Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Post: Bats, Friend or Foe

The Nature Corner, by Ernie Marshall


Photo by Jeff Lewis
Wild creatures interest us for numerous reasons, sometimes because we find them frightening.

The animals that seem most widely feared are snakes, spiders, and bats. Dread of snakes and spiders makes some sense, since certain snake and spider species are sufficiently venomous to be dangerous to humans. But bats pose no threat to us -- with the possible exception of vampire bats which I will say something about shortly. Bats do not fly into your hair, and the incidence of rabies among them is low, 10 reported cases within the past 50 years.

If Jeff Lewis’s photo of a bat among azalea blossoms at the Elizabethan Gardens outside of Manteo does not make them endearing to you, consider what extraordinary animals bats are. Jeff’s excellent photo reveals several of these traits. They sleep in the daytime, hence are nocturnal or active at night. They “perch” upside down, which requires a specialized circulatory system. (Imagine how you would feel the next morning if you slept hanging by your heels!) They typically have big ears, indicating the importance of hearing to bats. The folded wings tells us that they have the power of flight. Regarding this last point, although there are a few mammals, such as flying squirrels, that can leap and glide from tree to tree, bats are the only mammals, and the only vertebrates besides birds, that can fly.

Roughly 1,240 species strong and world-wide in distribution, bats make up 20% of mammal species. There are 45 to 48 species in the U.S., the little brown bat, big brown bat, and Mexican free-tailed bat being among common species.

Bats compose the order chiroptera. They are not, as some think, “flying rodents”. This term “chiroptera” is from two Greek words meaning “hand wing”, which aptly describes them. Their wings are skin spread between extended of digits (omitting the thumb). This structure makes their wings more flexible than a bird’s, giving a bat more maneuverability in its aerial pursuit of flying insects.

Photo by Jeff Lewis
With this remarkable ability come others. Bats mostly eat insects which they catch on the wing. They can do this in total darkness because of their use of echolocation, whereby they emit cries and listen for the echo of these sounds bouncing off objects, including flying insects. Hence it works similarly to radar and sonar.

The main use of echolocation is navigation and finding prey. By its means they can determine whereabouts, direction, and speed of movement of objects around them. (Contrary to common belief bats are not totally blind, but most do have rather poor eyesight. But with echolocation, who needs glasses?)

We are unable to hear all of this bat chatter because their shrieks are ultrasonic, at higher frequencies than we can hear. Otherwise a quiet night might be quite noisy, because their vocalizations are often around 130 decibels. To put that in perspective, a loud rock concert is about 115 decibels, pain begins at about 125 decibels, and permanent hearing damage at about 140 decibels. To deal with this racket, so that they can hear the returning echoes and not deafen themselves, many bats time their calls, adjust their frequencies, and close their ear openings (ear plugs?).

If you still find bats creepy consider how beneficial they are. Most bats eat flying insects, including plenty of mosquitoes. Being nocturnal, they wake up for breakfast just when mosquitoes are most active. It is estimated that a bat eats over 600 mosquitoes per hour. There is a colony of a million and a half bats in Austin, Texas that consumes 10,000 – 30,000 pounds of insects per night.

The huge bat colony living in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is estimated to eat three tons of insects every night. The whole colony exits the cave at sunset making quite a spectacle. Their flight can be seen from miles away as a black streak across the sky and takes from twenty minutes to two hours.

Given their contribution to mosquito and pest control, rather than installing a bug zapper, which attracts mostly moths rather than mosquitoes anyway, a better idea is to put up a bat roosting box in the yard.

Although insects are a typical bat’s nightly staple, some varieties eat fruit, nectar, or pollen, and thus benefit us and nature by spreading fruit seeds and pollinating plants. There is also a bat species that catches and eats fish. But the most interesting exception to a bat’s insectivorous habits is the vampire bat.

There are three species of vampire bats, which range from Mexico to central South America. They prey on livestock, and occasionally on humans. They typically walk up to the cow, using their folded wings as forelegs, climb up the animal’s leg, cut a small gash with it sharp canines, and lap the blood that flows from the cut. They are usually more a pest than real threat to an animal the size of a cow or human, but not a night visitor one would welcome.

