Family Life: Swimming lessons are going swimmingly!!!!

James had his 5th swimming lesson today. Last week he refused to get off the step and trusted no one to hold him in the water. D was getting a little frustrated with him, but being patient. Monday, after his lesson in which he spent 15 minutes arguing with her, she asked if he disliked the water for some reason. 

I explained that he loves the water and swimming and talks all day long about his swimming lessons and what he is going to do. It is just when he gets there, that suddenly he starts fussing. Soooo… of the guys decided he was going to practice with James and not take no for an answer.

James came over to me and P called him to come back into the water. Of course, James refused. P came out of the water, picked him up and took him back into the water. He told James that I would have to go upstairs if he continued to argue or yell. Wow, good idea. I could be upstairs in air conditioned comfort instead of sitting by the humid pool feeling my hair get curlier by the moment. However, James didn’t want me to leave, so calmed down and cooperated. P worked with him for another 20 minutes before he let James get out of the water.

Today, D decided to switch with P and let him do the lesson. Nope, James wasn’t having that – D was his instructor. So, she used the”Mom will have to leave if you yell or refuse to cooperate.” D spent twenty minutes working with him and then P decided he wanted to do 10 minutes with James. He did great!

One tired, waterlogged, but very proud little boy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday night, he practiced laying flat and floating in the bathtub, with his ears underwater.

Unfortunately, Thursday he started complaining of a scratchy, sore throat, so we missed Friday's lesson.

So, we spent the afternoon doing something fun and educational too! I found the Geosafari Xcavations at the Brighter Child Homeschool store yesterday.
Using archaeological tools, you carefully chip, scrape, and brush away plaster to find a tyrannosaurus Rex "fossilized bones". It is very neat and will be a fun project.

Family Life: James 8th birthday

James 8th birthday is coming up and boy is he excited.

James 8th birthday will be on August 5th. He has been working on his birthday wish list for the past month. The first draft (yes, the first draft) contained practically all Godzilla movies. We told him Godzilla was banned for a while, so he worked up a 2nd, then 3rd and now final draft. At least I think it is final. He adds to it daily.
James wish list
  1. Apollo 1 dvd
  2. Apollo 7 dvd
  3. Apollo 8 dvd
  4. Apollo 10 dvd
  5. Apollo 14 dvd
  6. Apollo 15 dvd
  7. Apollo 16 dvd
  8. Apollo 17 dvd
  9. Apollo Soyuz dvd
  10. Project Mercury dvd
  11. Project Gemini dvd
  12. Challenger dvd
  13. Herbie the Love bug (old version, not the remake)
  14. STS-26 Return to Flight
  15. Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
  16. Apollo 8 special package
  17. Must have it all combo package ( at $800 I don't think this one is a possible, but James ask me to list it anyway)
  18. Larry boy and the Bad Apple Video Game
  19. Dora the Explorer summer explorer dvd
  20. Ratatoulli
  21. Toy Story cd game
  22. A Dog (
  23. The Magic School Bus Catches a Wave Dvd
  24. Madame Blueberry - veggie tales movie
  25. Gammara Toy
  26. The Cape: A history of the Florida Launch Facilities
  27. Space Shuttle First Flights
  28. Mercury Redstone Collectors Edition
Do you see a pattern taking place here? I have already told him he will only be getting 2 or 3 items from the list, and not every single one. Do you think he is interested in learning everything there is about the space program?

News of the Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has arrived.

I have to be good, I have to be good. As soon as I finish my Oceanography project, then I can read it. You'll know where to find me for the rest of the weekend.

Question of the Day: What does our school room look like?

Folks have been asking to see what our school room looks like. We don't actually have a school room per say...everything is set up in our kitchen dining area. We have a rather small house - approximately 1100 square feet. So I turned our eating area of our kitchen into our school nook.

This is my desk - the command center. I also have a laptop computer which use more than the desktop. Father uses the desktop most frequently. The poster above the printer is "Fruits of the Spirit"

Our schedules for the next 4 months which include all birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, bills due, appointments, events, school schedule, when business taxes are due, etc. James daily schedule for the current week is just beneath... He loves his schedule and checking off everything when the day is done. So, he is constantly reminding me all weekend to write up the new schedule for the new week.

