Category Archives: general

I’m Tempting Fate This November, Risking Painful Injury

That’s right, there’s a high chance I’ll get injured next month. Almost every November I do something so dangerous, so risky, that I actually skipped it out of fear last year.

Oh My Gosh, Katie, Are You Skydiving or Something?

No. It’s scarier.

I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Pardon?

How is that risking injury and tempting fate? Are you wondering if I get really awful carpel tunnel or something?

No. No, it’s worse than that. I somehow get extremely accident-prone. Yes, it really is a total coincidence, but the data are there.

My two worst incidents were:

  • When I severely burned my left hand in a cooking accident (hot metal is the same color as cold metal, as it turns out).
  • When I dropped a large chef’s knife on my leg while I was carrying too many things and trying to step over a baby gate. I couldn’t walk for a month. It hurt too much to think. It was awful. And ridiculous.

Okay, Why’d You Skip Last Year?

Last year was a busy year — working full time again, homeschooling three kids for the first time (previous years the youngest was too young to be required), hosting Thanksgiving, and planning for a cruise! So I decided there was no way I’d have time for NaNoWriMo with all of that going on.

Also, I didn’t want to experience a cruise-destroying maiming.

So What is This NeeNooDryBo About?

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It just made out of the first couple of letters of each word. It’s like an initialism, but sort of more awkward.

For NaNoWriMo, a bazillion regular people from all over the world get together and try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in a month.

You can also set other goals if you want. There are rules…. theoretically…  but rules were made to be broken. Some people write fewer words. Some people continue novels they already started. Some people just edit old works. Maybe they write blog posts instead of a novel, or a series of short stories. You can make your NaNoWriMo be what you need it to be.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Do This?

Any age! There’s even a Young Writer’s Program for kids that has some really helpful workbooks to help kids plan their plot, characters and novel structure.

Why Are You Mentioning It Now Instead of in a Month?

October is usually when NaNoWriMos (that is, people who participate in the challenge) start planning, plotting, and doing anything but actually starting to write the text. I just started reading Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham to get me in the mood. I’ll also go through some articles I clipped and stored in Evernote to use as inspiration. If I find the time, I’ll create some characters and settings and (hopefully!) sketch out a few scenes. And sequels.

But What Should I Write It With?

I can’t recommend enough the excellent application Scrivener. It not only holds your entire manuscript, but it has excellent tools for organizing character sketches, settings, inspiration, virtual note cards, and other writerly things. Name generators. Word counts.

Scrivener: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

I recommend going through the tutorial that comes with it (it’s interactive and fun!) to learn how to use it. There are also a lot of video tutorials on youtube and written tips and tricks all over the internet. Or check out the NaNoWriMo forums or Scrivener groups on Facebook for help. There are a lot of really helpful Scrivener users out there!

That Sounds Really Lonely.

Not at all! NaNoWriMo is like a big writer party. People make groups on Facebook, meet in person for write-ins, talk on twitter (writing sprint!), and friend each other on the NaNoWriMo site!

If you want to contact me at NaNoWriMo, my handle there is biophy. We can compare words! Don’t worry, I’ve never won, so I probably won’t make you feel inadequate. In fact, you’ll feel extra awesome by beating me! Woo!

Where Do I Go To Learn More About NooNooRyeFlow?

  • NaNoWriMo: nanowrimo.org
  • Young Writer’s Program: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

So, are you in? Anyone else participating this year?

New Look!

Okay, sorry for not posting for three months, but it’s been pretty busy. Also, I kept trying to update the look and feel of this place and I sort of ended up hating it repeatedly. So, of course, I couldn’t post. Why draw attention to the ugly page design? Anyway, let me know if anything is horrifically broken or weird. (Besides my brain! Hah!)

Hopefully I’ll like this enough that I can post again without feeling unbearably awkward.

Today I Learned: Cloud Cuckoo Land Wasn’t Invented By The LEGO Movie People

I guess my education is sorely lacking, because I thought they just invented that place. It seemed absurd enough to go along with the rest of the movie (which I loved, by the way).

Today we  read from The Oxford University Press book Ancient Greek History about the tragedies and comedies. (Did you know tragedy means “goat song”? I love homeschooling.) And, apparently, Cloud Cuckoo Land was a place that the characters in Aristophanes’ play The Birds visited.

