Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In Search of a Practical Planner

I don't whine that often... but this is a WHINE coming on.  WHYYYYYY is it that when I find a weekly Planner that I really like,  the company stops making it or stores stop selling it or it becomes otherwise impossible to get the next year?!!!

I am particular about my Planner.
  • I want a Weekly / Monthly planner, with both a month-at-a-glance calendar, and weekly planning pages.  
  • It needs to be at least 7"x 9" - I can't write in teeny tiny spaces.  
  • I like a spiral-bound, notebook style planner rather than a leather portfolio type
  • I need an Academic Planner that starts in July or August , and prefer a 17-month planner, but will settle for 12 months if I have to. 
  • I like having extra blank pages or space to write notes, directions, lists, etc.  
  • I need a couple of pages for an address directory. 
  • I don't need or want designated boxes /columns for Goals or Priorities or Travel Expenses or other business-type things. 
  • I am a busy mom/homeschool teacher/volunteer, and I need a Mommy/household planner, but I also don't want a gazillion extra pages for household-y things that I won't use!  
The planner I used this past year was from Staples, and apparently no longer exists.  I have tried designing my own pages, printing them, and having them spiral-bound. That takes a good amount of time. I have looked at Target, Staples, and WalMart so far.  Nothing.

I found this one - momAgenda- online that seemed promising, but the price is higher than I want to spend.

Then I found this one - BusyBodyBook- that looks interesting.  

Anybody have a recommendation for a great Planner?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Think I Can, I Think I Can...

Maybe it has something to do with turning 50 next week and my brain feeling like mush half the time.  I read once that as women get older and produce less estrogen, they lose their ability to multi-task!  Or maybe it is because I have half a dozen big things on my plate all needing attention, and I am by nature a highly-distractable person!   Therefore I tend to flit from one thing to the next, and have a hard time with completion.  But I am having trouble getting into "school mode". I don't feel ready. I need more time to organize and plan and prepare.  THEN I would be ready to dive in.

I USED to wait until after Labor Day to start school, which means I would have a couple more weeks. But our TOG Co-op started last week, and Amanda starts 3 outside classes (or supplemental tutorials, to be exact and comply with the requirements of the state homeschool statute)  in the next 2 weeks, so my hand is forced.

Last week we just did TOG history/literature/worldview reading, to be ready for Co-op.   Jason has moved up to the Dialectic class this year, which increases his reading load by quite a bit.  His reading speed/comfort level isn't there yet, so I still have to read about half of his assignments to him aloud.  I'm hoping for that "big leap" to come soon, where he'll start devouring books.  It happened with the other kids. sigh.

Amanda did fine with hers, and this week will add Algebra 2 and Spanish 2.  The following week she adds Government. My friend Eve is planning to do Psychology with her daughter and Amanda together, meeting after their Gov .class once a week, probably starting after Labor Day ( that's my kinda thinking!)   I still need to get her science, writing, computer, and graphic arts lessons planned out so she can start them some time soon. Except for the writing ( Write Shop 2 / TOG ), these are self-designed courses and not purchased curriculums.  If anyone is counting, that adds up to 10 courses for her senior year - English ( Lit / Writing ),  Algebra 2, Spanish 2, History, Government/Economics, Worldview/Philosophy, Psychology,  Family Health & Nutrition, Computer Apps., and Graphic Design.  hmmmm. 

J is in 7th grade this year... SEVENTH GRADE!  My baby!   gah!  No outside classes for him yet, just  TOG Co-op once a week to review/enrich history, literature, and worldview.  He has been working on math all summer, so this week we'll add grammar and writing. I am still figuring out his science - I decided that the amount of reading for Apologia General Science would put him "over the top", so I am trying to design some unit studies using the topics from that book, but with videos and library books and websites.... cuz he really likes science but really doesn't like reading right now.
He loves art so I will continue teaching an art class once a week... just have to figure out which day.  We'll host Geography club once a month as well as do the TOG geography.  Latin, piano, and Bible round out his curriculum, and those will be starting up in the next couple of weeks. 
So he has English ( Lit / grammar / writing) , History, Geography, Science, Math ( Pre-Alg), General science,  Art, Latin, Bible, and piano.

It sounds good on paper.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nothing Good...

It is 12:15 AM.

My 2 daughters, age 22 and 17,  and my "adopted daughter", age 21, just left to go "kidnap" another friend and go to WalMart to buy HAIR DYE. 

Nothing good can come of this....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Support Group Kick-off

Last Tuesday night was the "new school year"  kick-off for our homeschool support group.  Our August parent meeting is always the best attended of the year -  part reunion, part pep rally!  We had about 120 moms and dads in attendance, as we unveiled our calendar of events for the coming year, shared information and encouragement, and got to know some of the leaders and coordinators in the group.