The map wall. We have the United States and the World map with a compass rose in between. You can't tell from the pictures, but we have stickers all over the maps indicating where people live, where we have traveled, the geographical setting of books we have read. Underneath the world map is a poster of addition tables and a homemade poster of the Scientific Method.

Close up of all the books we are using this year

This is James computer, plus a bookcase with science, crafts, and math stuff.

The banner over the computer is Camp MacHaven: Training facility for God's Special Forces which is from "Lord, Teach Me to Pray, For Kids".

On the bulletin board is a poster of James goal, schedule and school calendar. James goal is to go to space camp and you have to be 9 and have finished the 4th he is working towards that goal.

The schedule which is always a work in progress being changed and tweaked as time goes on. We don't have times because Father and I have different teaching styles, I am a morning person, he is a night person and James seems to be a combo. We have a checklist of things to do for the day and James checks them off once completed.

And that is it...pretty compact, but works for us.

Family life: Swim Lessons

James is taking swimming lessons at the local dive center. His lesson is for 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:00. His first lesson was on Monday. We arrived 15 minutes early to watch the trainers and the other kids. The center has things running like clockwork and it was interesting to watch. As one lesson ended, the next child would sit on the steps in front of their instructor to begin their lesson. Each instructor seemed very focused on the child with whom they were teaching. The children were all ages from two years old and up.

James first lesson was spent getting him acclimated to the water and having him dip his ears and face into the water. He dislikes getting his face wet and kept wanting to hop out and dry off his face. He wanted to do things at his pace and kept telling D “I’ll do it myself”. He wanted me to sit by the edge of the pool while he took his lesson, which kept me involved in the process, versus D being able to control the whole lesson. 

James has always had a negative first reaction to any change, especially when it is something out of his control. So at the end of the lesson, he was quite adamant that he didn’t want to take swimming lessons anymore. Basically, because he couldn’t do what he wanted and just wonder around in the pool… he had to follow D’s instructions. By the end of the day however, he was quite proud of himself for completing his first swimming lesson and ready to go back on Wednesday.

Wednesday he enthusiastically started his lesson, listened to D and put his ears and face in the water. After getting out once to dry off his face, D wouldn’t let him get out of the pool again. She told him he had to get used to getting his face wet and wiping it off with his hand. So... when he decided to splash a couple of the other male instructors in the face, they vigorously splashed back.

He didn’t complain or get upset and wiped off his face with his hand. I sat back (on my hands) and chatted with another parent, while James groused about this or that and refused to leave the step. The other parent told me how patient the instructors were and that it took about 5 lessons before her son got off the step. Also, how hard it is to sit there when your child gets upset and just let the instructor handle it. 

That was the hard part for me, especially at the end. At the end of the lesson, D pulled him off the step and you would have thought he was dying… he is very dramatic. She got him to dip his ear in the water, and then released him. He was upset, but calmed down quickly and told D he was see her on Friday.

Today, “his” goal is to float… we’ll see what happens. My goal is to stay on the bench and watch without thinking I have to mediate. It seems I also have control issues….

Family Life: Musical Fundraiser

Last night we went to a fund raiser for M.I.N.K.H. Musical Instruments ‘N Kids Hands given by Flip Kirby, who is a friend of Father. Flip also happens to have toured with Bobbie Brown in the past. M.I.N.K.H. is a program Flip organized that donates new musical instruments to underprivileged kids.

Musical Instruments ‘N Kids’ Hands wants to promote community involvement by identifying aspiring youth ages 8 to 17 that are unable to afford an instrument. Through greater community awareness, M.I.N.K.H. aims to build partnerships with local sponsors and organizations to produce funding for the M.I.N.K.H. Instrument Give-Away Campaign. Their goal is to provide instruments to 5,000 underprivileged kids nationwide to cultivate a passion for and fulfill their music aspiration.
A few of our friends played in the band as backup for the kids who played drums, piano, sang, dance and one little girl even played the trumpet. Flip’s 8 year old son played the drums and he was simply amazing. All the kids were amazing.

Petri Hawkins Byrd (Judge Judy’s Bailiff) emceed the event and was amusing, entertaining and kept things rolling smoothly. He did an amusing Jazz/bluesy rendition of the Flintstones song while raffle tickets where being sold. James thought he sounded like one of the actors from The Country Bears.

