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Friday, September 29, 2006

 

Girl in the Wheat



My daughter, walking through the stubble of a North Idaho wheat field. This picture reminds me of an Andrew Wyeth painting.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

 

More Music

I have another guest-post up over at the (sm)all ages blog. This one's about Beatlesque music. Enjoy.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

 

Video Break

We're six weeks into homeschooling my son and, so far, the educational experience is wonderful. He's a great student. Once the bell "rings" at 9 o'clock, he's ready to go. We've had occasional bouts of wandering eyes and stifled yawns, but I'm learning to shift lessons around to make his day interesting and even fun.

One secret weapon that I have is the "video break"... These are short educational videos that I find for free on the Internet, via sites like PBS.com, Google Video, YouTube, and even iTunes. Most surprising was discovering that iTunes has free video podcasts from providers such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and EcoGeeks.

I spend about ten minutes each night looking around the web for clips that pertain to recent or upcoming lessons. So far I'm finding more than enough 5 or 10-minute videos to sprinkle through the day, in between math and history or just when my son needs a change of pace.

Here are a few fun educational videos you can share with your kids...

ASIMO - Honda's robot prototype ... a 4-minute news report about a most amazing machine.

Alpine Tundra ...a 5-minute report on a unique biome.

Spotlight: Iceland ... a 3-minute look at Iceland's volcanoes from National Geographic (iTunes must be installed to view this)

Hornet Hunters ... a 6-minute look at Japan's giant hornets. (iTunes must be installed to view this)

Math Lesson ... Hilarious clip from an old Ma and Pa Kettle movie, just for laughs!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

 

A Colorful Yarn

Looking through old photos again tonight...



I walked into my daughter's room about four years ago to find her waking up from a nap like this. We thought we had baby-proofed everything, but we never considered what she might do with this blanket that a friend had made for her.

She had managed to pull out all the colored strands of yarn and wrap them around her neck. What fun she must have had! It obviously took a lot of effort on her part, so of course I had to run to get the camera to capture this proud moment... "My baby knows her colors! Say cheese!"

The lovely blanket went straight into the garbage, and we learned that even when you're careful you can never be too careful... Not when it comes to your kids.


Monday, September 25, 2006

 

Zoinks

I'm guest blogging over at the (sm)all ages kids' music blog for the next few weeks. Check out my first post about songs from the Scooby Doo cartoons!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

 

Bless Me

I was cleaning a very dusty shelf in the living room when a huuuge sneeze exploded out of me. My son, who was in the family room drawing pictures of robots, yelled out, "Daddy!"

I waited to hear him say, "Bless you" or "Gesundheit" but got this instead:

"Daddy! You made me mess up my drawing!!"

I'm like Robert the Rose Horse.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

 

Cuteness Overload



All together now... "Ahhhh, how cuuuuuute!" Yeah, that's what my kids said when they saw these little guys at the Latah County Fair in Moscow last weekend. No, we're not getting a duckling as a new pet. The picture will have to suffice.

Actually, my son wants to get a tadpole to raise as a science project. Are frogs cute?


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

 

Tell Me Why

Stay-at-home dads everywhere will nod their heads in agreement when I say that being one has led to some interesting conversations with other parents. You can't just say to someone, "I'm a stay-at-home dad" without the inevitable response of "Why?" They all want to know. Maybe it's because it's so foreign to our culture. It's like you just said, "I'm becoming a monk and taking a vow of silence." People do that, but not very often.

So I've been getting the double whammy lately since I started homeschooling my son. No sooner do I finish explaining why I'm at home with my children than I have to start answering why we are going the homeschool route.

And, yes, for some strange reason I do feel compelled to answer the questions. I wish I could just stand there and pretend to be deaf, or say, "No habla Ingles." So I tell them why. And then I watch their eyes glaze over.

I'm used to that effect when it comes to the stay-at-home dad conversation. But the whole homeschooling dynamic is a new one to me. Funny that the effect is just the same: Eyes glaze over, attention wanders, feet shuffle, subject changes, quick exit.

