All posts by Katie

Resolution 1 and 2: Lose weight and get in better shape

Description: This is actually two separate resolutions, but listed together because they are entangled. You can get in cardiovascular shape without losing weight and you can also lose weight really unhealthily.

Motivation: I want to fit in my clothes more comfortably and have less back pain. I want to run around with the kids more and play with them. I love how much better my brain works when it’s had exercise. I never want to hear my daughter say “You can run, mom??” ever, ever again. I want to help with my son’s soccer team. I want to set a good example and feel good.

Method: To achieve this, I need to do two things: eat better food and exercise.

For better food, I need to plan dinners a little better, which should be easier now that the baby is older, the husband comes home earlier, and we have a couple fewer activities. I try to make a dinner and grocery plan in Remember the Milk each week, but there is room for improvement. I also need to find a better source of fresh produce. This is so  much harder without my beloved produce market in California. I also really need to make sure I don’t eat gluten. When I have some, I’m really sick for 3-7 days. I hurt, I’m sick, my brain doesn’t function, and everything falls apart. I never eat it on purpose, but accidents, especially with cross-contamination, do happen.

For exercise, I don’t have a solid plan right now, but I think I’ll start with 30 minutes on the elliptical per day, and hopefully add in weights when I can find them. Or swimming or bike riding or soccer, when available.

Goals: For goal 1, I’ll be around 135 pounds. For goal 2, it’s never going to be complete, but I’ll know the habit is established when I exercise every day for a month, barring illness.

Related posts:

Resolutions and Goals for 2012

Self-improvement is important for me. Without something to strive for, I feel pretty horrible and useless. So I am constantly setting goals for myself — daily, weekly, yearly. I have goals for my home, school, work, and fun. I try to be realistic, but still push myself. Sometimes I’m good at it, sometimes I’m not. But it’s good to write it down and periodically re-evaluate to see how I’ve done and reset goals either higher or lower as they require. Higher, if I’m doing well and I want to continue to improve, lower if it’s harder than expected or just lower in priority. Yeah, I’m a little crazy. I’m clearly the only person to ever read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and decide that that level of list-making and self-evaluation sounded good.

But setting goals isn’t enough. I also have to know how I’m going to get there. So I’ll list the activities I’ll engage in and how often plus a way to know when I’ve met the goal. Also, to help guide the choice in method and goal, I’ll list the motivation for each resolution. Each month, I can evaluate my progress and make any necessary tweaks.

Each day I’ll post about a resolution:

Don’t worry, Part 2 of the homeschool semester evaluation is still in the works. 🙂

    Progress So Far, Part 1

    Halfway through the year, we get ready for the portfolio reviews with the county, to prove we are providing “regular, thorough instruction during the school year in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age”. So I’m going to post about it. Part one, this post, will be to compare what we were planning on doing with what we actually did. Plans never survive first contact, but it’s good to have somewhere to start.

    I copied my old post, and I’ll mark it up with colors and strikethrough. 

    History for 3rd Grade and Kindergarten will be the same general topics, with activities that vary based on their abilities:

    • Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of History – right now it’s our pre-history spine, and will supplement the other books for the next several years. Yes!
    • Story of the World Volume 1  — Yes! Several Chapters, after our prehistory and evolution studies
    • History Odyssey level 1 Ancients — Yes! Some of it, history pockets and craft projects.
    • Gombrich’s Little History of the WorldNo… couldn’t actually find it after I made the post. It’s around here somewhere.
    • Various history pockets, historical coloring books, streaming videos, lap books! — A little. More than usual, but not as much as I hoped.
    • Activities from other subjects that have historical content (see below) — Yep! Some art, music, math. I always hope for more, but did the best I could.
    • Ancient literature, perhaps kid versions when necessary, such as The Odyssey. — Uh.. The Boy read some mythology.
    • Kid literature, such as picture books, Timewarp Trio, Magic Treehouse. — a little. They enjoyed Rick Roirden books about greek and egyptian myths.
    • 3rd grade only: online Mythology class — Yes! It was lovely.

