Monday, October 22, 2007

Leaf Rubbing

We actually did something semi-creative so I'm showing it off.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

No Child Left Behind -- a Catholic view

Our Sunday Visitor recently released a "report card" of Bush's presidency from a Catholic perspective, and I was very disappointed to see the No Child Left Behind Act get a positive mention. Here is the letter I just sent in response

I was very disappointed to see the No Child Left Behind Act given a "positive" rating in your October 21st analysis of Bush's presidency. I strongly disagree, the Act actually contributes to a very anti-Catholic objectification of both pupils and teachers. The increased emphasis on standardized testing has made schools in one business and one business only -- the raising of test scores. Aside from the practical flaw that a student can be trained to score high on a test with little to no understanding or actual ability, the greater evil in this is that the student is no longer viewed as a whole person but as a score. It doesn't matter that the child learn to think, learn to enjoy life, or learn to behave in a moral way, all that matters is that the child scores "proficient" on the test. This simply does not respect the fact that the child is a human person with a body, mind and soul which all need to be considered together in order for a true education to be achieved. The teacher, despite his or her best efforts, is reduced to a factory manager who must raise "productivity" through raising scores, no matter the effect on the actual persons in her care. Should Catholics approve of this?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Prank Call to Greg Wiggle

No, not me. An Australian radio show. It was fairly funny, but is more interesting because we haven't had news about Greg for a while. You can listen to it here, it is Thursday's show, and starts about one-third of the way through the show after the "Is the wink extinct?" bit.

Mandy Patinkin

I went to see him with my mom last night! We had a fun time. I wasn't sure what to expect, and he was certainly funnier than I expected. I had heard he had a beautiful voice; I don't know if his voice was tired or what but while I thought it was competent it didn't seem especially beautiful to me. It seemed a bit weak at times, especially in the upper octaves. Maybe I'm just being picky. . .thanks, Bob, now you've turned me into a music snob as well as a food snob!

It was fun, though. Paul Ford was fantastic on the piano, and Mandy Patinkin was exuberant and energetic. There were some interesting musical selections, and a few where I felt I would appreciate them more if I was familiar with whatever musical they were from. I wasn't expecting to hear the Hokey Pokey in Yiddish, and I certainly wasn't expecting to be asked to stand up and dance it!

He ended the show with the quote: "My name is Inigo Montoya. . ."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I found this on my camera the other day.

Earlier this week I had been in the other room putting the baby to bed, and when I went back into the living room Pauly handed me the camera (in its case) and told me Roger had been playing with it. I found this a day or so later.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Math U See

I posted this review one of my forums, and thought I'd cross post it here. Their website is

I love it! They will send you a free demo video if you ask. Once Bob saw the video he was sure this is the way to go. We really really like it, of course we've only used the Primer (kindergarten) level so far.

I do alter the lessons somewhat. After reading How Children Fail I have taken a lot of Holt's suggestions for the Cuisenaire rods and applied them to the Math-U-See blocks. This doesn't change the content of the lessons, just how I present them. I do a bit less instruction and a bit more guided exploration. I also don't have Pauly do much work in the Student book. Instead, I have him work problems with the blocks and write any numbers on a blank piece of paper. He has poor fine motor skills and was getting frustrated with the book.

The order of lessons is quite different. Several lessons back we cover place value -- hundreds, tens and units. Pauly can look at any three digit number and read it correctly. The lesson we are currently working on is "counting to 20." Of course, Pauly can already count to 20 and has for a couple of years, but this lesson is really preparing for carrying in addition. One of MUS's main points is that you can only count from 0 to 9, after that you are counting something else (ie. tens instead of units).

My degree is (sort of) in mathematics and I really enjoy math, and I like this program a lot. I think the blocks and what can be done with them is neat, and I like the emphasis on place value and truly understanding numbers. I think, however, that we MIGHT have been able to get away with only getting Alpha and skipping the Primer level, if we just took the curriculum very slowly. The student book is, at this level, actually incidental to the hands-on lessons.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pumpkin Patch!

We had a blast! There were lots of things to do besides just ride in the wagon out to the patch and pick out pumpkins. Pauly loved the underground slides, and Rosemarie loved the very swing bridge. She was not afraid of it at all! Of course I forgot my camera, but I got this pic when I got back to the house. You can just see the top of Rosie's pumpkin and the stem of Roger's.

