A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

Males Order Brides

Hello everyone!

I know it has been forever since I have posted and I do apologize. Life has just gotten in the way. I am working part time and I have taken up a new hobby – drama. Well, it isn’t new and it is much more than a hobby. It all started with my daughter…

My daughter will be 17 in June. This means a couple of things. Firstly, it is her last year in our homeschool curriculum. Secondly, it means that she must now look at what will come next in her life. These two things have kept the both of us very busy lately. I asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She said she likes to write and build/design things. But she is definitely old school. She would rather work with her hands than on the computer. Now this shocked me to death. This comes from a girl who spends hours on Skype/Minecraft/Mass Effect/Skyrim/etc. She plays with her friends online constantly. At one time, she wanted to work  for Bethesda. She still wants to do that. But, more than that, she wants to build sets for plays/movies/etc. We have been on a “Behind the Scenes Look at…” kick lately. We watched the one for Game of Thrones (even though we both hate the show) the other week. She said “I really want to do that.” OK. So, being the VERY supportive mother that I am, I began to look for local theatres where she could hone that talent and passion.

Through my searching, I found a local theatre that seemed perfect – Azle Arts Popcorn Players. They were holding auditions for their upcoming melodrama. They were in desperate need of technical and backstage crews. When I told Meaghan about it, she said she would do it if I auditioned for a part as well. I love drama and have wanted to be on the stage for as long as I can remember. But, some excuse always kept me from it. So, I said I would.

We showed up at the theatre early. I had arrived with knowledge about the play (“Males Order Brides…or Big Harry Deal’s Scandalous Scheme“) and the part I wished to play (Starr Billings). I auditioned and she volunteered. Turns out our passion was recognized. I got the lead villain and she is now THE tech crew. She will be running the lights and sound. Yay!

There is only one bad part to this – I have to provide my own costumes. The play takes place in 1870. The female villain is an actress/con artist who plays five other roles – a schoolmarm, saloon hostess, grieving aunt, society matron, and a prospector. Meaghan has been helping me with my costumes. Pinterest and Google have become our best friends. We now have a bustle and it looks great. I will be posting our project here soon. So, it looks like the both of us will be very busy. But it is a good kind of busy.

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Are unschoolers really nuts?

When I first began homeschooling about five years ago, I researched everything to do with homeschooling. I attended co-ops, support groups, and meetings. I read every article and website. I watched A LOT of YouTube. I then decided to teach my children through structured homeschooling. This means that I re-created the public school experience at home. We had a tough schedule with grading and testing. I kept records and gave out rewards such as stickers and fake money. They used the money to buy things from the treasure box. It seemed to be going well – at least for me.
During this first year, I met all sorts of homeschoolers and unschoolers. The homeschoolers I could understand, but the unschoolers? They were completely bonkers. They actually let their children do whatever they wanted. There was no structure. There were no grades. There was no testing. This was insane! I did not want that for my kids. I wanted them to go to college and be successful. My son loved bugs so he would go to A&M and study entomology. My daughter liked art, so she would go to art school. I had everything planned out. There was only one thing I did not even consider. My children were miserable.
So that first summer, we regrouped. I took some of the structure out. We had school four days a week instead of five. We went on field trips with a local homeschool group. We went to SCA events. We still learned from text books and I still gave grades and rewards. But they were still miserable. What the heck was going on? Couldn’t they see that this was for their own good? They would be successful, by golly.
That next summer, we regrouped again. We still had text books. We still learned from them. But this time, I borrowed a bit from Charlotte Mason and others. It seemed to help but trying to raise the perfectly educated child stressed me out completely.
Fast forward to last year. I started a tech support job from home. I worked the 12-8 pm shift. My husband was attending college in the mornings. We still homeschooled, be it a little more relaxed form of it. So, many things did not get done. Grades were not kept, textbooks were used less and we spent more time together as a family. I missed my kids so we used our time together to bond and have fun. I noticed one very important thing. The world did not end. My kids did not revert back to a Neanderthal state. They still learned. Really? Could this be?
Well, we had many things happen last summer. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to leave my job to take care of my mother (she is in remission now and doing great). So I had more time on my hands, which disappointed my children. You see, I love research. When I start something, I get a bit obsessive about it. So I was back on the homeschooling kick. I got my husband’s college math book and taught my children college math. I also taught them college history. My kids are now 13 and 16 so they breezed through it all. Although my daughter absolutely hates math. I love it. I could factor polynomials all day long and giggle while doing it. But I am nuts. My son likes math though. He giggles too. He also likes Java (silly kid). How does my daughter work math problems? First she opens the book. Then she copies the problem. Then she cries. Well, not really. She does pout and cross her arms a lot. “But I HATE math!” is her mantra of the day. My son spends more of his free time playing video games and less time exploring. He does this to escape. He is not happy. My daughter spends all her free time writing stories and drawing. They were slowly withdrawing from family time. We were all miserable. What should I do?
Last week, I came across Ms. Gwen’s blog. Through it, she introduced me to Peter Gray. He is a psychologist who studies children and how they learn. He is a huge supporter of unschooling. His article titled “The Danger of Back to School” is eye-opening, to say the least. Seeing all of this gave me insight on how I could make my children happy. I realized that success should not be measured in how much money you make (although that is a nice bonus). It should be measured in how happy you are. They say if you love your job you will never work a day in your life. Why shouldn’t school be looked at the same way? We make children do far more work in school than we do at our jobs. They are micromanaged and taught to sit still and do the work. Really? Would you be happy if your boss treated you that way?
So the rest of this year will be spent on happier pursuits. My son will still work on his Java and math (because he likes them) and I will give my daughter a break from math. I will give her more time to draw and write fan fiction. I have even read her stories and they are pretty good. So what if she can’t factor polynomials? She wants to write, draw and act. I don’t think her lack of numeracy knowledge will be a hindrance. I now have the kids work together on projects. There are times when my son is working math on the board and my daughter will lend a hand. My son will also proofread her stories. They still learn but they have fun doing it and they do it on their own terms. I have found unschooling to be more than I thought it could ever be. It is a great way to raise happy kids. My son no longer wants to be an entomologist (although he still loves all insects and animals). He is more into creating digital art and games. My daughter wants to be a voice-over artist. I am done pushing college. As a teen, I had college pushed down my throat. I was the only one in my family to attend a university. I have done nothing with it. It was a great experience, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t use any of that knowledge today. It is really overrated. But that is a whole other blog post all together.
In the end, I have changed my views on homeschooling and unschooling. I have also found that there is a wide spectrum of people in each category. So are unschoolers really nuts? They just want their kids to be happy. So do I. So I guess I am a little nutty too.