It doesn't bother me at all anymore. I just think it's kind of funny that people feel uncomfortable when you step slightly outside of society's norms.

Oh, and you want to know why I am homeschooling my son? I'll answer that in another post. For now, though, I can safely say that most of your assumptions are wrong.


Monday, September 18, 2006

 

Third Eye



My daughter had her face painted in Moscow, just before the Idaho Vandal football game against Idaho State on Saturday. This and the cotton candy were the highlights for her. Me, I love the sights and sounds of a college football game, especially when the crowd is big and boisterous.

My kids were both extremely patient during the game. They know that daddy doesn't get to see too many live football games, so they sat quietly. And like I said, cotton candy and caramel apples work wonders with childrens' attention spans.


Friday, September 15, 2006

 

More Eric Herman

If I didn't make it clear in my review below, my kids and I have become big fans of Eric Herman. Here are videos for two of his tunes, "The Elephant Song" and "Crazy Over Vegetables"...

Also, if you live in the Spokane, Washington, area, Herman is going to be appearing live at Valley Fest in Mirabeau Point Park on Saturday, Sept. 23rd. Concerts are at 11:30 and 2:15. Gather up your kids and head over there for a fun show!





Thursday, September 14, 2006

 

Kids' CD Review

Eric Herman & The Invisible Band - Monkey Business

My kids love to listen to music. They also love to laugh. Combine the two and you're talking audio gold in my house. Eric Herman does just that on his Monkey Business CD. a hilarious collection of songs about monkeys, pirates, tongue twisters, and prune juice. Yes, prune juice.

I gave his disc the ol' family car workout to see what the kids would think. The sudden silence from the backseat meant they're interested. Continued silence meant they like it. A request to "hear it again" and we knew that it's a keeper.

The thing they seem to like most about this CD is Herman's oddball sense of humor. Even the grownups in the car had to laugh at such lyrics as "A pirate without treasure is like a monkey without a spatula." Or the boy pretending to be a robot who suffers a system malfunction when his mom asks him to clean his room.

Not every song has a punchline. After a funny sketch about a math gameshow, Herman slows things down with two beautiful lullabies that show off his chameleon-like vocal talents. But it's the previous dozen songs that my kids keep asking for, especially one of the best pirate songs I've ever heard.

Like so many of the very best children's CDs, these are tunes that even parents can listen to on a long road trip or during clean-up time at home. From the polished production to Herman's pleasing voice (which reminded me of Glen Phillips at times) to the clever lyrics, there's something here for kids of all ages.

You can buy the CD here at Amazon, or visit Eric's Cool Tunes For Kids website for song samples, info, and games. Oh yeah, he blogs too!


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

 

Strange Changes

Three weeks into homeschooling my son and I'm already facing some very strange changes... The biggest of which is that I am slowly turning into a morning person. Although this is something I have wanted to become for many years, I think I'm going to miss my night owl duty. Not that I'm in bed at 10pm or anything... But I have adjusted my schedule to be asleep just after midnight rather than my usual 2am.

When you homeschool, you have to be fresh and alert. It's tough to stand there and pretend to know what you're doing. Well, actually, it's getting easier, because after three weeks it's all becoming second nature to me. We're hitting our stride as teacher-student.

But other changes have been made. And that's the beauty of homeschooling. If something doesn't work, change it. One major change that had to be made was to jettison my wife. She's a great teacher, but on her days off she needs to go and do her day-off things. We both realized that it's more efficient for just one of us to make preparations and it's easier on our son to have the same daily expectations that one teacher can bring. She'll still step in and present some lessons, such as the science experiments that turn me into a stuttering moron.

Flexibility is the key to homeschooling. We follow a state-approved curriculum, but if I want to substitute a particular subject then that's okay. We skip over some things that my son finds too easy, and we spend extra time on those that he still needs to master.