They raffled off several new musical instruments (along with lessons) including the grand prize of a complete drum set. There was a silent auction and we bid on a Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington pictures.

If anyone would like to donate equipment, funds or time, or know any underprivileged kids who would benefit from this program, let us know and we will put you in touch with Flip.

My Education: Literary Analysis - The Giver

 Wahoo!  I got an A!

Just received the grade for my English Literature for Children and Young Adults class. I earned 100 for "Giver" analysis and 100 for the midterm and final. Total combined Grade: A

So for your reading pleasure (grab your glasses, maybe a cool drink, put on your thinking cap and boggle your mind.)

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is a story of an isolated nameless community sometime in the distant future, which at first glance seems to be a perfect utopia society, but as the story unfolds reveals it to be distinctly dystopian.

A dystopian story centers on a hero who questions the society, the conflict in which the hero decides to take action or escape and the final climax. In a dystopian society, it has at least one fatal flaw. The story centers around Jonas as he learns about the true nature of his society and realizes something must be done to change his world.

In a dystopian society, the social structures are clearly defined and enforced. In The Giver, the community is ruled by an oligarchy of elders and the social class structure is clearly defined. The class structure designations are the day and night laborers, birthmothers, the family unit, the childless adults and the aged adults.

The childless adults live separately from the family units and the elderly live in the House of the Old. Birthmothers are allowed to have 3 children in 3 years, then they go on to be day laborers and are not allowed to have a family. In most Dystopian cultures there is a lack of romantic love and sexual love or emotion has been eliminated. As soon as anyone starts to experience stirrings (sexual desire), they are given a pill to eliminate the stirring and have to take it for the rest of their life

Because sexual desire had eliminated, even the matching up of spouses is given heavy thought by the elders in order to make sure everyone fits within the society. “Even the Matching of Spouses was given such weighty consideration that sometimes an adult who applied to receive a spouse waited months or even years before a Match was approved and announced. All the factors—disposition, energy level, intelligence, and interests – had to correspond and to interact perfectly. All matches were monitored by the Committee of Elders for three years before they could apply for children.” (pg 48)

Each family unit has one boy and one girl. Each family has their own home with standard furniture, but do not have television, stereos, telephone, or computers. The only books in the home are “the necessary reference volumes that each household contained: a dictionary, and the thick community volume which contained descriptions of every office, factory, building and committee. And the Book of Rules, of course.” (pg 74)

The community is meticulously regulated by the Elders and everyone has to follow the rules. The people of the community seem to be content in their roles, with the elders enforcing all the rules. Everyone has a job suited to their abilities – physically, mentally and emotionally. It is an ideal society on the surface with no crime or disease, pain or strife, starvation or unemployment; rudeness is not allowed and precision of language is required. What the society lacks is freedom

While it seems everyone has the freedom to do what they want, they are observed and told if they do something wrong. There is a public address system and every house and building is monitored by two way speakers. There is always the threat of Release.

At the beginning Release seems benign where a person is released from the community to go Elsewhere. “For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure.” (pg 4) “There were only two occasions of release which were not punishment. Release of an elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what could we have done.” (pg 7)

However as the story progresses, Release is revealed as being death, euthanizing by injection. The Elders are meticulous about the rules and one of the rules is that everyone has to attend The Ceremony.

Each year the entire community is required to attend The Ceremony in which all children move forward in age one year and the newchildren are assigned to their families. The Ceremony begins with the ones: children born that year that will be designated as one and assigned to a family.

“Each December, all the newchildren born during the year turns One. One at a time – there were always fifty in each year’s group, if none had been released – they had been brought to the stage by the Nurturers who had cared for them since birth. Some were already walking, wobbly on their unsteady legs; others were no more than a few days old, wrapped in blankets, held by their Nurturers.” (pg 11).

There are ceremonies for every age which include Threes who have to start sharing their dreams at breakfast and feelings at dinnertime; Sevens get their own front button jacket as a sign of independence; Eights get a jacket with pockets and have to start doing volunteer work; Nines get a bike; Tens all get the same style haircut; Elevens get “different undergarments for the females, whose bodies were beginning to change; and longer trousers for the males, with a specially shaped pockets for the small calculator that they would use this year in school.” (pg 46) Twelves are given a life time job assignment by the elders who have been observing them and decide what job they would be perfectly suited for. After twelve, age is no longer considered important.