A fascinating accompanying adaptation is that their nose includes a heat-sensitive organ similar to that possessed by pit vipers. With a rattlesnake the organ is to help locate warm-blooded prey. Its function for vampire bats is to find blood vessels just under the skin.

The name “vampire bat” is of course borrowed from tales concerning Count Dracula and other human vampires, a genre that is still popular. A chilling image I have from early childhood is from a vampire movie of that era. Count Dracula would transform himself into a bat, fly through some sleeping maiden’s open window, do his evil deed, and return to his castle. Then he changed from bat to the pale, cloaked figure of the diabolical count, and step back into his awaiting coffin.

The bat bit was added to the legendary vampire material by Hollywood, and maybe helped give bats a bad rap. But it makes for a good story, and elements of the natural world are bound to get interwoven with human hopes and fears.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Clear-Your Shelves Curriculum Plan for Eliza for 3rd Grade

Unschooling has worked really well for us, but she seems to want to try something more structured. So, as I mentioned in my last post, I looted the piles of homeschooling stuff we have sitting around here, gathering dust. Holy crap! Isn't there a reality T.V. show called "Hoarders" or something like that? Have they aired a special homeschoolers' edition?

An embarrassment of riches ... or too much crap? My plan is to give Eliza the opportunity to use these materials throughout the year ... then pass them along to someone else!

I picked the topics based on what we have on hand and what I thought she and I would both like. She can freely choose whether to study any of these subjects.

Items we don''t own are in orange.

Math/Logic: I am a big believer in exploring math as the art of patterns, and as a way of finding beauty and order in the universe, rather than focusing too heavily on computation. I'm not saying computation isn't important. But I think learning about math in the way I suggested can broaden your thinking in so many ways, and you can buy a decent pocket calculator for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

A. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas -- recommended for ages 9-12; it focuses on discovering math patterns -- includes 0s and 1s (binary numbers), fractals, infinity, Mobious strips, Pascal triangles, golden rectangles, paperfolding, tessellations, abacus, magic squares, tangrams, and more.

B. Miquon Math? -- I'm thinking about starting with the Blue Book.

Science: Learn about the different kinds of living things in the world and the various habitats in which they live; explore astronomy. Eliza's interests include animals and the habitats they live in and astronomy.

A. The Five Kingdoms of Life -- Resource: The Science of Life: Projects and Principles for Beginning Biologists by Frank G. Bottone, Jr. I bought this simple hands-on biology curriculum, recommended for ages 9+, years ago, hoping to entice River to do more science. It was never used, but it's a great resource.
  1. The Scientific Method
  2. Bacteria (Various activities to choose from, including growing a bacteria culture)
  3. Protozoans (Various activities to choose from, including viewing protozoa under a microscope)
  4. Fungus (Various activities to choose from, including cloning mushrooms)
  5. Plants (Various activities to choose from, including germinating seeds)
  6. Animals (Various activities to choose from, including studying insects and spiders)
B. More About Animals
  1. Usborne Pocket Nature -- Includes sections on wild animals, birds, fish, "creepy crawlies," butterflies, flowers, and trees.
  2. One Small Square: Backyard by Donald M. Silver, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne and Dianne Ettl (Seamus LOVED this series when he was younger) -- nature study in your own backyard
  3. My Nature Journal written and illustrated by Adrienne Olmstead -- This is a very cool resource which my dad gave us years ago. It's a hardcover journal with lots of prompts for nature study in various habitats and plenty of room for writing and drawing about your discoveries.
  4. 13 Phyla Sorting Cards -- These are intended for middle- and high-school students, and they seem to be meant for a specific kind of classroom activity. However, I can imagine us getting a lot out of these -- we could play Memory with them.
 C. Biomes/Habitats -- Resource: One Small Square Series by Donald M. Silver, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne:
  1. Woods
  2. Pond
  3. Swamp
  4. Seashore
  5. Coral Reef
  6. Tropical Rainforest
  7. African Savannah
  8. Cactus Desert
  9. Arctic Tundra
  10. Cave
D. Astronomy
  1. One Small Square: The Night Sky by Donald M. Silver, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne:
Social Studies: Learn about one part of history (American colonial times), which was partly an exodus from Europe of people seeking religious freedom, explore early Native American life, which includes a wealth of spirituality and folklore, and learn about religion and mythology. We've never explored history in depth before, and I'd be overjoyed if she caught a love of this subject, which has always been one of my favorites. We are not a very religious family, though I think of myself as "spiritual" and am fascinated by the subject of spirituality and faith. I think understanding this subject is essential to grasping so many other topics, including history, sociology, psychology, literature, art, and film. I hope to raise kids who will respect and appreciate various religions and spiritual paths, but who will never accept ANYTHING without questioning it with their own intellect. 

