Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CVA update

With all of worry about the changes coming to CVA (Columbia Virtual Academy), things seem fairly unchanged, just re-adjusting paperwork. Our advisory teacher set up a phone call consult with me today, and we went over what I had planned for each of the children’s subjects, what goals and materials, etc.

Contrary to what some folks in the homeschooling community seem to think, there is no “control” on the part of our teacher. I suppose if I needed some advice, I could ask. But the claims that CVA families “aren’t really homeschoolers” that’s being disseminated is just harmful, wrong, and unnecessarily divisive. We still file a letter of intent to homeschool. We sign a statement of understanding that we are legally homeschoolers. And as I’ve said before, I continue to choose freely my curriculum, plan our year and their lessons, and homeschool unchanged.

Anyway, I’d blogged about concerns that CVA was changing, and after speaking with our advisory teacher today, I don’t have any concerns for this year.

Grade school students and Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone language software comes with a headphone/mic, and the student has to imitate the language pretty precisely to move on through each lesson. There is a setting that can be adjusted for the standard to be more or less “picky”, but even set loosely, the younger children struggle.

So here are the couple of tips that help my younger ones: first, listen to the language like a song. The native speakers’ pitch goes higher and lower, and the student needs to match both that and the syllable of emphasis. Thinking of it like music seems to help younger students understand this. The other thing that they need to match is how long it takes the native speaker to say the word/phrase/sentence. There is the option to keep clicking a button and saying the sentence along with the speaker until it’s nailed, then do it alone.

Language is work, and the younger ones don’t seem to anticipate this very well, but thankfully Rosetta Stone has them understanding some vocabulary immediately, in the first half hour, so it is easy to encourage them when they get frustrated – they learn so much so quickly!

Some little tasks checked off (teaser, though)

Last weekend I got our exterior trim painted. Not a huge deal, as it is just the trim surrounding the garage doors and the house numbers, but you know how it is . . . painting out an old color always feels so delicious. We had a turquoise trim and went to a dark denim, and I’m in love with it!

Not so great was my priming coat and first coat on the front door. Loving the color, but visible brush strokes – ugh. Online advice seems to be to wait 10 days before sanding and re-painting, so the paint is not just dried but fully cured. Then I’ll use a different type of brush or a sponge and this time add Floetrol. The reason that this post is a teaser is that I won’t put up a pic until the door looks nice, too, then the trim reveal!

The Patriarch is working on another repair tonight – we’d had to punch a large hole in the master bedroom wall for access to some leaking pipes, so he had stuck a temporary piece of drywall in the hole. He is currently sanding that down so it can be taped and mudded. I’m really excited to get some paint up in there. How was it that we lived in this house for 13 years and tolerated off-white master bedroom walls?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School year 2010 - 2011

Yesterday we began our eighteenth year of homeschooling! And just think, since Tarquin has just turned 4, only thirteen left to go!

Small crowd this year, for sure. We have three high school students, which will only happen again one more time with the way the children are spaced. Nigel and Sophia are both doing history and lit here at home and Spanish, chemistry (although they are in different terms of chem) and Nigel has a humanities class while Sophia has pre-calculus, at the local community college. So here full time we have 9th grade, 6th, 5th, and 3rd. And our preschooler and 11th and 12th graders part time.

We use the Well-Trained Mind division of history into 4 cycles, covered in a student’s education three times each, with a different emphasis and approach for the increasing sophistication of understanding. All of the children study the same cycle. This year, we’re back to cycle 1, which is “Ancients” and covers from the beginning to the last emperor of Rome. This is a fun one for the younger set, and very challenging at the high school level.

Other than that, we’re trying a couple of new math curriculi, which is SO STRANGE, as for 17 years we used the exact same workbook series to take the children from 1 + 1 = 2 to algebra. But  this year Lucinda is trying Teaching Textbooks 3 and Araminta and Gareth are trying out the online ALEKS. The scope and sequence of Developmental Math (which is what we’ve always used) gets them there in time, but doesn’t follow the public schools’ s & s, so there are years there where standardized testing is “off” for each of them. I think what we’re doing this year will balance them out, even if we end up going back to Developmental Math.

