Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Almost 7 Weeks of Quarantine

How have we been quarantined for almost 7 weeks?

Working from home: Today, I updated my school’s website, checked into my Google Classroom, communicated with parents to remind them about the deadline to order yearbooks, emailed my rep at the yearbook company that we are trying to get verbal permission in lieu of photo releases we don’t have, made a couple of changes in the yearbook including changing one of the two instances of ‘incredible’ to ‘fantastic,’ emailed our Chromebook vendor to get a quote for 72 more devices, filled out and emailed my preference form for next year to my principal, etc.

While working from home: I made my family pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and made myself a sink full of dishes to wash.

Homeschooling: Read about the statues on Easter Island, read a passage in Matthew, listened to Gemma recite her favorite Lewis Carroll poem (Brother & Sister) about a brother who wants to cook his sister in an Irish stew, read about how the tilt of the Earth and our moon and the distance we are from the sun make life on Earth possible, practiced piano 20 minutes, did Spelling Assistant (spelling app on Kindle), read Spanish with Daddy, forgot to do typing practice - oops, did a few problems in Life of Fred Algebra.

Miscellanies: I let Gemma play the Brilliant app on my phone first thing in the morning, and watch two new Science Ninja videos. We played Catan together; Gemma got upset that I put the robber on her forest. We watched a Numberphile video about Klein bottles. I made a frozen Trader Joe’s lasagna for dinner. I ordered Mrs. Meyers geranium-scented cleaning products, as well as a 100 count glow stick ultimate party pack.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Coronavirus Homeschooling

Today I went to the school where I teach to help with Chromebook distribution. This was our third attempt to get devices out to every student. Teachers are trying to teach remotely, while completing district trainings via webinar about how to teach remotely.

While the school district in which I live has announced that school will be closed for the rest of this school year, as have several other districts in California, the school district next door (the district in which I teach) has not made it official.

At home, I'm trying to teach elementary school children as their Computer Lab teacher, which one would think would be the easiest subject to teach via computer, but it's not. So far, only 11 students have enrolled in my Google Classroom. (I'm supposed to have four classes of 5th graders this quarter.) I'm also trying to finish the school yearbook, complete daily online trainings, provide daily online resources to parents, and email teachers and parents about various Chromebook/email/password/program issues they're having. I'm doing this from my "home office," which is a space between the clothes hamper and the hot water heater in what is basically the mud-room of our apartment. I'm also doing this while homeschooling my own child because, well, we all do that now.

But we were homeschoolers before Corona.

In talking to "schooler" parents, the thing that resonates with me most is that these "sudden homeschoolers" are being made to be managers of their children, as opposed to co-learners. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I get to learn with Gemma.

The past couple of days, we've learned so many things.

Here are three:

  • Marco Polo. We find places mentioned in our atlas, and search images. This week, we searched Zhangye and discovered China's Rainbow Mountains. That led to the question of why the mountains look the way they do, which led to me looking up and reading aloud an article about the mineralogical processes that give the mountains their beauty.
  • Lewis Carroll's epic poem The Hunting of the Snark, one section per day, for eight days. It's a nonsense poem, but according to the trusty source Wikipedia, Carroll agreed with the interpretation that the poem was an allegory for the search for happiness.
  • The Tempest. We're reading one scene per week, and have just read the part where Ferdinand and Miranda profess their love for each other, while Prospero looks on, knowing that all is going according to his plan.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Should I Continue Having My Child Read To Me Daily?

Your 6 year old can read. You’ve been having him or her read to you aloud daily from a popular series of leveled readers. You’re thinking you could drop this from your schedule. After all, your child reads independently daily, choosing books like Frog and Toad. They can read, and they do read, so you’re done, right?


It’s a good idea to have your 6 year old (or 7, or 8, or 9 year old) continue to read aloud to you daily.

You don’t have to use specific readers, even if evvveryone else is using them. (Is evvveryone else reeeally using them? Um, no.) 

And what you have your child read to you doesn’t have to be long. You can make a lot of headway with short, consistent lessons.

You can have your child read aloud to you from any subject area. In fact, it’s a good idea - a better idea - to have your child read aloud from books in different subject areas, and by different authors, so your child can see a wider variety of words in print and get help from you with how to attack them.

You want to be able to assess what your reader needs next, the next right thing, and by having him or her just read to himself you’re not able to do that. 

