30 November 2006

Texas Weather

OK, you've probably heard the jokes. "When you're in Texas, if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes." Well, here's the evidence. It was 80 degrees when I got home from work last night, and here's a pic from the backyard this afternoon. Yes, that's snow. And it's about 25 degrees. Sheesh.

22 November 2006

Doing Time with Library Thing

For the past week or two my computer time has seen me with single-minded focus. I must get all my books onto Library Thing. The LT love affair started simply enough. You enter a few books, see who else has them, find out what they have on their shelves that you covet... Soon I purchased the Lifetime Account (only $25 for forever, what a bargain!) This enables me to finally have a list of every single last one of my books. Easier said than done...

Why am I suddenly in such a rush? Why, Yule is coming of course! You see, we moved house recently (OK, it was over half a year ago...) Anyway, due to various circumstances, the majority of our worldly belongings made it to our new abode only last month. Now, we have a lot of stuff, so much so that I'm almost embarrassed. We will hopefully be having a garage sale in the not too distant future, but if not, there's always Freecycle, right?

OK, my story's off track. The bottom line is, we have no place to put The Tree, and it seems that my stacks of books, which do in fact have lovely bookshelves on which to go, are first in the long line of Things Which Must Be Put Away. Because, apparently, some furniture belongs to the spot in which they are currently residing...

23 October 2006

The Renaissance

Wow, it's been a month since I posted. Not that I haven't been feeling a wee bit guilty about it in the back of my mind or anything...

Of late, I have been somewhat frustrated in my preparations for the upcoming homeschool study of the Renaissance. We breezed through Pre-Columbian Americas and had a nice unit on Exploration and Discovery, after I spent a late night organizing (rearranging and condensing) the lesson plans I had found and synthesizing them with our library books.

Now we have hit the Renaissance. According to the 'master plan,' we should have started last week. I'm not really bothered by this except that when we go for a few days without working on a little of everything, it's hard to get back into gear.

According to our guidebook, we are to learn about Islamic Scholars (like Avicenna), Florence and the Medici, Artists of the time (Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli et al), Courtiers, Machiavelli, Gutenberg, Martin Luther and the Reformation, John Calvin, and the Counter-Reformation, and that's just for the 'Continent.' For England, there's Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, the English Civil War, Charles II and the Restoration of the monarchy, James II and the Glorious Revolution, William and Mary, and the English Bill of Rights. For Russia we have Ivan the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great. And that's just the history! We've also got science, art, literature (Shakespeare and Cervantes!) Maybe you can see why I'm a little out of sorts...

There is so much going on here, I can't seem to squeeze in the word 'synthesize.' I have a great personal interest in this time period (well, and history in general!) so it's hard to get something together for a fifth grader when I know so much additional information. I want him to be as astounded and amazed as I am by all the changes that took place during this time. Maybe this is unrealistic.

I was finally chastised by my husband (don't be too Virgo about this - you'll never have it perfect enough) and a coworker who is a homeschool graduate (this won't be the only chance he'll have to study the Renaissance). So I started to slowly eliminate books from the 'to read' pile. Which is probably a good thing - if anyone in my area wants a children's book on the Renaissance from the library, they are out of luck. I cleaned out the three closest branches. So I'll assuage my guilt by returning some of them tomorrow. I have a good general plan, and we'll read only the best books I found plus a few passages out of a few more, and we'll just have a lot of discussion.

Wish me luck.

23 September 2006

Blah Blah Blog

OK, it's been quite a while since I posted. Sorry about that... We've been holed up here in homeschool land for the past three-and-a-half weeks. My sincerest apologies to everyone that I have ignored, i.e. not responded to in a timely manner, during our 'adjustment period.'

Things have gone really well considering that our decision to homeschool came at the proverbial eleventh hour. I've found some great (& free) resources online with ideas and starting points for lesson plans, and I've made a fabulous (if I do say so myself) spreadsheet detailing the books we'll need throughout the year along with the branch of the library at which they are available.

I'm still working four days a week, so we have had to do some creative thinking to fit everything into a reasonable timeframe. The first week saw me in super high-stress mode as I tried to keep track of everything we were starting while trying to make decisions about what we would study when. Then my wonderful husband came home with the simplest solution ever
- a teacher's plan book. Of course it was too obvious for me to think of myself.

I'm finally staring to feel like we may be able to keep our heads above water school-wise and still be able to enjoy life. Now all we need to do is get our store website going...