Science for the younger guys (who do science together) is Geology and Astronomy this year. I give them a variety of science topics to choose from each spring for the next school year, and this is what they came up with for this year.

The little girls are studying French, and Gareth and Clara are learning Spanish. Clara has already done high school Biology with lab, so I will assign that work to her 9th grade transcript. She is doing “Computing and Computation 1” since she has this space in her day – I asked Eldest to go over my planning/thinking for this course to make it meaty, so Clara is excited about what she’ll learn.

She is in geometry this year (Teaching Textbooks) and fitness and . . . that rounds out what we’re doing around here. Well, eventually. We’re still waiting on some stuff that’s been ordered and not received, so there are holes here and there in the day.

But it feels good to all of us to be back in school and learning together again :-).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tonight my heart needs remodeling

This afternoon sweet Sophia decided it was time to finish up our "inspiration board". We'd all found pictures that represented our dreams for the new house - my sister had suggested this to keep us going forward when energy lagged. Sophia did a beautiful job, finding really special pictures to add, and putting up captions that represented the dream. When she was done, she used sticky tack and we put it on a hall wall that we pass by oh-so-often. We all gathered around and loved it - little Tarquin wanted to be lifted up and signed hugging his favorite pictures of himself holding a baby goat.

Then this evening, as I was doing a tedious homeschool related job online, I popped over to the listing on Redfin just to refresh myself. And . . . and . . . it says, "sale pending". I'm crying again just typing that out.

This house - my heart had moved in there. We house hunted for our current house for a really long time, and I have never had this falling in love with a property and the potential of a house and the feel of it like this. This is so sad tonight.

I shake myself mentally. Honestly, I am scolding myself about contentment, and being grateful for all of my many blessings, and even having a house like we do. But oh, ouch. Oh ouch. I wish we hadn't seen the dream house, hadn't fallen in love. I did initially try to play down the possibility of our moving to the children, but The Patriarch drove them past it and they fell in love immediately as well. Now I feel so terrible about having spoken excitement about the dreams. I can't imagine that we will ever be able to move to such a place now that The Dream House has sold. It had sat on the market for over 3 years, which was why the price had come down, down, down to where, with the interest rates so irrationally low, we could afford this place that, while it had many horrible cosmetic problems, had such potential for everything we wanted. In our area, housing prices are hideous and this house was underpriced, for sure.

Some things here that would've bothered me more, I have been easy about in the last couple of months while I thought we might be moving. When we moved in here 13 years ago, we had a lovely lake view out the back. A few years back, the neighbor inbetween us and the view subdivided and put up another big home, but no problem, it only blocked a wee bit of the view. Well, that guy decided to go into a little selling boats business from his yard. More of a problem. His boats blocked a lot of the view. And then starting last year, he apparently thought it would be a good idea to protect those boats with those stupid tarp/PVC structures. And now, starting about a month ago, he is building a HUGE two story garage thing. Lake view? Gone. Totally gone. It was always one of the saving graces of this house, to be able to look out the back and see a lake. Now we have the lovely restful view of 6 or 7 tarps over boats and some huge garage monstrosity. So tomorrow morning, it is going to be harder to look out the window, as I've been thinking, "gosh I'll be glad to get away from that". I was just so sure. So sure that we could do it - could get changes made quickly enough. After all, the dream house had sat there for over 3 years. It didn't feel unreasonable for the listing to last a few more months if we moved quickly on this house.

I couldn't sleep. I didn't even begin to know how to get to sleep. My mind just kept going back to that house, to the plans for this spot on the stairs and that corner of the kitchen, to the fruit trees and the children's hopes. So I thought I'd put down some sadness here and try again. My pneumonia doesn't seem to be getting much better yet; I really need to get to sleep.

