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Monday, October 31, 2011

Xia-Xia Winner!

Congrats go out to lucky number 13!

xiaxia giveaway random

xiaxia winner

Lee is the winner of the Xia-Xia Giveaway!  Lee has been contacted via email and has 48 hours to respond.

Thank you to everyone for entering!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Happened to Our Week in Review?

Weeks back, when I came back to blogging, I started reporting on our week in review and linking it up to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-up

It seemed like the thing to do, being a homeschool blog and all.  And I’d been feeling guilty for awhile for not being more consistent about reporting our homeschool adventures (or lack thereof).  It was something I wanted to do.  And that I felt I should do.

A couple weeks back, my husband saw me struggling over my weekly post and sweating over all the OTHER stuff that I wanted to talk about but never seemed to have the time to talk about.

Stuff that didn’t really fit into the already expanding and growing weekly post.  The post that had bits and pieces of the things I really wanted to talk about creeping in and making it grow.  And grow.  The 1000+ word post that the average visitor probably wouldn’t bother to plow through anyway. 

And he said, “If you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it.”

And my first thought was that I needed to do this.  For me.

It is nice to have a series of posts to look back on that show me exactly what we did each week.  I can see at a glance that we really did do something.  Lots of somethings.

And that can be a good way to head off the end of the year regrets that sometimes hide the good stuff from your memory.

Last year was a hard homeschool year for me.  Lots of doubts.  Lots of regrets.  Lots of feeling inadequate.

Lots of feeling I had totally messed up.

The weekly reviews do buck me up a bit.  No matter how the rest of this year goes, these weeks have been a smashing success.  Not because we finished every assignment and fulfilled every expectation.  Because we didn’t.

But because we really learned some things, both about the things we were actually studying and about ourselves.  And that makes it all worth it.

And I know it was worth it.  That’s something I wasn’t so sure about last year.

But last week I was thinking…I really really really want to post some other stuff.

It’s hard when you’ve agreed to only blog on the weekend.  You jot down little notes through the week.  Then Saturday comes.  You look at your pages.  And pages.  And pages of notes.

And you say:  “AAAAHHH!”

And then you throw in a few product review posts you agreed to do.

Double “AAAAHHH!”

I figured out once that if I scheduled a post a day, I already had enough ideas to fill up an entire month of blog posts.  Not including the review posts.  And the weekly wrap-ups.  And they just kept on coming.

There aren’t enough hours on the Weekend to get all that writing done and even if there were, my family would hate me and my blog if I tried.  Unless I found a way to make money at it…nahh, they’d still hate it.

Last Saturday I went a little overboard.  I spent half the day on my blog while the kids and hubby were visiting the Grands.  And more time on Sunday.  I got up something like 5 or 6 daily posts for the week.  I think every time my family saw me I was in front of the computer.  Or fixing dinner.  And it totally wasn’t worth it.

And then this week end came.  And I said to myself:  “I do not want to do that week in review post.  I don’t even want to post about any of those things on my list.”

And so I didn’t.  It’s easy to rebel against yourself, isn’t it?

And I threw away the list of ideas.  Ok, not really.  But I’m going to.

Because I was going about it wrong.  Or not really wrong, just not in a way that was right for me.

So I’m changing things up a bit.  Reexamining my motives.  Not saying you won’t see another Week in Review on Homeschooling Hearts & Minds.  Just saying it will be on my own time.

And what are the kiddos doing while I type this at 9:41 pm Saturday night, you ask?

Watching Elton John on season 2 of The Muppet Show.

Can you believe it:


Wow, I need some shades.

Here’s what the kiddos thought:


I Want a Camp Stove

The weather man told us to expect 6” of snow today.

So we planned to spend the day warm and snug indoors, with some hot chocolate, games and maybe even a movie.

Then I missed my hot chocolate moment.

Shortly before 3, the power went out

and everything was quiet,  And dark.

And cold.

And I was remembering reading The Long Winter to the girls.

And thinking, as much as I am thankful for all our modern conveniences,…

…they sure have ruined us for doing without.

What I wouldn’t do for Ma’s cookstove.

And knowing what to do with it.

What if we, like Laura and her family, were snowed in for months.

And had no electricity.

No access to food beyond what was in our larder.

No burnable fuel.  Or a place to burn it.

Surely we would starve (without the good will of others).  Or freeze to death.

I like to think that we would, through the grace of God, find a way to survive.

But would we?

Generally we don’t lose our power more than a few hours (this time is was a little over an hour, long enough for me to mull over this post before having computer access to type it).  But there’s always the chance, the possibility that the power won’t be coming back on in a bit.  Because catastrophes do happen.  And long, hard winters do happen.