Jonas is about to turn twelve and go through the Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas is selected to the Receiver of Memory which is the most honored job in the community. He is shocked to learn that the receiver of memory holds all the memories of the past of the whole world. The current Receiver of Memory is an elder and needs someone whom he can pass on the memories of the community and the world. “It’s the memories of the whole world. Before you, before me, before the previous receiver and generations before him.” (pg 77) 

The members of the community only have one generation of memories and do not remember anything beyond that. The elders do not want the people burdened by memories of the past. Up until the moment Jonas learns the truth about his society and the past from the Receiver of Memory, now called the Giver, he did not know that the past existed. “I thought there was only us; I thought there was only now.” (pg 78)

Jonas learns the history of the community and why they made the decision to change to Sameness. According to the Giver “Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with difference. He thought for a moment. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”

Through the Giver, Jonas is given the memory of all the things that have been eliminated such as pain, sadness, loss and violence as well as what is missing such as love, adventure, animals, beauty and true family. Once Jonas is given these memories, he wants everyone to have them. “But why can’t everyone have the memories? I think it would seem a little easier if the memories were shared. You and I wouldn’t have to bear so much by ourselves, if everybody took a part.”

According to the Giver “You’re right, he said. But then everyone would be burdened and pained. They don’t want that. And that’s the real reason The Receiver is so vital to them, and so honored. They selected me – and you – to lift that burden from themselves.” (pg 113) 

One of Jonas rules as Receiver of Memory is that he cannot apply for release. Jonas discovers the true meaning of Release when he witnesses a video of his father, a nurturer, euthanizing a baby. Twins had been born to a birth mother and only one baby would be kept; whichever one weighed more. After he discovers that Release is death and the person is not going “elsewhere” he is devastated.

Jonas realizes he does not want to live with Sameness. He wants the freedom to make his own choices, see color and experience the beauty of the world, and feel love. Once Jonas discovers the truth, he wants to change the rules and let everyone have the choice to make their own decisions. He wants everyone to have the memories and The Giver agrees with him. Ten years prior to Jonas being selected for Receiver of Memory, another twelve had been selected who was deemed perfect for the position. Her name was Rosemary.

Rosemary could not handle all the horrible memories given to her by the Receiver and petitioned for Release. When she was Released, all the memories she had received were released. The memories “went to the place where memories once existed before Receivers were created. Somewhere out there – and then the people had access to them. Everyone had access to the memories. It was chaos and they really suffered for awhile.” (pg 104). The one fatal flaw of a dystopian society is the release of memory back to the people.

If the Receiver of Memory dies or leaves, all the memories of the past given to that person will be released back into the community. If Jonas leaves the community, any memories that have been given to him so far, will be released. Jonas and the Giver decide together that change is necessary and the memories need to be released. They decide that Jonas will leave and the Giver will stay to help the people handle the return of memory and ease the pain.

However, their plans change and he has to leave abruptly when a new child Gabriel is about to be Released because he is unable to sleep through the night and considered a problem. Jonas father is a Nurturer and his family had been taking care of Gabriel, hoping to give the child strength enough to be assigned to a family. Now that Jonas understands what Release means and has grown to really love Gabriel, he does not want to see him killed. He leaves in the middle of the night, stealing his father’s bike and taking Gabriel to find Elsewhere.

At the end of the story, we are left with Jonas remembering the first memory he had been given—sledding down a hill. Suddenly he and Gabriel find a sled at the top of snow covered hill, get on and go down the hill, sledding toward the memory of warmth, happiness, twinkling red and green lights and the echo of music. The ending of the story is ambiguous, leaving what happened to Jonas up to the reader’s imagination.

The Giver is a thought provoking, highly controversial book with its themes of a controlled society, precision of language, euthanasia and sameness. It has been banned in some libraries and schools, while other schools have embraced the book. Lois Lowry wanted to write a book that would encourage children to question and appreciate their lives.