     Language Arts 3rd Grade:

    • Michael Clay Thompson, Town level — this includes Grammar Town, Practice Town, Paragraph Town, Caesar’s English, Building Poetry. — We’re a bit slow on this one so far. We’re not even through grammar yet, and we’ve done a few chapters of vocabulary. (The grammar book is supposed to take 1-2 months tops…)
    • All About Spelling 2 and hopefully 3. — We’re nearing the end of 2.
    • Classic Literature as it comes up. — Maybe another year.

    Language Arts Kindergarten:

    • All About Spelling 1 (will probably be done before fall), 2, probably even 3 — finished one! Moving on to 2 if her brother ever finishes.
    • Mad Libs — yes!
    • Reading simple books– yes!
    • Not much else — she listens to her brother’s lessons and absorbs a lot.– Yep.

     Math 3rd Grade:

    • Using a combination of Math-U-See and Singapore Math: Actually ended up mostly in Khan Academy
      • Continue to work on +, -, X, and division math facts — Yes!
      • Continue to work on independently doing multi-step math problems, including long division — Eh… working towards that. We have attention issues.
      • Continue work on fractions — Some, yes.
      • Start decimals? — Not at all yet.
    • Logic problems (Logic Safari and other workbooks) — A huge hit!
    • Living Math books, history, and activities, synchronized with history work — Yep!
    • Read Life of Fred Fractions, The Number Devil, Zaccaro’s Challenge Math — Some.

    Math Kindergarten:

    • Using Math-U-See and Singapore Math: Mostly singapore and me drawing things.
      • Continue to work on subtraction and addition — Yes!
      • Continue to work on understanding place value — Attempted….
      • Start skip counting– Attempted….
    • Living Math books and activities, as she is able to participate — Yes!

    Science 3rd Grade and Kindergarten:

    • Nebel’s Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for K-2 and 3-5 — Some, see next post.
    • Prehistory (see history above) — Yes!
    • Science stuff that comes up — nature, farming, space, etc. — Tons!
    • Lots of science videos about space and engineering and nature. — Yep.
    • Hakim’s The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way, synchronized with history lessons — Well, history ended up a bit on the slow side, so we’ve only gotten to one of these…

     PE 3rd Grade and Kindergarten:

    • This is still a little unsure. We have some ideas for classes and such, but many schedules aren’t finalized enough for us to figure out which we can go to. Possibilities include a homeschool PE class, dance, soccer, swimming, and gymnastics. — Dance fell through, so did swimming and PE. But we did have soccer and gymnastics.
    • Cub scouts – includes activities for the little siblings– Yep.

    Health 3rd Grade and Kindergarten:

    • Focus on fitness, stretching, what to do in an emergency, eating well, and staying safe. — Yes.
    • Kidpower coloring books for issues with bullies, socialization, strangers, and emergencies. — Yes.
    • Cub scout book for 3rd grader, deals with cleanliness, character, etc. — Yes.

    Art 3rd Grade and Kindergarten:

    • Meet the Masters – introduces a master artist and their style and has activties to try out that artist’s style — managed two of these. They’re ok, but not as good as I hoped.
    • Art history synchronized with history class. May use Gombrich’s History of Art (filtered through me). — No. Not at all.
    • Drawing practice, a lot of practice painting and creating. — Sure!

    Music 3rd Grade and Kindergarten

    • Singing class? Unsure, due to schedule — Did do it, though he missed about a third of the classes once I was too injured to drive.
    • Music history synchronized with history class — No, but did other music history.
    • Trying out various instruments such as piano, violin, voice, recorder, etc. — Not really.
    • Hopefully someone will learn to play something!! — No. Can’t figure out how to make this happen.


    • Various life skills: cooking, cleaning!!, sewing, yardwork, camping Yes, except the camping was rained out.
    • Foreign language? Not really.

    When I wrote this it seemed like a lot. It’s really challenging trying to coordinate history with the history of math, science, art, and music. I did okay — it would have helped if we had moved a little faster on history, but as it turned out we ended up covering prehistory, evolution, ancients, AND more early modern history, so my plans were a bit out the window. You can’t do a whole lot of prehistorical art and music studies. 🙂

    I actually kept closer to the plan than I thought I did. It’s nice to do these little reviews just to prove we actually *did* things when it sometimes is hard to see the forest for the trees. We also spent a lot of time out and about seeing people, playing at the parks, and meeting folks. When the weather is good, we go out!