I want a camp stove.  That’s what I want.

If only so I can boil some water for hot tea and heat up a can of soup..  Something to warm us up and fill our bellies as we snuggle under the blankets…

peter birthday 014…and read of imaginary (or real) worlds far from here.


And pray that the power comes back on.

Do you ever feel limited (or even helpless) because of our modern conveniences?

Our Special Peter

He bounces on tip-toe, waving his little arms like a wee birdie.

He’s excited. The story lady doesn’t quite know what to think of him.

He’s an odd one, she thinks.

He kneels close to see the pictures, bouncing on his knees.

Can the other little boys or girls see over his bobbing head?

Can they hear the story through his myriad of questions?

My boy. My special boy.

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He has a dramatic flair.


He’s maybe a little goofy.


He’s a lover


and a fighter.

And he struggles. He struggles with not being “normal.” He struggles with things that most of us take for granted.

Being in a big group of other kids is a struggle. Sitting still for several minutes at time is another struggle. Following the rules when they conflict with his own wants/needs is yet another struggle.

And then maybe he’s a little hungry. And a little tired. And a little bored.

He’s trying sooo hard. Sometimes his best isn’t good enough.

And sometimes he’s not capable of his best.

Sometimes he can’t even get comfortable in his own skin.

His physical reality will never be “normal.”

I knew that on the day he was born. It’s slowly dawning on me the full impact that his physical reality and the experiences caused by it have had on him.

On who he is. On how he sees himself. On how he responds to the world around him.

In a word, he’s intense.

About everything.

He loves ferociously.

When you say good-bye, he never wants to let you go. Maybe he’ll never see you again. Maybe on some deep level he knows just how fragile our temporal world is.

I’ve seen people who love him practically scraped him off and run away…it’s too much.

They can’t take the intensity of his love. They can’t deal with with it.

I understand. I really do.

He can never let go.

But then there’s the other side. Don’t ever make him mad. Think David Banner/Incredible Hulk mad.

The same 50 pound boy who couldn’t stop hugging and kissing you can turn into a lean mean powerhouse in a minute.

Sometimes It takes every ounce of strength I have to get him back under control..

Then it’s I who can never let go.

He’s exquisitely sensitive. He reads your looks and breaks to pieces if big bro so much as glares at him.

It’s hard. Sometimes I fail him.

Sometimes I want to hide him from those prying eyes of people who don’t get him, so he can’t be hurt.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed and want to hide myself.

Sometimes I lose my patience. I raise my voice.

He’s on to me, though. He knows I don’t mean it. He knows I’m just mad. He knows mad. He doesn’t take it seriously.

It doesn’t help, anyway, getting mad. It seems I was never really taught how to regulate my own temper. Now I’m trying to teach this little guy how to regulate his?

Sound like the blind leading the blind?

Good thing we have faith in a Higher Power, ya think? Because left on my own, I know I can’t do it.

I’ve tried. I tend to forget to ask for help. Sometimes I mistakenly think that God dropped my children into my lap and just left them there

But I know that He created Peter as he is.

He knows Peter as he is.

He loves Peter, as he is.

And He knows what Peter needs. For some reason He chose me to be Peter’s mama.

He must know that we need each other.

But it’s so hard sometimes, really hard.

Time to dry my eyes and go to bed.

.Is there a child with special needs in your life?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Monster Drawing Tutorial by Peter

Gather the kiddos around!  Today our resident master artist, Peter (age 6) is going to teach them how to draw The Kroom:


There is no sound on this video (I had to strip it out due to kid related background noise), but Peter did not give any verbal instruction.  I recommend viewing it full-screen.

How to draw “the Kroom.”

Enjoy, I know that Peter would appreciate your comments. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tonka XT Ricochet Tricksters


Here’s a remote control vehicle that’s got every kiddo in my house fighting over it, whether they are 2 or almost 12! 


Watch the “Tonka XT Ricochet Trickster Buzzsaw in action:

This little guy will make even your wee ones experts at performing vehicular acrobatics.  In addition to the regular forward and backward levers, there’s a special “trick” button that makes performing your Trickster’s specialty simple enough for even old fogies (like me).

Tricksters come in 2 varieties:  Buzzsaw and Rampage.  The Buzzsaw’s special trick is spinning.  Press the trick button once to spin in one direction and again to spin in the opposite direction.  The Rampage’s special trick is flipping.  Both cars can be made to do both tricks without using the “special” button.  We received the Buzzsaw for review.

