Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Fractions Backfire

Ella has been doing a great job on her math recently. You may recall, or if not I'll fill you in, Ella was way behind in math when we started homeschooling. And she was not a fan of math. She dreaded seeing her math book come out. But now, (prepare for a happy dance) she's totally caught up. It's still not her first choice for fun, but at least she doesn't drop her head on the desk in a pitiful show of defeat when it's math time.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was teaching her about equivalent fractions. Part of the lesson involved choosing the larger of two fractions. When Ella looked at a problem that asked if 1/3 or 1/4 was larger, she chose 1/4 as the larger fraction because 4 is bigger than 3. And while I appreciated her logic, I had to explain to her why 1/3 is actually bigger than 1/4.

I started with straight mathematical reasoning...and as I watched her eyes glaze over, I was pretty sure I could hear my voice becoming the Charlie Brown teacher drone, whaa, whaa, whaa, in her little head. So I switched tactics and went for cake. Not real cake...mathematical cake. Which is way more interesting than mathematical reasoning, even if it's not as tasty. Here's how the conversation went:

"Ella, imagine you had a big cake."


"Now, imagine that you had to share that cake with two friends. And everyone had to get the same size piece."

"Got it."

"Now, imagine that another friend showed up. Now there are four people and everyone still has to get the same size piece. So because there are more people sharing the cake, each piece will have to be smaller, right?"


"But if there were only three people sharing the cake they could all have a bigger piece, right?"


"So, Ella would you rather share your cake with two friends or with three friends?"

Scrunching her face and thinking for a minute "I'd rather share with three friends that way I could have more people over to play."

Uhhhh, kinda hard to argue with that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Emotional Complexities of eBay

We're finishing up this homeschool year and Ella is counting down the days until summer break. She's suddenly gotten a massive second wind now that the finish line is in sight and she's starting to ask to do extra lessons every day so she can hurry up and be done. We have a few more weeks to go, but the end is in sight.

Well, it's in Ella's sight. I'm already plotting, planning and preparing for next year. And, as I have mentioned earlier, I am philosophically opposed to paying full price for curriculum. So I have been busy stalking used curriculum websites and eBay in an attempt to find a good deal on the books I plan on using in the fall.

Ah, eBay. The worlds largest, and most diverse, yard sale. And I'm not bashing eBay. I'm a fan! I love eBay. I have a whole system for eBay bargain hunting. I'm a sniper. That's right, I'm that sneaky person who swoops in with only 10 seconds left and outbids all those unsuspecting suckers....uh, bidders. Nice bidders. Forgiving bidders who will continue to read my blog. (Sweet smile)

Anyway, I have learned that eBay is not the best place for people with competitive natures. It's far too easy for those of us who have been gifted with a strong inner drive for success (ie. I would trip my Grandma in a three legged race) to lose sight of the bargain hunting aspect of eBay and start taking things personally. If anyone else has the nerve to bid against us we see it as a personal attack and must retaliate by clicking that bid button. And then it just escalates into some Butter Battle bidding war over a chipped kitty statue that inevitably ends with someone screaming "No!" at their slow loading computer and someone else overpaying for shipping.

So, in an attempt to show great maturity and restraint, I have set a spending limit on my curriculum searches. And so far I have managed to keep my trigger finger off the sniper bidding button. But consider yourself warned...especially if you're looking for Sonlight books. Dun, dun, dun duuuuuuuunnnn.

PS. You get bonus points if you got the Dr. Seuss reference.

Raising Rebels (in a good way)

Confession time....I don't need anything other than a book to make history fun. I'm one of those people who thinks history is a hoot and a half. Give me a big ol' book on the ups and downs of the British monarchy or a massive encyclopedia of everything that has ever happened anywhere in the world and I'll curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and read until my eyes fall out. But sometimes you need a little help to make stuff that happened 200 years ago fun for an 8 year old. Ella is studying the Revolutionary War right now and she's really getting into it. When we read together, she cheers the minutemen and boos the British which is downright amusing.