Frog and Toad books are wonderful (we have them all), but you need to hear your child read text that increases in complexity over time, text with multisyllabic words, suffixes, sentence variety, etc. Buddy reading is great for this. You read a sentence, your child reads a sentence. Or you can do it any number of ways, the emphasis not being “I’m quizzing you,” but “we’re reading as a team.”

Gemma and I buddy-read her history chapter Monday. Gemma is 8, and has been reading independently for a few years, but she doesn’t love Ambleside Online’s choice of history books. She prefers a well-researched novel that allows the reader to get lost in an individual historical figure’s world. 

Today, we buddy-read This Country of Ours. While Gemma can read chapter books, she can read them because she likes them. If she listens to an Ambleside Online history book, she doesn’t seem to pay as close attention to it as I’d like. I’m sometimes wrong. Recently, I thought she hadn’t been paying attention to a reading, but three days later, when I said, “I don’t think you were listening when Daddy read the previous chapter,” she told back a paragraph from that chapter almost word for word. (Yes, I apologized.)

One of the benefits of buddy reading is that a young reader can get help pronouncing words they understand in context, but don’t use in everyday speech. For example, my 8 year old doesn’t throw around the adjectives “autocratic,” “despotic,” and “tyrannical.” 


Thursday, February 13, 2020

App Schooling

I recently listened to a podcast episode in which the hosts talked about app schooling. The podcast was Homeschool Unrefined, and in this particular episode, moms Maren and Angela discussed using screens in their homeschools.

There was one particular moment that stuck out to me, and that was when Maren and Angela mentioned that one benefit to having children use apps is that moms are then freed up to do other things, things other than teacher things. Administrator things, maintenance and operations things, cafeteria manager things.

Homeschool moms, you run your own schools. Classroom teachers don’t do that. Classroom teachers have principals, office managers, cafeteria staff, custodians, recess, lunch away from their students.

It’s unreasonable for you to believe you should be teaching and running a school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Classroom teachers don’t do that. We also give students work they can do independently. We use that time to work with an individual child, work with a small group, grade, fill out paperwork needed ASAP by administrators, mediate conflicts, console or give pep talks to individual students, prep materials for a hands-on lesson.

Sometimes that independent work time is screen time.

You aren’t failing as a mom if you have your child use an app.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lost Library Book

I just paid $32.45 to replace a lost library book, and I feel great.

The book was The Lego Adventure Book: Vol. 3, and I’ve looked in all the places it should be, as well as some places it shouldn’t.

I thought about buying a copy on Amazon, because the book is $6 cheaper than the price the library gave me. I would have had to wait for the book to arrive, stress out about whether or not the delivery person was going to go against my delivery instructions and leave it on my porch as a target of opportunity, drive the book to the library, and pay for the processing charge of $7.50.

So I just paid for the book. 

It’s only the second book I’ve ever had to replace. (The first was War and Peace, which I still haven’t finished, but after finding the book I thought was lost, I’m now the owner of my very own copy. I can let it sit on my shelf as a reminder of both my failed attempt at reading a Russian literary classic and my failure at being the type of person who is so organized she couldn’t possibly lose a library book. I, on the other hand, am the type of person who can evidently lose something the size of a microwave.)

My point is $66 is a small price for access to all of the books we’ve borrowed over the past (let’s say) 6 years. That’s less than $1 per month.

And check this out (no pun intended): if I find the Lego book at any time during the next year, I can take it into the library for a refund of the price of the book! No one told me that when I lost War and Peace, so I’m not sure if that’s always been the policy, or if it’s new. Either way, I feel so much better about the book no longer being something I’ll never locate, but a thing I might get to find.

Thursday, January 9, 2020


The flying trapeze. Why would I suggest this to Gemma? 

Because it’s there. Because it’s close. We live within walking distance to a trapeze. This is literally our backyard swing set.

Because I want to spread the whole feast.

Because I want to go back to work next week and not look back at this week with regret. We could have stayed home.

Because I want her to know she belongs in the room.

Watching her was inspiring to me. She was the only child in a group of adults. She learned to clip the ropes to her harness, and she climbed up that very tall ladder. She flew. I don’t think I could have done that, just jumped. It’s so high.

But she knew she was safe. She knows she’s safe. She said she just looked out at the view, marveling at its beauty. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

PVC Pipe Rocket Launchers

For directions on making these rocket launchers and paper rockets, click here.

We made 3 trips to Lowe’s...

My stepdad cut the PVC pipe with his circular saw (and a lot of expertise!).

Putting the pieces together is easy, but making sure you’re buying the right pieces in the first place, and cutting the pipe are not. I couldn’t have done those things without his help.