    Homeschooling Week 49-50 of 2011

    I should probably number the weeks based on the calendar, shouldn’t I? Whatever. 🙂

    Anyway, week 49 was crazy because we were fighting a hot water heater and were without water for 2 days, so here’s what we did the past 2 weeks. 🙂


    The boy did work on symmetry and telling time in Khan Academy, and did half a dozen logic problems. He worked on some word problems in Challenge Math. The girl did more addition and subtraction problems. All together we learned about some of the history of numbers and counting from The Joy of Math and The Secret Life of Math (tally sticks, Ishango bone, double tally sticks), All and none statements in logic, and syllogisms. The baby even demonstrated her knowledge of syllogisms when we left Joann’s Fabrics and I said “All kids must grab a bag!” (She added the second statement in her head, “I am a kid” and the conclusion, “Therefore, I must grab a bag” and refused to let me carry it.) The baby also enjoys counting small groups of things, and making patterns. We all practiced measuring when we baked brownies, donuts, and cookies.


    We baked, and baked, and baked. We made a donut recipe two ways and saw how different the results were, just in varying the order of the ingredients and how long they were stirred. We talked about the chemical reactions in the food. Also, we learned about life cycles and studied our little kitchen planter to watch mantises grow, shed, and eat as well as a little caterpillar make a cocoon and metamorphosize into a moth. I’m sure we talked about all sorts of other science, but I didn’t write it down.

    Writing and Spelling

    The girl finished All About Spelling 1!! The boy is still working through AAS 2, units 18 and 19 about the sounds of “u” and soft “c”. We also practiced writing our numbers, since our math work is often illegible and everyone ends up crying.

    Reading and Vocabulary

    The girl has been reading little books I make her and is doing a great job. The baby likes playing with letter magnets. The boy reads various Wikis obsessively and internalizes every last bit of it. And then tells you. Incessantly. He also learned the stems “circum”, “ante”, “mal”, “post”, and “equi”.


    We reviewed conjunctions and learned the difference between coordinating and subordinating. Also, reviewed prepositions and prepositional phrases and how they act like adjectives and adverbs. Then, we did Madlibs.


    SOTW 3 chapter 37 about the Zulus and the Boers. The boy couldn’t remember one thing about it… except every last detail about how Shaka Zulu trained his troops. Also, SOTW 1 chapter 4 about the pyramids and the Old Kingdom. We listened to several more chapters in the car, as well. And the history of math stuff above.   
    Tally marks on an animal skin


    Nothing terribly organized, what with my tendon injury, the water going out, plumbers, coldness, and so forth.


    The cub scouts discussed fire safety, putting out yourself or a friend if you catch on fire, dealing with emergencies, knife safety, and related things. We also did pages of our Kidpower book about checking with your adult before you change plans, and giving out personal information.


    The cookies were full of art. We also reviewed the five basic elements of shape in drawing, and did a lot of practice drawing.

    It was a good two weeks. 🙂

    A Day In the Life…

    I’ve tried to write a “day in the Life” post before, but my days are so busy I usually forget to keep writing things down after only a couple of hours. Thanks to Moment Diary on my phone, I managed to actually take notes for almost the entire day last Tuesday. I tried not to make any out-of-the-ordinary plans. I know that a lot of homeschoolers feel pressure to only post good days and not giant failures. I decided I’d post whatever actually happened. Happily, it ended up being a pretty good day anyway.

    8:30 am
    Up at 8:30 and woke up the baby. We’re having a problem with the kids staying up really late and sleeping in so I’m trying to get them up a bit earlier each day. The boy happened to get up at the same time (yay!). He starts to heat up leftover pizza for him and baby while I catch up on FaceBook, twitter, email, and order xmas presents from woot kids.

    9:00 am
    The girl gets up and also eats pizza.

    9:15 am
    The girl continues to eat, the boy empties out the dishwasher, and the baby opens the fridge and starts chugging chocolate syrup.

    9:30 am
    Went down to start laundry and get clothes. They haven’t been put away in a month. We’ll pretend that’s just because of my injury and not a regular occurrence. 😉

    9:45 am
    Baby and I took a bath, followed by the girl. This involved a lot of grumpiness while the baby ran around and made me chase her. At the same time, the boy gets some computer time before school and he chooses to play some minecraft.