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Homeschooling and Public School

Letters on the fridge

Photo Credit: Lyn Lomasi via Compfight

I have homeschooled my children for the last five years. I feel that I have been somewhat successful at it. My daughter will be attending college next year to study acting. My son is only 13 and he already knows and loves Java programming. He is currently working on a Java project of his own. Although most people might think this is an achievement in and of itself, I don’t. Granted, I am very happy and proud of what they have accomplished. But, I am even happier about something that most people don’t notice. They are creative thinkers. When they have a question, they ask it (even when it is an embarrassing one). If I don’t know the answer, we look it up together. Hey, you are never to old to learn something new. My daughter takes things apart just to see how they work. If either child is interested in something, I encourage them to learn more about it. I don’t care if it is “age-appropriate” (well, within reason). My son has been doing advanced algebra since he was 10. He absolutely loves math. My daughter has been reading college level books (such as Tolkien and Shakespeare) since she was in the third grade. Her public school told her that she was too young to read them. So, she checked them out of the public library and read them. I have always made sure that they had support for whatever subject interested them.

When most people think of homeschoolers, they generally think of severe right wing conservatives who only teach what the “good book” tells them to teach. I am here to break that stereotype. First of all, we are Unitarian Universalists and we are pretty liberal (although I wouldn’t go so far as to call us severe left – just moderate). I also practice secular homeschooling. I feel that religion/spirituality/philosophy should be taught separately. Academics should be just that – academics. Secondly, I feel that my children must learn about society and learn to cope within it. In order to attend college, take part in the workforce, or just interact with society, they must learn cooperation, communication, and leadership.

In a way, I have been “homeschooling” my children since they were born. I was there to teach them to walk. I read and sung to them constantly when they were toddlers. I gave them a safe and loving environment in which to explore and learn. I wanted to give them the best that I could. Then, they grew to elementary age. I lovingly sent them off to public school and all was well. I loved the school so much that I helped whenever I could. I was room mother and volunteer of the month. I also took a job as a substitute teacher with the district.

So, if everything was going so swimmingly, why did I pull them out of school? The elementary school was great, fair enough. But then, my daughter began the fifth grade and, in so doing, moved to the intermediate school – which was not so peachy. There were seven classes a day as opposed to one. There were cliques. And the guidance councilor was not as empathic as she could have been. In fact, the woman pried my daughter’s hand out of mine and took her to the councilor’s office daily. In short, the school let me down. It let my daughter down. She begged me not to make her go back to that school and I just could not make her go.

My son, on the other hand, loved school. He was still at the elementary school (in the second grade). But, I could see that there would soon be problems. His teacher complained that he could not stay still. His attention span was very short and he would not stay on task. His desk had been moved several times, but it did not help things. “He really should be on meds,” was what the teacher and staff told me constantly.

On a day in mid-February of 2009, I took them out of public school and I never looked back. I have used many methods of teaching: school-at-home, Classical, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Waldorf, and Unschooling. Finally, I just decided to let them learn however they could (and all of this without medication). Now, my kids use their own methods for learning. This doesn’t mean that I just leave them alone. They still study math, science, computers, drama, the piano, Java and anything their heart desires. I am the bellows that keeps the embers lit. I think any and every parent can do this. Anyone can raise a creative thinker with or without the help from a public, private, charter, or online school. If your child attends a really great school, more the better. There are great schools out there. But that doesn’t mean you should just leave all the teaching duties up to the school. As parents and caregivers we could do so much more. I didn’t just leave it up to someone else to teach my children alone. I have used all the resources I had to make my children the best they can be. Will you?

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Hope is Overrated

Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.

– The Doctor (Matt Smith), Doctor Who

I have a big problem with the word hope. I hate it. I really do. Every time I apply for a job, I hope I will get it. Then, I don’t. Then I get angry for getting my hopes up. My husband always says the same thing to me “Don’t worry. It will all work out.” I get so angry at him every time he says that.