Tonka XT Ricochet Tricksters are small and rechargeable.  You just plug the car into the remote to recharge.  The remote takes 4 AA batteries (not included). Tonka says charging takes about 20 minutes and lasts about 15-20 minutes.  We found that the first charge only took about 13 minutes and lasted 25 minutes.  Subsequent charges on the same batteries take slightly longer and last a slightly shorter time, but the figures they give seem to be the average. 

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We’ve been playing with this for a couple of weeks, have charged it multiple times, and are still using the same set of batteries, so it’s no battery hog.

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The cord is as short as it possibly can be, but it’s not too difficult to plug in (the place where it goes is on the side of the car, between the wheels).  The compartment that hides the cord is also as small as it possibly can be, there’s exactly one way to stow the cord away if you want it to fit.

Although these cars are designed for ages 6 and up, the controls are ultra simple.  Even my 2-year-old (with supervision) has no trouble controlling the Buzzsaw. 

There are 2 levers, one each on the right and left, to control the car’s direction.  If you flip one lever in one direction and the other in the opposite direction, the car will spin.  Press both levers up, and the car goes straight forward.  Press them down, and it goes backwards, but not straight (it turns unpredictably).  When the car is flipped, the controls are reversed. 

You’ll notice that the profile is so low that it tends to drive under things.  It also tends to get stuck under things and the car doesn’t seem to receive signals from the remote when it is under something.  No biggie, but sometimes frustrating for youngers kids.

Flipping the car is pretty easy.  You can flip by running into something or quickly switching direction.  Even I can do it!

The car also runs on 3 different channels (there’s a switch on both the car and the remote for changing channels), making it easy to run multiple cars in one room.

This one is definitely a keeper!  I like that it’s small and easy to put away, with no unruly antenna to get in the way.  The kiddos like the ease of use and tricky nature of the Tonka XT Ricochet Trickster, although the oldest wouldn’t mind having more control over the car. 

If you want precision driving, the Ricochet Trickster isn’t for you.

If you like a little quirky unpredictability, the Trickster is a fun ride and a good pick for under your Christmas tree.  Look for it at Toys ‘R Us and other area stores. 

Tonka XT Ricochet Tricksters are suggested for ages 6 and up, though I think most 5-year-olds could handle it..

Disclosure:  I received this toy for free from Tonka through BzzAgent in the hopes that I’d  like it enough to talk about it.  I received no compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way obligated to write a positive review.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Committing Words to Memory

Note:  This is the first in a series of posts I plan to write (ah, the best laid plans, wink) on how I have learned to learn in spite of (and sometimes because of) my particular learning glitches

I’m not a learning expert, and I don’t even play one on this blog, but I offer these thoughts, ruminations, memories, whatever you’d like to call them, in an effort to give you a window into what living with a learning disability looks and feels like for some. 

I also want to share some of the techniques I’ve stumbled across that have helped me to learn.  While these techniques won’t work for everyone and may not work for your child, I’m hopeful that some of these ideas can be used as a source of inspiration, whether you homeschool or just want to give a special child some extra help.  

I would love to hear about any of your children’s successes in overcoming (or embracing) their learning differences.

When  I was in 7th grade, our English teacher wanted us memorize some poems.  The very first one was by Emily Dickinson.

Imagine being a shy, self-conscious 7th grader who had to go over the math facts with her mom every single night in 4th grade and still had to practice them in her head to remember them (more on that in another post) and being told that you had a week to memorize and recite an umpteen line poem.

Add to that my OCD-style perfection and fear of failure, and well, I was a wreck.

To say I had the shakes is putting it mildly.

So, I read over the poem.  I read it aloud and in my head.  I tried to picture it in my brain.  And when the day came to recite it, I simply did not know it and refused to recite it.

“Ok, Susan, you get a zero and you will recite it for us tomorrow.”

And my heart sank.  Not only did I have to live down the humiliation of standing up and admitting in front of the whole class that I didn’t know the assignment, but I still had to do the thing I could not do.  And I didn’t have a week or even a weekend to do it in.  I had a day.

I did not tell my parents.  I did not ask for help.

Maybe I could have just kept getting zeros indefinitely?  But in that case, my parents were bound to catch on.

An aside:  I mention this part for a reason.  There’s a possibility that you have a child who has similar struggles, but they are not coming to you for help.  It might be pride, fear (even if it’s unwarranted), perfectionism, or confusion.  Maybe she’s simply unable to put into words what’s going on.  But if she is having difficulties, even invisible difficulties, your help, at home or in school, could make a difference.

I was stuck.  I had to succeed.  My teacher was not going to just let me get by and fail this part of the course.  On the other hand, she didn’t really give me the tools I needed to succeed.  Not exactly her fault, she certainly didn’t know about my learning difficulties.

