ve spent the last few weeks establishing the new routine we need to accomplish all of our goals. Noah’s goals include finishing my requirements for graduation, furthering his Japanese studies, taking some web design classes, getting a job, getting a drivers license, and becoming truly capable of independence.

Aengus is working diligently toward reading independence, of course, because he desperately wants a laptop all his own. We are not above bribery. He will also continue working on his math skills, learn some world history, do lots of science experiments, and participate in his FIRST Lego League team. Oh, and he wants to learn to cook, as well.

None of which is all that ambitious for most families these days, of course. But we have been savoring the quiet life for a long time now; I’m not sure I’ll be able to sustain the energy required to do it all for nine months. Wish us luck!

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I’m Turning Japanese

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Aengus, Noah
Tags: ,

Yesterday was whip-cracking day, and I’d call it mostly successful. The boys asked me to push them and I did, but there was little resistance and no fighting, so it was all good.

The only problem we’re (I’m) still having is getting into a daily routine. Yesterday was pretty relaxed until after dinner (which was late for us, as I had been at work), when Aengus and I did some math together (subtraction with borrowing, which he caught on to very quickly). In my fantasies, one kid helps with dinner each day and one cleans up afterwards . . . but we’ll have to work up to that. Baby steps.

Aengus and I never got around to phonics work, so there’s room for improvement there. Still, it worked out nicely that when Noah got on the XBox to play with his friend, Aengus and I were able to do some academic work together. The ultimate goal for this time in our day will be to also do some science and history activities and read together. Baby steps.

After Noah finished his turn on the XBox and Aengus got back on to play with his friend, Noah approached me about finally setting to work. It was 11:30. At night.

Reminding myself that this is my job (and that my idea of a convenient time to do academics is irrelevant), I turned off Jon Stewart and dragged out the books. First up: probability. We used the Basic, Not Boring workbook to get us started and watched the first of the Khan Academy series on the subject. Noah looked bored to tears, but he knows I’m insisting on more math work. And although this book is for younger students, we needed to start somewhere, right?

Math didn’t take long, though, and we were soon working on Japanese. Thanks to lots of recommendations and advice from fellow homeschoolers, we’re trying several resources to learn the language. I’m waiting for my copy of the Berlitz Essential Japanese program to arrive (and a workbook to help us learn Kana), but until then, I discovered a fabulous workbook at Barnes and Noble:
Japanese in 10 Minutes a Day
. Between the 10 Minutes a Day workpages and the books we’ve already checked out from the library, we were zooming through some lessons last night. I told him about mnemonic devices and we came up with a few to help us (study skills). We got him registered with Live Mocha, so now we can both do those lessons together.

He stated that we need a set time each day to work on learning Japanese and asked that I wake him up at one o’clock and get to work with him by three. And I am totally on board with this request. But I’m also okay with the schedule we kept yesterday: sleep late, relax, eat late, work, go to bed late. I’m willing to adjust my own body rhythm to accommodate the kids’ prime learning times — as long as I still get my eight hours at some point.

We also talked a lot about the trip he wants to take for his 18th birthday. It seems he still wants to bring Shelby — and not Aengus. 😦 I told him tough tooties, we are NOT going halfway around the world and experiencing a completely different and utterly fascinating culture without him. It’s the learning adventure of a lifetime for all of us. Besides, I said, he’ll be two years older than he is now. He’ll be more mature by then.

And we talked about how much this trip will cost. He was shocked when I told him what I was budgeting (hell, I’m still in shock, too). I hope he’ll help me find ways to cut the costs, like lowering his lodging standards a bit and opting for making our own meals when we can. But he did tell me that all he wants for Christmas is a Nintendo 3DS, and any other gifts can be cash for the trip. And all I’m asking for is  a vacuum cleaner and money for the Japan fund. We’ve been filling the piggy bank for a month now, and searching out every penny in the sofa or on the sidewalk. And you may laugh, but we’ve also decided to create a thermometer-like visual aid to gauge our savings progress.