It used to be different. I used to hope anyway. I am not really sure when that changed. I know my depression has A LOT to do with it. I just don’t seem to care much anymore. My husband and I had an in-depth discussion about this just last week. I am becoming more and more like Eyeore. I tend to look on the not-so-bright side. He is the opposite. I told him to stop saying things will always work out. “Why must you be so optimistic and hopeful?” I asked him for the millionth time. I told him there was no point being hopeful or happy about a possible outcome. He then looked me straight in the eyes and paraphrased our favorite fictional character. He said, “You should always be hopeful and happy because you may be sad later.” This startled me. I had never thought about it that way before.

You see, my husband is the king of irony. He takes things in an entirely different way than most of society. He has ADHD and he has an above average IQ. So, he is different. In fact, his personality reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Sherlock. He takes things quite literally, he lacks empathy and he rarely gets the nuances in what others are saying. He looks at things logically. He is more thinking whereas I am more emotional. Sometimes it is so difficult to explain his thought processes to others. He comes across as unfeeling and harsh. I know he doesn’t do it intentionally. In fact, he has no intention at all behind his words. He doesn’t think as the rest of us do. This trait forces me to think outside the box more often than I ever thought I would.

So, it really came as a shock when he said something that actually made sense to me. I didn’t have to look at it from a different angle. It just made sense. So, I should be happy because I may be sad later. I will try to take him up on that challenge. It will be difficult, but I will try. Maybe hope is not so overrated after all.

This post is in response to the Daily Post‘s Writing Challenge of the Week – Oh, The Irony.

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Homeschooling – 10 Things I Would Do Differently

My oldest daughter is coming to the end of her homeschooling education. She is a senior this year at the age of 16. This has led me to wonder about our last five years together on this homeschooling path. I took her out of school during the fifth grade. (I have posted in a previous post about how that went.) So this has given me much to think about.

I have done much for the homeschooling community. I have created a course at Udemy, created a homeschooling YouTube channel, taught at a local co-op, and enjoyed fellowship with a local homeschooling support group. Even so, I feel that there are things I would do differently. In the style of David Letterman, here is my Homeschooling Top Ten List.

1. Be Less Rigid

When we started out, I taught the kids in the same manner as public school. We only used text books and we had hour-long chunks dedicated to each subject. The kids learned Science, Math, English, History, and an elective of their choice. That took us about five hours a day. We were all miserable. The next year, we moved to alternating days – still miserable.

The following year, I gave them a list of weekly assignments to be completed by the weekend. The assignments were not completed and the kids were grounded for the weekend. Then, I had to work and their dad went back to college. So, Nana helped out a lot. That was the year of chaos, needless to say.

This year, I have a list of subjects and we work on them as we have time. I figure it will get done eventually. My stress levels are now significantly lower. Luckily, Texas treats homeschool as a private school. Therefore, we are not required to spend a certain amount of time in class. Thank goodness.

2. More Field Trips

In the beginning, we attended 1-2 field trips a week with a local homeschool group. Then, my husband lost his job and I started work. We were only available on weekends. The group did things during the week. We only had weekends free so we were really picky about what did during that time. Plus, we had less money. So, we stayed home a lot more. Time just seemed to get away from us. This year, even though we still have less money, I am determined to do something outside of the house. We are more housebound than we should be. My kids spend way too much time on the computer. I vow to get them out even if it is on the weekends. We have found a Magic: The Gathering group at my husband’s college. My 13 year-old son loves Magic. He now spends two days a week at the college with his dad. Now I just have to find something my daughter likes. Wish me luck on that one. So, my advice is to get out once a week if you can. It will be so worth it. Plus, it will give you more to talk about during the week. “Remember when that guy did that thing?” Oh yeah. Lots more conversation.

3. More Socialization

This is actually a “bad” word in the homeschooling community. The thing I heard the most when I began homeschooling was “But how will your children socialize?” I grew so sick of answering that question. We joined a local homeschooling group, went on 2-3 field trips a week, joined a local history re-creation group (Society for Creative Anachronism), and we went geocaching every month. In fact, we spent so much time “socializing” that we had little time for classwork. I was burned out – we all were. So we stopped everything except the SCA. Last year, we had very little money. So, we stayed home most of the time. This year, I am getting more and more freelancing work. So, I hope to be able to get out more. It is imperative that we get out.

4. More Active in Support Groups

We were very active in a local secular support group during the first year. Since then, our dedication to the group has waned. We have not had any contact with the group in nearly two years. I think that there could have been a happy medium. Just because we were members did not mean that we had to do something with the group every week. Membership had its rewards. It gave me access to events and activities within the homeschool community. There were people who had the same issues we did. I had someone to talk to who could empathize with me. My kids had others their age who were also homeschooled. I really miss the group and I would love to join them again. This is another thing I will change for the upcoming year.

5. More Reading

This little tidbit comes from my daughter. She is a bibliophile. She read her entire World History book in less than a month. “OK, I am done. Next.” She thinks I should give her more reading assignments and fewer worksheets. I am all for that. In the beginning, I gave them worksheets and tests. I spent most of my time grading them and keeping records. This brings me to:

6. Less Curriculum Planning/Record Keeping

Texas does not require homeschoolers to keep records of any kind. Local community colleges do not require records from homeschools. So why keep records? I am a product of public schooling. I was a substitute teacher for a couple of years and a preschool teacher for one. It was ingrained in me to keep records. So, I did. I thought local colleges and universities would actually care what grades they made in homeschool. Silly me. I look back on all those hours spent every week on planning and grading. I was working more at home than I did at work. I missed so much time with my family. So, I quit. I now spend more time getting my daughter ready for college and teaching my son more worthwhile subjects. The local colleges look at SAT/COMPAS scores and community involvement. So, that is what we do now.