Plan: cough syrup, then think of something altogether removed. I've been doing school planning all day today; burnt out on that topic. Nothing remotely connected with the current situation. Maybe I'll try to plan out fall sewing needs in my head. That's a plan. Goodnight.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Remodel Days 7-14

My cough, cough, cough misery turned out to be pneumonia, so yes, that sure did derail progress! I have been able to sort papers, and the last couple of days I’ve been working on cleaning/polishing our old aluminum window frames, which I can do just sitting there/standing there. I googled and found some things to try to clean the frames, and WD-40 was working OK (so I thought), but then it occurred to me, “Why go through cans of WD-40 when I’ll bet there’s a product specifically for this purpose that probably costs about the same as WD-40?”

I always shop the auto parts store for this type of stuff (use these products when I fix up old sewing machines), and fortunately we have two within a few blocks of our house. Wow. It is still really tedious, but the finished product is amazing. Mirror-like. Who knew?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Off

Already scheduled for Saturday was one of the biggest yearly events of the living history site where 5 of our children volunteer/reenact. It is typically a hot event, being August and all, but this year the weather was cool and overcast, then drizzled, then poured. I don’t reenact, but I stay on site as a safety issue . . . anyway, Saturday I found a spot under an overhang for most of the day, but we were all wet through and now I have a Very Ugly Cough. Missed church Sunday, although the family still went so Mama could try to nap through the coughing, and the bit of “remodeling” I’ve gotten done yesterday and today was more paper-weeding, which I can do while just sitting there with a box of tissues and a shredder.

Pictures from Saturday’s event:

051Clara on the left, Sophia in blue.

037Araminta has to take three little steps to one of this nice young man’s!

018Awww, Lucinda and this little guy are so cute.

I don’t seem to have a picture of Gareth from this weekend (bad Mama).


So much to see and do. It was fascinating to wander around and speak with reenactors from all over, camping out 1855 style. My clothes still smell nice, like turkeys roasting on a spit – I sat chatting with someone from church while she churned butter, right next to those slowly turning huge birds. Mmmmmmm.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Remodel Day 6: Our Car Reads This Blog

Today is payday, so I was looking at The List and thinking, “Hmmm . . . gallon of paint? Sink and faucet? What first?”. Little did I know that the evil chuckling noise coming from the direction of the driveway was our car. Our appliances in general are very talented in eavesdropping for hints of refunds, rebates, any extra cash. They then conspire to keel over in a melodramatic death, thus the “extra” cash goes ::poof::. I’m sure you can see where this is going. The car apparently found out about our spending plans and thought it would be a spiffy time to get himself a shiny brand new starter. Isn’t that a fun way to spend money? Could be worse, but it will make things tight enough that for a couple of weeks I’ll still be working on the tasks on The List that don’t require any money.

But in happier news, I did finish removing the last of the popcorn. The ceiling is paint-ready and it’s only 3 pm! I’m so glad to be done, too, as my arm and neck wouldn’t have lasted much longer in that position. I’d put a picture here but I’m thinking you know what the bare ceiling looks like by now.

I think for the rest of the day I’ll get rid of paperwork. The Patriarch, bless him, is not a paperwork-tosser and if you’d like to know what we paid for our water bill in March of 1995, well, it’s in there somewhere. So I’ll sit down on the newly cleaned screened porch with a big glass of water and the shredder and a jumbo stack of paper and go to it. Won’t that feel great to have done? This house is losing weight and it feels good :-).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Remodel: Day 5

Lots of driving here and there on Thursdays. I’d hoped to finish the ceiling today, and I did get a good chunk done, but perhaps tomorrow will bring this to a close.

A few of the children went around with my project notebook and a tape measure and measured rooms and doors and needed sinks and vanities and such, so that was a wee accomplishment of the day, as now items like flooring tiles can be calculated for price and we know sizes for Craigslist watching.

One of the things I drive to on Thursdays is Nigel and Gareth’s Taekwondo session – The Patriarch does the driving on Tuesdays. Just this last weekend Nigel achieved his black belt! Very exciting – that is years of dedication and hard work on his part and we’re all so proud of him.


