Thursday, March 26, 2009

Taking the Curriculum Plunge

So as I told you at some point, Forrest has been doing a Biology Correspondence Course through Keystone Highschool. It is an online accredited school. We chose the correspondence course because it was cheaper but also secretly because i didn't want him hogging my computer all day. there, i said it. Any way, he loves it. Its tough and thorough. Exams all have at least 3 multiple part, essay questions and he must complete two term papers. They do have an open book policy but I know from experience that doesn't really make a huge difference. All it really means is that if you are unsure of something and you know where the info is in the book you can check. Otherwise it just takes a ton of time flipping back and forth. It is so much better to just study and learn the material. Forrest agrees. Any way, he got his first two exams back 88 and 91 and he really loves it. Or as he said, "as much as you can love school work".
We have been a little unsure of Forrest's next move lately. He was considering going back to public school for high school next year. Mostly because we have recently moved here to VERY rural Maine from Massachusetts. Forrest doesn't have any friends here and it's proven tough to meet kids his age. He doesn't play sports and there just isn't much going on outside of school. I met a mom of two teens at the ski lodge one day. She used to homeschool her kids. She sent them back for the same reason, a recent long distance move, no friends. Her advice to me was to find "any other way for them to make friends, she very much regrets putting them back into school". I have been more worried about his education. We have basically been winging it for a long time now. We have always used a Math curriculum, but everything else has been all over the place. We recently purchased Rosetta Stone French for homeschooling. It is wonderful! The kids are really learning french! Forrest is very bright and articulate and reads more than any person I have ever known. He can even read in the car with out getting sick! A gift! He also really enjoys writing and writes very well. But, I just felt like it was time for him to get serious about school. He wants to graduate early and he wants to be a CSI. So we chose some classes and ordered a full course load through Keystone. If he completes enough credits through them he will earn a true diploma. They will even evaluate and transfer credit for any other curriculum he has used. This means his Rosetta Stone French will count as credit through them. Because he is going to be a science major, we decided to squeeze in as much science as we could. So, here are his course selections. Chemistry, English I, World History and Algebra, these along with finishing his Bio, he is about 1/2 way through, and his French. It is a lot! yes, but even at 5 hours a day it is still less than a typical school day and with no commute. I did ask him not to get a job until he was well into this year and could judge better whether he can handle it all. His goal is for him to finish this in 6 months and move on. We will see.
Forrest voiced that he would really like to do some of the courses online. I just didn't see how this could work with one family computer that is out in the main living area. Distractions are a huge problem for forrest. That is why he has a desk in his room. He came up with this; He had $175 saved from shoveling this winter and another $175 in the bank ( I strongly encourage (force) him to put half of what he makes away for his future). He has already researched and found a laptop for $360 online. Would I let him use his savings to purchase the laptop. He would use it primarily for school and he would never try to use his savings again, he promised. How can I say no?
So we ordered the laptop, And the curriculum, two online two correspondence. He will now be able to work in his room. I still have to purchase a wireless router and I had to fork up the extra money for the online courses. But, Forrest is very happy, so I guess it is worth it. Of course, he hasn't actually started the work yet.
When Forrest's laptop arrived we had some issues. It is re-furbished. Mike had some issues with multiple drivers being uninstalled. I have no idea what this means other than he could not connect to the internet. Then the battery kept dying. Mike called and they told us this was unacceptable. They sent a replacement computer right out, along with a label to send back the old. I was very happy with customer service but Forrest was disappointed he would have to wait again.
I also had an issue with Keystone. They never processed our order. When I called days later, they apologized and processed and shipped the books 2 day. I realize mistakes happen. Besides, they allow interest free payment plans and an awesome return/refund policy so its not a big deal. Besides, we still don't have the new computer so he is in no rush for the curriculum.
The best part of all of this is that I am sort of "off the hook" or so to speak. Forrest has teachers to answer to and to ask questions of. I think we both agree, he needs this. A little positive pressure can be a good thing. I can still help him with the science if he needs it and I will help him with his organization, scheduling and time management. He does have deadlines and these are tough for him. All in all, I think it is going to be great!

Monday, March 23, 2009

OMG A Bald Eagle!

We were just sitting down to watch Ocean's 11. It was dusk. Out of the corner of my eye i saw a shadow just outside our huge picture window.....Oh My Gosh! It's A BALD EAGLE! Everyone looked. It was so close to our house and then it landed in a tree directly across the street. All I could think of was a Pterodactyl! It Was HUGE! We all jumped out of our seats. Everyone was yelling and laughing and..ooooops the baby was in bed. Oh well. It jumped up a few branches and then flew away. WOW is really all I can say. My heart was pounding! How exciting! I have seen them in Zoos but never in the wild. Let alone outside my window! Harland had to call "every one he knows" to tell them today. Clearly he was as impressed as I was. I think I feel a unit study coming on! AWESOME!

Friday, March 20, 2009

This is why I live in Maine!