7. More Community Service

This really goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Since more colleges look at community involvement these days, we really need to spend more time doing that. We are members of a historical re-creation group. But that doesn’t really count. This year will see more activities in our community. There are many to choose from 4-H, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Trinity Trash Bash, local animal shelters, soup kitchens, mentoring, etc.

8. More Hands-On Activities

The kids and I have gotten so bored with text books. I fall back on them time and time again because that is what I know. That is all I had in public schools. They offer guidance and information at my fingertips. I feel that this has been a crutch. Instead of reading about plants, we should have planted a garden. We did dissect a shark with our homeschooling group. It was amazing – even though our house smelled of sugar cookies for a week. We really miss that. So, I will try to have more of that this year.

9. Teach More Life Skills

This one won’t take a lot more work. I have really taught them some life skills. Both kids know how to do their own laundry, balance a check book, write a resume, sew, and cook. They can read and follow recipes. We just need to work on it a bit more. I do most of the cooking. I really need to change that. I think they could cook a meal a week. That wouldn’t be too hard. My son could take Mondays and my daughter could take Wednesdays – or something like that. The person responsible for the meal will make a list of what is needed, go to the store and buy the ingredients, and then make the meal.

10. More Career/Life Planning

This is the most important thing that every homeschooling parent should do. Once your child figures out what career paths/activities make him/her happy, you should explore those things. I watched Logan LaPlante on YouTube the other day. He is awesome. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he said “I want to be happy.” TED Talks is full of youth who are inspiring and doing remarkable things. I think that teachers should spend more time cultivating happiness and passion in youth and less time teaching to a test. The US is way behind the rest of the world in education. After spending two years teaching in public schools, I can see why.

So, I am now off to teach my 13 year-old college algebra. I have been using my husband’s college text books  to teach our children for the last two years. My son is currently taking Java for Beginners on Udemy. He absolutely loves programming. My daughter writes fan fiction and short stories. So, I am not spending so much time worrying about the Common Core or any other educational nonsense. They do what they love and that is ALL that matters. Isn’t that what we all want out of life? Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life. Words to live by.

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Doctor Who Fan Fiction

My daughter Meaghan and her friend Darby have written fan fiction about Doctor Who. I read and edited their stories. I really like them. With their permission, I am including the first one here. Feel free to comment with your thoughts. Please keep them family-oriented. They will be reading them. My daughter is 16.

Cyber-napped

On a cold winter night, three children and a teenager sat around a lit fireplace in a warm, cozy living room.
“Will you tell us a story Meaghan?” the only boy asked the teenager.
“I guess so. It’s not like I’m doing anything else,”she replied. “What story?”
“The one about The Doctor!” all three children yelled in unison.
“Really? Okay, but your parents don’t like this story. So, if they get back before the end you just have to wait until I have to babysit you guys again for the rest.”
“Okay, that’s fair. We did make you build a snow fort with us and then collapse it on Thomas,” said the boy.
“At least I got him out of there before he started to cry. Anyway, It was a dark and stormy night… Okay… Maybe it was just dark and windy, but it was still scary. Not that I would admit that to my friend, Darby.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