A. Native Americans
  1. Native American Games and Stories by James and Joseph Bruchac -- My dad gave us this terrific resource years ago. The stories and games are thematically tied together. For example, the section on Ball Games and Team Sports offers a Native American-inspired game of stickball and traditional story titled "The Ball Players in the Sky."
  2. More Than Moccasins by Laurie Carlson -- Lots of recipes, crafts and other activities for her to choose from.
  3. If You Lived With ... series: the Sioux Indians, the Indians of the Northwest Coast, the Hopi, the Iroquois, the Cherokee.
  4. American Girl series?

B. European Colonists in America
  1. American Pioneers and Patriots (Christian Liberty Press) -- This book has been collecting dust on my shelf for a long time, and it's a nice resource. It looks at early pioneers from Spain, England, Holland, and France and continues by exploring pioneers and immigrants during the move westward. Each section includes stories about children living in those times and places along with discussion questions and recommendations for hands-on activities.
  2. Colonial Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in the New World by Laurie Carlson -- Lots of recipes, crafts and other activities for her to choose from.
  3. Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself by Kris Bordessa -- Many more hands-on projects to pick from.
  4. You Wouldn't Want to Be An American Colonist: A Settlement You'd Rather Not Start by Jacqueline Morley, illustrated by David Antram and You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower! A Trip That Took Entirely Too Long by Peter Cook, illustrated by Kevin Whelan -- Some of the nasty bits, with humorous illustrations.
  5. If You Lived in Colonial Times by Ann McGovern, illustrated by June Otani -- Non-fiction picture book in Q & A format.
  6. American Girl series?
C. Religion, Faith and Mythology

1. Creation Stories --

2. The Early Mideast
  • The Quest of Gilgamesh retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman
  • The Revenge of Ishtar retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman
3. Classical Mythology
  • D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths and The Heroes by Charles Kingsley -- beloved books I saved from my own childhood.
  • Easy retelling of The Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (series)
4. Native American Folklore
  • Dragonfly's Tale by Kristina Rodanas
  • Peboan and Seegwun by Charles Larry
  • Miro in the Kingdom of the Sun by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by David Frampton
  • Snail Girl Brings Water: A Navajo Story by Geri Keams, illustrated by Richard Ziehler-Martin
  • The Flute Player: An Apache Folktale by Michael Lacapa
  • Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies by Harriet Peck Taylor
  • Coyote Places the Stars by Harriet Peck Taylor
  • Turquoise Boy: A Navajo Legend by Terri Cohlene, illustrated by Charles Reasoner
  • Ka-ha-si and the Loon: An Eskimo Legend by Terri Cohlene, illustrated by Charles Reasoner
  • Why the North Star Stands Still and Other Indian Legends by William R. Palmer
5. Folklore from Other Parts of the World ?

6. Hinduism ?

7. Buddhism
  • Buddha by Demi
  • Buddha Stories by Demi
  • The Dalai Lama by Demi
8. Judaism ?

9. Christianity
  • Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
  • The Parables of Jesus by Tomie de Paola
  • The Miracles of Jesus by Tomie de Paola
10. Islam ?


A. Child-Size Masterpieces by Aline D. Wolf -- I spent a lot of money on this, years ago, when I was on a Montessori kick. This is targeted toward a younger audience, but it can be adapted.  Have you ever known me to use ANY resource in exactly the way it was intended?