29 August 2006

Birthday Excursion

Monday was my birthday, and it so happens that I work for a company that gives you the day off, PAID, as a 'gift.' So, son went off to Nana's to help prepare the traditional birthday cake, and husband and I went shopping. Not your typical birthday shopping, mind. We went Book shopping! The most important kind of shopping there is. The only caveat was that we were looking for textbooks and supplementary materials for this year's venture into homeschooling, due to start next Tuesday. We had previously purchased Books To Build On, by E.D. Hirsch, which recommends a ton of books to go along with the Core Knowldege curriculum we will be using. We scavenged through three local used stores and came back with three textbooks and a stack of 28 additional books from the list. All for less than $100. Through this, I seem to have discovered that my book buying sickness extends to buying books that aren't just for me. (You'll just have to imagine the evil grin...)

22 August 2006

For Fellow Bunnyphiles

In lieu of a well thought-out and meaningful blog post, I thought I'd share a cute video I saw on YouTube.

08 August 2006

Homeschooling Part 3

We did it. We withdrew our son from school on Friday. He is ecstatic. My husband and I are cautiously excited (we're both Virgos,) and figure the worst that can happen is having to get on the waiting list to get back into the charter school. (We decided it was worth the drive if necessary.) We purchased the requisite copy of What Your Fifth Grader Needs To Know, and a couple of teachers from his charter school gave us the list of books they will be using this year as well as a review book for 'The Test.' You know, in case we get the urge to download it at the end of the schoolyear... We also talked to his chess club sponsor who suggested we continue to come to the tournaments. She said we could still sit with them even if we were our own 'team.'

Thanks again to everyone who posted a comment with suggestions and support.

01 August 2006

Homeschooling Part 2

Wow. I really would like to thank everybody for all of the comments. I never expected this kind of response, but I am very grateful for all of the information and support provided.

I wanted to address some of the questions posed, and provide an update to our current position, decision-wise. First, I absolutely agree with you, Daryl, that fear and doubt are holding us back. My husband and I get excited every time we talk, but then the inevitable "are we really going to do this" will arise. We have finally spoken with our son frankly and seriously about the possiblity of homeschooling, and he seems to be mirroring what we are feeling. He acts excited, and then he says he isn't sure. I believe that what he's most worried about is maintaining current friendships.

Secondly, I would like to thank Unique for reminding me about the "What Your XX Grader Needs to Know" books. I had managed to forget (how, I don't know, as it had been a major selling point for us) that the Core Knowledge curriculum that our charter school uses comes from these books.

As I was fretting about this publicly, my husband was quietly going about his research. As we pored over all of your comments, he kept saying, I have that link saved, and that link, yes I read about that... He also found a list of reasons to homeschool that really hit home. After our son read the list, I asked him what he thought. His response, complete with big grin, was, "I'm thinking about homeschooling!"

I must say that I already knew, in my heart, everything ya'll have said. I just wasn't able to bring it to the surface and put it all together. After discussion, I think I have to admit that the inept 'grads' I have met or known were just victims of bad parenting. I had forgotten so many things in my worry. My cousin homeschools, and their daughter is wonderful. My in-laws (that we live with) are UU, and they have a homeschool group at their church. And, I actually used to work with the woman who led the homeschooling charge here in Texas!

It was so enlightening and inspiring to read all of your comments, especially the 'we did it, you can too' ones. I have to say that they reminded me that maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't be all on our own.

I do need to address the comment by Cygknit, as she has known me for a looooong time. It is more a question of how everybody's needs would fit together as a family with all of us managing to stay sane. (Tips on alone time for the parents, anyone?) Because I know I would do a good job teaching even though I'm not a 'professional.' (A friend at work made me feel really good when I told her about our recent thoughts. She said, 'Wow, you'll be great, can I come, too?") You know you would be great, too, Cygknit. You may have forgotten our plans from some time long ago to have our own small community with our friends.... Ahem, I believe you were going to be the teacher...

As it stands now, if we can all get just a little past our nervousness, I think we are most likely going to be trying homeschooling this year. We have to make the official decision by Friday, I think, so that we can withdraw from the charter school.

Thanks again, everyone, and, I'll 'keep you posted' :)

29 July 2006


The subject of school has been a difficult one for my household this summer. Our son, who is 10, has been attending a charter school since kindergarten. We initially made the decision for him to attend based on their accelerated curriculum. We have put up with their lack of amenities (lunchroom, gym, etc.) as a sacrifice for the excellent education. We also happened to be lucky that the school was just as close to us as the public school for which we were districted. That changed when we moved this spring. We are now nearly 30 minutes away, and with gas prices as they are, we have somewhat of a dilemma.

