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Visiting fossils

This is a guest post by my 8-year-old son, Peter:

We went to Rock Glen Conservation Area.

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This is my family on a bridge.

My dad was at home.

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It had a water fall.

I jumped on rocks.

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It was beautiful.

There were fossils.  We kept a brachiopod and a horn coral.

brachiopod

brachiopod

horn coral

horn coral

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We found a trilobite.

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These fossils are from the Devonian period, 345­­­-395 million years BC.  Fossils are found in sedimentary rock.

Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary called for homeschoolers to share a visual tour of their curricula for this upcoming school year.  Despite the fact that I have many more important things I should be doing (thus the reason I haven’t blogged in so long), I cannot resist this call, since this will be our first year of full-time homeschooling and I’m a bit of a curriculum junkie.  So here goes…

First, an introduction.  We are an American-Canadian family living in Canada.  Our son Peter is 8 years old and entering grade 3.  For the past four years (junior kindergarten through grade 2), he has attended French-language schools.  We’ve afterschooled on the weekends and over the summer.  Now we’re taking the plunge and going full-time.  We also have an 18-month-old, Simon.

This is the most recent picture I could find of the four of us, when we went to a sailing club open house in May.

This is the most recent picture I could find of the four of us, when we went to a sailing club open house in May.

I am a fan of the Sonlight curriculum for history and literature (both reading books and read-aloud books).  We’ve afterschooled using Sonlight for the past four years (from P4/5 through core C).  However, core D is the beginning of a two-year sequence in American history.  I have decided to splice core D+E (Sonlight’s one-year condensed version of American history) with a Sonlight-style Canadian history schedule, taking two years to cover both American and Canadian history together chronologically.  It should be interesting!  I’ve never seen American and Canadian history taught simultaneously, but it made more sense to me than doing a year of one and then starting over with a year of the other.  (Note: There is a wonderful Yahoo Group for Catholic Sonlight users.  There is also a secular Yahoo Group for Sonlight users.)

US history

This is a sample of the Sonlight US history books.

This is just a sample of the many books we will be reading.

These are some of the Canadian history books we will read.

For English language arts, we will be using Catholic Heritage Curricula‘s Language of God level B.  Peter and I have both enjoyed other Nancy Nicholson books (Little Stories for Little Folks, Devotional Stories for Little Folks, Devotional Stories Too).  It seems to cover the basics without requiring a ridiculous amount of work.  Someone with six kids might come out ahead buying a hardcover textbook and reusing it, but for us, for both cost and ease of use, this consumable workbook is the way to go.  Peter will also be writing a daily journal and will have a weekly writing assignment.

Language of God 1

Language of God 2

We started All About Spelling level 1 this summer after I realized that Peter’s atrocious English spelling skills weren’t improving on their own.  It took a while to get over his “spelling is too hard and I’m bad at it” psychological block, but now he’s starting to make progress.  The fact that he hasn’t yet had to write anything down on paper with a pencil has helped with his attitude change.  AAS starts with flash cards, oral activities, and magnet letter tiles.  When it’s time to write, I think I’ll have him start on a white board with a dry-erase marker, for his psychological benefit.

Spelling

Handwriting will be with CHC’s Catholic Heritage Handwriting levels 2 and 3.  I was just going to have him do level 3, which introduces cursive, but his consistently sloppy printing annoyed me so much that I went ahead and bought level 2 also, so he can review and practice printing.

Handwriting 1

Handwriting 2

On the left is two days’ worth of work, the right is one day. So again, not an overwhelming amount of work.

For math, we will continue with RightStart Mathematics level C (Peter has done about a quarter of the level already).  After using Saxon and Singapore math for kindergarten (we did two years of kindergarten math), I discovered RightStart and fell in love.  I appreciate the hands-on-ness of it, the way it focuses on building concepts, the visual and mental problem-solving strategies, and the incorporation of a variety of games for practice.  (If you’re interested, you can buy the Math Card Games book and materials separately and use them to supplement another math program–I highly recommend them.)  I wish I had learned math that way when I was in elementary school!  To provide some extra math practice from a slightly different perspective (and so Peter can practice doing math independently), I’m adding in the Singapore math workbooks.  Singapore is also concept- and strategy-oriented, but gives more drill and more word problems (which I personally think are important–what good is it to know math if you can’t apply it?).  Peter will start with the 2B workbook and continue with 3A.

Math

RightStart is an American program, but they do sell a Canadian workbook (money problems have pictures of Canadian coins) and Canadian money cards for their card games.

As part of my effort to maintain Peter’s fluency in French, we will be using materials from the French Ministry of Education’s distance education program, which are available for free online.  We will be using CE2 Français, Instruction civique, and Sciences expérimentales et technologies.  Peter will also be reading library books in French and watching French-language tv.