B. Artistic Techniques to Explore -- How Artists Use ... series by Paul Flux
  • Color
  • Line and Tone
  • Shape
  • Pattern and Texture
  • Perspective
C. More Resources
  • Usborne -- The Children's Book of Art: An Introduction to Famous Paintings and The Usborne Book of Art: A Complete Introduction for Beginners by Rosie Dickens -- Lovely resources to browse or use for reference.
  • Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! by Anna Nilsen -- Very cool!
  • Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt
Read Alouds to Consider -- I pulled most of these titles from the Sonlight catalog
  • Third Grade Detectives Series
  • Along Came a Dog by Meindert De Jong -- 5th grade reading level --  stray dog earns a home for himself by protecting a little red hen and her chicks from a preying hawk.
  • "B" is for Betsy Series by Carolyn Haywood
  • Betsy and Tacy Series
  • The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
  • Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary -- 6th grade reading level -- Emily Bartlett is a fourth-grader growing up in Pitchfork, Oregon, who helps bring a library to the small town.
  • Encyclopedia Brown Series
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements -- 5th grade reading level -- When Nick Allen decides to turn his fifth-grade teacher's love of the dictionary around on her, he cleverly invents a new word and begins a chain of events that quickly moves beyond his control.
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes -- 6th grade reading level -- The disappearance of a new puppy named Ginger and the appearance of a mysterious man in a mustard yellow hat bring excitement into the lives of the Pye children. 
  • Henry Huggins Series by Beverly Cleary
  • A Llama in the Family by Johanna Hurwitz -- 4th grade reading level -- Adam is surprised with a llama, rather than the bike he really wanted for his birthday.
  • Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry -- 5th grade reading level -- A breed of wild horses inhabit an island, and one is befriended and tamed by the love of two children.
  • Mouse and the Motorcycle Series by Beverly Cleary
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary -- 5th grade reading level -- The comfortable cat's life for tabby Socks is disrupted by the arrival of a new baby in the owner's home.
  • The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill -- 5th grade reading level -- Rufus Mayflower learns about making toothpaste, forming a corporation, and earning lots of money.
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan -- 3rd grade reading level -- In this loving story of a motherless family, a tall, plain woman comes to stay with them.
  • Half Magic by Edward Eager -- 5th grade reading level -- Four children spending their summer in a city apartment enjoy a series of fantastic adventures by double-wishing on an ancient coin.
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koingsburg -- 4th grade reading level -- Claudia and her brother Jamie run away from home and take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla -- 2nd grade reading level -- Nine-year-old Gregory's house does not have room for a garden, so he creates one in a surprising place.
  • Clara and the Bookwagon by Nancy Levinson -- 2nd grade reading level -- Clara's dream of enriching her rough life on the family farm is fulfilled when a horse-drawn book wagon visits with the country's first traveling library.
  • Cora Frear by Susan Goodman -- 3rd grade reading level -- Cora Frear travels over the prairie with her physician father who makes house calls. But one day there is a prairie fire and they must struggle to save their lives.
  • Jake Drake Series
  • Keep the Lights Burning, Abby by Peter Roop -- 2nd grade reading level -- In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper's return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself. The coauthor is Connie Roop.
  • The Littles Series
  • The Long Way to the New Land by Joan Sandin -- 2nd grade reading level -- Story of a Swedish family traveling to America in 1868.
  • The Long Way Westward by Joan Sandin -- 2nd grade reading level -- This book relates the experiences of two young brothers and their family, immigrants from Sweden, from their arrival in New York through the journey to their new home in Minnesota.
  • The Paint Brush Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla -- 2nd grade reading level -- Nine-year-old Gregory paints pictures representing the life of the Mexican American old man known as Uncle Pancho and attempts to save his house.
  • Prairie School by Avi -- 3rd grade reading level -- In 1880, Noah's aunt teaches the reluctant nine-year-old how to read as they explore the Colorado prairie together, Noah pushing Aunt Dora in her wheelchair.
  • Prairie School by Lois Lenski -- 4th grade reading level -- This book is the story of things that did or could have happened in a one-room rural school on the prairie of South Dakota.
  • Tippy Lemmey by Patricia McKissack -- 3rd grade reading level -- Tippy Lemmey is no ordinary dog. Not only is he the only dog Leandra, Paul, and Jeannie have ever met with a first and a last name, he's a living, breathing monster!
  • Tornado by Betsy Byars -- 3rd grade reading level -- As they wait out a tornado in their storm cellar, a family listens to their farmhand tell stories about the dog that was blown into his life by another tornado when he was a boy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Updates on Our Chaotic Life

I haven't had much focus lately. Despite my good intentions, I haven't been consistently documenting the kids' learning, sticking with routines, ensuring chores are completed, or enforcing academic assignments (while my youngest, Eliza, is an unschooler, the older two kids have some academic requirements.)