To start things off, I read a devotion on wisdom from the book One Hundred and One Devotions for Homeschool Moms by  Jackie Wellwood.  Then I  introduced the Board members and some of the other leaders, and a couple of them spoke briefly about things like Mentor Groups, Clubs, and Graduation.

Mentor groups is something new we're starting this year, and we've gotten a great response so far! We've tried a variety of approaches to mentoring, such as having a list of mentors that new homeschoolers could call, to trying to match up new homeschoolers with a particular mentor for the year, to offering a couple of "book study groups", but nothing has been particularly effective so far. This time, we have a few volunteers who are hosting a "mentor group" in their home for 8 separate meetings. The group will be made up of 6-8 new homeschool moms and the mentor, and together they'll go through Vicki Bentley's  Home Education 101 manual. My group will start this Saturday, and I'm looking forward to getting to know these ladies and sharing some of my  homeschool experience with them. :-)

I put together a Power Point slide show for the meeting which included lots of photos, and which explained our vision, purpose, and expectations; our statement of faith; our activities for both parents and children; and our membership procedure.  The church we met in had a large, pull-down screen, so everyone could see it well, and it gave a great visual picture of our support group and who we are.

After handing out some door prizes -  charts from Doorposts and a copy of the devotional book - we broke into small groups of about 12-15 people for the rest of the meeting - what we call the  "Getting to Know you" part. We split up based on ages of kids -  all kids age 8 & under, oldest child 9-12 yrs old, all kids age 13 or older, kids range from elementary thru high school age;  plus a small group just for dads.   A couple of the groups split into 2 groups because there were so many.  Another mom and I sat down with a few visitors who were there to find out more about homeschooling but hadn't really made a decision yet.  This was a great way for everyone to get a chance to meet new people and talk and ask questions. 

Afterwards we had refreshments and a chance for people to sign up to help coordinate activities this year. We also had sign ups for the Mentor groups and a few of the activities coming up soon, like the Family Picnic,  a Lapbooking workshop, a field trip to the Police Station, and the Graduation Information meeting.

You know your meeting is successful when people linger and talk afterwards.  We shooed the last couple of parents out the door at 11 pm.  And then I stood and talked in the parking lot with one of my best buddies until about 1am!   Our daughters were home talking to each other on Facebook, saying, "Hey, my mom isn't home from the meeting yet."  "Really?  Neither is my mom."  "Ahhhh!  That explains it."

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trip to the Creation Museum

As part of our Kentucky camping trip last week, we journeyed up to the northern part of the state to camp at Big Bone Lick State Park in Union and visit the  Creation Museum!  This has been on my list of "things to see" for several years, since the museum opened, and friends who had visited already had raved about it. 

The museum lived up to our expectations. It is a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility which brings the biblical account of Creation to life.  The "Men in White" show and the Planetarium show were excellent.  The walk-thru exhibits showcasing the Garden of Eden, Noah's shipbuilding site, and more, were enchanting.  And the gardens outside the the museum, with pathways, bridges, gazebos, and pond, were stunning.  We even found lunch at the on-site restaurant, Noah's Cafe, to be reasonably priced, amply portioned,  and very tasty.  Yes, you should go.  

We enjoyed this campground too, although the sites were a bit close together, without many trees.   Thankfully, the weather cooled off and was just perfect for the last 2 days, so we actually enjoyed sitting out at the picnic table and going for walks around the campground.  We did have to make one trip to find an Urgent Care Center ... .again... for Amanda's ear.  Her ear infection flared up again, and required a THIRD antibiotic and this time, antifungal drops as well. 

 We dropped in at McD's or Wendy's a couple of times to hook up to wireless internet and check our email.  Hopeless, I know.  All of us.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mammoth Caves National Park - part 2

I had quickly looked through the different tours on the national park website before we left home, and printed off the descriptions of the ones that sounded most interesting.  There were a couple of "extreme" cave tours that I immediately crossed off the list - no crawling on my belly or handclimbing up walls or squeezing through tiny spaces for me. I figured the "extremely strenuous" tour wasn't a good idea at my age and level of fitness either.  But I did think we could handle more than the "nice and easy" walk through the cave.  So I underlined the Moderate hikes, and noticed that some tours included parts of other tours. For instance, the New Entrance Tour included the Frozen Niagara Tour and more, so no need to do both of those. 

Our second tour was the Snowball Tour. In 100 degree heat, just the name sounded quite appealing! The temperature inside the caves is about 54 degrees year round, and although we all brought sweatshirts, I had mine tied around my waist most of the time.  It felt WONDERFUL in there. Of course my hubby was freezing - we are the couple that has him wrapped up in a quilt while I'm lying on top of the blankets with the ceiling fan going full blast. But I digress. 