We were walking through the woods that was five blocks away from the orphanage. It was a windy night and it threatened to storm at any moment. Not that I would mind, I love storms. I was about to throw a snowball at Darby but her scarf got caught in a low hanging tree branch.
Turning to untangle herself she said “Meaghan? Could you help me? I’m kind of stuck…”
So I walked over to see what I could do, but the scarf was old and very frayed so it was stuck beyond fixing.
“I’m sorry Darby, but I’m going to have to cut the scarf or the tree, and it’ll take a while to cut through the tree branch…”
“Don’t you DARE cut this scarf! It was my mom’s!”
“Okay, Okay!!” I said as I pulled out my pocket knife and started to cut the branch as close to the scarf as I could safely cut. “How did this happen?”
“That’s a very good question.”
As I finished cutting through the branch, I heard a metallic stomping sound
(like a lot of people wearing full plated armor were stomping around the forest).
The sound made me even more scared of the dark woods.
Thinking it was just my imagination, I whispered “What are we even doing out here?!?!”
“Oh…right…I forgot to tell you. Uh… People who come in to this forest at night are never seen again-”
“What?! And you thought it was a good idea to come out here at night?! We’re just kids. What can we do?!? I thought you were the smartest kid in the orphanage?!” I yelled loud enough to be heard through the forest.
“That’s why I brought you – to protect me. And keep your voice dow-”
She was cut off as the stomping sound got very close. I turned to face the sound just in time to see twenty metal men stomping out of the trees and holding their right hands out.
With a deep, gravely, robotic voice they said in unison “You will be upgraded.”
Without thinking I turned around, grabbed Darby’s hand, and ran in the other direction.
Dodging the trees, we finally came to a clearing.
The clearing had a blue box in the center. A man with a tweed jacket and dark red bow-tie was leaning against it. He had dark brown hair that kind of flopped down the side of his face. We didn’t see much else since we were focused on not being “upgraded”.
When we reached the man he said “Hello, my name is the Doctor-”
He didn’t get to finish his sentence since the metal men had surrounded us and the blue box.
“You will be upgraded!” They just wouldn’t stop repeating that phrase.
“Are they going to kill us?” Darby asked in a panic. The Doctor, who was now pointing a long metal thing (that was making a strange whirring sound) at the metal men.
“No. They’re planning to make you into one of them. Well, I guess it’s almost the same thing. So, yes, they’re planning to kill you.”
“I doubt my knife will have much effect on them…” I said sadly.
“Well look on the bright side.” Darby said.
“How could there possibly be a bright side?!” I almost yelled at her.
“Since we’re orphans, no one will miss us,” she said matter-of-factly.
“How is that a good thing?! I have to babysit on Friday!” I yelled at her.
In the few seconds it took to say all that, three things happened. The Doctor was waving his metal glowing stick at the monsters, I was drawing my pocket knife and stepping between Darby and the advancing metal men, and a blue beam shot down from the sky.
“They are called Cybermen,” explained the Doctor, “and I won’t let you girls die today.”
At that moment the blue beam teleported the three of us and the blue box into a hallway that seemed to go up forever. It had Cybermen all up and down the wall in alcoves that looked to be just big enough for one Cyberman. They looked like they were sleeping, if metal men could sleep, that is.
“Oh great, now we’re on the Cybermen spaceship.” He looked around. “Well since I was interrupted by our metal friends last time, I’m The Doctor, who are you?”
“I’m Darby and this is my friend Meaghan.”
Right after she said that, another blue beam shot at the blue box and it disappeared.
“No!” The Doctor shouted.
“What’s the box for?” Darby asked him.
“Its my ship. It’s called the TARDIS, it can travel anywhere in space and time, and it is bigger on the inside.”
“Can it really travel in time?” Darby whispered in awe.
“Yes and it is the most powerful ship in the universe so I’d rather not lose it!”
“Awesome!” Darby and I replied in unison.
“Is no one going to mention the Cybermen on the wall?” I asked.
“We should whisper. Now let’s find my TARDIS.”
As we made our way down the hall I whispered “Still not mentioning the Cybermen on the wall?”
“Ignore them,” he whispered back.
At the end of the hallway there was a closed metal door with no handles, but there was a small panel beside it on the wall.
“My sonic will wake up the Cybermen. We’re stuck!” The Doctor whispered.
“Your what?” I asked
He looked at me like I was a small child and replied, “This thing.” He held it up. “It is called a Sonic Screwdriver. It can do almost anything. Open any door, lock any lock, and fix anything.”
“Can it really work on anything!?” Darby seemed astonished.
“Anything and everything! Except wood…”
“HA!! It’s like a downgraded multi-tool! At least THOSE work on wood!”
In response to the Doctor’s boasting about his high-tech screwdriver, Darby walked around him and looked at the panel by the door. She then pulled a normal screwdriver out of her jacket pocket and pried the panel open, then she put the screwdriver back in her pocket and started messing with the wires, occasionally pulling out a tool or two from her pockets. After about five minutes the door slid open, surprising the Doctor.
“How did you do that?” he asked her.
“Easy, she just switched the power from keeping the door closed to keeping the door open.” I whispered.
“Oh… Well come on then. They probably took the TARDIS to the main control room,” the Doctor replied looking a little upset because someone outshone him.
The Doctor grabbed both of our hands and led us on. He seemed like he knew exactly where he was going.
“So…” Darby said. I could tell what she was going to say. We’ve always been able to predict each others actions and thoughts.
“Doctor Who?” We said in unison.
He looked at us with something on his face. Still, I can’t decide what it was. Surprise? Confusion? I’m not sure. He didn’t answer our question though. Instead, he asked us something.
“How do you keep doing that?”
“Doing what?” We both replied at the same time.
“That. Saying the same thing as each other. Predicting what the other is going to say. I can’t even do that. It’s… fascinating and… somewhat scary…”
“We don’t know HOW we can do it.” Darby replied.
“We just can.” We both replied.
“Stop that! I don’t know how you do that, and I really hate not knowing. Once I get the TARDIS back and we get off this ship I’ll figure it out. Just quit doing that for now. OK?”
“We’ll try but it really isn’t up to us. It just…” I replied.
“Happens.” We both told him.
“Fine.” He sighed. “Let’s go find the TARDIS.”
The Doctor led us down a long corridor. Every few yards we passed a door with more Cybermen “recharging”.
“So, are we in a real alien spaceship?” I asked.
“Yes. You are in a real live alien spaceship.” He responded as if we were small children and he was our father trying to please us.
“Wow…” Darby whispered.
“So how many types of aliens are on board? Just the Cybermen or are there more?” I asked. The Doctor stayed silent so Darby pressed on.
“Doctor?” Silence. “DOCTOR!!!”