There has been a fair amount of orneriness around here (and I don't just mean me). Sometimes I feel like sending the kids to school -- just for a few days -- to give myself a bit of a break and give them some perspective on these oh-so-stringent requirements I put on them. ("An hour or two of schoolwork, walk the dog, AND wash dishes?!?") Pffffft!

Meanwhile, life keeps happening, and I continue reading other people's blogs -- full of thoughtful, interesting learning activities -- and fantasizing about being one of those moms. ;-) Like a celibate absorbed in a stack of porn, I read blog posts about days that seem to be gently but consistently structured, harmonious, and full of real, tangible learning.

Eliza and Seamus are playing soccer. They have also, unsurprisingly, been consumed by video games. Minecraft and Roblox are huge hits. Diablo 3, a fantasy role-playing/battle game, was released last week. This event was hailed, by my husband and son, as if it were the second coming. The day after the Diablo 3 release, my husband had to take a few days off work so they could completely and thoroughly devote themselves to Getting Their Game On.

Yes, he did -- I kid you not.

Is anyone else married to a gaming geek like this?

My family has also been watching The Big Bang Theory together, starting with Season 1, and enjoying the sheer nerdery.

I ordered the standardized tests to fulfill Virginia's requirement of providing "Proof of Progress" for each of the kids. (Since we're using exile to a public school classroom as a form of suspension, we'll call this testing phase in-school suspension. :-P)

Eliza was excited about hers and couldn't wait to get started. The idea of being tested and filling in circles with a number two pencil was inexplicably delightful to her. She finished the test, and it was scored within a couple of days. So she was officially promoted to "Third Grade," whatever that means, and we started a simple portfolio for her upcoming school year. She seemed pleased with this. We also did an informal reading inventory, which indicated she can read at about the 7th grade level. With characteristic humility, she said, "I'm like a super kid -- I'm so awesome!"

I've been thumbing through the Sonlight catalog and toying with the idea of doing something more structured with her next year, for "third grade," because I sense that she's seeking a bit more structure and schoolishness. When I mentioned it to her, she seemed pretty psyched about the idea.

Maybe I could put together a "curriculum package" with all the homeschooling materials that have been collecting dust around here for years. *LOL* For 8 years, I've gravitated to curricula like an addict to crack, and most of it goes unused. With a little improvisation, plus a few trips to the Green Valley Book Fair, I might be able to pull that off. Hmmm ... pondering that thought.

Seamus spends most of his time video gaming and watching stuff on You Tube. And no, I'm not embarrassed to say that out loud. :-P He subscribes to Game Informer, and he seems to be reading more video game reviews. We've talked a bit about his amorphous goal of being a professional video gamer ;-) -- I recommended that he start writing game reviews, since working as a reviewer might be a conduit into that kind of career. I also suggested that he, River, and I launch our own You Tube channel, reviewing video games, movies, and books. I see a wealth of learning potential there, including an opportunity to pull off a complicated project collaboratively. He didn't seem all that enthusiastic, so we'll see.

River is making great strides. She's completed over 200 pages of her novel, which she plans to adapt into a screenplay soon. Though she often puts herself down and belittles her writing ability, she's considering sending her screenplay to her favorite director (a small-time British indie filmmaker) in hopes that he'll be interested in directing it. I think that shows real confidence and hopefulness.

One of the casualties of her long battle with severe anxiety/depression has been reading. When she was little, she was an avid bookworm, but -- aside from short article and film reviews -- she hasn't been able to read in years. We've tried easy books, challenging books, larger print, audiobooks, combining an audiobook with a print book, and read-alouds. We even tried Ritalin briefly. Nothing has worked. She couldn't concentrate on reading, which only heightened the anxiety. By the way, according to support forums I've followed, this isn't uncommon with kids who have severe OCD.

Recently she finally started reading again! She is over halfway through House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I am so very, very thrilled. Listening to an audiobook while reading the novel in print -- and reading at a slow, steady pace -- seems to be working.

She asked me to create a writing curriculum for her, and edit and offer detailed feedback on her work! Stop my beating heart!!! I gave her a first lesson and assignment, on creating character development, and she seems to be working enthusiastically and hard on it. Soon, I'll start posting these lessons, if anyone is interested.

