Saturday, June 21, 2008

You get what you ask for

Okay, you don't always get what you ask for...but if you don't ask, it is certainly less likely that you'll get what you want.

The other night my husband told me I'd spent two times as much as he did last month on the credit card.  And if he hadn't bought a piece of software, his only charges would have been gas.  So I asked to see what I'd spent (I normally don't do this...I don't like seeing all those charges).  In looking over the list and at the history, I discovered that I had 3 ALEKS (online math) charges, even though we'd only used it one month.  

I'd thought that signing up monthly billing meant that I'd pay by the month, not I'd be automatically billed every month.  Apparently, I didn't read the fine print.   I had chosen not to cancel the account because when you do, all records are wiped...and I'd been hoping we might use ALEKS over the summer, picking up where we left off, since my dd enjoyed it as review. But yesterday, I cancelled the account and complained by in my "exit survey" and in an email to customer support that it wasn't clear that monthly billing and automatic billing were the same thing.

And, this is the important part of this post, I requested a refund.  I didn't just complain (as I so often due when dealing with a company).  I stated exactly what outcome I wanted.  And guess what?  I'm getting a refund for those two months!  I did have to call customer support, explaining my situation and my request again.  But I'm getting a refund for the months we didn't use.  

I'm impressed, both with myself for actually doing this, and with ALEKS for giving me the refund.  My husband is also impressed with me for making the phone call...he knows how much I dislike do that sort of thing. 

So remember, don't just complain...tell the other party what you want.  They can say no, they can counter offer, or they can say yes! 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Week 1: 2008-9

We started our new school year this week!  My plan is to have 10 months of school to go with the 10 Christian Light Education (CLE) LightUnit workbooks.
The first 5 month semester of 2008 is as follows:
1. June/July
2. August
3. September
4. October
5. November/December

The second 5 month semester in 2oo9 will simply be January - May.

I printed out a monthly assignment sheet for each child, 2 weeks on the front & 2 on the back.  That way, when the assignment sheet is complete, the month is done and you're on vacation.

8th Grade
Amazingly, Ginger was done with everything from "Week 1" by Wednesday and has done some of next week's work already!  Apparently an independent workbook approach is what she needs now...this was not the case for her in 1st grade and I've been trying to stay away from workbooks ever since.

She is using CLE for Language Arts, Reading, Math & Social Studies.  In math she has passed 6 pre-tests (meaning she doesn't have to do the lesson).  At some point she'll get to new material but this is encouraging for both of us!  And yesterday I gave her the first section spelling test in Language Arts -- she got them all right.  That has never, ever happened before. 

For science she is using Total Health and for writing, Wordsmith.  So far, so good on both of those!  In fact, she stayed up until 11pm last night working on this coming Monday's Wordsmith assignment with Momo!

6th Grade
Momo only has 4 subjects right now as I haven't been able to order the rest (waiting for the next billing cycle!).  She is using CLE for Language Arts, Reading and Science.  Yesterday as a part of the science lesson she had to make 10 observations about a tree using as many senses as she could.  I never thought that kind of lesson would be in a workbook.  I'm learning new stuff this week myself! :) 
Momo is also using Famous Men of the Middle Ages with the excellent Student Book and reading Story of the World 2.  I still have to order Lively Latin 2, Sentence Composing for Middle School and a few other things to complete her year.

3rd Grade
My 8yo (he needs a new "name") started Minimus for Latin and is loving that.  His CLE subjects are Language Arts & Reading -- I'm making him (and his older sisters) write everything in the workbooks in cursive.  I can't believe the improvement in all of their cursive in a few short days!  He's done a review pages from each MUS Delta chapter he did last year and will start Lesson 5 on Monday.  For SOTW we only read, no projects.  I still need to buy his My Pals are Here 3 for science and Writing Tales 1.

Our afternoons have been take up with a daily 2 hour chess class!  8yo & Momo both want to join the chess club in the fall.  Ginger is enjoying the class but isn't interested in the club.  I told her we'd find her something else that involves people.  Our family has a serious lack of social interaction and I'm looking to change that in a positive way.  We do volunteer weekly at a local dairy.  Ginger with the petting zoo animals and I in the organic garden, with the other kids helping us both as we're able.  But often it is just our family working alone...which, while pleasant & easy, doesn't develop the ability to interact with others!

