Nov 142010

I have stopped pursuing out-of-state school visits, and I am grateful indeed that most of the puzzle events I attend are within driving distance. I am simply not going to fly until the TSA comes to its senses. Even with all the outrage at their new security theater tactics, I don’t expect this to happen anytime soon.

Here’s a must-read story of what you can expect at the airport today.

Nov 092010

I’ll be there this weekend! I don’t usually get all gaga about meeting other writers, but I will make an exception for Norton Juster, whose Phantom Tollbooth is one of the most important books of my childhood. Plus fellow NPLer Mike Reiss will be there supporting his new picture book, Just Too Cute. I’ve never done one of these book fair thingies, have always wanted to, and I am looking forward to this weekend. (I’ll look forward to it even more after I have nailed down the presentation I’m supposed to make on Sunday afternoon.)

Nov 092010

You know what? When your homeschooled student is having a hard time on a particular concept, you are allowed to skip that concept and come back to it later! Just because it’s the next thing in the textbook doesn’t mean it’s the next thing you have to do. This may strike you as glaringly obvious, but for us regimented classroom types, it’s been a revelation.

That said, we don’t understand why Lea is having such a hard time converting back and forth between inches, feet, and yards. Is that not the same basic thing as converting between nickels and dimes and dollars? Which she can do just fine? We ask her to convert X number of feet into Y yards, and she says, “Which number do I have to multiply by 12?” What? Huh? She’s usually so quick to pick up on things that we are honestly stymied when we stumble into one of her mental blind spots.

So we’ve tabled the matter entirely and moved on to fractions. Who cares if she can’t convert distances into yards? Lea doesn’t even like football.

Reading: She and Mom are reading My Side of the Mountain during the day, and for our nighttime reading we just finished Shiloh, which Lea and I both enjoyed a great deal. Shiloh is as thematically complicated as a children’s book can get — it’s a heartfelt exploration of the difference between right and wrong, and the many gray areas between those two obvious extremes. I don’t think I did a very good job discussing those themes with Lea, but I can always try again after we watch the movie version this week. (Streaming on Netflix! How did people even do homeschooling before the Internet?)

Spelling/grammar: She’s really very good at spelling — in our giant, all-encompassing vocabulary book, she’s already up to the sixth grade. As for grammar, we continue to give her worksheets she can do in a breeze, because every once in a while we find one of those blind spots. (You’re/your being the most recent.)

Spanish: Kinda sorta but not really working with a software program.

Science: Continuing along with the kitchen science, with an emphasis now on the concluding writeup, Lea’s analysis on what we did and why it worked (or didn’t). After an experiment involving a balloon and the top of a soda bottle, Lea concluded that “Air makes things MOVE!“, with the final word written in six-inch-high letters. We’ll be submitting that for peer review.

Social studies: Pilgrims, natch.

Art and music: She’s been learning about Jackson Pollock, and is looking forward to making some splatter paintings of her own. And this Friday we’re going to a nearby museum doing an Escher exhibit. As for music, she’s been learning various folk songs, and teaching herself how to play the melodies on the piano.

Plus we are continuing on with Sam and Max — we finished Season 1 and have moved on to Season 2. Also, Fireboy and Watergirl (and its superior sequel) are great puzzle games for two players — you and your partner have to work together to solve each level. I don’t know if they were made for a parent to solve with a child, but they are ideal for exactly that purpose.

Things I’d like to get to in the near future: Having her write stories. Nothing too long, but I’d like them to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And we read a whole lot of poetry in the past month, and I intended her to try to write a poem herself, and somehow we never quite got around to that. What kind of poem would you start a third-grader on? Haiku? Limericks? Simple four-line ABAB poems? Whaddaya think?

Nov 042010

“Cooks Source” magazine decided to steal somebody’s essay off a Web site and run it without permission or compensation. When called on this thievery, editor Judith Griggs had the effrontery to… well, really, you’ve got to read it yourself to believe it. Here and then here. Absolutely unbelievable.

Guess which cooking magazine this frequent cooking-magazine buyer will never buy?