In Greek, it’s “Nephelokokkygia“.

Wikipedia has more information about Cloud Cuckoo Land and The Birds.

Check out the World in Ancient Times series by the Oxford University Press if you’re looking for a great history spine for middle schoolers (more or less — my 4th grader also listens to me read it, and it keeps teaching me new things, so I’m sure it would work for a wide variety of ages). It is a bit expensive, so I bought all of mine used on Amazon. If you wait you can get some pretty good deals. I love the way it’s written. I also love that it references original source material.

New Sculpy Clay Lines

I apparently missed this last year when they announced it, but Sculpy, the people who make the really nice clay, came out with a bunch of new clays!

We found them because the kids got a sculpy art kit from CostCo for Christmas. It has tons of different clays (including the new ones), clay tools, cutters, molds, and a really nice plastic carrying case.

The first new like is the  Premo! line, which just has some really neat colors.

The second line is Premo! Accents, which has really neat glitter, granite, and translucent clays. They’re nothing like I’ve ever seen in clay.

And then there’s Sculpy Souffle, which is really lightweight and has some other different colors.

I’d love to make some ancient Greek column models with the granite.

Sculpy’s blog has a ton of pictures of the actual clays in use and mixed with other clays.

PS — No, I’m not being paid for this. I just really love clay and I think everyone should see how neat these are.

PPS — I buy art supplies at Blick. They have good prices and sales.

Including Little Kids in Board Games

Games can be fantastic teaching tools. Some games have amazing math manipulatives, others might teach game theory, still more can motivate kids to improve their reading skills or gather subject knowledge.

The problem is, games can also generate a lot of problems for young children. Some children can’t read and others get upset when they lose.

There are games geared towards little children, but what’s more fun is when everyone in the family (or in any other gathering) can play the same game and still have fun!

Choose cooperative games.

Not every game has to have one player win and another lose. There are games where all the players work together to either win or lose together. This is great for kids who are perfectionists and hate losing, for situations where kids can’t read (if you’re working together, people can help read your cards for you), and children who might need a little more emotional maturity to handle competitive games.

Some of our favorite cooperative games include:

  • Castle Panic — A sort of tower defense game where all the players need to work together to defeat a whole army of bad guys coming to take down the castle. You can have a winner who received more points than other players, but you still all win or lose together. You can also choose to just not count the points.
  • Forbidden Island — A team of treasure hunters needs to find four important objects and get off of the island before it sinks. Each player has their own special skill.
  • Pandemic — This is by the same company as Forbidden Island, but this time you are a team of scientists trying to save the world from diseases. Each player still has a special skill, but this game does require a bit of reading (to remember your skills, match names of cities). It’s also pretty good for learning some basics about geography.

Choose games that don’t require reading.

There are plenty of games that little kids can play that have very little text involved.

Some games that my youngest loves are:

  • Tsuro — Every player is a dragon. You place tiles to try to run the other dragons off of the board.
  • Zombie Dice — Every player is a zombie, trying to get more brains than the other players without getting shot.
  • Coup — Every player is a government official trying to bribe and bluff their way into power, knocking their rivals out of the game. Okay, that seems a little heavy for tiny kids, but it seems to work just fine for my youngest. The best part, for me, is that lying is part of the game, so little kids who get confused about rules… can’t break the rules. The biggest problem I have with the game is that players who get knocked out of the game are stuck with nothing to do. Luckily the game is pretty fast, so they aren’t left out for long.
  • The Resistance — Takes place in the same universe as Coup, but in this game you’re part of the resistance that opposes those awful government officials. The only problem is… your band of rebels has been infiltrated by spies! This game requires at least five players, but you can play with up to ten players, so it’s great for parties. You use logic to try to determine which players are the spies before they ruin too many of the missions.
  • Get Bit — Every player is a swimming robot trying to get away from a shark that wants to bite their limbs off. It’s way cuter than it sounds. My robot and shark-loving six year old has adored this game for years.
  • Card games — Don’t forget card games like Go Fish, Rummy, or War. They just require knowing a few numbers

As it turns out,  my kids are interested in somewhat grim board games. I’m sure there are plenty out there that would appeal to kids who love other sorts of games. I’m particularly fond of Gamewright games — they have interesting pieces and excellent game play. They also tend to favor subjects that aren’t usual for board games, such as making cupcakes or trading pieces of sushi.

