02 December 2016

Cool Things Happening in Our Homeschool This Week

Truth: Every Friday I think I’m going to post a fun, detailed, and complete log of our homeschool adventures and every week I fail because I don’t have time to post every little thing we did so I instead post nothing. This is my attempt to break out of that need to present a perfectly crafted summary of what we learned and offer some highlights instead. Here are just a few of the cool things we are doing right now.

As part of our current mammal study {mongooses} we started watching Meerkat Manor. The kids find it hilarious that Special Agent Oso {aka, Sean Astin} narrates. While this is our first time watching from beginning to end in order, they have seen a few episodes in the past, and know about the {spoiler alert} imminent death in the middle of season three. We know it's coming and we will inevitability bawl. 

We found a new early chapter book series that Agent A {1st} loves: Dr. KittyCat. This week we also read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and checked out {per Agent A’s random request} a copy of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We finished The Story of Diva and Flea {a longer chapter book by Mo Willems of Elephant and Piggie fame} and have our sights set on the next Bad Kitty. I think that we have finally made it over the hump of “too many words” and now simply grab a bookmark and settle in. I do think it will still be a while, however, before he is comfortable just grabbing a book and reading on his own the way his sisters do. He likes—needs?—someone to be sitting with him and listening as he reads out loud.

Agents J and E got to meet another one of their favorite authors this week: Sarah Mlynowski, who writes Whatever After and Upside Down Magic. We are fortunate that our local bookstore sponsors a lot of great events; in the past few weeks they also got to meet Nick Bruel and Raina Telgemeier. Current reads for Agent J {3rd} include The Red Pyramid {the first book in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles} and Little House on the Prairie. Agent E {5th} is in the middle of The Two Towers and The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy.
Agents E and J with Sarah Mlynowski
and their copy of Whatever After #10
We recently discovered the Really, Really Big Questions books, and have been working our way through the human body and world religions ones. Both are highly recommended; we’re looking forward to reading the others in the series.

Hubby and I do not exchange holiday gifts, but every year around this time we tend to purchase a few new “toys” for the house. Alexa {Echo Dot} is now a member of our family. The Agents {and Momma} have been having tons of fun testing her search abilities and listening to music. Because she is so sensitive to her name {which serves as her “wake” word} we have taken to calling her Voldemort when discussing her. We also both now own Fitbits and I have a new Kindle. {Agent E was thrilled to claim my old one, as that means she no longer has to share with her siblings.}

We’re in travel-planning mode here, as a return trip to Washington, D.C. {one of our favorite cities} is coming up soon. We are also counting down to our next Disney trip {shortly after the new year}. As usual, we'll make an effort to incorporate Disney-related learning into our homeschooling during the weeks leading up to our trip.

I’ll be sharing this post at the weekly wrap-up hosted by Kris over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, so be sure to pop by and check out some of the other homeschooling bloggers linked there.

30 November 2016

Great Books for Studying Evolution and the Early Universe

Agent E {grade 5} has an intense fascination with evolution and how the universe came to be, sparked after visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History {specifically the Human Origins exhibit} on our trip to Washington, D.C. two years ago. She is happily sharing this obsession with her two younger siblings, Agent J {grade 3} and Agent A {grade 1}.

Following is a list of 27 books we have read about human and animal evolution, the Big Bang, the early universe, Charles Darwin and his adventures, and the beginnings of life on earth. I’ve included links to each book’s Goodreads page so you can read a brief summary.
Much younger Agents at the National Museum of Natural History
in Washington DC {November 2014}
If you want to get your kids excited about this branch of science, I cannot recommend these resources enough. I would estimate grade level of most of them to be somewhere between 1st and 5th, although some are clearly aimed at younger children and a few are more appropriate for older kids. {Evolution: The Human Story is the only one not written for kids per se—it’s more of a coffee table book—but we’re using it for one of our science “spine” texts this year.}
  1. 20 Fun Facts About Galaxies by Michael Sabatino
  2. Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure by Sandra Markle
  3. Bang!: How We Came To Be by Michael Rubino
  4. Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of Speck That Became Spectacular by Carolyn Cinami Decristofano
  5. Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
  6. Darwin by Alice B. McGinty
  7. Evolution Revolution by Robert Winston
  8. Evolution: The Human Story by Alice Roberts
  9. G Is for Galaxy: An Out of This World Alphabet by Janis Campbell and Cathy Collison
  10. Life As We Know It by Robert Winston
  11. Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From by Catherine Thimmesh
  12. Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox
  13. One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky
  14. Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters
  15. Prehistoric People by Bruce Coville
  16. Stardust From Space by Monica Bradley
  17. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
  18. The Iceman by Don Lessem
  19. The Ice Mummy by Cathy East Dubowski
  20. The Lucy Man: The Scientist Who Found the Most Famous Fossil Ever! by Cap Saucier
  21. The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams
  22. What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer
  23. What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning
  24. When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Before Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner
  25. When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner
  26. Who Was Charles Darwin? by Deborah Hopkinson
  27. Young Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle by Ruth Ashby
p.s. A bonus {non-book} resource: If you ever have the opportunity to visit a planetarium where We Are Stars {narrated by Andy Serkis} is showing, run, don’t walk, to the ticket counter. This was by far the best explanation of how the universe came to be I’ve ever seen.