Speaking of the curriculum, I love being able to go online to see what lessons are coming up in the weeks and months ahead. This allows me to do more research on my own. I also get on NetFlix to rent documentaries that sync with what my son is studying, arranging to have them come up in our queue at just the right time. Reading over future lessons also lets me plan appropriate activities and outings away from the house.

So, three weeks in and homeschooling is going well. My son is thriving as we hoped. Today he took his state-required Idaho Reading Indicator test and read 140 words in a minute, with 100% comprehension. He was quite proud of himself today. As he should be.


Monday, September 11, 2006

 

Remembering 9/11



Instead of dwelling upon the sadness and horror of that day five years ago, I choose to remember the joy of having a new baby in the house. I took this picture of my daughter not long after September 11, 2001. May she grow up in a world that is safe and happy.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

 

Jailhouse Rock

Prisoners in Ohio have recorded a children's album that features traditional songs, new compositions, and... parenting advice!

I can just imagine some of the things these wayward fathers could teach us:

  • How to shake down your child's room
  • Cockroaches make great pets
  • Decorate a small space with no budget
  • Creative cooking with franks and beans
  • Make the most of your time in the yard
  • Effective discipline starts with a week in "The Hole"

Any others?

Thanks to The Lovely Mrs. Davis for the story link!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

 

They Start Young

My daughter started kindergarten yesterday. We were all very non-chalant about it, having been through this with my son three years ago. Plus, my daughter was more than ready to begin school. She was ecstatic to discover that three other girls that she was friends with from pre-school were going to be in her kindergarten class!

So when she got home yesterday I asked her, "Wasn't it fun to have girls you already know to play with?"

She said, "Yeah, but I played with my new friend Tyler. I like him best of all."


Sunday, September 03, 2006

 

Steve Irwin, RIP



The news of Steve Irwin's death really breaks my heart.

We love just about everything he's ever done, even his silly 2002 movie Collision Course, which has a permanent place in our DVD library. My kids had the bulk of their early education on animals and the environment provided by Irwin and his videos. We all thrilled to his adventures, and we became addicted to his vibrant personality.

But forget all that. What breaks my heart is that he leaves two small children who will only know their daddy through recordings. For all the enjoyment that we will continue to receive through his documentaries, his kids will look at them and simply wish that their father had not put himself in harm's way one too many times.

We're going to miss The Crocodile Hunter... I don't know how I'm going to tell my kids about this one.

Listen: Steve Irwin & The Wiggles - "Crocodile Hunter" MP3



Saturday, September 02, 2006

 

Forced Into Efficiency

I put it off and put it off, and I'm not sure why. But for several years I just couldn't bring myself to use an aggregator for reading blog feeds. One reason was that I didn't like the way any of them looked. Bloglines seemed okay, and I did set up an account, but I never got around to filling it up with my favorite feeds.

What forced me into becoming a more efficient blog reader was the recent start of our homeschooling. There's very little time for browsing the web now, what with six to seven hours of prep and teaching each week day. So I sat down to update my long-unused Bloglines account, which already had 12 feeds subscribed, and the first post I saw was from The Zero Boss in which he included a link to Google Reader, an incredibly simple blog reader... Exactly what I was looking for! Simple, no-nonsense, easy to read and navigate.

Check out Google Reader if you're looking for a way to become more efficient! Now if I could just figure out a way to write posts more easily...


Friday, September 01, 2006

 

Go Vandals!


My son always knows when it's football season because I start singing the University of Idaho Vandal fight song... He's heard it since the day he was born: "I-D-A-H-O, Idaho, Idaho, Go Go Go!" Good way to learn spelling. When we attend games down in Moscow, Idaho, his favorite things to do include eating hot dogs and listening to the marching band play the fight song. Watching the actual game is always secondary to that other stuff.

The Vandals open the season Saturday against Michigan State. It won't be pretty, but it sure will be a lot of fun!

Listen: Idaho Vandal Fight Song MP3