Feeling the Bern

bernieselfie

We were hosting homeschool days at the Petroglyphs yesterday but Toria and I left Daryl and the staff in charge and went on a different field trip yesterday.

We carpooled with friends (one old, two new) to see Bernie Sanders in Sioux Falls.

He was not planning to stop in South Dakota this week but he announced on Tuesday that he would come.  He was scheduled to speak at 7:30, with doors opening at 5.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going and looking for company, and Daryl encouraged me to go.  I said yes, woke Toria, and told her the news.  A few hours later we were on the road, by way of Iowa to pick up another Bernie friend, and then stopping in Sioux Falls to pick up another.  By the time we got there via three states, it was around 5:30 and the line went far off into the distance.

One of the members of our party uses a wheelchair and she headed right to the officials in front of the building to ask where we should go.  Our party was ushered right through the doors and through security, where a volunteer pushed Deb’s wheelchair and led us right in and through the crowds.  I must admit that I felt guilty and lucky for their exceptional treatment of handicapped attendees and their parties, because we frankly would not have gotten in otherwise.  I didn’t even realize as it was happening what was going on, our friend was simply efficiently taken care of and they beckoned us to quickly follow.  Even the people waiting in line at the metal detectors just moved over as we came in.  Bernie supporters are a caring bunch.  I guess it sort of goes with the territory.

Thousands of people were unable to get in to see him.  Over 2,000 got in to see Bernie, but over 2,000 had to wait outside (I’m wondering if they were in overflow rooms with monitors, as it seemed afterwards that masses of people were coming from a different area than we were).  I assume that this was because they didn’t have security to control that large of a crowd, because there were additional walls they could have opened up to greatly increase capacity and they did not open them.  There were lots of secret service agents and local police, but since it was a last minute gig then I’m guessing they felt they could only guarantee his safety in that size of a space.

Because of this, it felt almost intimate in spite of being in a crowd of 2,000.  I’ve seen some of the crowds that have come to see Bernie, and we were in a room that could have held a (very) large wedding party to see Bernie Sanders.  It was surreal.

We got there at 5:30 and he wasn’t scheduled to speak until 7:30, so there was a lot of standing and waiting in what felt a lot like a mosh pit.  It was standing room only, other than the section for the disabled (they asked us to stand in a separate area from Deb once they got her in her spot, so wheelchairs and people who needed the ASL interpreter were all in one area to the left of the stage).

They had occasional speakers and entertainment as we waited, including a local band that played some fun songs and a phenomenal, moving performance by Native American dancers and musicians.  Several candidates and local politicians spoke also, with a focus on their collective message that they shared with Bernie.

Bernie was greeted with thunderous applause, of course, but also with a bit of annoyed booing when he accidentally called the town Sioux City (a city in Iowa) instead of Sioux Falls in his opening sentence.  🙂  I cringed and figured the local news would lead with that and not much else.  The crowd quickly forgave him and he proceeded to give an inspirational, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent speech about not only what he wanted to accomplish as president but how important the people were (not him) in effecting change and how important it was to change the current political rules and climate.

Look how close we were!

bernie

Among the issues he discussed were:

  • Injustices against Native Americans (he also met with Native Americans at the impoverished Pine Ridge reservation this week)
  • The importance of acknowledging and heading off climate change
  • Eliminating fracking and the dependency on fossil fuels
  • Creating jobs for all workers displaced by moving to clean energy
  • Taxing wall street speculation to fully fund free college education
  • Enacting legislation to allow all Americans to refinance existing student loans at the lowest available interest rates
  • Creating American jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, railway)
  • Creating paths for citizenship for immigrants
  • Taking care of disabled veterans (this was mentioned often)
  • Taking care of our elderly and ensuring that social security and medicare are protected
  • Establishing a $15 minimum wage
  • Ensuring that women finally get equal pay to men
  • Taking political power back from the very rich and putting it back in the hands of the people
  • Getting rid of Citizens United
  • Getting rid of tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes
  • Sending the message to American companies that they need to employ workers here in America and not take advantage of slave labor options in other countries or we will not buy their products here
  • Dealing with race inequality and issues for Latino and African American communities
  • Making companies provide a living wage for their employees so the American people no longer have to subsidize the billionaires
  • The importance in taking part in democracy
  • Using our money on building our country, not wars

Bernie talked a lot about the importance of thinking big and thinking outside of the box.  He also pointed out that no significant change has ever come from the top — it has always come from the bottom up.

He talked about the African Americans and their white allies who helped end slavery, often at the expense of their own lives.  He talked about the women and their male allies who helped get women our right to vote (pointing out that only a hundred years ago, women did not have that right).  He talked about women who went on hunger strikes, were jailed and who sometimes lost their lives to bringing about that change.