I have always had a problem with public schools. I feel like the curriculum is based on making sure enough students get good marks on 'The Test' that is given every couple of years so that the schools will continue to receive adequate funding. I don't feel like enough time is spent on subjects beyond the basics for kids to come out at the end with a true appreciation for the world and a desire for lifelong learning.

Supposedly, the school district that we have moved into has a reputation for being 'good.' I'm not sure, though, what that is supposed to mean. Do they hire better teachers? Do they have more money in the district for cooler equipment? Or do they actually go above and beyond the call of duty? We recently visited the local intermediate school that he would go to, should we so choose. It certainly looks nice, and the people seem nice. We talked extensively with the principal about the gifted/talented program, to see if that could somehow make up for the difference between what the charter school offers and what public school has. I have my doubts. While we were there, I looked through the 5th grade math textbook. I saw everything that he had learned LAST year. And he had begun complaining that he was bored, as he had done some math self-study at home.

This has led us to some radical and dangerous thinking. Some background information may be necessary before I go any further... I am the full-time worker of my household. My husband is the stay-at-home dad who does some work here and there to help supplement. We moved this spring in order to shift everything around so that we could change our situation in life and hopefully get 'ahead.' We puchased a large house with my in-laws, moved in together (but fairly well separated), and I started working only four days a week. The idea is that I can keep our health insurance in place while we start our own business (an online metaphysical shop.) The business has been in the works for a while, but I'll post more on that at another time. Back to the radical ideas. As may have been surmised from the title of this post, the subject of homeschooling came up. Now I know that the Christians have pretty much cornered the market on this idea, but I have seen some things here and there about a pagan homeschooling movement. My husband and I figured that I have the best 'teaching' rapport since we already do other kinds of 'lessons' (see previous post), and would therefore be the main instructor, but would I have enough time to work, start a business, and teach school? I could feasibly drop another day in my workweek and still receive our health insurance, and we would probably be able to scrape by financially.

The main concern, I think, for any homeschooled child, is socialization. I've met many a homeschooled graduate who did not know how to function in the real world. I guess that's a problem here in the bible belt. It's possible that if we did homeschool, we would only do so for a couple of years. But, in the meantime, would karate class and Spiral Scouts be enough? One other factor, my son's best friend from the charter school just happens to be transferring to public school this year so he can participate in sports. You only get one guess which school he's going to. That's right, the same one we would go to. Now, I do need to mention that my son has been begging to be homeschooled for many years. Much the same way I begged to go to private school when I was a kid (no, I never got to go.) I just wanted a better eduaction than what I felt I was getting. I was bored - just like he is now.
So, the question now is, do we try this? We are running out of time to make a decision. School is starting at the charter school week after next, and at the public school one week later. We don't even know whether to buy regular clothes (public), uniforms (charter), or nothing (home)!

22 July 2006

Wicca Books

I've been asked by my friend the Librarian (note the capital L, that's new) to recommend a book or two on Wicca for the religion section at her library. Apparently they have absolutely no books on the subject, and she is seeking to remedy the situation. I must admit that I have pondered on this for maybe too many days (I think she would have liked an answer a few days ago...), as the longer I think about it, the more undecided I become. I mean, how can you condense the entirety of Wiccan practice and philosophy down to a book or two? You just can't.

Usually when someone asks me at work (yes, I'm really a bookseller) what they should start with, I recommend Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. That's the one I started with, along with Raymond Buckland's Practical Candleburning Rituals. But this was quite some time ago, and there was not much to choose from. I quickly became enamored of Scott Cunningham and bought everything he had written. His Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and his Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic are still the books I use most often. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after I discovered him. Here's a wonderful article about him from Llewellyn's site.

Back then, it seemed there was a larger demand for Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft (yes, I worked at a bookstore then, too), but I didn't really dig it myself. Maybe others found it more desirable beacuse it's a big book with a giant pentagram on it? I had forgotten why I didn't like it until I looked in one again the other day. In Gardnerian witchcraft, which is where Buckland got most of his 'brand' of witchcraft, it is necessary to do rituals 'skyclad' (naked), and the initiation rites seem to include a fair bit of bondage. Not for me, thank you very much...