The Snowball Tour entered the caves at the Carmichael Entrance, a different location than the New Entrance. The almost 200 stairs at this entrance went straight down underground, like walking down the steps of city hall, rather than winding in a spiral down a shaft.  This was a wider, flatter, more open cavern which led us for 1.5 miles through places like "Clevelands Avenue", to the Snowball Dining Room, about 250 feet below the surface.  

 We learned the names of every single kind of rock inside the caves....

Limestone. Limestone.... and limestone. 

The Snowball Tour gets its name from calcium carbonate deposits growing on the ceiling and walls. It looks like snow!  

Only clear water bottles are allowed in the cave - no bags, backpacks,camera bags... but on this tour you are allowed to bring lunch in a mesh bag or clear ziploc bag.  I packed sandwiches, cheese & crackers, and granola bars in a mesh beach bag for our picnic way down under. Box lunches were available, as well as vending machine fare. The dining room had a number of picnic tables, as well as rest rooms, which were a welcome amenity.  

We were fortunate to have fairly small groups of 40 or less on all 3 tours, and the guides were very personable and informative. They stopped and shared lots of interesting facts about the history of the caves, its exploration, its geology.  Jason wanted to be right up front to hear everything that the ranger had to say! 

One of the things we learned about was the early tour guides, when the caves were privately owned, back in the mid-late 1800s. These young men, many of them African-American slaves or former slaves, explored miles and miles of cave, and led groups of curious people through the passageways. One way that they earned tips was to write the name of the person on the ceiling, using a candle attached to a long pole.  This was called smoke writing. Some names were carved, some were painted.  After the land was bought by the federal government, the practice of writing on the walls and ceilings was halted. But there is a lot of fascinating history in those names and dates. 

Our final tour was the evening Star Chamber tour, which was conducted by gas lantern light. 

This was very cool, as we entered through the historic natural entrance and heard about some  historical uses of the cave - the saltpeter mine, the tuberculosis huts, the church where a congregations actually held services. Then there was the "giant's coffin", and the "star chamber", in which the ceiling, darkened by smoke from years of lantern light, was chipped by enterprising young guides who threw stones to expose flecks of white stone, thus creating a "star" for a grateful customer.

looking back at the light ... it is DARK in the cave

Mammoth Caves National Park

We have lived in 3 different states and traveled quite a bit with the kids, but Kentucky is someplace that we have never visited before this summer! We love to camp and have visited many of our country's National Parks. For a long while, Mark has wanted to see Mammoth Caves - just because it sounded COOL! Well, we finally took a trip up to Mammoth Caves National Park in KY last week , and it WAS cool - both literally and figuratively! 

The park is located in a pretty rural area of south central KY, about 30 miles northeast of Bowling Green. We camped at Nolin Lake State Park, just north of the national parkSince it was July and VERY hot and muggy, electric hook up for our tent trailer was a high priority, and something the national park campgrounds do not have. Even though we don't have AC in our camper, we do have clip on fans which make sleeping a bit more comfortable. This state park campground is fairly new, with huge sites that are nicely separated. Many of them are in full sun, but we scored one of the few sites in full shade.  Again, a big plus when it is hot! The campground was nice and quiet, with many families and not many of the big rig RVs. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a campground in that area.

The drive to campground wound through country roads and was very picturesque. We were confused when we came upon this road sign. 

Fortunately, waiting ahead was this little ferry across the Green River.   It took us a few minutes of indecision before driving aboard, wondering if our conversion van pulling a camper was going to fit --- but it did.  No worries.

We went on three different cave tours, each 2 1/2 - 3 hours long,  and they were all different and all very interesting!   The first was the New Entrance Tour.  This tour was probably the most strenuous of the three, but was listed in the brochure as Moderate and was very doable.  We entered the cave through the "New Entrance", which is a manmade entrance opened up in the 1800's by one of the early cave owners and guides. You start off by going down a narrow stairway through a natural  shaft where at times you have to duck or turn sideways to fit.... !!!!  Our guide told us that the steel stairway took 3 years to design and 3 years to install, and were designed by a submarine engineer!   You could see through the grid flooring and if you don't like heights.. DO NOT LOOK DOWN!

Here we go!  
I don't know about this!!!!


some low ceilings - watch out, tall man!

Can you imagine walking through here before the pathway was built?

After a while, we came to an area of amazingly beautiful rock formations, an area called Frozen Niagara.

flow stone

amazing "drapery folds"

looks like icing on a cake!

There is a lot of family bonding that takes place when we go on camping trips together.

to be continued...