Francais

Sample of French language arts

Instruction civique

Sample of “civic instruction” (rights/freedoms, safety, etc)

Sciences

Sample of science

For religion, Peter will have daily Bible passages to read, so he can get some use out of the Bible we gave him as a First Communion present in April.  We will also be using the Image of God series 3rd grade book, Who is Our Example?  We did the Image of God 2nd grade book and I liked it reasonably well; the illustrations are dorky but the text is less boring than the Faith and Life series.  The 2nd grade program, however, is mostly in the teacher’s guide (stories to read and questions to ask).  Starting in 3rd grade, the program is based in the student’s book.  Last year, Peter was okay with me reading him stories but complained about doing the workbook, so we’ll see how it goes.

Religion

In case it bothers anyone, I apologize for the non-Catholic Bible. I searched hard for a Bible that would appeal to my son and that wouldn’t be too “little kid”-ish for him to read as he gets older. I couldn’t find a Catholic children’s Bible that I was happy with. We do have a Catholic Bible available in the house.

Religion 2

I am quite excited about doing art using ARTistic Pursuits K-3 book 1.  This program is specifically written for homeschoolers.  Peter is not into art by any stretch of the imagination, but I figured that a little art will help him be more well-rounded.  I will have fun with it, anyways!

Art

Finally, I’m hoping that a crazy goat with a British accent will help Peter learn to type.  He’ll be doing the BBC Dance Mat Typing course online (free!).

Dance Mat Typing

It seems like a lot, but I think it’s doable.  We won’t be doing every subject every day–science is two days a week, for example, and art once a week.  Language of God will be one page, twice a week.  French is the biggest “extra” subject, but it’s very important to us, so we’ll find a way to make it work.  Art and typing are also extras; if they cause more stress than fun, we’ll drop them.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m expecting a great year of learning!

Friday isn’t over yet, so I’m going to squeeze in 7 Quick Takes.

1

Don left on Thursday morning for a week-long motorcycle trip.  He and my dad are riding around Lake Superior.  If you’re interested in following along, they are posting updates on their trip on this ride report.

2

My prayer while he’s gone is for him to stay safe and me to stay sane.  I’m hanging in there, despite some larger difficulties (window air conditioner dripping water down the interior wall, Simon being awake from 1:30 am to 3:30 am last night) and minor annoyances (cat eating food on the counters, Peter yapping incessantly about Mario Kart, Simon taking great delight in repeatedly pushing the power button on my laptop to see what happens).

3

As if it wasn’t enough to be responsible for myself, an 8-year-old, a 17-month-old, a cat, and the house, I’m taking on a foreign teenager in a couple days.  We’re going to host a 16-year-old boy from France for three weeks.  He arrives Sunday evening.  I’m hoping he’ll be a good distraction for Peter, who usually has a hard time when Don’s away from home for extended trips.

4

We made it through the first week of summer vacation.  I was successful in setting up some basic weekday routines, including implementing our summer lesson schedule.  It’s important to me to have a distinction between weekdays and weekends, otherwise my life as a stay-at-home mom becomes a big blur of day after day after day of child care and housework.  Even if I’m still doing child care and housework on the weekends, I need it to look different.

5

Last Friday was my birthday.  I had a lovely day.  It rained, which foiled my plan to go on a family picnic for lunch, but instead we went to a local taco place and had delicious tacos.  Don cooked dinner and he and Peter made dessert.  I spent more time than usual on the internet and reading, while Don took care of the boys.  I did clear the table after dinner and change a few diapers, but on the whole, it was a good day off.

6

Simon slipped and fell face-first into a wooden block today.  He has a bruise and a couple cuts on one side of his nose.  I’m sure he’ll heal soon, but it looks ugly.  I am glad that he really hasn’t had many injuries to this point.

7

Tomorrow’s plan: haircuts for both boys.  I hope it won’t be raining (as it has been the past two days) so I can do them outside.

I recently received some questions about adopting a child with HIV.  As I was responding privately, I realized that some of my answers would make a good blog post.  First, my disclaimer: I don’t have a child with HIV.  However, this information is distilled from reputable sources, including families that do have children with HIV.  By sharing it, I hope to make HIV less scary.

If you haven’t read it yet, you might like to start with the basic info about HIV that I shared a few months ago.