    10:00 am
    Aaaaand.. the baby still isn’t dressed. Maybe I can tell the boy that’s his first assignment for school….

    10:10 am
    Vocabulary for the boy! I read about the word grotesque while he draws with our new fine tip prang markers (they are quite inspiring. 36 colors, lots of control. I hope the baby doesn’t eat them.) Meanwhile, the girl plays minecraft and the baby wanders around grabbing markers and harassing everyone.

    10:20 am
    Grammar for the boy — review verb tenses, learn perfect vs imperfect, review adverbs.

    10:25 am
    The boy does a couple logic problems in Logic Safari while I clean up markers from the baby.

    10:33 am
    Girls still playing minecraft. The boy practices writing numbers. I order a new, harder logic book…

    10:37 am
    Switch! The boy plays “everybody edits”, the baby is sort of on the DS. The girl starts drawing while I read kidpower about checking first with your adult before you go places, pet things, and accept things from strangers.

    10:56 am
    Trying to read a book, but the baby likes it and is offended that someone else is holding it. We end up giving up.

    11:08 am
girl goes back to minecraft. School breaks for my first breakfast and their second. I make vanilla milk, sausage, and chicken nuggets for various people.

    11:15 am
    Field call from husband about amazon special on something to give baby. Accidentally pour way too much vanilla in milk so we mix all together and repour. I continue to cook sausage…. son is serving vanilla milk while the baby drags around a bucket calling it a potty and the boy fields questions (from his sister halfway across the house) about minecraft. Then the kids take out the trash and recyclables and I rescue another baby mantis from the pizza box and put him in the herb garden. The choas is palpable.

    11:30 am
    Wednesday is a “day off” of activities usually, even when I can drive, so it’s usually our house cleaning day and we do more school than other days. The kids watch TV while they eat and I try to finish taking out recycling, eat sausage,  do the dishes, and rescue another mantis!

    12:00 pm
    Had to stop repeatedly to get baby unstuck from chair, to stop eating paper, etc.. whew! Now for a couple minutes rest while I make a grocery list.

    12:30 pm
    Made two little books with the girl while the boy plays on the computer. Baby tries to eat and choke on stickers. Might be plans for the girl to play with her cousin! whee!

12:45 pm
The sun is out and so are we!

    1:00 pm
    The kids make obstacle courses for each other. The wind chill is about 34. The girl is wearing a dress and for some crazy reason the baby takes her jacket off. I find gloves.

    1:15 pm
    The baby decide we’re going inside and nurses to sleep while I check facebook stuff and kids played on computer.

    1:45 pm
    Help the girl pack for a sleepover at her cousin’s house

    2:00 pm
    Eating popcorn, drinking tea, coloring with the girl, sending grocery list to the husband, check amazon deals, color some more. Boy still on computer, baby still sleeping. Wow! I get to spend time with the 5 year old for a change!

    3:00 pm
    Baby demands I help her nap. I inwardly groan — bedtime will be late again…

    4:30 pm
    The girl went to her cousin’s and the boy makes brownies!

    5:30 pm
    Husband comes home, we put away groceries, brownies cool, I make dinner — meatballs, bok choi, and pineapple from the 6 lb can.

    6:00 pm
    Nurse baby (again?!), dinner is done, boy playing with paper airplanes, the husband is making fractal art.

    6:30 pm
    (the baby got my phone…)

    7:00 pm
    Watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Does this count as history?

    9:00 pm
    Winding down for bed. The husband is checking email, I’m on the floor being body slammed by the baby, the boy is on the computer while we all watch Psych.

    …and I didn’t manage to take any more notes. Baby fell asleep around 11pm…. An amazingly quiet evening since the girl was gone. Bedtime with her is usually a lot of extra work….

    In School This Week

    When you’re homeschooling, not all learning is contained in books, or at a table, or even between the hours of 8-5. Sometimes it’s at night, or running in the backyard, or rolling around on the floor. So I find it hard to really capture *everything* we do for school in a week. On Tuesday, I’m going to put up a post documenting a day in our life (for But of course, no two homeschoolers days look the same, and no two of my days ever look the same, either!