She's also making slow but significant inroads into her difficulty with motivation and creating and maintaining some routines for herself. For example, she set a goal of adding five pages per day to her novel, and has stuck with it for several days.

We're still making baby steps with Algebra I, plus she's "doing math" by helping me with grocery shopping and playing "on the money." In "on the money," she estimates the total grocery bill, as we shop, using a combination of rounding and computation. If she gets close enough, she earns 10% of the total grocery bill. She is great at that game. It's all a matter of having the proper motivation, and by "proper motivation" I mean "bribery." Hey Alfie Kohn, as much as I admire his work, can just kiss my ever-widening behind. She's learning math and life skills ... VOLUNTARILY! :-P

Guidance for Women in Our Emotional & Spiritual Journeys: Excerpt from The Moon She Rocks You (E-Book) by Gurutej

I am posting this for Gurutej, a spiritual guide and author, who writes about various topics including yoga, intimate relationships, and female spirituality. I've worked with her before, in my capacity as an editor, and I've found her to be a terrific lady as well as an interesting writer and thinker with unique insights. I wasn't involved in editing this project -- I'm just the messenger. Enjoy!

Challenges Encountered by Women

What makes women so unpredictable at times? What makes them confusing to men and at the same time be awesome and worthy of their attention? What makes women intriguing? What makes them behave the way they do?

The pull of the moon creates tides in women. It pulls on your bodily fluids just as it pulls on the oceans and as it creates the cycles of the tides. The moon, which rules women, is about mystery, magic, and emotions. This makes women emotional, unpredictable, and mind blowing!

Women change cycles every 2.5 days. So I always say if you don’t like the way your woman is behaving today, come back after 2.5 days and they will be different—such awesome unpredictability! Here we will shed light on the mystery and unpredictability in women and how she can become more calm, creative and empowered.

How Can the Moon Centers Help Women?

During your emotional outbursts, how many hours in a week do you have spend doing damage control? How much money would you spend just to ease the frustration and tension within you? What do you do to cope? You realize that many solutions are merely superficial means for you to get out of the emotional turmoil you are experiencing. The Moon Centers, however, would give you the capacity to access your gifts and not be drugged by your emotions.

If you work on your Moon Centers through meditation, exercise, and by learning to listen to your intuition, your life as a woman will become less stressful. You will learn to live in harmony with yourself and with others. You will be endowed with grace, happiness, and power. No other external solution can give women any of these gifts.

Discovering the Gifts inside Women’s Emotions
How do women get their emotions to work for them instead of them working for their emotions or being their slave? The Moon Centers reveal the answer to these queries. With the complete program, you can learn to chart your cycle and check each day to see where you are in this cycle. Once you have plotted your particular cycle—and this often takes a few months of paying attention—it will stay the same unless you undergo some huge trauma or shift in your life. I suggest you get a few friends to do this with you. It will not only make the activity more fun, but will also help you achieve a less biased awareness as you help each other figure out which cycle you are truly in.

Remember, it will take a few months before you will really have your cycle plotted. This requires that you tune in with your emotional states, which can be either subtle or obvious. If you are able to do this properly, you are assured of tranquility and comfort. You will know who you are and the gifts that are asleep within you. Imagine how your life would be, if during challenging days, you could clear your head just by working on your Moon Centers.

Remember, grace is your birthright, power is your gift, and happiness is your cloak. Once you are familiar with all of the Centers, plot them out and work with them. It would be happiness and power rolled into one. A priceless blessing! So, are you ready to be aware and enlightened? Let’s start with the description of the Moon Centers.

Information From the Author About This Excerpt:
If you are a woman, knowing about The Moon Centers gives you power over your negative emotions. If you are a man, it gives you the key to understand women of all ages. You learn to listen to the voice of their emotions. Women – we can have control over those crazy emotional times in our lives. For more information, visit - http://gurutej.com/store/11-moon-centers/ and http://www.amazon.com/The-Moon-She-Rocks-YOU/dp/0615621678

About Gurutej Gurutej has known since she was six years old that she wanted to lead others to their greatness. A founding practitioner of Kundalini, Gurutej Khalsa is one of a handful of Kundalini Yoga Masters in the world. She has taught people for over 40 years to connect to their higher consciousness through healing, meditation, yoga, and chanting. Gurutej has created yoga centers throughout the United States and Canada. Her commitment to community outreach, philanthropy, the homeless, children, alternative education, and conscious living is tireless.