Naturally he got a cake (carrot, with vanilla/ginger buttercream, yummm). We googled for the Korean symbol for “congratulations”.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Remodel: Day 4

For me, more ceiling work. There is the rough removal, which I do with a spray bottle of water and a scraper, and then the finish removal, which is a damp cloth and soft smoothing. Today I went over the area I’d rough-removed yesterday. I’m halfway done with the room now, and already the ceiling reflects so much more light. That popcorn finish not only sucks the light from the room, but holds sooo much dust, since the best that can be done to clean it is the brush attachment of the vacuum, but that doesn’t work that well. This job just makes me happy, to see all of that smooth area emerge. I can hardly wait to paint it cream!


Nigel, Sophia, and Clara spent the afternoon cleaning out the screen porch. It was waist-high in gardening stuff. Before I had hoop covers on the garden bed, the screen porch made a great greenhouse when covered in plastic. So there was plastic still on some of the screening, and all kinds of garden junk gear lying about. Projects involving glitter had been done. And bees had died and not been removed. Oooo, “before” shots!


And “after”


I’ve got my eye on a bistro set on Craigslist; we’ll see what The Patriarch says . . .

In other remodeling news, while running an errand, I popped by Home Depot and got an 8 oz tester for the green chosen for the kitchen. Clara painted it in a couple of spots while I scraped ceiling.


This is where the green would meet the dining room terracotta color. Planned floor tile propped on the microwave.

Here it is on another wall that gets really different light:


The color looks quite different in those two pictures; I’d say it reads more closely in general to the microwave shot.

What worries me just a tad is that Clara commented after swatching it, “Isn’t this the same color you just painted over in the Quiet Room?” and she might be right. I detested that green. But it might have been a more yellow green than this – I’m aiming for what I think of as Bistro Green.

That’s it for today! Hope to get in a bit more ceiling scraping after the little guys all fall asleep.

Remodel: Day 3

OK, so part of the plan was to have two posterboards, one with all of the jobs listed, plus their cost, so that we’ll know what to do next if, say, $30 comes free, or an hour of time or such. Plus, won’t that be motivating to see more and more tasks being lined out?

The other posterboard is for inspiration. The idea to have this was, naturally, Sister’s, but was prompted by Gareth’s realization that if we moved to that other house, he could have a long longed-for bow and arrow. Sister suggested that we make an inspiration board with pictures/drawings of these things that we could do in the other house but not here. Then when energy or optimism lags, the inspiration is there.

So Day 3 the task board is done. People are still working on their inspiration pictures.


AND . . . I got quite a bit of the popcorn scraped off the ceiling in the master bedroom. There is popcorn throughout (hate, hate, hate that scourge on humanity, especially for dust allergic people) but I’ll only be removing it from the master bedroom. Much of the rest of it is painted and looks OK I guess.


Nigel and The Patriarch both were able to sneak in some garden work, as well. All of the beds are currently filled other than the last herb bed, so The Patriarch was out in the dark after all of the errands were done carting dirt to fill that last one.

Remodel: Days 1 and 2

So . . . I think I’ll try to keep track of this remodel.

I’m calling the last two days of my sister’s visit remodel days 1 and 2. Sunday my daughter Sophia and my sister and I grabbed a little notebook and went from room to room listing both repairs and remodeling for attractiveness stuff. We decided on colors and Sister was so helpful in clarifying what mattered and what did not.

Monday before we took them to the train, Sophia and Sister and I went over to Home Depot and chose paint chips, flooring samples, light fixtures, faucet styles, everything. Some of this will be bought when funds are available (flooring, paint) and some we’ll watch Craigslist (vanity, sinks, faucets, lighting, carpet). But it’s all decided and written down.

I could have NEVER done that myself in two days. My sister is amazing, and I’ve been blown away by every interior she’s ever done (well, OK, since her teen years – I won’t mention the Pierce Brosnan poster decor . . .) so looking around our house with these floor samples and paint chips and plans – oh gracious I can hardly wait to see it all!

Let the remodel begin!

Shady Fifth? Somewhere else?