    For a little while, the perfectionist list maker in me just stopped recording what we did, because it was just too much pressure to remember every last thing we discussed or learned, or whatever, but now I don’t care. Just realize, science (especially) or history, government, philosophy, or any numbers of things that just come up in conversation might not be listed here. I say this realizing that yes, school kids also have conversations all day where they also learn things. But those conversations are an intentional part of our school, so I really feel like I should list them sometimes.
    Not to mention, it often feels like planning the lessons plus writing about them afterwards actually takes longer than the lessons themselves!

    Anyway… on to this week!

    The boy really loves doing logic problems, so he completed about 7 of them this week. I even had to order him a new book! (Logic Countdown — it even introduces syllogisms, deduction, inference, etc!) He also spent some time at Khan Academy, where his favorite lesson is about identifying conic sections. But this week he worked on angles, subtracting large numbers, fractions, and whatever else seemed like fun at the time. Does anyone know a good way to export information about the past 4-6 months from the site suitable for a portfolio review?

    The girl really loves having addition and subtraction problems drawn out of cute things like hearts, apples, and ponies. She also did several pages in her Singapore Math 1A book about sequence, ordinal vs. cardinal numbers, position, and subtraction.

    The baby really likes to count two of things. Last night she even pointed to each of four chicken nuggets while we both counted them.

    With the baby around and my leg wound, science is a little harder to do. I can’t do anything physically difficult, and the baby is dangerous to have around chemicals. But still, I continued to build on what we were doing to talk about flight with the boy (BFSU II: C-8). We watched a show about the future of flight, involving making flexible wings on planes more like bird wings. We read (in books and on the web) about Bernoulli’s principle, plane anatomy, helicopters, and even wandered off to look at submarines (which ties in nicely to last month’s lessons about buoyancy!). He remembered learning about terms like yaw and pitch at Space Camp, and got to play with a toy helicopter around the house.

    The girl played with our globe and we discussed what North, South, East and West actually mean, as well as day and night (BFSU I: D-3a).

    The baby is continuing to scientifically investigate everything, mostly with the extra sensitive devices in her mouth. Like her tongue. She enjoys identifying animals and describing their color and their size.

    Language Arts
    The boy is still working on All About Spelling 2 — he really doesn’t like spelling that much. Really, he learns more from reading and writing (well, typing). But I think some of the rules are still handy to know. We keep the lessons to five words twice a week tops. This week was lessons 2-15, 2-16, and 2-17, words with “er”, “ar” and “or”. We did the next chapter in his vocabulary book, Caesar’s English — serene, acute, grotesque, condescend, and odious. In his grammar book we reviewed adverbs and linking and action verbs, and learned about perfect verb tenses. The most important thing about adverbs? They aren’t your friends.

    For the girl, I created little booklets with simple pictures and words for her to read. Sure, there are a million readers out there, but it’s nice to write ones that have all the things they love that just never happen together in a published book. (Like pink worms swinging at the park). She spent some time on Starfall and we read Curious George together (and who knows what else, I didn’t keep track. HAH!). She is in All About Spelling I, and worked on reviewing old words plus lesson 1-23 which is about plurals.

    The baby continues to add words to her vocabulary, attempt to add a few more consonants (like the occasional “l”!), and love reading. She also pretends to read words, and likes to play with letter magnets while saying random letter names.  And the draws in books. A lot. Grr.

    History/Social Studies
    We’re all over the place here, but usually everyone does this together. For The Boy, I read Story of the World III Chapter 36 about the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century. For the girl’s study of ancient history, we read about ancient Mesopotamian clay seals and tried making some. The baby crushed my seal, turned it into a snake, and declared that his name was Psych. (She is obsessed with that show. It’s weird.)

    Often for us, health is just about me reminding them to eat, drink, and wash their hands after they go potty. What foods are good, why we need sleep, go drink more water, etc.. But we also use a workbook made by the folks at Kid Power that talks about staying safe, strangers, bullies, and so forth. The boy had pages about what a stranger is and how strangers get to be people we know. The girl learned about how you need to check first with your adult before you pet strange animals, accept food, etc..