The Moon She Rocks You – Ebook

What are Moon Center cycles and why should we as women care about them? Because these cycles have a direct and deep effects on us. Have you noticed that some days you feel strong and powerful and can take on the entire universe and other days someone looks at you cross-eyed and you want to find a bathroom to hide in? Why is that? This theory of Moon centers will shed some light on all this.

This is not a shield to hide behind but information to make us more aware, informed complete with support tools that will make you more powerful. Moon Centers Unveiling the hidden secrets to the inner workings of women. This is the next biggest leap after Men are from Mars Women are from Venus.
Do you want to understand yourself as a woman in your many aspects? Men do you want to be able to see and chart the emotional and devotional landscape of the women in your life? You will know when and how to support yourself and your women and when to move away from the firing line. Priceless information.

Moon Centers is a secret and sacred science: Do you want Greater harmony in your life? If yes then skip the text and just say yes -- buy it now. If you need more information carry on. If only all women -- and men, for that matter -- could learn of these moon centers in their teens what a wonderful world it would be. This is an ancient secret science unveiled, how the moon affects women each day. This is the secret code to women’s inner states. The positive, challenged and neutral aspects within each center, within each woman. The moon moves into a different part of a woman’s body every 2.25 days. Learn how to utilize the gifts of each center and recognize the moods that come from the challenged aspects ahead of time. Then turn them into harmony. Utilize the gifts of each center. All this can be yours.

Blessings, -Gurutej

Friday, May 11, 2012

The U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival

Several weeks ago, the kids and I went to Washington, D.C. for The U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival. I posted about that trip here: How A Science Convention is Like a Mosh Pit & Art Exploration and here: The Art of Video Games, but I haven't actually posted about the festival.As I mentioned in the "Mosh Pit" post, my girls and I left quickly, but before we did, Eliza participated in a couple of the exhibits and activities.

Seamus stayed at the festival with our intrepid friend Adesa and his BFF, and it looks like he had a great time. He was especially excited about a multi-colored bunch of slap bracelets (I think that's what they're called) that he earned for completing various challenges.
Eliza's favorite thing was exploring the infrared spectrum at the NARO exhibit -- the same thing that piqued her interest during our field trip there.

Learning about what scientists determine from taking samples from the ocean floor.

Learning a bit more about marine life.

Experimenting with a remote control submersible device loosely based on the one below.

This is the device used to cap the Gulf Oil spill and take photographs of the Titanic in its resting place at the bottom of the ocean. I thought this was fascinating, and I enjoyed talking to the grad. student manning this exhibit. I wonder how hard it would be to make one of those little remote control devices.

Photos I Stole from Adesa:


Operating a Remote Control Submersible

Sumo Bots with Lego NXT Units -- How Cool Is That?

Trying to pedal fast enough to power the music and the Bernoulli machine.

A little engineering.

This festival was an embarrassment of riches, with an unbelievable number of interesting exhibits and hands-on activities for kids. I would go again, especially if it were in a different venue. Maybe next year they will move it back to the National Mall, where there will be more room to spread out. I definitely don't want to be swallowed up by another ass to ass crowd. ;-) 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Art of Video Games

In my lifetime, video games have evolved from a relatively simple form of electronic entertainment to a blossoming art form, featuring stunning graphics, music, and complex, interesting storytelling. On our recent trip to Washington, D.C., we visited this exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The beautiful courtyard at the museum:

Thank You, Adesa for the Photo, Which I Shamelessly Stole from Your Facebook Page
The video game exhibit:

I was especially intrigued by the concept art -- these concept drawings were created for the game Fallout 3. They actually remind me of Seamus's artwork. He has a talent for drawing and has a special "monster book," which I gave him for Christmas, in which he sketches and writes about his creations.

I think his passion for gaming, combined with his artistic, writing, and problem solving abilities, could lead to an interesting hobby and possibly a lucrative career in game creation.

I agree with the quote above, though I once considered video gaming the intellectual equivalent of fast food. Yet another thing my kids have taught me!