He said that if someone had told you 20 years ago that we’d have our first African American president in a few years, you would have said it was impossible.  He said if you’d said 10 years ago that we’d see gay marriage legal in every state in America by 2015, you’d say it wasn’t possible.  He said that five years ago, if someone said fast food workers would win the right to a $15 minimum wage in cities and states around the country this year, you’d say that was an impossible number.  He gave many examples like these of things that people thought were dreaming “too big” and we’ve made them happen.

And again and again, he said it was the people who did it.  When the crowd would shout, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…” he would smile and shake his finger and tell us, “No… You.”

All in all, it was a long, incredible experience.  I can’t speak to Victoria’s perception of it (though she is certainly a Bernie supporter and seemed to really love it) but she often just had a big smile on her face.  It was quite an experience for a kid who turned 18 just this month and will be voting for her first president this fall.

What a field trip.  🙂

(If anybody wants me to post a video clip or two, or more pictures, I took plenty.  This has taken a long time to write up and I have dinner to start and a dart game to play with my hubby, so I wasn’t going to add more unless anybody was actually interested!  Let me know if you’d like me to post them!)

 

An Afternoon Visit 7 Miles Under the Sea

Most of our family went to Sioux Falls today to do our regular trek to Costco, the science museum and thrift stores.  We try to combine fun and educational things with practical trips like grocery shopping every time we can so we have memberships to the science museum and zoo to help make it easy to stop by even for an hour or two any time we head to the city.

We usually get there in the afternoons and miss the free films at the cinedome, but this time we got there early enough to catch today’s movie, which was James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge.

Alex, Fiona, Rhia, Toria and I went and saw the 39 minute 2-D film (I suspect it may be longer in the 3-D version in some theaters) and we loved it.  It was just wonderful.  It was educational, inspirational, beautiful, exciting…. all you could ask for, especially for kids ranging in age from 4 to 17.  Here’s the synopsis:

As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench—nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface—piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. JAMES CAMERON’S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.

 

I visited the film’s site when I got home and saw that they have all sorts of lesson plans for educators.  If you get a chance to see the movie either in theaters or once it’s available at home, I highly recommend it.

In the movie, Cameron talks about how he’s been obsessed with visiting the deep sea since he was a child.  He also talks about how important it is for us to keep discovering and exploring, and how today’s children will be going on their own wonderful explorations.

Afterwards, Alex (8) really wanted to talk about how Cameron did his job (making movies) in part to pay for fulfilling his dreams (going 7 miles down to the deepest part of the ocean where nobody had ever been).  He’s really thinking about what jobs would be best for him and what dreams too.  Hopefully he can combine the two.  🙂

 

The Tricky Part of Blogging in the Teen Years

riandty

Some of you know that this blog has been around for a really long time (originally at Homeschool Journal).  I’m not sure how long.  Maybe 8 years?  It’s been a while, though, and I have always been a rather transparent blogger.  I believe in full disclosure, shots of messy houses, confessions and real stuff.

Which all gets tricky in the teen years.

You may have noticed that I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  Part of the reason is because I’m pretty darned busy.  I have 5 kids to homeschool now, plus I write four columns, cook three meals a day (or so) from scratch, do several billion loads of laundry per week, do all kinds of crazy homesteading and foraging jobs, and occasionally try to check in on two blogs.  And that doesn’t even get into all the housework I should be doing.  🙂

But it’s also because my little homeschool students are growing up, and they don’t necessarily want me broadcasting their news to my world.

rhiax

Look how that little girl that I kept accidentally giving mullets to over the years has grown up!  And she’s the little sister.  🙂

My big kids don’t necessarily want me broadcasting their lives, and I don’t blame them in the least.

But still, this is hard for me, for many reasons.

  1. I love them and am proud of them, and still want to tell all about their current loves, interests and accomplishments.
  2. I have always used this blog to try to share advice and support from a BTDT perspective, to help others who might face the same issues.  This worked fine when I shared information on surviving your four year old, but it’s not really okay to share specifics on surviving your sixteen year old when said sixteen year old may have friends reading (I’m surprised and confused at how many of my teens’ friends apparently read this blog!).
  3. Their lives are a big part of my life, which makes it hard for me to come here and talk about my own life if I need to respect their privacy.
  4. It seems disingenuous to blog about fluffy things when big things are a big part of our life at times.  During those times, I stay silent because it feels fake to just talk about the little things.

So I’m still trying to navigate these years as a writer/blogger/jabbermouth.