So, when in the course of preparing a lesson on the Declaration on Independence (how's that for a reference) I found something really cool. The website for the National Archives in Washington, DC has a fun activity here where you can sign your name on the Declaration of Independence. Not the real one of course, I'm pretty sure you'd go to jail for that, but you can sign a copy and print it out. Come on...that's cool!

So yesterday we went online and Ella got to choose her quill (aka, font style), type her name and then she got to print out her own copy of the Declaration with her signature on it. She's right under George Walton. They even have an "are you sure you want to sign this?" warning telling potential signers that if they lived during 1776 they would be branded a rebel and a traitor by the King of England for signing the Declaration.

Now Ella has her own copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging by her desk. It's a little too small to actually read most of the text, but it's got a pretty nifty parchment look and Ella loves seeing her name on it. See...making history fun! Right? Right? Please tell me I'm right...

And welcome Hoppers! I hope you'll come back again!

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a Name?

A few years ago I read a devotional book called "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson. I have long since given away my copy of the book, but the prayer has remained with me. I actually have it taped Rocky-style to my bathroom mirror for encouragement. The Scripture reads:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez,saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

As I studied this Scripture, I was struck by the connection between Jabez's name and the cry of his heart. Jabez means pain. Consider that for a moment, his very name means pain. For whatever reason, his birth was surrounded by pain. It could have been the physical pain his mother endured or it could have had another meaning. Perhaps his father died before his birth and his mother was speaking of that loss. We don't know, and the Bible doesn't say. But we can see in his prayer, the only mention of this man in Scripture, that his name deeply affected him.

In verse 10, Jabez asks God to keep him from causing pain. That vocabulary is not a coincidence. Jabez knows the meaning of his name. He knows he was birthed in pain and he has carried that legacy through his entire life. As he cries out to God, he asks the Lord to help him rise above his name. He wants to be more than he has been told he can be.

Haven't all of us been there? We've been labeled, categorized, told what we're capable of or what we can be. The world wants to name us, to force an expectation (or lack of one) upon us, to tell us that the circumstances of our birth...our background, our income, our education, our job or any one of a thousand other external realities...will forever dictate who we are, and who we can be.

But that isn't how God sees us. God has a new name for us, a name that He Himself will give us. "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." Revelation 2:17

Jabez cried out to God and asked Him to change the identity the world had given him. His heart cried, "My name means pain, all my life that's who I've been known as, someone who caused pain. I don't want that. I don't want to live according to this name. I want something different."

We don't have to remain in the box the world says we belong in. We don't have to bend under the weight of the pressures the world lays on us. We are not limited, defined or relegated to the names the world gives us. Man, woman, stay at home mom, single father, abused child, convict, addict, victim, rich, poor...none of that matters. God Himself knows who we really are. He knows who we can become with the strength of His love and power operating in our lives.

If we cry out with a heart like Jabez, a heart that seeks something more, God will hear us and just as He did for Jabez, He will grant us our request.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mom Fashion

First, let me say I have never been a super trendy kind of girl. I have some vague idea of style and current fashion, but I don't pay much attention to it. Never have. Even back in those high stress fashion times of high school, I was never exactly fashion conscious. Oh I had my pegged Guess jeans, big hair, blue mascara and Swatch watch (did you figure out this was the 80's yet?), but that was the extent of my fashion obsession.

And once I hit college, it was pretty much the same thing...I mean the lack of trend stalking craziness, not the big hair and blue mascara, I got over that phase. Now that I'm older and (somewhat) wiser, I'm still a little off the fashion radar. I'm a fan of snazzy shoes, cute purses and jewelery, but I'm usually trying to match those accessories with jeans and a black shirt. Not exactly runway material, but it works for me.