I’ve been interested in HIV adoption for quite some time, since Peter was a baby.  I followed a blog by a woman who adopted two kids with HIV from Ethiopia.  Her sharing her experiences showed me that it was doable.  I did some research on it then, but because we were planning to move to Canada and we had a lot of debt, it wasn’t a good time for us to consider adopting.  At that time, Canada didn’t allow the international adoption of HIV+ children.  HIV adoption fell off my radar for a few years.  I only learned earlier this year that Canada now allows international HIV adoption.  I re-joined the HIV Adoption Yahoo Group, where parents who have adopted kids with HIV and those who are thinking about it can ask and answer questions, share resources, and support each other.

A common message of parents who have adopted kids with HIV is that it’s not really a big deal.  With advances in medication over the past decade, HIV is managed pretty easily.  Most kids who are on medication have a viral load that is undetectable (they aren’t cured of HIV, but the level of the virus in the blood is so low that current instruments cannot detect it, and their immune systems work just as well as if they didn’t have HIV).  Caring for a child with type 1 diabetes or severe food allergies would have a much greater impact on a family’s lifestyle than caring for a child with HIV.  Basically, they take medication twice a day, and see a doctor every three months.  Medications are available in a liquid form for younger children and as pills for older children and adults.

HIV is only spread from mother to child (through birth or breastfeeding), sexual contact, or contact with blood.  Most children with HIV who are available for adoption were infected at birth.  Parenting a child with HIV would certainly require careful attention to sex education when the time comes.  I suspect that if you looked at the entire life cycle of a child who is born with HIV, that the influence on their sex life is probably the greatest impact that HIV has on their life (well, in the developed world, anyhow).  As for blood, based on my eight years of experience as a mom so far, there haven’t been many occasions when I’ve come in contact with my kids’ blood (the only time I can think of is during one of Peter’s nosebleeds).  It would be prudent to have gloves on hand that could be worn if necessary, but it doesn’t have to be a big concern.  Especially with older kids, unless they’re bleeding profusely, you can just have them wash their own blood off (I learned that in teacher’s college).  Away from home, teachers, coaches, Scout leaders, paramedics, et cetera are supposed to take universal precautions against coming into contact with other people’s blood, so there’s no need to worry about that.  If the child is on meds and has an undetectable viral load, the chance of spreading HIV even in the case of an accidental exposure is pretty small.  In short, the child is not putting anyone at risk, and it’s not necessary to “warn” people that the child has HIV.

For most families, the social impact of having an HIV+ child is more of a concern than the medical aspect.  There is still a lot of stigma associated with HIV, a lot of fear and misunderstanding.  Many parents choose not to disclose their child’s HIV status, or to disclose only to close friends and family, because of fear of discrimination against their child.

I hope that has been a helpful introduction to the topic.  There is plenty more information and discussion out there if you’re interested in learning more.

25 Things About Me

I found a list of 25 things about me that I wrote in 2009.  Most of them are still valid, so with only a few minor modifications to bring it up to date, I’m reproducing it here.

1. I can’t stand to eat raw vegetables. I know I should eat them. I know they’re healthy. But I don’t like them. I eat a variety of cooked vegetables, but I pass on the raw veggies.

2. I have a specific disability in remembering the contents of weather forecasts. At the beginning of a weather report, I tell myself, “Pay attention. Here’s the weather forecast.” I concentrate hard on understanding the information. Then as soon as it’s over, I ask myself, “Now what’s the weather supposed to be like tomorrow?” and I can’t remember at all.

3. I don’t get “brain freeze” or ice cream headaches. However, if I eat too much cold food too quickly, it makes me cough.

4. I only had three wisdom teeth. They have been removed.

5. I made homemade baby food for my son Peter. He only ever ate one jar of store-bought baby food, some sort of fruit dessert that my husband bought.  I skipped baby food entirely with Simon and used baby-led weaning.  It’s a heck of a lot easier.

6. The first time I traveled outside the US or Canada was just after my 28th birthday.

7. The first country I visited outside of the US and Canada was Denmark, followed shortly thereafter by other countries on the Baltic Sea and then several countries in the Caribbean.

8. I’ve donated blood about 37 times. I don’t have an exact count because I’ve moved around and donated with four different organizations and I’ve lost track. I figure ’tis better to give than to receive.

9. I’ve never broken a bone, had stitches, or been to the emergency room for any reason other than accompanying or visiting someone else who needed medical attention.

10. The farthest north and west I’ve traveled is Fairbanks, Alaska. The farthest south is Cozumel, Mexico. The farthest east is St. Petersburg, Russia.

11. I have worn glasses since I was seven years old. I’ve tried contacts twice, but I don’t find them very comfortable and they’re more work to take care of, so I’ve given up on them.

12. My husband, Don, was my high school sweetheart. We met on ham radio when I was 16 and he was 17. We talked on the radio almost every evening but didn’t see each other in person very often as I lived in Michigan and he lived in Ontario.