I respect my kids and will not post about things that are personal to them, but I also believe in the community of blogging in order to support each other and form a new sort of network for this new age.

And considering how many bloggers have completely given up on the idea of blogging for connection and community and have instead embraced blogging as a way to try to make money, there are fewer and fewer authentic blogs out there of moms just trying to support each other.  I don’t want to give up being a part of that.

Good grief, do I know how much we need connection, community and support during times in parenting, homeschooling, and yes, raising teens.

Luckily, I still have little ones to write about and design lesson plans around and all that fun stuff.  And I hope to start posting about them soon, too.

But I also hope to post more about the teen years here in the near future.  All with permission, of course.  Because frankly, we need each other in those times as much as the others.

And I miss the blabbing.  😉

vandg

 

 

Great Site for Tween/Teen Health Questions

I stumbled onto TeensHealth yesterday while looking for answers to a puberty-related question for one of my kids.  The answer was thorough, helpful and reassuring (turns out about half of all boys have the same thing happen).

This particular question was rather specific and it was something I’d never heard of — not that that means much, since I went through puberty as a girl, I suppose.  🙂  I was impressed that the site had such specific information, though, instead of just the standard “here’s what to expect” pages.

It looks like a good site to share with boys and girls who might have their own questions about changes they’re going through.

The teens’ Q&A section has questions from teens on all of these subjects, with answers from experts.

Girl Stuff

Guy Stuff

Periods

Birth Control, Pregnancy & STDs

Sex

Relationships

Friends

Parents & Family

Emotions & Mental Health

Depression, Suicide & Self-Injury

Body Image & Self-Esteem

Dieting & Weight

Food & Nutrition

Fitness, Exercise & Sports

Alcohol & Drugs

Smoking

Personal Hygiene

Skin

Sleep

Doctors, Hospitals & Medicine

Mononucleosis

Metabolism & Growth

Health Conditions & Illnesses

School & Jobs

The site has larger sections for kids, for parents, and for teens.  It looks like a good resource for health and sex ed.

I have not read through that much of it, though, so you might want to preview it yourself before recommending it to your child.

If you have any other health/sex ed sites you recommend, please add them in the comments!

CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit

I’ve had my eye on this chemistry kit that caters to homeschoolers for a while now.  I featured it in my column back in 2011 here  and wrote:

If you’ve ever tried to put together your own chemistry kit for homeschooling, you know what an overwhelming (and expensive) task it can be. A new chemistry kit is now available to make it easier and more affordable for homeschoolers.

The CK01 Chemistry Kit contains everything needed (other than a few basic supplies like table salt) for a one year chemistry course, along with lecture notes.

The kit contains over 40 chemicals (such as Phosphoric acid, Thymol blue indicator solution and Copper), 25 types of equipment (with multiples of many of these, such as pipettes, beakers and alligator clips) and other related consumables such as cotton balls, cotton swabs, a lab notebook and pH test strips…

I have not tried the kit and have no affiliation with the company, but it sounds like an easy and affordable way to assemble a pretty thorough year of chemistry.

The kit now costs $184, with shipping available at an additional cost to countries such as Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The manufacturer says:

Because chemistry is widely considered to be the most difficult lab course to do well—particularly on a tight budget—we offer the CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit. It provides a comprehensive, rigorous laboratory component for a first-year high school chemistry course, and does so affordably. With the exception of standard household items (such as table salt, sugar, vinegar, aluminum foil, foam cups, and so on) and other minor items that are readily available locally, the kit contains all of the special equipment and chemicals you’ll need for a complete chemistry lab course…

It’s a serious science curriculum, too, which can be modified to make a lighter version:

For a student who will go on to major in college in chemistry or another science, the kit provides a rigorous, comprehensive first-year chemistry lab experience. For non-science majors, you can, at your option, reduce the rigor and scope of the chemistry lab experience simply by doing only selected core lab sessions, while still providing an essential introduction to chemistry lab concepts and procedures.

I still have not tried the kit myself, but I have tried the book that it was created to accompany, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) (affiliate link), and I love the book!

This is truly a book for kids who want to do real science with real materials.  I loved reading about how the author discovered science as a child and how he worked to create a chemistry kit like those of his youth, before they were so “dumbed down.”  The book makes for a very thorough chemistry course/lab, and it is perfect for kids who love science or for kids who want to love science.

The book is not necessary to use the kit.  It comes with a complete PDF manual.  I do recommend the book in addition, just because it’s such a fantastic, thorough resource.