I don't even think you can really appreciate it from the picture. Rangely Lake with all the mountains behind it. It is amazing. Harland actually took these. The sun actually sets right over the lake. At some point I'm sure I'll get a photo of it.

We also went back to the ski mountain today. It wasn't easy but I convinced Mike to take a half day and meet us over there. He took Harland on a few runs, This was the only photo I could get. Indigo kept trying to run away from me in the lodge and there are stairs everywhere. It may be his back but it's the best i can do for now. Mike changed to his snowboard and spent the rest of the afternoon with Forrest and Gaynor. I took the littles home. I am so glad they have this to do together. All of them really enjoy it.

It still strikes me as pretty amazing!

There is a pretty substantial gap in age between our second and third boys. 6 years to be exact. The funny thing is that its just enough time for me to forget certain happenings and events. Like learning to read. I taught the two older boys to read. I do remember that. I also seem to remember having more time to do so. Time to just sit with them and read books and sound out words. Harland has been ready to read for a while now. I just haven't had as much time as i would like to really sit with him and work on it. He is very busy too so you have to time it just right. He needs to spend most of his time moving and doing, moving and doing! Well after a day of skiing, his energy was just right. Indigo went into bed early and we were making "second dinner". It's a bit of a tradition with Harland my little hypoglycemic kid. He needs to eat again before bed so as not to wake up shaking uncontrollably due to low sugar. So there we were preparing our oatmeal and we grabbed some books. At first he didn't want to try and sound out a word. "I can't, its too hard" but then it happend. ddddd oooooo gggggg dd oo gg d og DOG! DOG! DOG! and then ANT and then FROG. SO EXCITING! that look, that look they get when they realize they are really truly reading! I wish i could bottle it. its a bigger broader smile than usual. The pride! The glow! Its the beginning of an amazing adventure! That night, now that he is "reading" he slipped into bed with Eragon. i asked him if he was sure that was what he wanted. there are no pictures. His reply "mom, i don't need pictures, i can read now!" AWESOME! it will probably help that we just finished listening to Eragon on CD. Now, as i sit here typing this, I can hear him sounding anything and everything out. He's hooked! He's gonna fit right in here. Pretty soon he'll be just like his brothers, reading more than he sleeps! Congratulations Harland!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fun Fun Fun and what a view!

I took the boys skiing on Tuesday. It was beautiful! 5o degrees and sunny! Not even a speck of wind. The mountain got a little busy in the afternoon. A huge local school group was there ( I am really amazed at how bratty other people's kids are and I have convinced myself that my children would never act that way, even if i wasn't around....delusional? possibly) and it was spring break in Nova Scotia. But it was still pretty quiet compared to vacation week. The big boys have moved on to Intermediate trails and are really loving skiing. I wish I had taken them more. Harland took a private lesson. He got to ride the lift twice and did ok. I guess I just thought he would pick it up faster. He enjoyed it this time so i guess that is all that matters. I just had it in my head he would be able to take a few runs with his brothers. But i think it is the ski lodge for this kid for the rest of the season. Maybe mike will find a day to take them . He has just been so busy with work. I would love to put him in another lesson but they are sooo pricey and really not even close to being in the budget. I sure hope his skis and boots fit him next year! He is only 5 so I suppose the fact that he is skiing at all is pretty great. After all his 10 year old and 14 year old brother are also skiing for the FIRST time. We decided the way to cut costs for next year is to not buy Mike a season pass. He really didn't get to go enough to make it worth it. The boys are very reasonable and Harland's is free. I didn't get any photos of Harland because when it was time for his lesson, Forrest had taken my camera to the top of the mountain to get these..........

pretty amazing! They just wanted their non skiing mom to see the view and the lake and how short the trees are up there. funny! we are heading back there again on Friday. Season's almost over, gotta get my money's worth!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A recipe to ensure my entire family eats until they can't move

and then even fight over left overs. Yes, literally. We got the recipe for Cheesy Bean Enchiladas on vegweb and have had it almost weekly ever since. it is so delicious. We had some friends over (not vegetarian) and had this for dinner. A week later One told me he was still thinking about this yummy meal. yes it is that good! I use canned beans and even let myself buy tortillas and enchilada sauce at the store...YIKES! The fact is i need a few meals that don't take hours to make. We very often eat this on shopping day. I hate cooking on shopping day! Ortega makes an enchilada sauce with no MSG. We use 4 bottles and add 1 cup of hot salsa to the beans as the sauce is mild. I serve it with my yummy coriander rice.

in a sauce pan saute one med onion chopped in oil until soft
add 2-4 cloves garlic and 1-2 tbls whole coriander seeds crushed. You need to use the whole seeds and crush it yourself or it does not have the same flavor. I just wrap it in a cloth napkin and beat it with an ice cream scoop. saute for one more minute add 2 cups brown long grain rice and 4 cups water. bring to boil, cover and simmer until done about 40 mins.