But, aside from reading the material and trying to remember it, no one had ever really given me a clue as to how to commit words to memory.  When does reading something, or looking at it, translate into knowing it and being able to recall it at will? 

Tip:  Always explain or show your kiddos how to do something.  Don’t assume that they already know (they’ll tell you if they do.;0)

I’m going to tell you what I did and explain why it worked (there have been a lot of studies in brain function and learning disabilities in the few decades and I’ve done a lot of reading).

Rather than simply read the poem over and over, which simply didn’t work for me (I know that works for some), or  reading it aloud, which didn’t work any better (I’m definitely not an auditory learner), I copied it out by hand.  And copied it again.  And again.  I think I copied it 3-5  times.

I was then able to recite it in my head, which I did over and over again, only referring to the written poem if I got stuck on a word.

By feeding the information to my brain through more than one channel (hearing it, writing it, reading it--- auditory, kinesthetic, and visual), I strengthened the neuron pathways in my brain.  There are modern studies, now, that confirm that that multi-stimuli approach is very effective for learning. 

A child who has difficulties with the physical aspects of writing could probably do this by typing.  A younger child could arrange word tiles or even letter tiles if it is a very short passage.  A pre-writing child, or one who has trouble sitting still for any of those things, may benefit from drawing what they are hearing, or acting it out, or building it with blocks or Lego.  The point is that seeing and hearing something is not enough for some of us.  We need to feel it.   We need to do it with our hands.

The next day, I recited the poem without any difficulty.  In fact, I recited it so well (it wasn’t a dramatic recitation, by any means, but not a sing-songy schoolgirl recitation, either), that my teacher became convinced that I had known the poem the day before.  I was just too shy to recite in front of the class.

She changed my zero to an A.

She was wrong, of course.  But only I (and God) knew that.

Happy ending, right?

Ah, but the story doesn’t end there.  Learning something for a single recitation isn’t really of much value if you don’t retain that knowledge for future use. 

Learning for me is difficult enough.  Remembering what I’ve learned…that’s an ongoing struggle.  I simply don’t retain well.  There seems to be a glitch in the “converting to long-term memory department.”

So, whenever I thought of it, I recited that poem in my head.  And over time, I did it much less often, until I got to the point where I recited in my head (or out loud to someone) maybe once a year or even less often.  

Today, about 38 years later, I still know this poem by heart. though I rarely dust it off and recite it.

Here it is from memory.  Please pardon any wrong line breaks or punctuation errors.  I’m not going to cheat by looking it up (remember, I learned it for recitation, not grammar ;0):
A Day by Emily Dickinson
I’ll tell you how the sun rose
a ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
the news-like squirrels ran,
the hills untied their bonnets,
the bobolinks begun,
then I said softly to myself
that must have been the sun.
But where he set, I know not,
there seemed a purple stile,
which little yellow boys and girls
were climbing all the while,
‘til when they reached the other side
a domine in gray
put gently up the evening bars
and led the flock away.
This technique served me well when I had to memorize a new poem every week or so in a writer’s workshop class I took in college.  And be prepared to recite any and all of those poems from memory at the end of the semester.  Yikes!

Of course, you can’t use this technique on your history lessons, nor would you want to.  But if you are memorizing scripture, poetry, or even famous quotations in your homeschool, and the kiddos seem to be having some difficulty, give it a try.

What techniques have you found that can help a challenged learner commit words to memory?

You might also enjoy:
When Mama Has a Learning Disability, Too

Monday, October 24, 2011

Win! New Xia-Xia Pets #XiaXia

Be sure to read to bottom for the giveaway!

My little ones have been clamoring for a pet. A hamster. Or maybe a hermit crab.

The thing about pets: they have to be fed, watered, loved, cuddled, and cared for.

The thing about my kids: they’re still pretty young and not the most responsible bunch. Loving, yes. But they forget.

The thing about me: my ADD brain probably can’t handle keeping another thing alive. Especially not something that doesn’t stick itself right under my nose and demand my attention.

House plants don’t stand a chance with me.

What might happen to a poor critter in a cage? Confused smile

I think maybe Cephia, the maker of Zhu-Zhu Pets, had my family in mind when they came up with their brand new Xia-Xia Pets. They’re kinda cute, small, and and don’t need to be fed, at least not until their batteries run down.


Bimini, Tobago, Trinidad, and Turks.

We received 2 Tobagos and 2 Trinidads for review.
Each Xia-Xia comes with watch batteries already installed and ready to play with. Just flip the tiny switch on the bottom.
They are activated by lightly pushing down (tapping) their claws, which causes that friction wheel to spin sending them scurrying backwards (as if they were startled away from an obstacle), then forwards. The legs move, but they don’t actually touch the floor. That tiny pivoting wheel causes them to randomly change direction for some fun unpredictability.

