On the Subject of Subjects

How do you “teach” things that don’t fall neatly into subject categories? When you’re following curriculum, learning is chopped up into bite-sized pieces, which are supposedly easier to swallow (and to test)… but what about all of the tangential topics that don’t get covered this way?

I don’t profess (ha! see what I did there?!) to know everything about teaching or learning or education. But I do think there are many advantages to skipping the individual subjects and approaching education in an organic, whole-learning fashion. And I am a really big proponent of just learning by living, because who can think of all the things you might need or want to learn about otherwise?

This thought occurred to me because I found a list of fonts S13 had written down. She was making labels for her birthday party, and wanted the perfect font to go with her gaming-fandom theme. How do you learn something like font-choosing without actually getting in there and choosing fonts?? I guess you could take a class on typography, but what 13-year old is doing that? And yet, font-choosing is something you’re a lot more likely to do in life than, say, balancing a chemical equation. Not saying that fonts are more important to learn about than chemical equations. But they’re definitely more likely to be something you encounter when you’re grown and doing your own thing. It’s fascinating to me that we ply kids with highly specific and arbitrary knowledge, which will only be important or useful to a very small percentage of them, yet we deny them the opportunity to learn about things that nearly everyone will use at some point, no matter what they end up doing as adults.


I think the best way to learn what’s useful in life is to just get in there and start living it, and you’ll learn all sorts of things. Maybe chemical equations will be one of those things. Maybe they won’t. But I’ll argue that if you spent time learning chemical equations as a kid, and never needed them as an adult, you probably could have spent that time choosing fonts instead and been just fine. And if you didn’t learn chemical equations as a kid, you can probably pick up that knowledge quickly and easily if it’s really important to what you want to do as an adult.


Happy Birthday S13

S12 is now S13. She celebrated her birthday with a “fandom” party, with her theme including elements from several of her favorite games. Undertale, Pokemon, Yandere Simulator, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Overwatch, and Stardew Valley were all represented. There was even a little nod to Minecraft.


Dance Technique 2-27-16

This morning the girls both attended jazz dance technique class at the Stage Door. They are working on their number for the studio’s recital in June.

In the afternoon, S11 attended a birthday party for M14, a friend from co-op. He invited several other friends from co-op, mostly those in the chess club. We got him a chess t-shirt that had a graphic of the pieces with the tag line, “Choose Your Weapon!” It was fun to see the kids interact. The youngest was V10, with a range of ages in between her and M14. Both boys and girls were invited, which was very refreshing. I appreciate that homeschooling allows kids to be friends with a range of ages well before high school (and life) begins.



Kalahari Day 5

Today was our last day at Kalahari.  It was hard to say goodbye, but it will also be nice to sleep in our own beds tonight.


We checked out at 11 and loaded the vans, then L & I let the girls burn up their arcade and gift cards.  We started in the arcade.  This year, the girls were old enough to go by themselves.  They used their own money to charge the arcade cards and my two shared a 40-credit card that we got for having lunch at the resort’s restaurant.  Periodically, they would pop in to the cafe where L & I waited, and showed off their tickets and prizes. I think it was a great confidence-booster for all of them, but especially the younger two (A9 and O8), who are both rather shy.



After the arcade, the kids took their $20 gift cards (they received those for hosting the Wild Imagination funshop) to the gift shop. S10 picked out a mermaid doll with matching purse; O8 chose a small stuffed cat. The balance was spent at the candy counter.

We stopped for lunch at Panera in Sandusky with L & A9, and made it home by 5:30. Goodbye til next May, Kalahari!


Today, S9 became S10.

For this milestone birthday, I decided to give her the chance to plan her own party.  About a month ago, I gave her her birthday present from her parents: a $100 budget and free rein to plan whatever kind of party she wished.

Dear S:

Congratulations on your upcoming 10th birthday! In anticipation of this auspicious event, you are hereby charged with the task of planning an appropriate celebration. The party will be Friday, April 25, from 11AM til 2pm.

Planning a party is not hard, but it does require a lot of attention to detail. To help you out, I am writing down all of the things you will need to consider to make your party GREAT.

For your party, you will have a budget of $100. Dad and I will cover that amount. Any additional costs will be covered by you. This must include the food, drinks, decorations, party favors, invitations and thank-you notes, and any other expenses you may have.

In addition to your $100 budget, you may also have [reasonable] use of the house, including the kitchen and basement and/or outdoor space. You may use any dishes, serving ware, utensils, cups, etc., that we have, (with only a few exceptions, like my fancy wine glasses!). You will be responsible for cleaning before and after the party. You may ask for help, but you need to identify what needs done and ask for assistance.

You may use any pantry ingredients free of charge. For example, flour, sugar, butter & eggs for a cake do not have to be added in to your costs since we normally have those items on hand. However, if you decide to make a crazyberry cake, crazyberries are not normal pantry items and would have to be accounted for in your budget.

While pantry ingredients do not need to be accounted for in your budget, you DO need to make a list of ALL ingredients (including things like butter, eggs, sugar, etc) and make sure we have enough on hand to make the recipes you decide on. This should be done at least a week before the party to make sure we have time to get everything.

I will be happy to bake or prepare anything for your party, or help you with any recipes you want to try on your own. However, you need to decide on the complete menu, and make sure we add any ingredients to the shopping list the week before your party. You will need to account for any food allergies guests may have. You also need to ask me what things you want to prepare for you (or help you prepare). I am available to answer any questions you may have, of course.

