Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Home Project


Organization has always been a huge challenge for me.  When I lived at home, my mom was great at helping me maintain relative tidiness.  When my room threatened to tend a little too much toward chaos, she’d nag – uh, I mean urge – me to straighten up.  Sometimes she’d urge me to do so repeatedly, over a very long time, but eventually I’d do it.

Then I went to college and grad school.  My poor roommates.  I’ve probably mentioned this in the blog before, but I always had the idea that when I settled down in a permanent home (as opposed to a dorm room or apartment), I’d be better at remembering those lessons Mom taught me.  Hmm.

It seems that 1. combining the household stuff of two mid-30s bibliophiles; 2. having kids; and 3. homeschooling does not automatically improve the organizational abilities of the chronically scattered.

My children are either genetically predisposed to messiness, or they are just following my poor example. (Nature versus nurture?)  This is not to say that my darling husband is a paragon of orderliness, but he is probably closer to that end of the organizational spectrum than anyone else in our household.

With that as background, and many previous failures as examples of what NOT to do, I am undertaking a mission to discard as much unnecessary stuff as possible and organize the rest, so that “a place for everything and everything in its place” no longer translates to “everything where it lands” and our disaster area can be referred to as a “home.”  I could go around and ask myself, for each item, “Is it necessary? Is it beautiful? Do I love it?” but I’m thinking of making the first pass through the house with a different question in my mind:  Is it crap?

There are no pictures in this post because “before” pics are too damning.  I’ll post some “in-between” pics as I go along, and when I have some decent “after” shots to show, maybe I’ll be able to share the “befores,” as well.

Wish me luck, and check back monthly for progress reports!

What’s your worst organizational challenge?


Weekly Wrap Up for May 15, 2015


But first, a few words about history.

For History, we are following the progression outlined in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind, which is a four-year rotation through time.  The first year is Ancient Times, then the Middle Ages, then Early Modern History, then Modern Times.  If you start out teaching your first-grader about ancient civilizations, by the time he or she graduates from high school, you will have covered the entire span of human history three times, each time with a little more depth.  Our history focus for most of this year was Modern History – from about 1870 to the present.  We got to the end of Bauer’s The Story of the World, volume 4: Modern Times a few weeks ago. (That book ends a little past the fall of Communism.  When it was published, in 2006, Bauer considered 9/11 and its aftermath to be current events, too recent to see just what impact they would have on history.)

We have started over, at the beginning, and I am SO glad.  Modern history is, of course, worthwhile as a subject – interesting, intriguing, invaluable for understanding our world – but my kiddos, at 9 and 11, want Good Guys and Bad Guys.  Trying to explain the subtleties of shifting alliances and what “national interests” are – meh.  It’ll be much more interesting to me (and hopefully, to them) when they are 13 and 15.  We know so much about the whys of modern history that the details bog the kids down.  3000-year old wars between the Sumerians and Akkadians are just fact.  No need to interpret which group was in the right, it’s enough to know that Akkad overran Sumer.  And hey, let’s make clay tablets to try out writing in cuneiform!

So, here’s the wrap up:

(Pre)History (and a little science):

-Studied up on archaeology and human ancestors like australopithecus, homo habilis, and homo erectus.

-Watched documentary on differences between early modern humans and Neanderthals.

-Used Stone Age tools (rocks!) to open a coconut. 🙂

-Discussed what collection of traits makes us uniquely human.  Kids settled on language, tool use and art.


-Discussed 5 themes of geography (location, place, human-environment interaction, movement and regions).

-Investigated patterns of migration of early humans.

-Noted that movement of information and a different way of interacting with the environment helped early modern humans edge out Neanderthals.


-Continued multiplication facts practice.

-Read up on early number systems and different systems for counting on body parts. (Look up Papua New Guinea counting systems!)

-Learned how keeping track of stuff lead to beginnings of writing; and how the Nile river’s annual flooding helped Egyptians get really good at surveying and geometry, as well as keeping track of time.

-Investigated the invention of zero.

-Went back to last year’s books to review and regain some confidence (both kids do fine with math, but they have a bit of mathphobia).


Science was pretty broad this week, with lots worked into history, but we also:

-Reviewed several earth science documentaries for Daddy (How the Earth Was Made series from the History Channel).

-Investigated bats, spiders and scorpions, at Boy’s request.  These are the “Crawlers” from Lego’s “Legends of Chima” series, and so are of infinite interest to him.  We watched a couple of Magic School Bus episodes and he read lots of library books on the subjects.

-Started an experiment to see if we can grow bacteria from some toys that were left in the bathroom sink for way too long.  We are also testing whether soap and water or bleach and water is more effective at killing bacteria.

-Are working on hatching our second clutch of ducklings. (Sometimes just life is science!)


-Checked out prehistoric cave art online.

-Attempted to grind pigments from rock to make our own “cave paint.” (Might need to try different – that is, softer – rocks for this…or maybe just sidewalk chalk!)

-I’m not really sure if this is art or science, but Girl flaked a rock into a spear point!  The point wouldn’t do much harm to a wooly mammoth, but the beast might get distracted by the sparkly gold ribbon she used to attach the point to the shaft. (Photo coming!)


-Girl had her harp lesson, as usual.  We have neglected practice a bit this week, though.  Daddy is the practice overseer/task master, and he has been super tired lately, as he always is at the end of the school year.

-The kids and I have been discussing the relative merit of Billy Joel’s music in different periods.  In other words, Piano Man and The Ballad of Billy the Kid vs. Uptown Girl, Allentown and For the Longest Time.  Um, probably can’t claim this is vital to their education.  But really, Uptown Girl?  Gah.


-Still plodding along, looking for the Goldilocks curriculum (not too hard, not too easy).  At least the Girl has some familiarity with basic vocabulary.  We checked an interactive program out of the library, and she has been doing about 20 minutes a day this week, but it is a bit too advanced and I can see the “I’m-beginning-to-get-immensely-frustrated-with-this” look on her face.


I can’t keep up with all they read, though I do check over what comes home from the library.  I don’t teach reading, though occasionally I have each of them read aloud a bit, to check fluency and pronunciation.  Didn’t do any of that this week.


Surprisingly, I got both of them to write a decent amount this week, with very little moaning.  Instead of giving them a specific topic and asking them to write, or asking them to write on a topic of their own choosing, I handed them each a sheet with the following typed at the top:

Tell me about the last book you read for fun.  What is the title?  Who is the main character?  Does he or she have friends?  Enemies?  What is the problem in the book?  Did you like it?  Why or why not?

I told them they didn’t have to answer all those questions directly – they were there more as a guide, something to think about if they got stuck.  I wanted complete sentences, and they had to give real reasons for like or disliking the book.  No “I like this book because it was AWESOME!” type answers. –

Boy wrote a good paragraph – he loved his book because “the cats are funny, there’s action, and adventure.”  He needs a little work on punctuation and capitalization, but very little, actually.  I was quite pleased.

-Girl filled the entire page with a very nice summary of her book (which she likes because of the “incredibly sweet” way the main characters always help each other out and work together to find the “best possible solution”).  She only made three teensy errors! And she summarized, instead of trying to retell the whole story verbatim!  Believe me, that’s HUGE.

-They both did a good job on this assignment.  I must have hit on the right amount of structure versus freedom.  Now to try and hit that sweet spot again!