I’ll be adding a PayPal donation button to this blog, for anyone who would like to contribute to this huge undertaking. I won’t start begging for handouts, but if you ever feel compelled to assist in the fundraising effort to give the boys this incredible cultural experience, we would be ever so appreciative. 😉

But first, Noah will have to show me how to do it.


This weekend was our homeschooling group’s Educational Freedom Party — what other groups refer to as their Not-Back-To-School picnics, parties, etc.  I hate that this lifestyle gets defined in relation to school, when school is so very far from what we do. So I flat-out refuse to call it a “Not-Back-To-School” anything. It’s the celebration of what we have — freedom to educate our own children however we choose to — not of what we are giving up, avoiding, or rejecting.

Anyway, our party was this weekend. We kind of got rained out; there were many families who bailed because the weather was iffy. But we forged ahead, partly because I’d already cleaned the house (dammit) and partly because any time the schedule gets changed all hell breaks loose. We had a good time even with the smaller crowd, and I really enjoyed chatting with new people and people I don’t get to see very often.

The teens seemed to have a good time playing their instruments (music) together (socialization). When it wound down to just Noah and one other teen, they played Call of Duty (dynamic thinking, cooperative problem solving) together for a while. Young men bond so easily over shooting and stabbing, don’t they?

Note to self: we need to encourage more teen girls to join Natural learners!

Aengus stayed inside for a long time playing video games (dynamic thinking, cooperative problem solving) with Tori and Ash (socialization). When he came out later in the evening, though, he really hit it off with yet another girl, a ten-year-old named Madison. Together, they chatted and played for several hours — and got a good workout when they discovered the treadmill.

The rain came full-force just when we were about to light the bonfire, which is always my favorite part of our parties. I guess that means we’ll just have to have another party this fall! Hot dogs and hot chocolate and teens with guitars. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect autumn party? ❤

Noah was in a talkative mood this weekend, too, which is rare. We talked a lot about religion, society, politics, and particularly other cultures. He and I went to the Harrisonburg International Festival for a bit, too, where he got to play in a drum circle. He was slow to join in but thoroughly enjoyed it when he did.

Both boys have asked for me to push them to work on some academics, so we’re starting with math and foreign languages today (and for Aengus, reading). I’m not happy about this; I don’t like telling people what to do any more than I like being told what to do. But they want me to be the bitch, so here goes. If it affects our relationships, though, we’ll have to change course. I have always —always– said that I don’t keep the kids home so that we can fight. If our days become constant battles, they can either go to school or take on the responsibility of pushing themselves. Learning information is easy; repairing relationships is not.

And now it’s time to wake Noah. Getting him up before 3pm is step one of the new whip-cracking policy around here. Wish me luck.


Our family has felt . . . disjointed for quite some time now. With Noah in the throes of puberty (and my instinctive reaction to negativity being withdrawal), it’s felt like he mentally moved out already. I’m not ready for that!!! Aengus has never, by nature, been as open and connected with me as Noah always used to be. Add the Xbox and we’ve felt separate for a very long time now.

But on Friday, Aengus and I had a day away from home, just the two of us. We ate at IHOP (computation: percents, life skills), visited friends (socialization), walked through a few malls (economics), and talkedtalkedtalked (about aliens, gods, and ghosts: cultural mythology, about illnesses: P.E., and about politics). He never opens up to me the way Noah used to, but it was still nice to connect with him a little bit. We also bought the next book in the Magic Tree House series, by his request (reading).

Noah was in a good mood when we came home and wanted to watch Casablanca with me. When Noah requests that I do something with him — anything at all — I drop my own plans and do it. He and I used to be extraordinarily close; and while I know that shouldn’t last forever, I do miss it. So we watched Casablanca, and he loved it. I loved watching it with him.