The CK01A kit provides 39 hands-on chemistry experiments in 14 topic areas:

Topic I. Separating Mixtures

Session I-1: Recrystallization
Session I-2: Chromatography
Session I-3: Solvent Extraction
Session I-4: Salting Out

Topic II. Solubility and Solutions

Session II-1: Solubility as a Function of Temperature
Session II-2: Conductance of Ionic and Molecular Solutes
Session II-3: Colligative Properties of Solutions: Boiling Point Elevation and Freezing Point Depression

Topic III. Chemical Reactions and Stoichiometry

Session III-1:  Observe a Composition Reaction
Session III-2:  Observe a Decomposition Reaction
Session III-3:  Observe a Single Replacement Reaction
Session III-4:  Observe Double Replacement Reactions
Session III-5:  Stoichiometry of Double Displacement Reactions

Topic IV. Reduction-Oxidation (Redox) Reactions

Session IV-1: Observe Oxidation States of Manganese

Topic V. Acid-Base Chemistry

Session V-1: Determine the Effect of Concentration on pH and the pH Range of Indicators
Session V-2: Determine the Molarity of Vinegar by Titration

Topic VI. Chemical Kinetics

Session VI-1: Determining the Effect of Temperature, Concentration, and Surface Area on Reaction Rates
Session VI-2: Determining the Effect of a Catalyst on Reaction Rate
Session VI-3: Determining a Reaction Order

Topic VII. Chemical Equilibrium

Session VII-1: Observe Le Châtelier’s Principle in Action
Session VII-2: Determine a Solubility Product Constant
Session VII-3: Observe the Characteristics of a Buffer Solution

Topic VIII. Gas Chemistry

Session VIII-1: Observe the Pressure-Volume Relationship of Gases (Boyle’s Law)
Session VIII-2: Observe the Volume-Temperature Relationship of Gases (Charles’ Law)
Session VIII-3: Determine Gas Mass Ratios by Effusion (Graham’s Law)

Topic IX. Thermochemistry

Session IX-1: Determine Heat of Solution
Session IX-2: Determine Heat of Fusion of Ice
Session IX-3: Determine the Specific Heat of a Metal
Session IX-4: Determine the Enthalpy Change of a Reaction

Topic X. Electrochemistry

Session X-1: Observe Electrolysis
Session X-2: Observe the Electrochemical Oxidation of Iron
Session X-3: Measure Electrode Potentials
Session X-4: Build a Voltaic Cell

Topic XI. Photochemistry

Session XI-1: Photochemical Reaction of Iodine and Oxalate

Topic XII. Colloids and Suspensions

Session XII-1: Observe Some Properties of Colloids and Suspensions

Topic XIII. Analytical Chemistry

Session XIII-1. Determine Boron Concentration with Curcumin
Session XIII-2. Determine Salicylate Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-3. Determine Vitamin C Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-4: Detect Lead in Household Materials

Topic XIV. Synthetic Chemistry

Session XIV-1. Synthesize Esters

If anybody out there has used this kit, I’d love to hear your experiences with it! 

Siamese Genetics, Zombie Volunteerism, Homeschool Freebies and More

10 ways we've learned and played here latelySorry to be such a lax blogger lately!  Life has been frantic, as usual.  I’m still working on balancing the blogs with my columns with homeschooling 5 kids and all of my home duties.  At least it keeps life interesting!

Here are a few ways we’ve learned through life lately…….

1.  We’ve had our first real snow and cold of the winter.  Toria and Alex went out and built an impressive snow fort with blocks made from a 5 gallon bucket.  The walls are about 18 inches high now (it’s got a huge circumference, like igloo sized!) and I think they’re hoping for a huge snowfall and help make more snow.  I personally am not! Perhaps I’ll ask them to figure out its square feet once it’s done.  Tricky, eh?  😉

2.  The kids all fell in love with a free math site online (I wrote about it here) and they all begged to upgrade to premium memberships, which would have cost a fortune.  I found out that there’s a group rate that’s far cheaper and ended up taking over a group buy that was a monumental amount of work but I was able to get all four of my big kids premium memberships.  Even my teenagers wanted in on it even though it technically goes to 8th grade (it’s a lot like Pokemon and they have fun doing it with their younger siblings).  I figure extra math practice never hurt anybody. They are now spending a ton of time doing math willingly so it was worth it to me!

3.  We went to Sioux Falls yesterday to look for new (to us) winter boots for the kids and to run errands.  We have a zoo membership, so Daryl took the kids to the zoo while I was at an appointment.

4.  Fiona napped in the car on the way home and that always means she won’t fall asleep at bedtime.  She was up until some insane hour (2 a.m. or so!) and Toria took her downstairs and read her dozens of picture books so that Daryl and I could sleep.  Bless her heart, she came down from her bedroom and held out her arms to our bouncy Fiona, and told me “I stay up later anyway, Mom, and you have to get up early.  This way you can get some sleep.”  Sometimes teenagers are pretty awesome!