He seemed startled that someone had hollered at him.
“Oh! Yes Darby?”
“Answer Meaghan’s question.” She said in the voice she uses when trying to get what she wants.
“Oh alright. Two. There are two species on board. If you count humans then there would be three.”
We stared in awe.
“So what is the other species?” We said together.
He grabbed our hands and dragged us on down the hall. We were moving very swiftly, so we figured we should drop the matter.
About five minutes of speed walking trying to find the TARDIS, the Doctor stopped and shushed us. We heard the metallic stomping of footsteps as he pulled us into a small dark closet. Suddenly we were all grabbed from behind by strong cold arms. Darby and I screamed and kicked and tried to wrench ourselves out of the strong grip of our captors, all of the defense mechanisms we were taught in the orphanage, but it was no use.
“Don’t struggle, girls. Just relax. It will be OK. There is no use draining your energy now. Just try to calm down.”
“CALM DOWN!?!?!?” We both screamed at him.
“You will be upgraded,” The Cybermen announced in unison.
We were both small enough for a Cyberman to pick us up and carry us, one on each arm. The Doctor was dragged along by two others.
They took us to a medium sized room with some kind of machine that didn’t look reassuring for our survival.
“You will be upgraded.” They informed us for the hundredth time.
“Doctor if you had a plan, now would be a good time to put it into action!” We both hollered.
“Working on it!” He shouted back.
As the Cyberman took us closer to the machine in the center of the room, I saw a broken Cyberman arm on the ground just out of reach.
“Lets give the Cybermen a hand,” I tell Darby.
When I looked back at the arm, it started to move. Then it shot towards the Cyberman that was holding us, and hit it in the head – making the Cyberman and us fall over. The Cyberman let go of us and we fell to the floor. Darby and I quickly got up and looked at the two Cybermen who were holding the Doctor’s arms.
“I think it’s time for a round of applause.” We said together.
And the arm flew through the air and hit both Cybermen in their faces. As they fell to the ground, they let go of the Doctor.
Standing wide eyed in shock, he asked “How did you do that?!”
“We told you before,” we said together. “We don’t know why we just know-”
“Who.” The Doctor asked “Are you?”
“Never mind that!! RUN!” We both yell at him, grabbing his hands and running out the other door, as the Cybermen got to their feet.
We ran down corridor after corridor, and after we were all out of breath, we stopped outside a closed metal door like the very first one we came to.
“This time I CAN use my Sonic.” The Doctor said while glaring at Darby.
He pointed his Sonic Screwdriver at the heavy metal door and within seconds the door slid open.
“Ha! Three seconds.” The Doctor beamed proudly.
“We have never seen a Cyberman or their kind of technology, you should be amazed that she got it open at all.” I said a bit too calmly.
“Right. Well, we need to find my TARDIS. Come on,” he said in a bit of an annoyed tone.
So off we went. We ran around the ship dodging Cybermen, hiding in closets, and running down corridors. Darby and I were, I hate to say, having fun. We had hid from people before so we were rather good at it but this was different. We had never felt this much of a rush before. It was… exciting.
“My TARDIS should be up ahead in the main control room. Come on.”
He grabbed our hands and started running. Only… that’s where it got complicated…
We ran and ran and we were almost there when, all of a sudden, ten Cybermen came out and blocked the door. We thought nothing of it. I mean, we had been doing this for the past couple of hours now. It wasn’t that much of a problem. Except… We got too comfortable…
Darby and I went to do the same attack technique we had been doing. I run left, Darby runs right, and The Doctor runs straight forward and we take them all out. We did the same thing but I guess the other Cybermen sent out a warning because they were waiting for it.
Three went for me, three for Darby, and four for the Doctor. The Doctor and I got through fine. It was Darby we had to worry about. One of the Cybermen shot her in the stomach. She fell to the ground, unconscious. I screamed for her but she wouldn’t wake up. I thought she was dead. The Doctor ran to her and slung her over his shoulder grabbing my hand in the process, taking us both to his ship.
I was crying as he unlocked the blue box. When we entered, I was so distraught that I didn’t pay any mind to the fact that the small blue box had a large room on the inside with doorways opening into corridors. I couldn’t even bother to ask what he was doing with all of the buttons and levers on the console. She was gone. My best friend. My only friend.
I felt Darby’s pulse. There was a heartbeat! “DOCTOR!!! SHE’S STILL ALIVE!!!! YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!!!!!” He remained silent, rushing around the console flipping levers and pressing buttons. “Doctor… Please… She’s my best friend…”
He still said nothing. I began crying harder than ever. Then he did something suddenly – something I didn’t expect. He walked over to me and told me he needed me to stay in the TARDIS while he took Darby somewhere.
“No!” I told him. “She is my friend and I am not leaving her!”
“Please Meaghan… Just listen to me.”
“No!”
“Then I’m sorry but I have to do this.”
He looked at me with sadness in his eyes and put one of his hands on either side of my head. Then I blacked out.
I woke up in a chair near the console to the sight of The Doctor walking around the TARDIS pressing buttons.
“Ow… It feels like I was hit with a piano… What happened?” I asked.
“Yeah… That’s a side effect… Sorry…Anyway, Darby is at a hospital.”
“Really? What if i don’t believe you?”
“Yes, she’s fine. Well as fine as you can be in that situation. It’s a good thing that we got her there in time. So where do you live?”
“You think I’m going to tell you?!”
“You are if you want to go home.”
“I WANT TO SEE MY FRIEND!”
“I can’t take you to her.”
“WHY NOT?!”
“Because you would be scared of the people that work there!”
“Really? I was just captured by Cybermen, almost killed, and YOU THINK THAT I WOULD BE SCARED OF HOSPITAL STAFF?!”
“Well… They’re cats…”
“Cats… You think I would be scared of cats?”
“Meaghan… You don’t understand. It might be hard for you. She’s in a lot of pain right now and I don’t want you to have to see that. You’re only a kid. You don’t need to see your best friend suffer. I’m taking you home.”
“I. AM. NOT. A. KID.”
“Everyone is a child to me. Don’t argue.”
“HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOUR BEST FRIEND, YOUR ONLY FRIEND, GOT HURT AND THEN YOU COULDN’T EVEN SEE IF THEY WERE ALIVE OR DEAD, AND ALL YOU COULD GO ON WAS THE WORD OF A COMPLETE STRANGER?!?!”
He looked sad. Lonely even. Like I had just offended him. I was just angry but the look he gave me… It was awful… It made me feel bad for him. So I went along with it. He took me home and promised he’d come get me when Darby was better.
Then he left. He dropped me off at the front of the orphanage and the blue box disappeared with only a wheezing, groaning noise to tell of its departure.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The children and Meaghan heard the front door open and a female voice yell “Children we’re home!”