If they run into something, they might reactivate and keep moving. Tobago (the blue one) is more like to reactivate and go here, there and everywhere. Both of our Trinidads seem a bit sluggish, slow to activate, and unlikely to reactivate. Maybe Trinidad is just more laid back.
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Each crab has its own 2-piece shell. Shells are interchangeable and new fancy shells can be purchased as accessories.

Each Xia-Xia pet comes with its own ”pet” that can ride inside or on its shell (there’s a little point to stick it on). These teeny critters range from the ultra cute (the penguin is adorable), to the scary (the lantern fish is a bit ferocious), to the bizarrely mundane (a cup of hot chocolate? or maybe it’s coffee?). Replacement shells each come with 2 little friends.

We received 4 different replacement shells for review.

The 2-piece shells are a bit fiddly to take apart, but it’s quite easy to change shells from one crab to another. Some of the little pets are better at staying on the shells than others, depending on their shape. The lantern fish, for instance, has a tail that doesn’t fit snuggly against the Xia’s shell, so it tends to pop off.

The 2-piece shells and tiny friends make this toy a potential choking hazard for little ones. If you have wee ones in your home, you’ll want to keep track of those tiny pieces. Xia-Xia Pets are labeled for ages 4 and up.

Let me say here: I don’t like tiny pieces. My kids tend to lose them just where I’ll step on them and my vacuum likes to suck them up. The little pets are cute, but they do tend to get lost. We’ve found that best place to keep them is inside the shells, but they still get lost.

We also received 3 homes for our new Xia-Xias:


Confetti Cottage
This is the simplest of the sets and is ready to play with right out of the box, no assembly required. Confetti Cottage is designed to carry your Xia-Xias where ever you go. You’ll notice there are 2 compartments. There’s also a back door.

Xia-Xias fit comfortably (upright) in the bottom compartment without their shells on. Shells fit in the top compartment. You can fit the Xias into the cottage with their shells on if you put them in on their sides. In fact, my girls managed to cram all 4 in there, plus the extra shells in the top compartment, but it was a tight fit. It would have been nice if the bottom compartment were just a tad higher so your Xias could rest upright, but we do like the nice compact size.

Confetti Cottage can be hooked onto…


…the Copacabana Playset. This was the most elaborate of the playsets, requiring the most assembly time (still only about 10-15 minutes), But I figured it out without asking for help! I call this the“hip and ironic” playset.

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Those are rows of shoes! Do Xia-Xias wear shoes? And would they wear them in pairs, lol? I think maybe someone at Cephia has a weird sense of humor. Or perhaps they think little girls can't get enough of shoes?

I have mixed feelings about this playset. In some ways it’s limiting.

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It’s hard to see, but that clear yellow ramp has a steep incline that the Xias can go down, but they can’t go up. ‘And it really doesn’t go anywhere. The other shelves are too small for the Xias themselves, but they can be used to display extra shells and accessories (I guess girls like to display their “stuff?”).

However, Copacabana does have possibilities the maker didn’t intend.
Yes, my boys figured out pretty quickly that Tobago can be decapitated and left hanging on the roof (Trinidad cannot be decapitated, this is important to know). And Copacabana has other great cliff-hanging possibilities:

Winking smile

Leave it to the boys to find a selling point.

Of course, these aren’t really meant for boys at all. Notice the distinctive purple and pink color scheme? The frills? My boys didn’t care, they played with them anyway, right alongside the girls. How’s that for bucking societal stereotypes?

The largest playset is the Rio de Trio Village (in the foreground).
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Rio is easy to assemble and gives you some room for the Xias to mingle and play. This was probably our favorite of the 3 playsets, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. The palm tree comes out much too easily (as in, I gave up putting it back does make a nice obstacle for the Xias, though) and the little shelves on the far left (for displaying “stuff”) also come out very easily (one is already lost). But, you know what? I have no problem just removing the removables. The little openings between the different sections are just not quite wide enough, unless the Xia happens to head dead-on in the right direction...otherwise, they tend to get hung up.

And you’re asking: Why do I need a playset at all? Can’t I just play with them on a table or the floor?

Xias are a fun-loving, energetic bunch. Blink, and they are gone.

I recommend "containing" them somehow. Our favorite “playset” was the cardboard box one of the playsets came in.

All of our Xia-Xia Pets and accessories seemed to have a strong chemically odor to them straight from the package. We’ve had them out for a little over a week, and the smell has dissipated, but not completely. Don’t go sniffing your Xias. I suspect in a little more time the smell will vanish, but beware if you are sensitive to odors.