In the early 90's, I bought pretty much every new witchcraft book that came in so I could give it a try. Some I kept, but most have been sent out into the world to find a new home. Aside from a few of the Cunningham books, the one book from then that I actually still use is Edain McCoy's The Sabbats. Celebrating the Sabbats is my favorite part of being pagan, and I've gotten many, many ideas for family shindigs from this book. One book I wish I still had is Power of the Witch, by Laurie Cabot, although I do still have her Celebrate the Earth book about the Sabbats which has some good recipes. Since Ms. Cabot is based out of Salem, Mass, my dear Librarian might have some local interest in her books, as her library is in nearby Connecticut.

In the past few years, there has been just an enormous amount of paper dedicated to Wiccan practice. Many are excellent, and some are just so-so. Speaking of family (yes I was, just a minute ago), my son, age 10, and I have been having 'magic' lessons based on Elements of Witchcraft and The Book of Wizardry. Elements of Witchcraft is a very basic book written for (pre-)teens, but it serves our purposes (he is only 10...). The Book of Wizardry is written more as a young adult novel kind of thing. It seems to try to make a bridge between those interested in the Harry Potter kind of magic and those who are serious about how things really work. I don't think I would really recommend it for a child/teen to read on their own as they might misunderstand. I've been reading the chapters out loud during the lesson and then following up with 'real-world' magic instruction.

As far as recent books I've actually felt the need to purchase (which if you know me, you might think it wouldn't be too hard to convince me to buy a book, but I'm actually pretty picky), there are three that stand out to me. One is Grimoire for the Green Witch, which is a book on natural witchcraft with a Wiccan slant. This is a great all-around book that is substantial enough for a beginner and beyond. And it only has a small pentagram on the cover...The other book is Wicca: A Year and a Day. I actually just purchased this book and am anxious to be at a place in life (soon hopefully) that I can start work through it. It will be nice to get a refresher course that's more in depth than my original self-guided training. A year and a day is the traditional amount of time for study before initiation. (As well as other things like a handfasting...) This book has a lesson for each day and covers theology, deities, divination, correspondences, ritual work, and etc. I'm hoping that I will be able to integrate some of the lessons into my son's lessons. While this seems to be a really great book, my husband pointed out to me that if it got checked out of a library, it could result in a very, very overdue book. The last book is Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison. This is essentially a spell handbook; they are all fairly simple to do, and they are arranged alphabetically by intention. Handy in a pinch.

OK, down to the official Moderatrix recommendations. If you can get only one book, get Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. If you can get two books, get Wicca and The Sabbats. If you can get three...(we can always hope, right?), get Wicca, The Sabbats, and Grimoire for the Green Witch.

07 July 2006

New things I like

Well, we braved the movie theater this evening to see Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. I must say it was almost as fun as the first one. Lots of fun stunts and cool effects and makeup. Oh, and you have to stay till the end of the credits. It's nothing that big, but still cute.

If you haven't had Haagen Dazs Mayan Chocolate yet, go get some right now. It is fabulous (and I don't use that word - ever). Vey simple formula - their rich creamy chocolate with a fudge swirl and a hint of cinnamon. I had it in a shake today at the mall - it was even better all swirled up with whipped cream on top!

And alas, I have been seduced by Library Thing. I've only entered around a hundred books so far, but I can't get over how easy it is. It's so cool how you can see who else has the same books and then look at their shelves without feeling like you're spying! It's the coolest (dot) thing (dot) ever(dot).

03 July 2006

Rhythm of the Heart

I stumbled upon a magazine today that I'd never heard of (even though it's apparently been around for 10 years), called ODE. I found this week's featured article very interesting. Here's a link:


What I found most intriguing was the idea that heart rhythm is connected to stress levels. Of course when we read things we see them through the lens of our own experience. I have a mild mitral valve prolapse and have been officially diagnosed with 'Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome.' Basically meaning that when I get even a little stressed out or overtired, I have chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath, not unlike an anxiety attack. The problem with this 'syndrome' is that no one seems to know why a problem with the anatomy of a heart valve can cause anxiety symptoms. I had a proverbial 'lightbulb' moment when I read

“There is a constant exchange between the heart and the brain. Research shows that a coherent heart rhythm is able to bring the emotional brain to rest. When your heart is beating in a healthy way, you can heal stress, depression, tension and other mental afflictions.

So maybe it's not the stress causing the symptoms, but the heart causing the sensitivity to stress.

30 June 2006

For Cygknit

And so begins a possibly feeble (but hopefully not) attempt at having my very own blog and the swearing off of only reading those belonging to others. Much to my chagrin, I have been goaded into being less cautious than usual by making my thoughts somewhat public.
More to come.