In Lois Lowry’s acceptance speech for the Newbery Award in 1984, she stated “In beginning to write The Giver, I created – as I always do, in every book – a world that existed only in my imagination – the world of “only us, only now.” I tried to make Jonas’s world feel familiar, comfortable and safe, and I tried to seduce the reader. I seduced myself along the way. It did feel good, that world. I got rid of all the things I fear and dislike: all the violence, prejudice, poverty and injustice, and I even threw in good manners as a way of life, because I liked the idea of it.” 

However she realized the book couldn’t be written as a fairy tale where everyone lived happily ever after. “And if I’ve learned anything through that river of memories, it is that we can’t live in a walled world, in an “only us, only now” world where we are all the same and feel safe. We would have to sacrifice too much. The richness of color and diversity would disappear; feelings for other humans would no longer be necessary. Choices would be obsolete.”

The dystopian world of The Giver contains some important lessons including why freedom and choice are so important, should be valued and we should appreciate the world we live in.
Interesting book, huh! Not something I would let my child read until much older. Even then, would have 2nd thoughts about it. I came across many sites detailing how teachers are using this book in the classroom. Most amazing of all was the internet collaboration between students in Canada and Iraq. The Canadian students were somewhat critical of the book vs the Iraqi students who didn't see anything wrong with this type of society. It truly is interesting to learn about the viewpoints of different cultures - scary but interesting.

Family life: A Belated Happy 4th of July

We had fun Wednesday. While Father rested and enjoyed his day off, James and I did some fun lessons learning about Independence Day, drawing Godzilla, doing math lessons and whatnot. Lessons were spread through out the day to prevent boredom from creeping in, plus creating a distraction from the impending fireworks in the evening.

Both Father and I bought big packages of fireworks. In the past all the neighbors in our court came out to do fireworks, but this year it was only us and the gal across the street with her son. This actually worked out quite well and was more relaxing, since we didn’t have to contend with the foul mouth friends of one neighbor. Didn’t miss them at all! We started about dusk and ended when James decided he had had enough around 10:00. We cleaned up our mess, read stories and James was asleep in an instant.

Yesterday was a wonderful 109 degrees at our house and fortunately our air conditioner didn’t have a problem keeping up. It was a little cooler at the shop (106), so with the help of fans, we remained comfortable. I treated my technicians to lunch at Olive Garden which I went out and picked up. However, H said he liked my homemade lasagna better than Olive Gardens…. A nice compliment!!!!

We are hibernating in the house today since it is going to be another scorcher. I will be working on my Oceanography Project about Bathymetry, Sediments and Plate Tectonics. Father will be going to work and James will be drawing and keeping busy. He is currently watched Toy Story 2 since I have banned Godzilla for the time being.

James decided he wanted to take swimming lessons so we signed him up at the Dive Center. The lessons start on July 16th, and is with a private instructor, 3 times a week for 6 weeks. After the 6 weeks, we'll see if he wants to continue. He is really excited about taking the lessons and keeps telling me “he is going to make me proud!” What a kid….Once he sets his mind to something, there is no stopping him.


Family life: Luna Report!

Isn't she adorable!!!!

We have had Luna a couple weeks now. We are all adjusting to have a kitten in the house such as carefully shutting doors, cleaning small toys and crumbs off the floor immediately and getting up earlier (Yawn!) She can get into the narrowest of places, so we are "baby proofing" as we go. We have lost her twice. The first time, she crawled up into the shelf behind the drawer of the TV stand in the kitchen. Took a half hour to find her because she didn't answer to my calls until she woke up and discovered couldn't get back out. The 2nd time she was just sleeping in back of the couch.

She discovered the narrow opening in the shelves next to the dishwasher and fortunately I caught her before she disappeared into it. That has since been covered up with cardboard and duct tape. She discovered the opening in the cabinet underneath the stove which has also been covered up.

James is discovering the art of gentleness. (hint: requires lots of training and supervision).

She hates to sleep alone and sleeps between Father and I, either by my shoulder or between our pillows. I get awakened in the morning by a soft paw brushing my neck and she wakes up Father by batting his nose. Hmmmm! We have managed to eliminate the middle of the night wake up calls and she lets us sleep at least until 7:00 now.

James is just itching to have her sleep with him, but he is such a restless sleeper, we will wait until Luna is older and bigger.

Ki o tsukete