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Hack and Attack

I have been introduced to a new ARG (Augmented Reality Game). It is called Ingress. This game was created by Niantic Labs, a subdivision of Google. I have never played an ARG before. I have been researching them lately. They are very fascinating to me. Here is more about my current obsession…

According to its Wiki, Ingress is “a near-real time augmented reality massively multiplayer online pervasive game created by Niantic Labs, a start-up within Google, originally for Android devices, and since July 14, 2014 for Apple’s iOS. The game has a complex science fiction back story with a  continuous open narrative.

The gameplay consists of establishing ‘portals’ at places of public art, landmarks, cenotaphs, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular fields over geographic areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of Mind Units, i.e. people, nominally controlled by each faction (as illustrated on the Intel Map). The necessary links between portals may range from meters to kilometers, or to hundreds of kilometers in operations of considerable logistical complexity. International links and fields are not uncommon, as Ingress has attracted an enthusiastic following in cities worldwide amongst both young and old, to the extent that the gameplay is itself a lifestyle for some, including tattoos.”

I am not so into it that it has become a “lifestyle” for me. In fact, I just like to take out portals when I am in the area. My husband and I usually travel together. Luckily, we are in the same faction. There is a green faction called The Enlightened and a blue faction called The Resistance. Each faction vies for control of portals throughout any one area. My husband and I are green, but live in a blue-dominated area. We are working to change that.

This game is a great social outlet. There are various Google+ groups for faction members of certain areas. They arrange meetups, raids and such. It is great fun. It reminds me of Geocaching. We still do that on occasion.  I will write more about that in another blog. I love games that force you to get out and actually do things – get to know your community and surroundings. I homeschool my kids and I work from home. So this gives me a chance to get out and meet people. And (unlike the SCA) it is free. The game/app is a free download and I usually make stops along a path that I am already traveling.

Check out this game! We can always use new recruits – as long as you choose The Enlightened. 🙂

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How I Homeschool

As many of you may know, I have been homeschooling for the last five years. During that time, I have researched many homeschooling methods. There are so many of them out there. I have tried to take bits from each and every one of them to create my own eclectic method. Here is what I have taken from each one of them.

Charlotte Mason

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Mason believed that children should be involved with their education. She felt that the children should learn through immersion, not just sitting and reading a text book. I have put this into my homeschooling. Even though we read textbooks, we also learn by doing. For science, we go outside and really look at nature. For math, we use manipulatives whenever possible. For writing, I have them write in a journal. Mason uses Living Books in her curriculum. That is something I am trying to do more of. I am always on the lookout for good history authors. When my daughter was younger, she loved the Magic Treehouse books. They were ideal. We would read them together and talk about history. Now, we use The History Teachers. Their YouTube channel is full of history lessons set to popular music. I have found my kids singing bits of history many times throughout the week.

Classical

This method emphasizes the Great books of Western Tradition. I have exposed my children to these books. From Homer to Chaucer and from Shakespeare to Twain, we have read and discussed so many of them. Although, we have not even covered half of the list.

Dr. Maria Montessori Method

This method has an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s development. I give the kids a list of subjects and say “Which one do you want to do first?” I allow them to choose from a list of choices. Each student has a list of what needs to be learned that week. They can then choose when they want to do each lesson. They can do all of their math in one day or spread it out over the week. If everything is accomplished early, they get Friday off school. If all their work is not done by Friday at bedtime, they will not have free time during the weekend until it is all finished. Dr. Montessori stressed that children should work in mixed age groups. My daughter is three years older than my son. Yet both of them work together to figure out problems. Both are working from the same math book – Pearson’s Pre-Algebra and Introductory Algebra. My son is stronger at math than my daughter. So, he helps her out with her math. She is stronger at reading so she helps him out with that. I love it that they can both work together. Plus, I just have to teach a subject once and it is done.

Structured

In the beginning, I was very structured in my teaching. We had a set schedule. It was:

  • 8-9 Wake up, eat, chores
  • 9-10 Language Arts
  • 10-1030 Math
  • 1030-1100 MW History, Tuesday Science, Thursday Geography
  • 11-12 Electives (Computer Science, German, Piano, Art, etc.)

We only did this for a year. It was really hard and did not allow any flexibility. Now, I just have a schedule on a week to week basis.

Unit Studies

Unit Studies are a cross-curricular educational approach in which learning is focused around a common, central theme. We have done this with history. The theme/subject was the War of 1812. The kids first read about it in their history book. Then, we watched a YouTube video about it. Then, we listed to the 1812 Overture and the Battle of New Orleans.  For the science portion, we learned about the artillery and ships that were used then. For geography, we looked at various maps of the time. Then, they wrote about what they had learned.