You must allow 50 cents per guest for postage to mail thank you cards after the party. So, if you have 10 guests, how much money do you have to set aside for stamps? $_____________ The number of guests also affects how many party favors you need, how much food, etc. Keep this in mind when you’re making the guest list.

On the next page, I have made an outline for how I like to plan a party. You can use my outline, or make up your own. Keep in mind that you will need to consider all of the things on my outline, but you can do them any way you like.


  •  Food. Your party is from 11AM – 2 PM. Since that goes over the lunch hour, you need to provide food for your guests. (You do not need to account for any parents who might stay.) What do you want to serve? You will need to include all the food costs in your budget. Don’t forget drinks! (Remember, you do not need to include regular pantry ingredients, so it may be cheapest to make things at home.) In the space below, make a list of foods you want to serve on the left. We’ll take this to the grocery store and get prices this week to help fill in the budget. Food is usually your biggest expense in planning a party, but that’s because it’s very important. People like to eat!
  • Party Favors. Especially for a birthday party, when guests bring you a gift, you should give everyone something small to help them remember your event (and as a way of saying thank you!) It does not have to be expensive or flashy; in fact, the best favors are simple and tasteful. It can be something you make, or a combination of a purchased thing with a handmade thing. In years past, we have given hand-sewn tote bags, packets of seeds, a pretty flower, a bit of good-quality chocolate, a nice notebook, or a craft that we did together as a party favor. You probably won’t know what sort of favor you want to give out yet. It might be something you come across while shopping for the party, or an idea you see online. (One place to look for ideas is Pinterest.com- LOTS of party favor ideas there!) But jot down a few ideas, and then be open to considering something else as your party planning takes shape.
  •   Entertainment. You don’t necessarily have to spend money on the entertainment, but you should have an idea of what you and your guests are going to do. It can be as simple as a playdate. But if you want to do something like a craft or other activity, you’ll need to make sure we have the supplies, and account for any special entertainment purchases in your budget. If you want to buy Frozen and watch it during the party, remember to include the price of the movie when you’re budgeting. You do not need to budget for anything we already have, like toys or craft supplies. Check with me if you want to know what’s here or if you have any questions.
  •  Miscellaneous Expenses. This is where you can get into trouble if you don’t think of things ahead of time. How are you going to invite your friends? The invitations can be mailed, emailed (though they might not get them – think about how often you check YOUR email!), hand delivered, or done via telephone/email. You MUST MAIL a thank-you card to each guest (or family), however. Also, don’t forget things like drinks, decorations, or other details that might involve a trip to the store.


She planned every detail, as outlined in the project: food, entertainment, guest list, invitations and thank you notes.  She helped prepare the food, and decorated the cakes herself.  It worked out very well and she seemed to really enjoy the process.  She came in right under budget, with about $3.75 to spare. Most importantly: the party was a great success!

Violin 3-13-2014

I hope I did not jinx matters by reporting O8’s wonderful recital performance last Saturday.  Today she went to her weekly violin lesson (postponed from Tuesday) and it was horrible.

She reluctantly played through Minuet and Etude, but got annoyed with herself when she lost her place in the second piece, and then got annoyed with Miss Tina when Tina asked her to work through that spot a few times.   She finally played the troublesome measure through the requested five times, but only pizzicato; then, she refused to play it arco with the piano.  Just when I thought she was going to go for it, the next student came in and she completely shut down.  She hid behind me and wouldn’t even look at anyone.  My mommy-radar could sense that at least some of this display was manipulation, so I calmly thanked Tina for her time and said we would work on it later at home.  And that was that.

In good news, she and S9 each tried their practice tests for the theory exam, and each scored a 100%.


Violin and Piano 9-24-13

Today we are back to our regular schedule, after two weeks out on the west coast. We are still a bit jet-lagged, but got up today for an early music day.

O7 went first with violin. She was reluctant (and tired), but got through her whole lesson with no complaint. She practiced Minuet I, then Tina had her play a G scale to get ready for Etude. They played through Etude together and worked on the second half (measure 9-end) where O7 had a few rough spots.

Next, we headed to Nelya’s for piano.S9 did her lesson and worked on a performance piece, the Spider, which she will probably play in a recital next month. This will be her first recital on piano, and she seems stoked about it. She did not do any theory today because Nelya wants her to concentrate more on her performance and technical pieces.  I opted not to take a lesson today since we were not able to practice while we were gone.

In the afternoon, we did some reading. My mom recently got the girls a few graphic novels that had been on our book list: Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe ; HG Wells’ The Time Machine, and Graphic Classics: H.P. Lovecraft.  We are enjoying these and the graphic format, which the girls have seen a few other times.

They are also working through the Warriors series and we are on the last disc of The Slippery Slope.  I can’t recommend the Series of Unfortunate Events books enough, especially in audio format (make sure to get the ones read by Tim Curry if you explore these!)  The story is compelling, and the writing does not assume your children are stupid, as so many children’s books are wont to do; but the thing I like most of all are the delicious and subtle word plays throughout the books.  There are so many turns of phrase and cool vocabulary words presented in the pages.  The kids don’t realize just how many interesting expressions they are learning by listening to these books, a phrase which here means Mom has no problem at all driving an extra lap around the block to get to the end of the chapter.