Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm not sure if this was a compliment

I was in the grocery store today, standing at the deli counter, when I notice a nice, elderly gentleman standing off to my right, smiling at me. I smiled back and gave a little head-nod his way. He's about 82 years old, with a crisp white button down shirt, two pens in the front pocket and creased, grey trousers. Moments later, he's shuffling in my general direction, clasping his pint of potato salad in both hands. I cast around briefly, figuring perhaps I'm impeding his quest for Kaiser Rolls when it dawns on me that he intends to talk to me.

Still smiling, he says, "I saw you as you walked over here to get your deli ticket, then you walked back to the vegetables, then back here again. And I must say, although you've probably heard it a lot of times, you have quite a nice pair of legs." Oh, thank you...wait, WHAT? I laughed. What else can I do? My legs are being assessed by Mr. Magoo. Okay, it was kinda nice to hear...weird, but nice to hear anyhow.

P.S. I haven't heard that since 1986, when Mike Sherman in my High School used to call me Legs.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Curriculum Line-Up for This Year

Coming down to our last little smidgen of summer here, and that means just about all the curriculum is lined up and ready to go. Here's what I've got on tap:

* Magnificent Firstborn, Grade 8: Life of Fred Algebra, Apologia Physical Science, History Odyssey Ancients, Lightning Lit Grade 8, Sequential Spelling Book 5, Vocabulary - I can't think of the name of this now-discontinued program just at the moment. Volleyball through Park and Recs, Piano when I can figure out when in the world the lesson can happen, Art through the co-op.

*Dynamic Middle Child; Grade 5: Life of Fred Fractions, then Math-U-See Decimals and Percents (Zeta); NOEO Physics II Science; History Odyssey Ancients; Beyond Phonics; Sequential Spelling Book 2; Literature of our choice. Piano when I figure out a half-second to fit that in; Art mostly through Art Treasury and Art Skills by Usborne; Soccer through West Howard.

* He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Crossed Youngest Child; Kindergarten: Math-U-See Alpha and some Saxon for months, days, etc.; Phonics Pathways; Handwriting Without Tears; Daily reading of my selection; History - younger books on Ancients, History Pockets Ancients; Science - younger books on Physics; Musical Cultures at co-op for music; Art at co-op and some Art Treasury and Art Skills by Usborne; Soccer at West Howard.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Our Fantastic Homeschool Co-op Fall Schedule

Today is the release date of South Carroll Covenant Keepers' fall schedule of classes. I'm pretty giddy about it. I'm the board member in charge of organizing all those classes and I think this fall's schedule is something to be proud of.

Our co-op offers Specials Day - a series of Friday classes, two semesters a year. Here's what my kids are signed up for this fall:

* Magnificent Firstborn - 13 Ultimate Frisbee, Iron Chef, Survival II (investigating hands-on wildlife and self-sufficient living skills) and Drawing.

* Dynamic Middle Child - 10 Ultimate Frisbee, Bridges: Engineer a Marvel (creating structures from K'NEX), Circus (Yep, that's a professional circus performer teaching our kids performance skills and balance/agility tricks), and Rubik's Riot, taught by a certain Brilliant Boy who can solve that crazy cube in less than a minute.

* Born-to-Negotiate Youngest Child - 5 KinderArt, Playdough, Musical Cultures Tour and Open Wide and Trek Inside, a Health class focusing on dental care.

The concept behind Specials Day is remarkable and unique among the co-ops offered in this area. It's a day to knock out a lot of those niggling homeschooling "extras" - P.E., Drama, Art, Music, Cooking, Sewing and a bunch of other classes - while seeing friends. Plus, every kid has a place to be, so there isn't that constant question of, "Well that art class sounds nice, but what do I do with my other kids while we're there?" We have both parent teachers and outside professionals offering classes at Specials Day. I'm quite proud to be part of this fantastic group and I'm totally jazzed about our offerings for this year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book of the Week: The Year of Living Biblically

I recently finished reading The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. Can I just tell you, A.J. Jacobs writes hilarious! In this book, Mr. Jacobs, a self-described agnostic, spends a year attempting to follow the laws and rules of the Bible as literally as possible. Although he often takes this to extremes that were surely not intended in The Word, it's rollicking fun to read anyhow.

The author reasons that since the Old Testament is more substantial than the New, he devotes 3/4 of the year specifically to attempting to fulfill Jewish law, figuring he'd leave the last 1/4 year primarily to New Testament commands. Mr. Jacobs, though not practicing any particular faith (prior to the experiment), is from Jewish roots. I think his pursuit of fulfilling Old Testament commands rings truer than his abbreviated focus on the New Testament. Possibly, he feels more connection to his Jewish heritage and it shows. I mean, a person could spend a whole year just trying to fulfill the directives that Jesus gave. (There's an interesting book concept as well.) There were a lot of potential subjects he could have canvassed in the New Testament that he never mentioned. (For example, I don't think he ever mentioned Communion.)

