Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal #12: Movies, Mentos and Monocots

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 

In my life this week… 

I got an e-mail from a local farm saying my turkey is ready to pick up any time I'm ready. Huh? Holy shiz, Thanksgiving is next week, isn't it? We have no family in the area, and my hubby's work schedule prevents us from traveling during the holidays. So holidays for us are a pretty low key affair.

I'm not big on Thanksgiving anyway. The theme of gratitude is important -- every day, I'm surrounded by reasons I'm infinitely grateful. But let's face it, I'm not crazy about cooking, I don't care about football, and I'd rather have a sharp stick in my eye than go shopping on "Black Friday." For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I'm not nearly as sparked about Christmas as I used to be either.

My schedule is about to wind down a bit for the holidays. I finished my biology class at PE's school, and we just had our last session of Lego League until January. I expect our other commitments will be easing up a bit, too, and I'll be slowing down and catching up. Hey! I am a fan of holidays after all!

In other matters, I've blogged before about my newly (and belatedly) diagnosed health problems. I've taken a bit of a hit neurologically, with impaired concentration, memory lapses and such ... even worse than usual, I mean. I have Leonard Shelby syndrome (y'know, from the movie Memento) ... I forget stuff after -- say -- five minutes.

This week, my family clued me into the fact that I've been crazy moody and hard to live with the past few months. Huffy and throwing fits when the house is trashed and I can't find stuff. I was floored. What?? For some reason, my loved ones thought I knew about this, on account of it being my own behavior and all. Haven't they been paying attention?? I don't remember any of that.

Now I'm striving to be mindful about being calm. And I'm remembering to be thankful I have conditions that are treatable!

No worries, the PMS fairy is arriving soon. That wonderful time of the month when I know that no problems I have getting along with my family are MY fault. I'm perfectly fine. It's just that for about seven days out of the month everyone has an extraordinarily fine tuned ability to piss me off. I think it's a conspiracy.

In our homeschool this week…

This was another kinda slow week. But ...

River has been watching and talking about so many interesting movies I can't keep up with her. She's on a roll with watching short films and uber-indie movies. She wrote several new film reviews this week and worked on one of her novels.

We didn't get around to history or philosophy this week, though we did watch the next movie we plan to discuss in philosophy: Hilary and Jackie. This film, about celebrated cellist Jacqueline DePre and her sister Hilary, is told alternately from the perspectives of both women. In our philosophy and film curriculum, this is a springboard for discussing relativism. Simply thinking about the way people view shared experiences in very different ways is fascinating.

Memory and perception is a tricky thing. My father once told a story about a train trip he took with his family when he was a child. He and his siblings all remember completely different versions of the trip -- they don't even agree on who was there. My brother and I have occasionally talked about our shared childhood and found out we didn't have the same recollections at all; we grew up in parallel universes. I believe that through our memories we're telling ourselves the stories of our own lives, again and again, and the tale can keep changing in the telling. How can we ever get at the pure truth?

River is also slogging through math, much against her will -- she's working on percentages. In order to graduate from high school, according to -- well -- me, she needs to complete one Algebra course. (Film Studies; Analytical Writing; Fiction Writing; Math)

Seamus played Minecraft, G Mod, and Oblivion and participated in Lego League, which involves computer programming and robotics. He started reading Rome: A High Speed History and did a bit of "book" math. He's still going gangbusters on the Artemis Fowl series. We also played some Mad Libs, so he reviewed basic parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs).

He also did the world-famous Diet Coke and Mentos experiment -- you know the one -- with the help of his lab assistant. He didn't get the maximum effect, because he didn't put in a whole pack of Mentos at one time. But it had pretty good range, don't you think?

He started by putting one mint into a bottle. He noticed that all the soda in the bottle seemed fizzy, so he hypothesized that he'd gotten the maximum possible reaction. He tested it by adding two to a bottle, then three. The reaction did, in fact, increase at each stage. (Busted.)

We checked out an article at Steve Spangler Science to scope out theories on why this works. Carbon Dioxide ... Molecules ... Surface tension ... It seems that the weight/density of the Mento(s), and the amount of soda displaced, is an important factor in the effect. So I guess that's why, even if the amount of carbonation seems to have peaked, more Mentos = bigger reaction? What do you think?

(Computer Technology; Strategic Thinking; Robotics; History; Math; Reading/Literature; Grammar; The Scientific Method; Chemistry; Physics)

PE and I played some board and card games: 10 Days in Europe (Geography; Strategic Thinking), Telepathy (Deductive Logic), Rat-a-Tat-Cat, Blink, and a card game featuring Impressionist Art (Art Appreciation).  I also got out the Shanleya's Quest card game, a nifty resource I bought years ago which has been collecting dust ever since. We talked about the difference between monocots and dicots, and figured out which types of plants, in our pack of cards, fall into each category. We learned that monocots are air-pollinated. She sorted the plants by family, noticing common features. (Math: Patterns; Botany) She also played video games, including Minecraft, Sims 3, Feeding Frenzy, and Plants vs. Zombies. (Computer Technology).

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… As I said here, I think one of your greatest strengths as a parents and homeschooler is staying in touch with your own boundless curiosity.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Seamus is at his best friend's house tonight, having a sleepover and celebrating his friend's 11th birthday!

Questions/thoughts I have… about recent headlines ... 

Herman Cain: We Need a Leader, Not a Reader -- I'm sure everyone in the world is taking shots at this right now, but ...

O.K., I'll be the first to admit my mind isn't nearly as sharp as it used to be, and I'm not sure I set the bar all that high to begin with. Some of my problems seem to be caused by lady hormones -- Cain can't claim that excuse -- but I digress. I could overlook a political figure bungling the answer to a basic question about foreign policy. But to use that as an excuse? It seems to suggest that such knowledge isn't a prerequisite for holding an important public office. When I think about the disastrous foreign policy decisions our leaders have made that might have been prevented, or at least ameliorated, with some knowledge of history, I find it chilling.

In Ancient Greece all citizens (y'know men who were lucky enough not to be slaves) were expected to be educated and articulate enough to participate in all affairs of state. Sometimes I feel like, here and now, if we gathered all our politicians who have a depth and breadth of knowledge and GET why it's essential for our leaders to deeply understand history and diplomacy, we wouldn't have enough people to put together a baseball team. What is going on?!? Is the media distorting things by zooming in on egregious examples of human  ignorance and stupidity and ignoring the thinkers who are running for office or helping shape public policy? Or are things really all that bad?

On Occupy Wall Street

In the interests of standing up and being counted, I'm a supporter. But that's not what I want to talk about. From the perspective of a police officer's wife, who's spent 16 years watching men and women putting their lives on the line for less than a living wage, I've just gotta say this. There is a certain irony to the police having to do Wall Street's dirty work. No one is more underpaid for the work and responsibility they take on than cops! They should be freaking occupying something. But they'd have to get a day off work first.

I’m reading… Minding Ben by Victoria Brown: an interesting novel about a young woman who immigrates to New York City from Trinidad as works as a nanny. It's painful watching her being exploited by her employer and a landlord ducking responsibility for a dilapidated, lead-ridden apartment he's renting to an immigrant family. The lead is seriously impacting a small child's development, and the landlord laughs it off.

and watching ... Eureka and Dr. Who

I’m grateful for… The community at Raw Learning, especially my friend Gleamer who has supported my family and me in amazing and unexpected ways.

I’m praying for… finding some answers to a health issue my older daughter is having. I guess I don't have a right to discuss it in public -- it's not my own body we're talking about. It isn't life threatening, but I am really worried. E-mail me privately if you're concerned. :-)

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