Review of the New Wiggles DVD

Getting Strong, which my children are watching at this moment. Perhaps it tells you something that it is not holding my attention? I mean, besides the fact that Sam and not Greg is the yellow Wiggle. I'll have to listen to Greg's CDs all morning to make up for it. . .

Um, back to the review. I knew they were revamping their sound and style, but I don't like it. They're trying to get back to a preschool and educational style, taking advantage of their early childhood degrees and knowledge. However, that means that all of their music seems very much aimed at kids. Their skits and what not in the videos and show have always been dumb, but even my husband likes the songs on Sailing Around the World, Cold Spaghetti Western and Racing to the Rainbow. Who can resist "Olive Oil"?? And their concerts are definitely designed to appeal to kids and adults. So these songs are more like "sing in preschool" songs, more similar to their earliest music on the Let's Wiggle and Yummy Yummy CDs, only Greg's not singing them. I mean, only they're not as good. Maybe that is just cause I haven't listened to them 8000 times.

This video is trying to educational, as I said before, and that annoys me. "Not trying to be educational" was the first thing I liked about the Wiggles. I always felt that, primarily, they loved music and wanted children to love and have fun with music, without an additional educational agenda to their songs. Well, the songs on this DVD focus on promoting physical health (exercise, etc.) and literacy, so they are definitely trying to be educational. This shift in emphasis is obvious from the title of the video series Wiggle and Learn, this DVD is only the first two episodes in a planned series. So the songs are not as high a quality, and everything sounds different without being sung by Greg.

My kids love it. Rosie, Roger AND Pauly have all sat entranced by it. The boys were interested, not upset, by the fact that Sam was the yellow Wiggle. I think they finally believe it after being told it for nearly a year. Pauly, who is five and thus at the upper age of the range the movie is intended for, said that Getting Strong (the title song) was "awesome" and that this was better than the other Wiggles DVDs. He did say to me, however, "It was boring for you, wasn't it?" So, yes it is a good kids video. It is less annoying than their show on Disney. The music just doesn't hold the appeal for adults that their best music in the past did, IMO. It is 1000x better than Hi-5.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Seventh Generation Disposables

We're taking a break from cloth. Since handling most normal disposables gives me migraines, we're trying the Seventh Generation chlorine free disposables. So far I'm fine with them, we've had no poop leaks or pee leaks, and they don't stink when wet like Pampers do!! And we're not contributing to the release of cancer-causing chemicals into the water supply. They are also made in the USA. I do think the sizing might run a bit small, closer to generic brand sizing than Pampers. I got them for $38 shipped from Amazon for a case of 160 size 3 diapers, so they are cheaper than Pampers Cruisers or Huggies Supreme are at my grocery store, even in the big boxes. I was hoping to see if this affected our water bill which tends to be quite high, but our water rates are rising again so I don't know if we'll see a difference.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Minds of Boys

I just finished reading The Minds of Boys by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens. I'd seen this a few times on the shelves at the Derby library, but figured that since the subtitle was "Saving our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life" that it would be more applicable to parents who have have boys in institutional schools. I'm glad that I went ahead and picked it up, as it turned out to be a very good read. The main author, Michael Gurian, is a brain researcher who has founded a consulting firm that assists schools in adjusting their instructional and discipline techniques to better fit what research has shown is good for kids, and he particularly focuses on gender differences and what is good for boys versus what is good for girls. The co-author works for his firm, the Gurian Institute.

The book has sections in each chapter labeled "for the parent" and "for the teacher" that address teaching language arts, math, dealing with learning disabilities or ADD and dealing with unmotivated boys. As a homeschooling parent I found ideas in both the parent and teacher sections to be helpful. Much of the information homeschoolers would already have heard and many homeschoolers already use, but there were some good reminders. The reminders on the importance of physical movement for boys made me think about how I will structure any future co-op classes I teach, as well as think about how we do lessons at home. Some of what was written in this book is similar to another book I've read recently called Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. I'd recommend both the books. I can see that I'd come back to the The Minds of Boys and re-read it when my boys are older and I need another reminder of how their "boy energy" will affect their schooling.