    The baby resists all attempts at wearing a diaper, clothes, not peeing on the floor, not picking her nose, weaning, eating decent food, going to bed early, or following any health recommendations at all.

    This is often free-form. They often make things, draw things, color things. We made things out of clay. We didn’t have any historical art other than beautiful clay seals. Or art techniques, really. The baby drew inside of many books, including library books…

    I started The Boy on some Music Theory lessons. This week was about clefs and the staff. The girl and the baby sing songs almost non-stop.

    Not much we can do there while I’m hurt. The kids played outside and the girl went to gymnastics.

    And that’s our week! Or what I remember of it.

    Weight loss chart test

    The Timeline is a new chart type in Google Docs, and here is an example of one with my weight loss data. Pretty cool, huh?

    UPDATE: When I update the chart in Google documents, it does in fact update here. It’s a pointer. 🙂

    Gluten Free Fractal Cookies

     It’s math. It’s baking. It’s gluten free, egg free, and soy free! It’s homeschooling, unschooling, and really quite tasty. It has chocolate and chemistry! It’s just the most perfect activity ever.

    Inspired by Evil Mad Scientist,  who we met a few years ago at the SF Area Maker Faire (and enjoyed their bristle bots quite a lot too), we decided to tackle them. I’d put it off, since I wasn’t so confident in my gluten free baking. But the Gluten Free ratio rally fixed that!

    First, we used the master recipe for 1-2-3 shortbread cookies (that’s 1 sugar : 2 fat : 3 flour) from Ratio, using GF ingredients:

    1-2-3 Cookies

    • 100 g sugar (we used white, but you could mix with brown or honey for other flavors and textures)
    • 200 g butter (we used salted)
    • 300 g flour — I used 50g tapioca flour, 50 g corn starch, and 200 g rice flour
    • a tiny amount of xanthan gun (to avoid my donut disaster)
    • a dash of vanilla (double strength, from Penzeys)
    • HALF the dough also gets enough chocolate powder to make it nice and brown (also from Penzeys)

    Heat oven to 350 degrees.

    We kept putting the dough in and out of the freezer to help it not get too squishy, but if it was in there too long it got brittle and hard to roll. So…. yeah, this was challenging!

    Anyway, you break the vanilla dough into 8 equal parts and roll into snakes. Break the chocolate dough into similarly sized pieces and roll into similarly sized snakes. Then, make the snakes all square.

    Then, build the first pattern, with the 8 vanilla pieces arrange around the chocolate in a square shape — imagine a phone dial pad, where 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are vanilla, and 5 is chocolate. Cut a few squares from this roll.

    Next, cut the remaining log into 8 equal pieces, roll out, and make square snakes trying to keep the pattern the same! Sort of the way they make hard candy with shapes in it… Arrange those 8 around a new chocolate snake. Cut more cookies, this time with a big chocolate square, and many tiny squares with a chocolate dot in them.

    Repeat until you can’t stand it. 🙂 Bake them all for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy while thinking about the recently departed Benoit Mandelbrot and consider growing some romanesco in his memory.

    It’s just a great sensory activity that involves plenty of weighing and measuring, fine motor skills, and abstract math concepts that works for kids (and adults!) of just about any age.

    Edited: Removed “dairy free” because, well, it has butter. You could use shortening or lard or any other solidish fat. Next time I’ll try cutting in a little cream cheese, I think.

    Experiment: Can you make Gluten Free Donuts Without Xanthan Gum?

    Objective: To attempt to make donuts without xanthan gum. It’s part of my attempt to understand gluten free baking chemistry, using Ratio and other handy cookbooks.

    Hypothesis: It should work, since the hot oil should help gelatinize the starch and help hold it together.

    Method: Use a gluten-free recipe without the xanthan gum. (Okay, I didn’t plan this very well and cobbled something together from two recipes….)

    Results: As soon as the batter hit the oil, it split into many tiny droplets that looked a lot like rice crispies (or, more specifically, Spaetzle).

    Conclusion: No. No, you cannot omit the xanthan gum. It needs it to hold the batter together long enough to cook.

    I attempted adding xanthan gum to to batter at this point, and it did hold together while it cooked, but the failed batter had used up much of the oil and there wasn’t enough to cook the dough. (And the xanthan gum wasn’t mixed in all that well.)