There were annotated clips from many video games, explaining what made each one unique in terms of concept, storytelling, direction, artwork and other aspects of the game. I found this very interesting.

We also visited the International Spy Museum, which was very interesting though, from my perspective, not quite worth the admission fees. Maybe I would have felt differently if I hadn't been with a tired, impatient eight-year-old. :-) I would have liked to explore the history exhibits, especially from the Cold War Era.

A short video introduction to the museum asked listeners to consider what would motivate them to be spies. I wondered whether anything could tempt me, which is a moot point since I can't lie, I can't act, and I'm pretty sure I'd succumb to the mere threat of torture. Money doesn't tempt me that much -- it certainly isn't enough to lure me to the dark side. What would? :-)

Some of the motives cited were greed, patriotism (when working for one's own country), ideology (like American communists who spied for the U.S.S.R)., a sense of power (including the sheer pleasure of f**king over ones government), and blackmail. One American agreed to turn against his country because the blackmailer threatened to reveal his homosexuality. I found that sickening and heart-wrenching. Can you imagine a moral climate in which betraying one's country seems preferable to being "outed" as being gay? Happily the times they are a changin'. Though as voters in my home state of North Carolina just reminded us, they're not changing quickly enough. :-(

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five Things I'm Thankful for This Week

In No Particular Order: 

1. The freedom that unschooling gives me and Eliza, my eight-year-old, and how smoothly it's working for us. I received her standardized test, for second grade, in the mail today. Granted, the CATs aren't the most rigorous tests around, but it was nice to see that she can easily answer virtually all the questions without having had much formal instruction ... ever. Basically, we provide help and encouragement, and she teaches herself to read, write, and work out math problems when the spirit moves her to do so. We've dabbled in various curricula, including Five in a Row and Miquon Math, but I consider that "strewing" rather than teaching. Having older siblings helps: they've inspired many of her interests, such as writing novels, drawing, and video gaming.

Some Stuffed Animals Join Us For "School," Which Consists of Some Random Board Games

2. My kids' crazy, awesome friends  -- if you've ever met my son, for example, you can appreciate my gratitude over his finding buddies who are insane enough to be kindred spirits.

Thank You, Adesa for the Photo, Which I Shamelessly Stole from Your Facebook Page
3. All my kids have complicated medical and/or neurological issues, and there have been many times I've wanted to smack fate upside the head with a stick. But I never forget that as medical problems go, all their diagnoses (except one) are relatively benign. As for the less benign one, well I won't go into it here, except to say we almost lost one of our kids a few years ago. However, in the past few years, we've experienced a lot of what a more religious person would call Grace. :-)

Today, we made our yearly pilgrimage to UVA hospital with Eliza to see the pediatric genetics guy. We've been doing this since they first suspected a serious (though, thankfully, not life-threatening) genetic disorder when she was a few months old.

She went through the usual developmental questions and cursory examinations by the doc and his phalanx of interns. Oddly, when they asked if there were any concerns, Eliza told all the attending doctors that she "couldn't smell" -- "I never smell dog farts." What the hell was up with that? :-P

We learned nothing new. However, she is still pretty much asymptomatic. None of the things they warned us about, ranging from bone deformities to blindness to mental retardation or learning disabilities, have happened. Interestingly, the doc thinks there will be an effective blood test to rule out her suspected condition in several years. After living with fear for eight years, would that feel liberating or anti-climactic?

Once again we were warned about the *strong* possibility that she could have learning disabilities, due to the condition(s) that she may or may not have, and we were invited to consider taking her to Kluge Children's Hospital. After our experience with one of their developmental pediatricians, an autism "expert," many years ago, I'd rather have a sharp stick in my eye. And seriously -- I'm not seeing it. This kid learns pretty much anything she puts her mind to. I almost laughed when they asked me whether she was "on grade level." I was in no mood to explain unschooling to all these doctors.

Yes, I have a lot to be grateful for. One of the most tremendous blessings one can receive is fears that don't come to fruition.

4. Serendipitous lessons from nature, whether it be the finches nesting on our porch or an albino squirrel.

5. My husband, who willingly gets 4 hours of sleep, drives us to UVA Hospital, then cooks and serves dinner without any complaint. That alone is an embarrassment of riches.