All of my kiddos have enjoyed playing with Xia-Xia Pets, from the 11-year-old boy, down to the 2-year-old (with careful supervision) girl. Little Peter prefers to play with them turned off, as if they were crab action figures. He loves their ability to hang from things.

I like that beyond their motor noise, they don’t make any noises. No music, no sound effects. Yes!

Durability? Hard to say. These have all had drops of a few feet and are still working like new. The claws an feet can be pulled off, but they snap right back on. I think they’ll hold up pretty well.

Xia-Xia Pets and accessories are available at both Toys ‘R Us and Walmart, and would make a cute stocking stuffer for the little girl (or boy!) in you life.

And now for the giveaway! Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Xia-Xia, one of my readers is going to win their very own Xia-Xia and an extra Xia-Xia shell! (Note: Xia-Xia and shell will be chosen by the sponsor at random.)

Deadline to enter: Monday, October 31, 2011 at 8 pm est.
Giveaway is open to US residents 18 and over.

Mandatory to enter: Visit the Xia-Xia website and tell me which Xia-Xia you would like to win. Please leave your email addy in your comment (it’s okay to disguise it: susanadale at gmail dot com).

Optional entry: Follow Homeschooling Hearts & Minds on Twitter and tweet this giveaway using the #XiaXia hashtag. Give me the link to your tweet in you comment. You may use this text if you like:
Win a #XiaXia pet from the makers of Zhu Zhu Pets at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds ends 10/31
Disclosure: I received the products reviewed in this post through Xia-Xia and MomSelect for review purposes. I received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I’m a Misfit…


…And proud of it!

I’m just tickled!  One of you wonderful readers thought enough of my rambling thoughts to nominate me for the Not Coming Soon Award.  Apparently y’all have noticed that I have a bad (sorry) habit of mentioning something I’m going to post about…and then never posting about it, lol.

If you would like to register your agreement, please visit Not So Superwoman and vote for me!  That’s Homeschooling Hearts & Minds under #8 The Not Coming Soon Award.  I won’t be offended. 

And visit some of the other truly outstanding blogs who have been nominated in the in this and the other 9 categories.  I really don’t deserve to be in the running.  Vote.  Be heard.   And thank Lori for designing and putting together this thing.  It’s truly a labor of love (and good fun).

Winking smile

Our 8th Week in Review: Sunshine and Apples

Another jam packed week!

Classical Studies: We studied the parting the Red Sea, the myth of Otus and Ephialtes, and the story of Caius Mucius (in spite of all the “mucus” jokes, ahem).

Language Arts: All the kiddos are working on getting ready for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This week our concentration was developing plot. I can’t share any details about their stories, yet (they would kill me).

Mary is doing quite well in spelling. This week, in addition to working through All About Spelling Level 2, I added in some Bible copywork for her.

Peter is slowly progressing in reading. Slow and steady is fine. We are working on developing more automaticity, which was a struggle for Mary as well (she got past it). I don’t see any evidence of learning difficulties in this area, so I think he’ll get it when he’s good and ready.

Math: Mary is zooming through Jump Start Math, grade 2. David finished chapter 11 of Life of Fred Fractions. He is currently reviewing all his multiplication facts and the procedures for reducing fractions, multiplying multi-digit numbers, and long division. Peter is slowing down a bit in Right Start, which is fine. We’re aiming for mastery, not finishing the book on time.

Social Studies: I made a discovery this week…a long forgotten book called Home Geography for the Primary Grades! Emma pulled it off a shelf and left it on the floor where I almost slipped on it. Thank you, Emma! We’ve been trying to study local geography this year, and it’s the one area that seems to be slipping by. I think this will help me get my act together, ahem!

Science: We took a field Trip to Catoctin Mountain Orchard where we learned all about how they grow apples (and other things…I got a recipe for kale that just might inspire me to try to grow some next year!).

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A little warm snap made Peter’s cooling vest a necessity.

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Music: We started studying Mendelsohn.

Art: Sun Prints!

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This paper reacts to sunlight. Basically, you take a flat object, place it on the paper, expose it to the sun for a couple of minutes, then put it in water to stop the reaction. When it dries, you end up with a silhouette. David’s is the coolest (and most creative). He made a paper cutout of a wasp (!) and used it with a real leaf to create his picture:

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I’m learning to do school without a printer. Would you believe that the one printer suddenly died (it needs a part that would cost close to the cost of a new printer), and the other one refuses to be compatible with our Windows 7 computer? You don’t know how much you use something until you don’t have it. Fortunately, we don’t do much in the way of worksheets, because I don’t see a replacement in my near future. ;0)

Overall, 'twas a good week in our homeschool. How was yours?