17 November 2016

On Granting Yourself Permission To Delete

There’s been much chatter in my social media feeds lately about how online relationships “should” be handled. Usually the back and forth banter comes down to this: When is it acceptable to virtually delete someone from your life?

Some folks don’t believe you need a reason at all: Unfriend Immediately and Don’t Look Back. Don’t like someone because of what they say/post/share/like? Delete. No regrets. End of story.

Then you have the Echo Chamber Finger Waggers, those folks who insist that any time you eliminate a person from your life based on their {fill in the blank} views, you are simply creating a space in which your own biases reflect back to you and therefore you don’t challenge yourself, don’t move out of your comfort zone, don’t take the time to see alternate points, etc.

Closely related to ECFW’s are the Never Ever Delete-ers, people who hold onto every single connection they’ve ever made because they think it makes them a better person to rise above the din . . . and they don’t fail to make you aware of this superiority at every opportunity.

Here’s how I see it: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever other tool you choose to engage with should be your happy place.  When you log on in the morning, you should be greeted by good friends, trustworthy news sources, and adorable cat photos. It absolutely should not stress you out. And if it does, you have the power to fix that. Guilt not required.

Personally I tend to fall more in line with the “unfriend immediately” option. I admit it: I simply delete people when I don’t like seeing their posts in my feed anymore. You can surmise whatever you will about my personality from this information, but it is what it is. I don’t have the time or energy to include people in my life that aren’t uplifting, encouraging, or at least not pulling me down with them. If I would not want this person’s words repeated around my kids, they probably get booted.

Of course, we will always have people in our lives with whom we clash on some level. No one has a perfectly concocted circle of yes men or yes women. Not surprising, there are still people {in my real and online world} with whom I disagree on various issues. Most of my family and friends are Christians, and share lots of “inspirational” and “thoughts and prayers” posts that I generally just scroll past. I have acquaintances who practice varying degrees of woo woo. Shares and likes still pop up that gives me pause. And I’m sure that many of the posts and photos I “like” that show up in my friends’ feeds make them roll their eyes occasionally.

But there’s a difference between eye-roll worthy and cringeworthy. People can and do cross that line. My social media connections who espouse racist, sexist, misogynist, and homophobic views generally don’t last long. If you are the type of person who would post cruel memes diminishing the humanity of refugees or immigrants {true story} I probably don’t want you in my life. I’ve cut off extended family members who posted rants about why it was “okay” that unarmed men were shot and killed because “they hadn’t been saints, look at all this bad stuff they did.” I’ve deleted friends who used photos of their own dead baby to champion their anti-abortion agenda. Even if at one point I valued a relationship with a particular person, situations exist where I just cannot even anymore.

I do experience a touch of cognitive dissonance when it comes to certain issues. The best example of this in my own life is immunization. I am very pro-vaccine. I share all the pro-vaccination articles and memes. I get irate at the very thought of religious and personal exemptions. Yet . . . I have someone in my life I consider a good friend who does not vaccinate her children, for reasons I am not privy to. This makes me feel a wee bit fuzzy about the whole thing. I recognize, however, that I have the privilege of not “worrying” about this, or the time we spend together, because my own children are fully vaccinated and have healthy immune systems. I don’t judge her personally at all. It’s complicated.

One final note: Believe it or not, everything shared on social media is not offered up for debate. In fact, not everything should be debated. Every issue does not have two equally valid points of view. {Flat Earth Society, anyone?} Sharing a post or a meme does not automatically imply “I wish to argue about and defend this” or “I agree with this 100%.” It might just mean “I find this interesting” or “someone else might be able to utilize this information.”

Bottom line: You and you alone have the freedom to choose who you include in your life, virtual or otherwise. Call it self-care or self-preservation if you must label it, but truly you have no responsibility to explain your actions.

So, if you decide you could do without a nonreligious homeschooling mother of three who posts random musings about her life and too many pictures of her offspring, so be it. I am totally not offended if you “delete” me from your online life. Whether that means this page, or my personal profile, I have zero control of what you find acceptable. Nor should I.

15 November 2016

Documentaries and Educational Videos Worth Watching Twice

We love when we find video resources that complement what we’ve been studying in our homeschool. And sometimes we just run across shows that seem like plain fun, so we add them to our never-ending Netflix queue {or library list}. As the title for this post suggests, we’ve seen several of these more than once.

Following is a sample of the great science and history documentaries/series we have discovered. Any show currently on Netflix as of this writing has a link to its overview page. Others include a link to their Amazon page or another website. Many we have found at our local library. Most are multi-episode series.  

Get your popcorn ready, folks. These are good.

 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey {reboot hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson}

Here’s a few bonus titles. We haven’t watched them yet, but they are on our list. 

 Cosmos {original hosted by Carl Sagan}