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed his forays in the weirder and more extreme religious tangents that exist. He met with Jews who sacrifice chickens, had his wardrobe dissected by a man trained to find mixed threads in fabric, sought out fruit from trees that were older than four years, went to a snake-handling church and built a hut (can't recall the Hebrew name for it) in his Manhattan apartment. Pretty funny visual, there.

He found that sometimes, even following laws whose purpose is not known, or that are generally disregarded in modern society, still can lead to peace and well-being. Examples of this are: wearing white garments, observing the Sabbath and avoiding certain foods. He also found that participating in rituals where he initially was uncomfortable, such as daily prayer, ultimately becomes integral to daily life.

This book was fascinating. I enjoyed it all the way through. If you're one to take your faith very seriously, you might not appreciate his literal application of verses you consider metaphorical, but it's still a vibe read if you can see humor in the sacred.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book of the Week: "Mr. Darcy's Diary"

I recently finished reading Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange. Since I love Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I expected to enjoy this book as well. The author writes the storyline of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of Mr. Darcy. This was one of those books that started out great but left me a little cold at the end. For the first 3/4 of the book, the author wrote very convincingly. I could barely perceive a difference between the character designed by Ms. Austen herself more than a hundred years ago and the voice given by the modern-day Amanda Grange. This was not so much true as the book came to a close. Grange's version of Mr. Darcy comes to see the light too completely to be believed. He suddenly has no difficulty seeing his former behavior as arrogant and wrong. People don't usually come around one hundred percent, even if they do come around. It would have been truer if we could still get little glimpses of Darcy thinking he's all that.

Nevertheless, this book is a great diversion for P&P fans. I didn't mind terribly making it through the less-believable final quarter. If you like Jane enough to be depressed that there won't be any new novels out of her, might as well give this one a read. Darcy is a great character anyway, and I didn't mind spending 320 pages in his head.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I meant Sporting Goods!

You really gotta watch what you type into your address bar.

I was on the phone for an hour with my satellite internet company (that’s a whole ‘nother post), trying to improve my connectivity, which has been yucky since inception. Because I live in lovely rural Carroll County, there are two options for internet: satellite or dial-up. I have satellite, however, my satellite is so bad, sometimes I think it is dial-up.

So, after fiddling with a bunch of stuff in my system tools with the Indian Customer Service guy on the phone, who, no doubt, is actually in India, I was instructed to “attempt to browse normally now.” So, I began to type different web addresses into my bar, to check out my web responsiveness. I thought it best to type in addresses I don’t normally go to, because I wanted it to load sites without the benefit of cookies. (Listen to me talking all techy, as if I know what I’m saying!)

Into my address box I typed the probable names of any store that popped into my head: LL Bean, Sears, Sports Authority, Target, Dicks...

Apparently, the address for Dicks Sporting Goods is NOT www. dicks (dot)com. I’m talking to a guy in India and my screen is popping up a half-dozen pictures that are definitely not selling sports equipment, although some of those girls looked pretty athletic. I scrambled about, frantically closing windows wondering, nay, praying silently that the rep on the phone is not tapped in to my system and seeing what pops up on my screen! (I’m still not sure about that.) I tried to act like nothing astonishing just happened on my end and re-typed the respectable, banal address for Sears.

Be careful, friends. Be very careful out there!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Groundhog Plays Soccer

I looked out the window and saw my handsome German Shepherd Dog, Sergeant, going crazy over by the fence. It was clear he had discovered one of our nearby forest inhabitants, and it obviously wasn't a squirrel or a rabbit as he would already have scarfed them up. Fearing it may be a snake or a skunk, I ran outside to find....

a soccer-playing groundhog. I'll grant you, it's not what I expected!

Hideous though they are, I nevertheless found mercy for the fat, garden-decimating vermin. So, I called off the dog and gave Beckham a chance to escape. Can't you just picture a spoof Groundhog World Cup? That would be Must-See TV!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book of the Week: "Have a Little Faith"

I recently finished reading Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith. I give it Five Stars.

The book is a look at faith through the eyes of Mitch's childhood Jewish Rabbi, "Reb," and a hard-luck, reformed criminal Christian pastor in Detroit, named Henry. Mitch's eloquent descriptions left me feeling like I knew Reb, or wishing I could meet him. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's open admission of having drifted away from his Jewish roots and his willingness to tell the truth about the challenge of keeping faith. I still find that challenge personally mysterious and at the same time, I have an awed regard for those who seem to find it easy, as Reb and Henry are depicted.

How interesting it must have been for the author to find similarities in the midst of such contrast: a Jewish Rabbi from an affluent community vs. an African-American pastor in the ghetto. Yet they both sang through their sermons. They both lost a child. By astounding coincidence, they both were nicknamed "Reb" by followers. And they both demonstrate the open, accepting, merciful love of God. I think Mitch Albom was moved by it. I certainly was.

I highly recommend Have a Little Faith to anyone who is open towards what God means to different people, or how God applies to themselves.