Fridays are Jason’s short days at work, so after dinner (together!), we decided to watch a movie — together. We don’t often do that anymore, since we each have our own interests and are often just doing our own thing. But we decided it was time Aengus started his Pop Culture Tour and Noah returned to his. And the movie to reboot the tour was . . . Conan the Destroyer.

Can someone please tell me why this movie was made?!

Saturday is a blur, since I spent it spring cleaning my kitchen. We have mice, and I’d had it with them. I took everything out of my cabinets and drawers, washed it all, and cleaned the cabinets. We set traps, which I am normally opposed to; I prefer to let the natural food chain take care of things. That’s why you’ll find spiders in my house. But no snakes have moved in and our cats are useless as mousers. So the traps ended up catching nine mice. I haven’t seen any, erm, evidence of mice since then.

On Sunday, Noah went to his bandmates’ house for a sleepover/practice session (music, socialization).

Good friends and a guitar.

Their family is wonderful and a really good influence on him. While he was away, Aengus had his bff over for a sleepover. They actually managed to sleep a little this time, after spending the evening running around outside (with guns, of course; P.E.), building lots of Bionicles (engineering), playing chess (strategic thinking), and of course playing video games (cooperative problem solving, dynamic thinking).

Monday evening, after Aengus’s friend left, he crashed while I ran out to get Noah back. We had our own little one-on-one time at the mall, checking out books and posters and DVDs and talking, talking, talking. It was wonderful to talk about stuff with him, real stuff like the “Ground Zero Mosque” and financial responsibility and the importance of interpersonal skills and whether it’s group psychology or biology that determines what we find attractive and why physical attributes are so prized when it’s intelligence that really matters.

I absolutely loved it.


Aengus slept over last night at his good buddy’s house. He took his new iPod (he’s already had the talk about responsibility and that we won’t replace it if he loses or breaks it, blahblahblah) and TWENTY-SEVEN motherfucking Bionicle creations.

I know it was TWENTY-SEVEN motherfucking guys because he set them all up in our living room, organized them into teams, tallied them, and counted his tallies. That’s computation, number sense, and the beginnings of multiplication, people. Add in all the building of those guys and you’ve got physical science and engineering.

The only traditional sleepover item he packed was his toothbrush — although I had to remind him, and I was under no delusions that he’d use it. He crashed around six this evening after staying up most of the night. 😀 I’ll nag him about his teeth in the morning.

Me? Yesterday, I peeled peaches. And peeled peaches. Then, when my ADD couldn’t take it anymore, I facebooked for a bit . . . then peeled more fucking peaches.

Almost done with one bowlful (and the compost bucket is already overflowing)

I only got about halfway through the ones I’d picked that morning, so I put those in the freezer to later be turned into wine (when my bff’s daughter gets out of the hospital, I’ma have mah girls over to maykah da wahn). I’ll be peeling the other half for jelly tomorrow. Focus, Adesa. Focus.

After Shelby left last night, Noah spent some time with his other girl, a little Fender acoustic number (music), then played some Call of Duty (strategic, cooperative, and dynamic thinking; history) with his friend Nick. No idea how late he was up, but he didn’t get up today until after four. I’ve only spotted him occasionally tonight; he’s spending today in his room, I guess.

I hate when he has days like this. He’s already cutting those apron strings (not that I’ve ever worn one), and it breaks my heart. But to go an entire day without spending any time with me . . . it feels like I’m in mourning.

Aengus’s friend’s family brought him home this afternoon, and while the boys played outside (P.E., imaginative thinking, leadership skills), his friend’s sister and mother watched Across the Universe with me. I’ve seen it before, and I like it very much. Beatles music, with a plot — what’s not to like? I got a bit weepy, though, when they sang “Let It Be.” My dad loves the Beatles (and, I think, fancied himself as one of them in another life). I grew up listening to them and know most of their songs by heart.

My dad was just like most dads in the 70s: worked all day, came home in time to discipline the kids after they’d gotten in trouble with mom during the day, fixed stuff around the house, and put the kids to bed. When we did get to see him relax and hang out with us, though, he was always singing. He’s the reason people’s conversations always remind me of song lyrics and why I always break into song myself — apologies to the world for that.