13. In one of our very first conversations, Don mentioned that he needed to find a date for the prom in June (this was in September). I considered volunteering to go with him if he didn’t find anyone else, but thought that might be too bold, so I didn’t. When June rolled around, I did end up going to the prom with him.

14. We don’t know what country we were in the first time we kissed. It was in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

15. At that time (pre e-mail), my friend Alana and I used to exchange very long letters. In the letter when I first described Don, I said something like, “One of these days, one of the people I describe to you will be the person I end up marrying.”

16. When I was in elementary school and middle school, my ambition was to become a primatologist.

17. I am currently the only one in my family who is not a dual citizen (US/Canadian).  I applied for Canadian citizenship last September when I became eligible, but the processing time keeps lengthening (when I applied, 80% of routine applications were done within 21 months, but now it’s up to 25 months).  I trust that it will eventually happen, but I don’t know when.

18. Although I worked as a French teacher for over four years, I’ve never been to France. However, I did study in Quebec for six weeks.

19. I don’t like paying people to cut my hair, so I cut it myself.  I just let it grow until it gets too long, then I cut a few inches off.

20. I also cut my kids’ hair.  Simon has never had a “real” haircut and Peter has only had one–Don took him for a haircut shortly after Simon was born because he figured I wasn’t up to doing it.

21. Horror movies completely do not appeal to me. I can’t even stand to watch commercials for them.

22. My first job was delivering an advertising paper twice a week. I started when I was eleven. My brother and I worked together on that paper route for three and a half years.

23. I worked in a coffee shop for a year but I don’t drink coffee.

24. I had a goldfish named Cleopatra for about five years when I was a kid. She grew so big that a 10-gallon aquarium didn’t seem large enough for her to be comfortable, so I found someone with a fishpond and got permission to release her there.

25. I still wish on stars.

My HIV education week

I’ve recently been learning more about the adoption of children with HIV.  It’s not a new idea to me.  Back when Peter was a preschooler, I avidly followed the blog of a woman who (along with her husband) adopted two children with HIV from Ethiopia (one at a time–I started reading just after she brought the first one home and read for several years as she brought the second one home and then completed a domestic adoption of a child with more serious special needs–her blog is no longer public or I’d share the link).

Back then, a special immigration waiver was required for US citizens to complete international adoptions of children with HIV.  That requirement was dropped years ago.  At that time, no one in Canada had completed an international adoption of a child with HIV.  It wasn’t looking promising for those who were trying.  After the aforementioned blog went private, HIV adoption went off my radar.  When we did our home study with CAS and went over which conditions we were and were not willing to accept, I was comfortable with HIV but Don wasn’t, so it was not included as something we would consider.

I recently learned that the situation in Canada has changed.  Children with HIV can be and have been adopted internationally.  I’m happy to know that it is possible here.

Don’t get too excited; we’re not planning another adoption.  This has just been on my mind a lot and I wanted to share in case I can inspire anyone else, or at the very least reduce some of the stigma associated with HIV.  I wrote a series of short messages which I have been posting on Facebook, one a day.  I just completed the series today.

For the benefit of those few people who read my blog but are not friends with me on Facebook, I am re-posting them here.  (And you get to read them all at once!)

***

HIV is a virus, not a moral judgement.

HIV, like type 1 diabetes, is no longer a death sentence; modern medicine has rendered them both manageable chronic conditions.

There is no such thing as “the AIDS virus”. HIV is the virus that, if untreated, will result in a person developing AIDS. With medication, a person can live with HIV indefinitely without developing AIDS.

HIV is NOT spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, bathing, swimming or any other casual way. HIV is NOT spread through tears, saliva, sweat, urine, feces, or bug bites.

HIV is spread through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding, and contact with blood. That’s it. Assuming you’ve been born safely and have finished breastfeeding already, there’s no risk of you contracting HIV from someone if you’re not having sex with them or coming in contact with their blood.

Many orphans with HIV are rejected by their relatives because of stigma associated with the infection or concerns about being able to provide adequate care. Many have almost no chance of being adopted in their home countries because of this stigma.

Both the United States and Canada allow the international adoption of children with HIV. An increasing number of families are adopting kids with HIV from Ethiopia, South Africa, Haiti, India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Russia, and Ukraine, among other countries.

This is the last post in my HIV series. You can see photos of some waiting children with HIV here. Please take a look. They’re not scary, they’re just kids who need families.

I have been studying Haitian Creole (Kreyol) off-and-on in my spare time for several years.  It occurred to me that it might be useful for me to make a list of resources that I have found and share it with the world.  Accordingly, I organized a list and published it as a page here on my blog (see the little tab up at the top?).  The permalink is: http://burckeri.wordpress.com/resources-for-studying-kreyol/

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