I am currently stuffed from leftovers of this meal. sooo good! we also use the cheese sauce recipe for nachos! good stuff!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Almost wordless Wednesday

I will admit I painted on the second eyebrow. but the rest was all his doing. i just thought it was so hysterical i wanted him to have a matching one!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

School and a some sickies

First, Thank You Soule Mama for your inspiration. We busted out the water colors. Lovely! Gaynor finally did his oral presentation on Ramadan, Hanuka and Kwanzaa.

We got busy and forgot. Forrest will do his this week. It was terrific. He has asked to do his next report on Chimpanzees an endangered species. We are listening to Eragon on CD. its great. Its amazing to know it was written by a 15 year old boy! Gaynor is working on a series of fictional short stories based on working on a(our) farm. I will post his first on his page this week. If you click on their individual pictures on the right, they will take you to their pages. They are not current but will be soon. Forrest is loving his Biology Curriculum. He received his first test back from his teacher. 88. Mostly because he transposed answers when copying them to the answer sheet. I think he will be more careful next time. His essays received almost full credit, minus 1 point. Pretty Great! The Math-U_See curriculum is going very well. I am very happy with it. Gaynor is still having a tough time dividing fractions so we will go back together tomorrow and work on it. Other than that they are both doing very well. The boys watched "The Future of Food" yesterday. I think they have a new appreciation for our effort to grow our own food as I do. We found a form letter to send to US Senators about keeping organic foods and seeds pure from GMO's and we will send out 3 per week. Forrest is working to start a Harry Potter Alliance group here. Its a really great way for kids to get together and work to make a difference with current events and issues. One of their major issues right now is Darfur and the Genocide happening there. They sort of relate current issues with issues Harry deals with in the stories. Really Interesting. We still are not doing history. This is so tough. I feel like so many history books are jaded and honestly it's not my favorite. Mike has agreed to try and take it over. I just don't know how he will find the time. Any ideas are welcome.
I have jinxed the health of my family again. I mentioned in a comment to Jillienne that my kids have been healthy all winter. So, now, of course they are all sick. Well three of the four so far. Indigo first. He has a bad cold with a terrible cough. He is cranky but eating, drinking and sleeping fine. No high fevers either. So it could be so much worse. Forrest and Harland starting coughing yesterday and are looking progressively worse as the day goes on. So nice we don't have any where to go. We will sit and listen to our story and drink tea, and knit, and paint and rest. oh and wipe noses and cuddle. Maybe i will cuddle with my face pointed in the other direction. Or does that even matter since he sleeps with me with his face less than an inch from mine?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Yummy happy Weekend!

We ran into our farmer friends, Sarah and Andy at the grocery store on Thursday. It was really kind of weird. I had just said to Mike that I wanted to have them over for dinner again. We were walking in as they were walking out. It was fate. Really! What are the chances of us being there at exactly the right time. Anywho, We invited, and they came for dinner Friday. We always have a great time. Sarah made the chocolate zucchini cake (the kids request) with the peanut butter frosting on the side this time so i could have some. yumma! They are so super helpful too. We have so much to learn about this farming thing and we definitely need all the help we can get. They brought lots of seeds to share. Tons of varieties of tomatoes plus carrots and kale and lettuce. I am thrilled. Andy also said he would help us find our maples so we can tap them. Normally you identify them by the leaves, except, um its winter, no leaves. This is really exciting. Yummy maple syrup. We also discussed some other really exciting ideas. As usual, we were having such a good time gabbing that the time got away from us. They left around midnight. If this was a few years ago, that would be pretty early for me. But, alas, I am old now! So Saturday consisted of us lounging around all day. Honestly, aside from the mess. It was wonderful. After breakfast we broke out into a full-on drum circle jam. The sun was beaming in the windows, it was so fun. The kids loved it! The baby thought it was the greatest thing. He was playing his maracas.
We then watched Penelope, gotta love instant netflix, I made a big lunch/dinner. I made tofu scramble and These Delicious Sweet Potato Pancakes. They were sooo very yummy. It took forever to shred the sweet potatoes by hand. I need a new food processor! But so worth it in the long run. We omitted the eggs and added 1/4 cup arrow root powder and 1/4 cup water. I think you could use cornstarch or potato starch as well. I also used sweet onion instead of red because that is what we had. They were so darn good! Some ate them with salsa, some with ketchup, I ate them with just a little salt. They were a huge hit here with all six of us and I'm sure we will be having them again soon!

I am sharing these photos with you on the basis that you will promise not to notice how horrible i look(never looked in the mirror or got dressed) or how messy it is while we are cooking. It does not normally look that bad.

We were so stuffed we immediately sat down to watch Beverly Hills 90210 the original pilot. So fun! the kids were frightened by the style! Then we listened to Eragon on CD and I worked on my knitting. I'm making these. It was a lovely day. Even if it did mean tons of cleaning to catch up on Sunday, all worth it. Yes this has officially thrown our TV limits right out the window.
On a side note, Mike and I watched "The Future of Food" last night. It was truly disturbing and eye opening. Honestly if you have even the slightest concern about GMO's , or I guess especially if you don't, you need to see this film. It is available for instant viewing on Netflix. The boys will be watching it as their science assignment today. You should really check it out.