Hearing them sing “Let It Be” in the movie got me to thinking first about my fantastic dad . . . and then about Noah, and what kind of father he’ll be. Although I sing A LOT to myself and there’s always music around here, I really never sang to him the way my dad did to me.

My one piece of advice to Noah when he enters fatherhood will be: sing to your kids. And don’t ever stop, even when they get bigger. Especially when they get bigger.


Aengus and I have spent hours poring over Google Earth [geography], searching for military bases. Specifically, looking for aliens in Area 51 and zombies in Germany.

So, as a mother and educator, I have to ask myself: to what extent do I enable/support this interest? I mean, theoretically at least, I support any interest that my kids fancy; if it’s important to them, there’s value in it, even if I don’t value it myself.

But seriously — aliens? Oh, okay, maybe I can get on board with that one a little. I have no doubt that if life could happen here, it most likely has happened somewhere else in this ginormous expanse we call the universe. But zombies?! I think the kid actually, truly believes Nazis were able to create zombies, and that the government is just hiding the evidence from us.

How long do I support such a crazy idea? I know he’s young and will likely outgrow this (good lord, I hope so!). But if I support him too much, won’t that just set him up for the inevitable fall when reality bites? And then what happens to our relationship? It’s one thing to discover at six years old that your parents lied to you about Santa. But to find out at ten or twelve that your parents knowingly guided you through deceptions . . . well, that just seems cruel.

For now, I’ve tread the line that divides passionate interest and crazy belief very carefully: I let Aengus know that the Nazis did, in fact, do a lot of psycho experiments, and that the government does actually know a lot that they don’t tell us. But I’ve also told him that zombies cannot physically, scientifically exist (despite the recent Zombie Apocalypse).

He doesn’t believe me.

In other news, the boys had sleepovers this weekend: Noah had his buddy Nick over for much gaming, and Aengus went to his bff’s house for . . . well, much gaming. Noah’s also been pulling apart some XBox controllers [mechanical engineering?], and Aengus has been diligently searching for and counting change. There’s a new map pack for Modern Warfare 2, you see, so he’s been counting his change . . . adding what he found in the sofa . . . working to earn more . . . subtracting what he has from what he needs . . . dividing the cost to come up with a fair portion for his brother to pay . . . negotiating with me to loan him some cash . . . adding 4.5% sales tax . . .

All thanks to video games.


I didn’t think this would ever happen. Veteran unschoolers have insisted it would; I’ve been waiting for it so long that I’d almost given up. But, after a year-and-a-half with the Xbox and three years of unschooling, it has finally, blessedly happened: my kids have gotten bored.

And by “bored,” I mean bored enough to say something to me, thereby risking being given chores or academic work.

So, bored silly.

This is a good thing — a great thing, in fact. Boredom, like necessity, gives birth to many amazing things. In Noah’s case, that’s meant fiddling around with photography a bit (no doubt inspired by his girlfriend).

Aengus, on the other hand, simply started whining. So, we calculated how much money he has and how much more he needs to buy the next game. I also insisted he listen as I read from Story of the World, Volume One (“The Earliest People” – history) to my daycare kid. I knew that if he just gave it 30 seconds of his time, he’d actually be interested; and sure enough, he was. I’m hoping he’ll want to hear more today, and maybe even do a few of the activities. Cross your fingers for us.

We’ve also been watching a phenomenal amount of LOST, and I am constantly amazed by how well he picks up on the littlest clues and details. He’s like having my own little pop-up video/LOST for Dummies commentator.

One of the many things LOST has inspired in him is a desire to camp out in our yard, by himself. And although he said he’s be okay with using our tent, what he really wants to do is build a structure from found materials, like this:

Ummm . . . Okaaay. I’ll get right on that, Aengus. Anyone have a spare fuselage sitting around that we could borrow?