5.  I suggested to Toria and Anna that they could each self publish a Kindle book for a homeschool project this semester.  It would give them writing experience but also work experience and a skill that they could use well in life to earn extra money.  I gave them the task of researching how to do it and left it completely open as to what sort of book they want to publish.  Anna is really excited and is planning on doing a book of her poems and may illustrate it with some of her poetry.  Toria is thinking of converting a public domain short story into a play.

6.  Toria and her dad volunteered at a haunted house set up as a fundraiser in a nearby city for most of October, every Friday and Saturday with lots of extra days thrown in.  It was an elaborate, impressive set-up in an old high school that is now a community center.  There were three floors of haunted areas and the basement was full of prom zombies.  Daryl played a homicidal principal in one of the offices, and Toria and a friend played dead girls (they would do things like twitch or suddenly turn and look at people as they went by).  They had a blast, and they helped with the clean up and the planning meetings for next year’s event.  Toria made friends, she helped a great organization, and she got some pretty crazy work experience.

7.  I’ve put out the art box again, and it’s been a big hit. The basic premise of the art box is that I keep a box or tray of art supplies that the kids can use to do anything they like.  Its contents change all the time so there are new things to do.  I also keep out a glue gun and the kids (other than Fiona) know how to safely use it.  Jack has made billions of adorable little creations out of odds and ends (he uses everything from little wooden shapes from the thrift store to knobs to broken toy bits).  I have to get some pictures of his creations, because they’re so fun. Toria made sweet little paper stars and multi-media collage projects, among a hundred other creations.  Fiona mostly sticks little foam stickers all over things and cuts everything up with scissors.

8.  We adopted a kitten and named him Boots.  Our other two cats were rescues as adults from a shelter, but this little guy needed a home and I broke down and said yes.  He is a real sweetheart, patient with all of the kids loving on him and playful.  His mother is a Siamese and we were surprised that he didn’t look Siamese at all, so we researched cat genetics and found out that the Siamese traits are recessive so a part-Siamese cat will almost never look Siamese (and will typically be black and white or all black no matter what the other cat looked like).  It was fascinating!  We learned so much and I had no idea about any of it.

Siamese cats have a unique coat pattern. The gradual shading of the extremities is caused by a recessive gene with temperature-sensitive expression. The resulting pattern is essentially a heat-map of the cat’s body…

The albino mutation in Siamese cats results in a defective form of tyrosinase which does not function at normal body temperature. Therefore, dark coloration can only appear in parts of the body that are cooler than the core body temperature. The extremities are always the coolest parts of the body. The face is also cooler because of air passing through the sinuses. The back is warmer than the extremities, being closer to the body core, but it is also exposed. The result is a medium degree of tyrosinase function, resulting in a medium degree of shading

You can read this article (read the comment too!) for more about the genetics and science of Siamese cats.

Wikipedia also has some interesting info like this:

All Siamese kittens, although pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of life in colder parts of their body. By the time a kitten is four weeks old, the points should be sufficiently clearly distinguishable to recognise which colour they are. Siamese cats tend to darken with age, and generally, adult Siamese living in warm climates have lighter coats than those in cool climates.

We will be fostering his Siamese mama for the next week before passing her on to some friends who are coming down for Thanksgiving and will be adopting her.

9.  I’m still involving the kids in as much cooking as possible, hoping they will enter adulthood really knowing well how to cook most foods from scratch.  We were talking last night on the way home from Sioux Falls about a conversation I had with a massage therapist earlier in the day about how she needed to switch her diet on her doctor’s orders and was going grain free.  I told her that soups and salads were good, easy meals sometimes where you didn’t miss grains and she said she couldn’t have soup.  I asked why not, and she said her doctor said it often has added flour.  I forgot that most people don’t make their own soup these days, but this lady is close to retirement age and had never made homemade soup!  I told her how to make an easy broth and she was excited to try it, and then I gave her tips on easy soups to make from there.  I consider cooking an essential homeschooling skill that is so important.  Homemade foods are generally ten times healthier, cheaper and tastier.  I have a Pinterest board of cooking and foraging with kids posts that Daryl has written up.

10. We got this free poster through the mail and I’m putting it up along the basement stairs.  I’m a big fan of sneaky homeschooling with posters.

And the kids have done lots of reading, watching documentaries, playing with friends, painting, photography, computer games, LEGOs, drawing, thrift store shopping, nature crafts, listening to music, blogging, decorating, researching, talking, and so on.