My 5yo (who also needs a new "name") is using The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and doing excellently.  We've just gotten to blending 2 - 3 letter words and he has to work at it.  But work he is and I am being 100% positive.  No tears over learning to read allowed in this house ever again!  Still, it is hard not to compare him to my 8yo who taught himself to read at 4.  5yo is also using Earlybird Math 2A (he did 1A/1B last year) and HWT My Printing Book.  His printing is actually quite nice, even though he isn't able to read anything he writes!  In August we'll start Five in a Row with 3 other families.  I'm very pleased with what I've chosen for his school year.  Technically, he would be eligible for 1st grade (late July birthday) this fall but I know I've got great materials for right where he is developmentally!

3 year old
Beanie is just kind of hanging out, nothing formal scheduled for him...yet!  He is a talker & a drawer though...he likes to do his "homework" and "reads" to his stuffed animals.   This week he and 5yo played a lot of Playmobil together.

He also likes to "play" chess.  The other day we had the board set up and were playing...well, I was reading something and occasionally moving one of my pieces.  At one point I looked up and all my pawns were lying down on the board.  I asked him what happened.  He said, "Your pawns got offended and they all died. I win!"  

I'm mentally gearing up to potty train him, but keep saying "I'll do it next week."  

All in all, it was a relaxed, great start to the new year.  And we still have 5 more weeks to complete month 1!  Now, I've just got to order the rest of the schoolbooks...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Daily Schedule 2008-9, First Idealist attempt!

Click on the pictures to see them clearly.

This is my plan...the first of many idealistic attempts at corralling the students into a structured learning routine.

My new & improved scheduling idea for the coming year involves actual time slots (something I've tried to avoid in the past).  Although I wish it was more, each child will get 2 individual half hours slots with me in the following order:

3rd grader
3 yo
6th grader
8th grader

Then we'll all break for a snack.  This will be repeated, then we'll break for lunch.  The idea is that each child will work on their independent stuff until finished or they reach a point of not understanding/frustration.  Then that work will be set aside and the next subject picked up. When they meet with me, I will help them through the trouble spot and give assignments as necessary.  

After lunch will be two group times -- one for the K & 3rd grader for history & literature reading.  And one will be for the 6th & 8th grader for a discussion of their literature reading. 

I think this will accomplish several positive things in our homeschool:  

1.  allow independence without frustration (or simply lack of working because "I didn't know how to do it")
2.  insure dedicated time with mom (something the easy-going students get short changed on)
3.  create time off at the end of the week/month because of finishing early!

What this schedule doesn't account for is what exactly the 3yo & K'er are going to be doing for those blank hours each day!  

I do plan to do a test run in June, which will help work out some kinks and bring realism, I'm sure!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Chocolate Deluxe Zucchini Cake

On Friday, we harvest a lot of zucchini from the little organic garden we've been volunteering at lately. Every meal (save breakfasts) has included zucchini -- and I haven't served the same thing twice yet! The favorite so far has been the Chocolate Deluxe Zucchini Cake that my 8yo ds found. I told him to find a recipe for zucchini bread and this is what he came up with!

Chocolate Deluxe Zucchini Cake

9 TBSP unsweetened cocoa
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
3 TBSP melted butter
1 1/2 cups cooking oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini

In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar. Add, oil, melted butter and vanilla. Mix.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt & cinnamon into the wet ingredients. Mix.
Squeeze moisture from zucchini. Add zucchini to batter and mix well.
Pour into 2 greased round 9" pans or a greased 10" tube pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cake will be moist. Let stand 20 minutes before removing from pans.
Frost when cool if desired!

We frosted it with chocolate frosting. It turned out moist, rich and chocolaty, way better then a box mix! And there was no trace of zucchini in color, texture or taste. I'm not sure why it disappeared completely, perhaps because of the cocoa.

Now, I must go find a new zucchini recipe to serve tonight! Any suggestions?

Latin Motto

Non scholae sed vitae discimus ~ Seneca. We learn not for school, but for life.