A Year Has Passed…

…since we last heard from our heroine.

What happened??

Well, we packed up everything and moved a county away. That was a lot of work. We did a lot of the moving ourselves, just hauling stuff the 45 minutes there and back.

Then I started a full time job. Yes, I’m still homeschooling. Yes, it’s a bit crazy.

So I’ve spent a lot of time commuting, homeschooling, having weird back pain (ugh) and stuff.

We’ve had lots of guests over to visit — it’s nice to have a place to put them!

And last fall we took a week long cruise to the Caribbean.

It was a pretty full year. 🙂

Instead of Posting on New Year’s Eve

So, instead of posting again on New Year’s Eve, like I promised, after I posted to the blog I went to the ER instead because I was just really, really ill.

So, now that I’m catching back up on life (I was sick for just weeks and weeks, with ten days straight just lying in bed. Ugh.) I hope to post again soon.

Curriculum vs. Curricula

Okay, so I know this is horribly pedantic and rude and awful and miserable and awful of me…. but for the love of all that is holy and good, homeschoolers, please learn the difference between curriculum and curricula, because so many of you are doing this wrong.

Curriculum is the singular. Like datum, millennium, memorandum, and stadium. The plurals are curricula, data, millennia, memoranda, and … okay, no one says stadia. I suppose only really picky people say datum anymore, either. Memorandum was shortened to memo with the plural memos. But we still use millennium and millennia. No one says, “I’ve visited 24 different baseball stadium”, because they know stadium is singular.

The dictionary recognizes curriculums as an okay plural. I don’t prefer it, but it follows the standard way to make plurals in English. We don’t speak Latin, even if many of our words have roots in that language. Fine. But when you use curriculum as a plural and curricula as singular, you make my head hurt just as much as if you switch plural and singular for any other word.

Try these sentences:

  • “I’m going to go buy some new curriculum.”
  • “I’m going to go buy some new book.”

Or these:

  • “This is a great curricula!”
  • “This is a great books!”

It hurts, just a little bit, doesn’t it?

Now, curriculum can mean an entire course of study, so it can mean an entire plan of dozens of books and subjects. So you could be going out to buy just one curriculum for your kid to use this year. There are plenty of companies that release all-in-one curricula for people to use. But the way I know if you’re using the words as a singular or a plural is if you’re using an article (a, an, the) or singular pronouns (this) or not.

  • “I really love curriculum” compared to “I really love this curriculum”.
  • “I really love book” compared to “I really love this book”.

So, please, for my sake… get your plurals and singulars straight. I beg you!

Note: People make mistakes. I know I do. I miss having a Real Live Editor to fix all of my mistakes. But as I point out above, I don’t think it’s a typo so much as a large number of people who are unaware of this at all. So I try to help. Annoyingly. Without being asked. Because I care.

Re-organized the Categories and Tags

WordPress, the blogging software I’m using, allows me to tag each post with both categories and tags. I just spent the past hour re-tagging and categorizing everything to make my old posts easier to navigate.

Categories are broad way of organizing things, for example: cooking, homeschooling, goals. If you click on a category name below a post, you are taken directly to an archive of all the posts categorized the same way. Fancy, huh? Also, the categories are listed down the right column of the blog, to make them easier to find. Maybe you just like posts about cooking and don’t want to see anything about homeschooling — now you can ignore the things I say that you don’t like! But, of course, you won’t do that. Right? Right??

Tags are a ways to drill-down into those categories. I have one for each homeschooling subject, a tag for gluten-freeFODMAPs, and recipes. I even have a tag just for items having to do with portfolio reviews. Once again, click on the name of the tag below a post to go to an archive of all the posts with that tag.

So far I’ve just roughly re-tagged everything. Over time I’ll probably notice things that are still tagged wrong. But I did the bulk of it and got rid of some of the extraneous categories which I thought made navigation from the right column a little too difficult.

Next up: fix the page design.

Hello World!

After being gently mocked by a local 4th grader, I decided to move to WordPress. Go me!