Ironic that I just started blogging under our house’s longtime name, “Shady Fifth”, when out of nowhere there is some thought of moving.
When we first moved here in July 1997, we intended to live in this house for 3-5 years. We had put bids on two different houses prior to this one that fell through; it definitely wasn’t our first pick. But God had reasons for us to be here, naturally, such as the dearest elderly neighbors who were huge in our life until a couple of years ago when the gentleman passed away and his wife moved far away to be with children. I am so grateful to have had them in our lives.
But for decades now, my dream has been somewhat more rural. For myself, and for our family, I have longed for things that we are not zoned for; chickens and mini-goats, and things that we just don’t have space for: to run and shoot arrows or slingshots, to climb an apple tree with a book, to have laundry on a line. We did finally put in a lovely organic garden last year, but it has no ability to get bigger because the rest of this shady fifth is concrete, house, or septic leach field.
Still . . . we weren’t house hunting. Weren’t looking at all. But I did begin to wonder if we couldn’t perhaps have a couple of mini-goats. Sure, they couldn’t graze and we’d have to buy all of their feed, but I wanted to investigate. So we went out to visit the wonderful Wendy of Soaring Hearts Farm and her mini-Nubians. Oh what a fabulous day we had there. We took the little ones with their allergies, since it was important to see if they’d react (and they were fine).
On the drive there, The Patriarch took a back road from our house. I love that road, since it has all of these great rural-y properties. I saw one for sale with a small house and what looked like a couple of acres, so I made a note of the reality company. I went to their website the next day. Hadn’t been there before (the website), but there was a very handy tool where you could go to a map and select an area to look at all of the MLS listings in that square/rectangle. Well, I found the house I’d seen, and as I suspected, it was twice what we could afford, however there was a listing a few blocks away from that that seemed a dream.
We drove by it, drooled, and condensing weeks of stuff here, found that we could qualify for it, then found a great realtor and looked inside. Well. It would definitely be a whole-house re-do. But the thing is, it felt like it would become what we want in our forever home. For so many reasons, it was the unlikely perfect place.
BUT . . .
The sad bottom line is that this place is not ready to sell. It just isn’t. We couldn’t sell it as a “fixer” and get what we’d need for it to afford the “new” place. And there is not the budget to fix it quickly at all.
I have been going over and over in my head all of the blessings I have. This house does have some very nice things about it. I am blessed with a sturdy roof, food for all of us on the table, the ability to go to the doctor and turn on the heat. A bed at night and children around me. I don’t want to be a whiny, ungrateful person, even in my head. But I have to confess this unexpected finding of the affordable dream, learning we could qualify even when I’d assumed we couldn’t, getting so close . . . ouch. Just ouch.
And days after that, we had guests scheduled, which was actually perfect. It was my sister and niece. This sister has three of the qualities most needed at that moment in time: the ability to always talk me through things, clarifying my thoughts by asking great questions and really kicking me in the katootie if necessary; a fabulous decorating eye; and the ability to make an immense amount of decisions quickly. So the latter two will be discussed in the next post. But the first: we’re all full-steam-ahead with this remodel to the extent that a little from each paycheck and heavy mining of Craigslist can take us.
Whether that house will still be up for sale when this house is ready, whether interest rates will have risen so that we no longer qualify, whether this is just to light a fire under us to have Shady Fifth more livable for some reason – well, God knows all of our “what if’s” and He is in control.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Looks like CVA is making changes

I'd learned parts of this through leaks and gossip and pieces of real info from our advisory teacher, but there was an official email this week. Looks like some of my earlier posted information will change. We won't be ordering straight from vendors anymore, through our advisory teacher. Looks like CVA is switching to more of a "library" system where they'll check their warehouse, then if a desired item isn't already there, they'll order it for their library, then loan it out to you. That is actually not much of a change - they were supposed to be doing this all along, but didn't have a good cataloguing of what they had.

What does change for those of us with older children is that high school reading assigned in school is now returned to CVA. I'd always loved their philosophy of having older students highlight and make margin notes to their heart's content, and keep the texts. I have thus encouraged this active reading. Sad to see this go. We'll see how other changes play out - if items ordered will become more restricted.

School is right around the corner; guess we'll be finding out soon!