You might also enjoy:

Our 7th Week in Review
Our 6th Week in Review
Our 2011-2012 Curriculum

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scrapbook Freebie from My Memories Suite, Plus a Discount Code!

How would you like to download this lovely template for free?


My Memories Suite is offering a free gift to all my readers. 

This is 100% free, no obligation (you will not be asked for any contact info).  The download includes 2 “Quick Pages” you can just add your photos and any extras to, PLUS all the elements, so you can create from scratch (or add to your digital stash ;0).  These files can be used with most graphics software, so give them a try.

soccer-001Here’s the quick I put together using the elements.

And if you do happen to be in the market for a digital scrapping program, take a closer look at My Memories SuiteMy Memories is more than just a graphics program for creating printable pages (although I love it for that…my blog header was created with My Memories).  This baby gives you the tools you need to create an interactive scrapbook you can send to your friends and relatives, complete with your own audio and video files.  Plus, your pages can exported as jpegs, greeting cards, calendars, even iPod ready vids.  You can read my full review of My Memories Suite here.

Click here for the link to the free template from My Memories Suite.

To purchase My Memories Suite and get a $10 discount, plus a $10 off coupon code for future My Memories shop purchases (add some cool papers and embellishments), please use this code (copy and paste):  STMMMS52587

Disclosure:  This post does contain affiliate links.  Any and all proceeds I receive from My Memories are used to help finance our homeschool expenses (I’m currently saving to replace our recently defunct printer).  I do use, love, and stand by this product and would not be an affiliate otherwise.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When Mama Has a Learning Disability, Too

The year I turned 30, I found out I have ADD.  And OCD.  And some kind of learning "glitch."
And a door opened.

But let's step back a bit, first. 

My early elementary life in a traditional public school setting was fraught with failure. 

And despair.

First, it was learning to read.

I just couldn’t do it.

But then my mother's friend unlocked the reading door for me through tutoring, although I continued to have "comprehension" issues.

To this day, don't ask me to answer a multiple-choice comprehension test.  I'll get it wrong.  I just can't come up with the one right answer for anything, and always seem to be looking for the meaning between the lines (more on this in a bit).  Fill-in-the-blank is even worse.

But talk to me about what I read, ah, then I have plenty to share.

Maybe I don't really have comprehension issues after all.  ;0)

Then it was those blasted math facts.

This time my mom got me over the hurdle by working with me every night herself.  And somehow I got through it. 

But something wasn’t quite right.

My grades were ok.  And they got better (I even had a few quarters in there with straight A’s).

But I absolutely hated school.

Now, a large part of that was being a social misfit…and maybe I’ll talk about that at some other point (or not, my “socialization” by public school is not something I like to revisit), but there was more to it than that.  Something didn’t click for me. 

Eventually I moved on to middle school.

And to high school.

And finally, I wasn't so much of an outcast, socially---I guess I met enough other "weird" people to hang out with?  That'll happen when you go to a high school with over 2000 students and a graduating class of over 400.

But I still hated school.

And myself.

And part of that came from that fact that no matter how hard I worked, I still couldn’t get it right.  You see, I would spend hours reading my school assignments, going over and over the material, and still I could not find the answers in my head when it came time to answer those multiple choice questions on the test.

History was the worst.  All those dates. 

I would find myself closing my eyes and mentally opening the textbook, flipping to the page that I knew the answer was on, and reading it to answer the question.  All in my head.

An aside:  This is how I discovered that I have a "photographic" memory.

Another aside:  While having a photographic memory is a pretty cool trick (and surprisingly helpful in many situations), it doesn't necessarily make it easier to to retrieve information you have learned.  It just means that you can see the information in your head.  Think about that for a minute.  When I forget what was on the shopping list (you know, the one I left sitting on the kitchen counter?), I can (sometimes) call up an image of the list in my head.  But, I don't know what's on the list until I read it on the image in my head.  And sometimes the picture that I see in my head is incomplete.

It's a different kind of "knowing" something. And it's great for some things, but lousy for taking multiple choices tests.

But this problem was invisible.  Grade-wise, I did fine.  In fact, I graduated from high school in the top 10% of my class.  The perfectionist (remember the OCD?)in me wouldn’t allow me to fail (although I did receive my share of deficiency reports mid-quarter, seems I just needed an extra kick in the pants to work harder).

And I trudged along, getting by in couple of subjects, doing quite well in a few others.  I rocked in typing and word processing.  Total hands-on.  But I also did quite well in English and art.  Anywhere I could use my hands or explore (even if it was only mentally) was a good place for me to be.