So, given my relatively easy going fashion ways, you'd think it would be pretty hard to offend my sense of fashion rightness. Well, I'm here to tell you that it can be done. Just last week I had a fashion emergency that would have made Tyra Banks run for the hills in her stiletto heels. And there was nothing I could do about it.

See, I have recently become involved with a new organization. I'm in leadership with this organization and as such I am obligated to wear their official shirt when representing the group. Which was no big deal...until I put the thing on. Holy Crocs, Batman! It's soccer mom style gone bad. I love this group and I love being a part of it, but when I threw on the over-sized, shapeless, bedouin tent-like official polo shirt with the required khaki pants, I nearly kicked myself off the runway. I kid you not, I looked like a tacky cruise director...or the annoyingly perky girl who sells gym memberships. It was bad. I may not know fashion forward, but I sure can identify fashion backward when its staring at me in the mirror.

I tried to salvage my dignity with some funky silver earrings, cute sandals (even though it was raining), and a big bracelet, but there was no hope for this uber-mom outfit. It was so scary that when I walked into the living room even my darling husband laughed and promptly took a picture of me.

And yet, because I love this group and the ministry it does, I grabbed my purse and walked out the door with my head held high (and eyes frantically scanning the street for people who know me). But I spent most of the day plotting the sparkly eyeshadow and bright nail polish colors I would wear the next time I had to put on this outfit...which by the way is tomorrow.

Computers and Swimsuits

Yep, I'm in trouble...again. I sure have some loyal, and slightly frightening, readers. And they know where I live. (See Shelly, I'm typing, I'm typing!) So let's skip the mea culpa and get right to my latest adventure.

This past month my adorable pink laptop started acting up. I love my pink laptop. I love everything about it, so I felt a deep sense of betrayal when it started to freeze, shut down and send me nasty error messages. I was good to this laptop...unlike it's predecessor where I actually divotted the keyboard with my fingernail driven typing style. Personally, I think it was a wimpy keyboard, but that's beside the point. I treated Pinkie the laptop well and this is how she repaid me.

So when Major Dad came home for a weekend visit, I mentioned that my computer was acting up. Now this phrase is the computer geek equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a perpetually irritated bull, so he scooped Pinkie up faster than my kids grab candy and got to work. Not five minutes later Pinkie sputtered her last breath and gave him the blue screen of death.

And because I am a kind and supportive wife I immediately said, "What did you do?"

So the next day we packed up the kidlets and went computer shopping. Sigh. I detest, despise and dread computer shopping. It's right up there with swimsuit shopping. Both make me feel like a clumsy hippo in a ballet class. No fun at all. Major Dad however, as a professional computer dude, loves it. Best Buy is like Disneyland for him. So as I'm dragging my feet across the parking lot and asking questions like "Is Pinkie really, REALLY dead or just mostly dead?", Major Dad is skipping happily toward the big blue Best Buy building (in a manly, Marine Corps way of course).

And Major Dad drags me straight to the Mac section and starts showing off all the cool Apples goodies with an annoying twinkle in his eye. Meanwhile I'm fussing and grumbling and generally being a big baby about it. I didn't like the Mac Books because of the keyboard set up (the keys are too far way for my little elf hands) and the sharp edges on the casings. Yes, that was my reason. When I tried to explain that to Major Dad he blinked in stunned disbelief a few times and then told me I could get any computer I wanted...even if it was a PC (though I'm pretty sure he nearly choked on the words).

Well, no luck that day. So we went home and had a long talk that night about what I want and need a computer to do (not die would be a good start) and we went back the All Things Electronic haven the following day.

So now, my friends, I am mostly happy to say that I am typing on my brand new....iMac. Not a laptop, but it has an awesome monitor and a cool new track pad. And hubby says if I divot this keyboard it will be easy to replace. Of course getting a desktop computer meant rearranging three rooms in the basement, moving a desk and emptying, relocating and refilling four bookcases in order to get it in the right place. And guess who did the heavy lifting? It wasn't intentional revenge, but it did make me feel better.