Unschooling

There have been times (especially around holidays and errands) when I just let the kids choose what they want to do. I still have trouble letting them go completely. I still have to set some boundaries. In this respect, I tend to lean more towards Montessori than Unschooling.

Waldorf

The Waldorf Method emphasizes the cooperation instead of competition. We do that in our homeschool. The children work together on so much as a team. For math, they do their work together. Then I make each one of them do a problem on their own – working it out on the board. By doing it as a team first, they encourage each other to find the right answer. Then each one is confident to do the work on his/her own.

We just got out of school a couple of weeks ago. I have already started work on next year. At the end of every year I ask them, “So, do you want to go into public school next year or shall we homeschool another year?” Their answer is always the same “I don’t want to go back to public school. Can we homeschool forever?”

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Floating on Air

From the Daily Compass:

Most of us can only imagine what it would be like to soar like a hawk, carried by nothing more than air. It turns out that you can only get to that peaceful place of floating by literally jumping off a cliff.

What kind of cliffs have you chosen to jump off, trusting that the experience will be worth it?

Five years ago, I withdrew my children from public school. I had chosen to homeschool them. It was a very scary decision. I thought “What if I fail?” Then, I realized that I could then choose another option. There are charter schools, private schools, co-ops, etc. So, I took the leap. I had researched homeschooling (as well as all other options) for more than two years. My children had been doing well until my daughter reached the fifth grade.

My daughter moved from the elementary school to the intermediate school. She changed classes and was introduced to the world of cliques. She hated it. The school was overcrowded and she often got lost in the crowd. She had ADHD and Written Output Disorder. The elementary school was great. It had ARD meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and I would help out in the classroom on many occasions. It offered me many opportunities to stay in touch with my children’s education. The intermediate school offered no such opportunity. There were no meetings of any kind. It was almost impossible to schedule meetings with all of her teachers. I tried to help out at the school and was told that they didn’t need parent help. When I approached the counselors, I was told that I just needed to be strong and force my child to be independent. I needed to just walk away when my daughter cried and begged me not to leave her. I grew more and more frustrated.

My son was doing fairly well at the elementary. He was in second grade. It was the other students that frightened me. I was a substitute teacher at the time.The last straw was when a second grader threw a desk at me. I had asked him to move his desk. He moved it alright. He served three days in In-School Suspension (ISS). My son also has ADHD. He was constantly asked to move his desk into the hall or into a corner. I was not overjoyed at this.

Due to all of the above, I figured my kids could get a better education at home. And I was right. My daughter (now 16) and my son (now 13) are both learning from college text books. We passed high school long ago. Both are doing very well. My daughter is getting reading for all of her testing next year (SAT and COMPAS). She wants to be a game designer. She loves art and drawing anime figures. Currently, she is designing mods for Minecraft and other games. My son is doing everything he can to prepare for his admission into A&M. He has wanted to be an entomologist since he was four. He still loves insects, spiders, and all things creepy crawly. I have bought him books and taken him on numerous field trips. Throughout the year, we trudge through the backyard in search of insects. We look at them and figure out their life cycle. We then search online and in his library for more information. They still learn college algebra, US History, reading (about 2-5 hours a day) and writing. Somehow, we find time for it all.

I am so glad that I jumped off that cliff five years ago. It has brought me peace and gratitude. I am also very happy that the state of Texas has laws that favor homeschooling. Are you more interested in homeschooling? Want to know how you can raise creative thinkers? Check out my course Raising Creative Thinkers on Udemy for 60% off!

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Safety Gear

FirefightersIt’s hard to imagine anyone braver than firefighters who will walk straight into a burning building to rescue those inside. Wearing the best of protective gear doesn’t make that bravery any less – only more effective.

What enables you to protect yourself so that you can help others?

via Daily Compass – Inspiration for your spiritual expedition.

 

I have an affliction. It may seem like a horrible thing to some but it is a great thing to others. It is called “helium hand”. This means that whenever the question is asked “Who wants to do this?”, my hand automatically goes up. I volunteer for just about anything that is asked. My mother has the same affliction. She has this much worse than I do. She volunteers for so much that she is often overwhelmed and stressed. She will schedule too many things on the same day. She will forget that she has other things going on that day and say “sure I will take you.” Her health is suffering from her stress. She has diabetes, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure.

I have learned from her experience. I know that I cannot help the entire world. I can only help a select few. I choose who I help very carefully. I also put myself in that group and I help myself. I know that I need to take care of myself and my family. Due to this knowledge, I am healthier and less stressful than my mother. I still stress from time to time, but not nearly as much. I feel there is a fine line between helping and martyrdom. I try to walk that line carefully.

So, what enables me to protect myself so that I can help others? I would say my husband does that. He is my voice of reason. He is my rock and protector. He will step in and say “You cannot do that. You already have enough on your plate.” He is also there when I get stressed. He allows me to rant and vent. Then, he looks at me and smiles, gives me a hug, or just listens.

My daughter is another protection I have. She will say, “No, you sit down and let me do that.” She checks on my mom every day and helps her out. She also does so much around the house and she never complains. She does a lot so that I don’t have to.

My support system enables me to protect myself so that I can help others. And I dearly love them for it.

What enables you to protect yourself so that you can help others?

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