Eventually I moved onto college, where I did really really well.  Except for all those multiple choice and fill-in the blank tests in History 101. 

I hated History 101.

In college I wrote lots of papers.  And took essay tests.  And had conversations with people.  And I started to understand that knowledge wasn’t really about regurgitating information onto a test..

Another aside:  This brings me to another point, and this is something that I didn't discover until this week (the year I turn 40!), I'm also right-brain dominant. 

Whew!  50% of all people are.  Maybe I'm not so weird, after all?

I still had (have) problems.  My college books are full of under-linings.  I mean margin-to-margin, page-after-page under-linings.  In order to understand what I was reading (my degree is in English and Philosophy, so I did a ton of reading), I would have to read, reread, and finally read and underline.  I didn't know it at the time, but I think I was making a visual imprint on my brain.

Not perfect.  But it helped.  I didn't spend much time partying.  Not when I had to read everything about 3 times to make it stick.  Not when I had hundreds of pages to read.

But that's only the reading half of it.
You know those light-bulb moments, the instant where you come to a realization and everything just clicks for you?  You finally get it? 


Insights don't need to necessarily be something big and dramatic.  Realizing that your nails need to be trimmed is an insight.  But then, so is realizing that "b" makes the /b/ sound.

Insights (lightbulb moments) are what bridge the gap between teaching and learning.

You can try to teach your child all day long that certain letters make certain sounds.  But, you can never force him to have the "aha" moment where it just clicks in his brain.

You can't make him have an insight.

And you can't make him learn.

That can be frustrating for teachers when children just don't seem to be "getting it," right?

And doubly frustrating for the kids who don't seem to be able to get it.

Now, imagine that you've had the insight, you get it, but then you forget it.

And so someone teaches it to you again, you finally get it, but you forget it again.

You might get it easier each time, but still, you're handicapped by having to have the same insight over and over and over again.

And eventually you get so tired of forgetting everything that you learned that you start trying to keep it all at the top of your brain at once…because you just don’t know if you’ll be able to retrieve the it otherwise.

Or you write yourself incessant notes.

Or drop everything to write a blog post about what you’re thinking this moment so you can read it later and maybe remember..

This is part of my learning difficulty.

Nobody forgets how to ride a bike, right?
After spending most of my childhood riding here, there, and everywhere, I did.

Nobody forgets their own phone number, right?
I can only remember my phone number by visualizing it on the keypad.  And I've had the same phone number for over a year.

There are other things that I can’t necessarily communicate, little bits, little pieces of my learning puzzle.

I have lived with my learning differences my entire life.  But it wasn't until the year I turned 30 that I knew there was a reason for my flakiness.  Because I did think I was just flaky.  Sometimes I thought I was mad.

And a door opened. 

I couldn't change the past.  I couldn't even cure myself.  But I knew, finally, that I wasn’t to blame.  And that there’s something unique about my “wiring” that makes some aspects of life a little more difficult, but that I also have particular gifts.

God-given gifts.

I’m not just a screw-up.  I haven’t failed.  I was just being who I am.

That’s pretty liberating.

And so, when I look into my oldest child’s eyes and see his tears of frustration, 

and when I grade his math work and recognize the same struggles I faced myself,

or feel myself getting a little frustrated myself after explaining long division, again,

I weep for him, because I know something of difficulties he faces, difficulties that I would spare him if I possibly could.

But  I’m thankful that we are learning about his difficulties when he is 11, not when he is 30.  And that I can help him through this.

Read more about our learning adventure:

Changing My Style

In Child-Like wonder

On Parenting


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Know Any Homeschool Blogging Misfits…

…who won’t knock your block off for nominating them for the Annual Homeschool Misfit Awards At Not So Superwoman?

Here’s your chance to show how much you love them in all their loveable misfittiness.


Click the button and start nominating!

Categories include:

  • The WannaBe Award
  • The Squirrel Award
  • The Harried Homeschooler Award
  • The Perfect Procrastinator Award
  • The Blabber Award
  • The Not Coming Soon Award
  • and others

Do any of them sound like the perfect fit for your own nner misfit, maybe?

Hurry, nominations close on Wed., October 19th.

Also accepting nominations is the ever popular Homeschool Blogger Awards!


It’s always fun to meet some new (to me) bloggers through the awards. 

I challenge you to spread a little encouragement.  Nominate a homeschool blogger you love, especially if they are off the beaten-path, unique, not exactly hitting the stratosphere in followers, but doing something that inspires, impresses, or otherwise makes your day.  The rest of us can’t find them unless you tell us about them.